Tom Leppert on the Trinity River Toll Road, Again Slicing the Truth with a Razor Blade

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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I'm doing an informal poll. Is there anyone left out there who gives a rat's ass what former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert did or did not say about the safety of the Trinity River toll road project? Wait. Wait. I'm looking. I've got my binoculars on. A-ha! I do spy at least one rat's ass out there. That was all I needed. Here I go then.

On the op-ed page of today's Dallas Morning News, Leppert and a couple other mopes he somehow Shanghaied into this deal with him have written a pay-walled column in which Leppert says he did not lie to the voters before the 2007 referendum on building a toll road in the (glug-glug-glug) flood zone between the flood control levees along the Trinity River.

Why would anyone be crazy enough to build a highway in a flood zone? Yes.

In today's piece, Leppert says he never told anybody that the flood zone route had been officially approved. He says he said the flood zone route had not been officially disapproved.

Try to concentrate. This is tough. It's harder to follow than a courtroom scene on The Good Wife.

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Photo by Sam Merten
Tom Leppert and Kevin Craig of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Here's the drill. In 2007 when we had a chance to vote on this thing, opponents of putting the road in the flood zone said the flood zone was a bad place to put the road because it's the flood zone. It floods.

Leppert told voters there was no problem. He vowed on repeated occasions that all of the relevant officials and their engineers had studied the proposed route in the flood zone and had "signed off" on its safety and viability.

Voters believed him. In November 2007 Dallas voters narrowly approved building a highway in the flood zone, a thing on which the city will look back in future decades and feel the way I feel now when I see pictures of my pants in the '60s.

A week before the election in 2007, Shelley Kofler at KERA radio had a story in which Leppert could be heard saying: "The Corps has signed off on the safety issues. They have signed off on the environmental issues. They feel very comfortable with it."

At a League of Women Voters debate before the election, Leppert said: "The reality of it is, as I said, that both the Army Corps of Engineers, TxDOT and the NTTA have studied this. They say it's safe. They say it's environmentally sensitive, and they say it's economically viable. All three of those, and they're the experts, we have acknowledged them as being the experts on this, every single one of them has said this is viable and it works. It can be done. There's no reason not to believe it [can be] done."

As Kofler reported in her piece, Leppert's repeated assurances to voters that the glug-glug plan had been studied and approved already by all of the relevant agencies was untrue. Kofler quoted Gene Rice, project manager for the Corps, who said the Corps hadn't even seen plans for the toll road and hadn't signed off on jack.

"We have made no determination at this time on if the project will be acceptable or not," Rice told Kofler. "We are still working with the transportation interests to try to make sure that it could go in safely if it goes in, but no determination has been made or will be made for several years."

Now, if you look very very closely, you will see the little crack of wriggle room into which Leppert is now trying to wriggle himself, and, by the way, in order to visualize this, it's OK for you to go ahead and try to imagine me putting on those '60s pants again.

Leppert told voters in 2007 that the Corps had already decided to sign off. Rice said the Corps had not decided to sign off. But Rice did not say the Corps had decided to not sign off.

Get it? Decide to sign off. Decide to not sign off. Not decide to sign off. Not decide to not sign off. No, I don't get it either. But I guess Leppert does, which, in and of itself, scares me a little about this man, who is, as you know, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

In his 2007 interview with Kofler, Rice tried to make plain that it was by no means a given the Corps would ever decide to sign off: "For us this is a very complex project," Rice said. "We have never dealt with people putting facilities into the floodway itself. We have never had anybody that I know of in this district want to put a major road in our floodway."

So he was saying they might never sign off. But maybe when somebody says they might never sign off, you could sort of take that to mean they might sign off, because when they said never they also said might, which is like not-might-never-ever. Yeah. Hang on. I need a drink of water.

OK, I'm back. Here we are in Leppertland. The basic dynamic is this. In 2007 Leppert was talking to voters. He was speaking in the context of an election, not a cleverly written TV courtroom drama or a Lewis Carroll novel. He gave voters the clear impression that there were no remaining safety, financial or engineering doubts left about putting the toll road out in the glug-glug-glug zone.

That was not true.

Now years have passed. Suddenly last week after collaborating in this lie all this time, The Dallas Morning News, a very strong proponent of the glug-glug idea, decided to come clean with readers and admit that Leppert (not The News) had deceived them. In an editorial under the headline, "Overblown optimism about toll road did voters a disservice," The News finally admitted that, "Leppert and his allies offered a rose-colored, best-case scenario instead of allowing voters to make a fully informed decision about a significant and expensive project."

