As Of Today There’s A Lot Of Wishing & Hoping

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Privatization, Road Issues at 12:00 pm by wcnews

On Friday state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) released a commentary regarding Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of Deirdre Delisi as the new chair of TxDOT. Hegar’s remarks are important because he is a member of the Senate Nominations Committee, (Delisi will have to be confirmed by the Senate in January), and he’s Vice Chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, (TxDOT will is currently going through it’s 12 year Sunset review).

Hegar starts by saying this:

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he had appointed Deirdre Delisi, his former Chief of Staff, as the new Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). As of today, I will not vote to confirm her appointment in the next Legislative session.

And then goes on to make this point, which points to Perry’s disregard for constitutional checks and balances:

I also serve as a member of the Senate Nominations Committee, the committee that will have to vote to confirm Ms. Delisi’s appointment when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2009. One might expect that the Governor and Ms. Delisi would have contacted all members of these key committees to discuss their plans to reform TxDOT in the Sunset process and to ask for our vote in the upcoming Nomination process. Unfortunately, like most of my colleagues, I learned about the appointment from the news media.

The Governor can certainly appoint anyone whom he sees fit, but as a state senator who takes his constitutional “advise and consent” responsibilities seriously, I would have hoped Gov. Perry would have sought out the advice of legislators before asking for our consent at this critical juncture in Texas history.

While there are some strong statements in Hegar’s commentary it appears to be more about what political cover he needs by January, rather than what specific changes Hegar would like to see at TxDOT from Delisi/Perry before voting for her confirmation, like moving away from tolls, raising and indexing the gas tax, etc..

The Texas Department of Transportation’s vision statement says that the agency will work to: “Promote a higher quality of life through partnerships with the citizens of Texas and all branches of government by being receptive, responsible and cooperative.”

The Governor’s and Ms. Delisi’s recent actions with regard to this appointment are certainly not in keeping with that vision statement, but instead reflect a vision of non-cooperation and non-responsiveness to both lawmakers and the constituents they serve.

I certainly hope that Ms. Delisi will prove me wrong. Likewise, I hope that between now and her Senate confirmation hearing next January she will attempt to change my perception that she will not be an agent of the status quo at TxDOT. If so, she may still have an opportunity to earn both my confidence and my vote, and the taxpayers of our state and those who use and depend on our vast transportation system will be well served.

Which leads one to believe that as long as Delisi is “receptive, responsible and cooperative “, plays nice, until January she’ll be confirmed. And what happens after that day…?

The AAS has also chimed in on the Delisi appointment and has decided to take Sen. Kirk Watson’s word for it:

Getting Watson’s blessing is a good sign because Watson, vice chairman of the Senate transportation committee, is no fan of the commission that runs the Texas Department of Transportation. Last year, the department pulled the plug on state funding for Central Texas highways, infuriating local leaders.

Watson said he believes Delisi, 35, has the substance to do the job and that she understands the problems the department has created over the years with its bullying tactics and lack of openness and accountability.


Watson said he was assured that Delisi also will involve local communities in highway planning. That, too, would be a major change for an agency known for imposing its will on highway planning and construction.


All that remains to be seen. Texas leaders and lawmakers have six months to judge Delisi’s performance before her appointment goes to the state Senate for confirmation in the 2009 legislative session.

We wish her well. Central Texas needs a strong voice on the commission, one that understands the needs of a growing community being strangled by traffic. And TxDOT needs a leader who can change its imperious and opaque culture.

The words “wish” and “hope” have been used quite a bit in the traditional media’s reporting and what elected officials have been saying regarding this appointment. And again there’s little talk of wanting to see a change in the current course of transportation financing - away from tolls only. The main problem they seem to have with Delisi is that she doesn’t work well with the legislature. These are all bad signs. All of which point to a schmooze fest/PR blitz over the next six months, with Delisi on her best behavior, so editorial boards and suspect senators can all say they’ve been won over, and now support Delisi’s confirmation. And when that happens wishing and hoping will no longer work, we’ll have to start praying.

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