Now today we have Leppert's rebuttal, in which he calls The News' editorial "outrageous," and offers the following arguments in his own defense:

"No one in the Corps or the Federal Highway Administration or the North Texas Tollway Authority has ever told us the project was not safe or we could not get this done," Leppert writes.
Elsewhere he says:
"There are always doubters, and their concerns frequently challenge us to make the project better. But none of those concerns have reached the point of telling us this can't be done."
But his big point is this:
"Clearly, some bureaucrats within our project partners voiced concerns in emails. But ultimately, none of those partners have concluded that the tollway is unsafe or unachievable. And time after time, senior federal officials have not only said it is possible, they have assured us and others at the city that they are committed to seeing this project implemented."
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Tom Leppert addressing The News' editorial board. He beats them when they tease him.
Look. In 2007 he said the agencies had "signed off." Since then he has back-pedaled on what that phrase was supposed to mean, and I guess you could take "signed-off" to mean "not-signed-on" or something. But here's all Leppert and the other mopes who put their names on today's op-ed piece had to do:

Say who signed off. Tell us their names. We'll ask them what they meant. But we need their names. These are public officials. They can't sign off in secret. So name them. We'll check it out.

Personally, I look forward to calling them. I have my question all ready. "Sir or madam, prior to the 2007 Trinity River toll road referendum in Dallas, did you or did you not not sign off or sign off not or in any way not sign on, sign on not or sign off and on?"

You know, we had a guy here who did a profile of Leppert once, and he wrote that Leppert had all of these framed "fly with eagles" motivational sayings on his walls. I should see if I could get something made up that he could put on his wall with a great quote from the duchess who lives just outside the caterpillar's forest in Lewis Carroll's Wonderland.

"Be what you would seem to be, or, if you'd like it put more simply, never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise."

We can talk about this more later or later more. Right now I believe I need a long nap or a smart whack in the head.

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29 comments
Mmev
Mmev

I am so tired-- after 16 years of stating on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Dallas and other concerned citizens who have studied this for a long, long time that this plan was NEVER acceptable to anyone but the "downtown supporters (still unnamed!?!)" --this is still being discussed?? The DMN should go back and read their own reporters (particularly Victoria Hicks) reporting.What Gene Rice and the NTTA, and the COG, etc.,etc.,etc.  HAVE stated consistently and clearly is that, "with enough money you can pretty much do anything..."( 1997!). That endless amount of spending seems to be exactly what the city, the DMN and the road proponents have accepted on behalf of the taxpayers. Not their money, but lots of public works jobs for those that keep the Bidness bureaucrats and engineers paid well.Jim, thanks for always being on top of this never-ending story. Wish you were paid as well as the DMN, Halff Assoc., Corps, Cog and other lying opportunists that have lived out of this public feed trough for more than 20 years.

SoTru
SoTru

From the Barney Stinson school of motivation: Perfection-- "It is not good enough to win, everybody else should lose", Conformity--"It’s the one who is different that gets left out in the cold." and Awesomeness-- "When I get sad, I stop being sad and be Awesome Instead. True Story."

Lee Gibson
Lee Gibson

The crack about "some bureaucrats" was a nice touch.

Guest
Guest

LEPPERT: So, we'd like to build this toll road between the levees, what do you guys think?

CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Well, if you give us a detailed plan, we'll look at it and see, but, you know....

LEPPERT: Thanks for signing off on our plan for the road. See you at the ribbon cutting.

(What's most interesting to me now, though, is knowing that the Dallas City Council under then-Mayor Leppert signed off on tearing down all of downtown Dallas in order to build a bird sanctuary. I mean, they didn't explicitly say such a thing couldn't be done, so if I told everybody that they'd signed off on it, I'd be telling the absolute truth).

Marc
Marc

Jim, as usual, you are right on target with a humorous look at a not-so-humorous situation. I thank you for your continued vigilance and your willingness to take off the blinders, yank off the duct tape and scream the truth from the highest mountain!

Tom LIEppert is the biggest liar ever to hold elective office in Dallas County. Between he and Mary Suhm (his female counterpart Liar-in-Chief) our city has been sold down the Trinity Ditch to the lowest bidder. It is disgraceful what those two and those who followed their lead have done to this city.

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

Let's not forget! He had plenty of help! Practically all of the City Council swallowed the non-sense, hook, line, and sinker. Leppert's gone, but most of the rest are still "leading" the City.

Marc
Marc

So true! So true! And, Mary Suhm is at the top of that list. If she had ANY integrity, then she would resign and leave Dallas forever! It is disgraceful what that woman has done because she is clueless, and in way over her head. We have had few Council members who have opposed these nonsensical projects, Angela Hunt being one of them, and look at the derision she has endured for trying to say, "Hey, WAIT A MINUTE! Let's take a different look at this!"

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

It is a fine line between being visionary or delusional.   Unfortunately for Tommy (and crew) it is the latter.  On the motivational posters I suggest the following link:  http://www.despair.com/viewall...   They have thumb nail pictures and descriptions of each poster.  I especially like the on  Mistakes-“It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others”. The place I use to work for shelled out good money for the regular inspirational posters-what a crock!   The management had their heads up where the sun doth never shine. 

Same with Tommy.

JimS
JimS

I love that "warning to others" thing. I believe I have finally found my mission.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress.

Stan
Stan

The first time I met Mayor Liar, I had a bad feeling about him.  I thought I would not buy a used car from this man let alone vote for him.   He proved me right over and over.    It is a shame that his nose does not grow longer everytime he lies.

JonathanG
JonathanG

Completely off the subject but...What the hell did you do to that guy at DBag's...I mean DMag's Frontburner? Did you poop on his lawn or something? I read their blog all the time, and some of the folks over there are pretty good. But that guy...he's just taking contrived cheap shots at you, which leads me to wonder if you took a cheap shot on his lawn.

Robert
Robert

Jim Schutze told the truth about Tim Rogers in Roger's imbroglio with DISD. What Rogers is accused of doing is not that uncommon I have very recently learned. And Rogers has gotten away with it for now. The Hexter principal really needs to contact an attorney.

JimS
JimS

Guy's sensitive. I took a cheap shot at his daughter.

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

Oooooo...I vote a whack on the head. People can pay for the privilege. They'll get this thing paid for in no time!

Or...we could take swings at Tom? That might be more entertaining.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I like that idea.    How about 100 dollars per lash with a bull whip?

El Rey
El Rey

He specifically told me in 2007, at a SE Dallas Chamber of Commerce breakfast that "people smarter than you or I know how to do it so there will be minimal environmental impact". That shit is seared into my brain. He looked me in the eyes and said it.

(Jim, I think you can look at my comments to one of your articles from 2007. I'm pretty sure I called Tom Leppert a boldface liar then, too. I'm with you on this. Keep shouting from the rooftops, because the last thing we need is this parasite in Washington D.C.) 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

My favorite part of Leppert's op-ed piece was the closing:

"The naysayers have tried twice to stop the project at the polls and failed. They tied it up in the courts and failed. They have caused delay after delay, adding years to the project and trying to wear Dallas down. But the citizens of Dallas continue to hold the vision and are working to get it done. Dallas has always known the project, with the tollway, was an enormous undertaking that would require determination, innovation and stamina. That is how the world’s great projects got done. That is what it will take to get this project done as well."

It bears his signature trademark of damning the opposition as a bunch of out-of-touch losers and lunatics who are enemies of the beautiful utopia he's trying so hard to deliver.

He also gets bonus points for the use of the term "naysayers."

In all seriousness, I'm beginning to wonder if he might have some sort of cognitive disorder-- he's just getting to be more and more bizarre.

Anonymous
Anonymous

This isn't really a "great project" - it's just a new highway. At least for all the wasted time and money, Boston's big dig produced something great for the people of Boston and visitors. Most people I know there think it was a colossal waste of money, but they do like the result and already can't imagine going back to what was previously there. *IF* they ever build this thing, will anyone in Dallas be thinking back and saying that we just can't believe what we did before this extra toll road was there?

Marc
Marc

NO! It is not likely that will ever occur because the toll road is NOT going to be built... period! The USACE will NOT sign off (or on) to this project unless and until the levees are secured. USACE already told the city that it would have to put a "concrete-like cap" over the whole levee system, and take it all the way down to bedrock to prevent seepage under the levees. LIEppert just flat out lied to us about that whole issue!

Like New Orleans, USACE is not so much worried about water going over the tops of the levees as it is water seeping through the sand under the levees and washing them out causing a massive flood of all of downtown Dallas. But, thereon lies the REAL problem - in places, the bedrock is 100 feet down, and the cost to cement all the way down to bedrock would be tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars - FAR beyond anything we have, or ever will have.

Meanwhile, FEMA is about to redraw the floodplain maps and without the levee improvements ALL of the businesses along Riverfront Boulevard and in downtown are going to be zoned as floodplain areas. When that happens, and it just got pushed back by a year, real estate values are going to plunge, property owners are going to be forced to buy federally-mandated flood insurance, people are going to be hugely upside-down in their mortgages on worthless property, and there will be no buyers because nobody wants to purchase worthless floodplain property and pay for flood insurance.

That means our county is going to take a MAJOR hit on property tax revenues leaving it far short of what is needed to meet budget constraints at a time when states and the fed are cutting back on monies to municipalities. Sales tax revenues will drop as businesses close, and this whole domino scheme is going to fall like ...dominos!

Many of us have been screaming about these problems for years, even decades, but few were listening. Most just did not want to hear the ugly truth because it was not what they wanted to believe. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost and most people are unhappy that they are crapping all over their yards. We, the voters of the City of Dallas and Dallas County, are to blame for our selections of leadership that have "led" us to the precipice. We deserve the leadership we get because we elect it! The fault lies with the face that most people see when they look in the mirror.

Guest
Guest

He mentions determination, innovation and stamina but fails to mention the billions of taxpayer dollars.

Willile
Willile

Of course he's got a disorder...it's an organic one---drowning in his own B.S. 

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

If Leppert actually makes it to next March as a viable candidate I will actually hold my nose and vote in the Republican primary just to vote against the son of a bitch.

Jay
Jay

Leppert has certainly shown he is dishonest enough to serve in the US House, maybe even the Senate.  Seems to me the Corp told him the toll road was not impossible....and he translated that to the public as Corp approval....endorsement...even enthusiasm. He's a politician who lies without conscience or shame, like Weiner, Edwards, Stevens, and [fill in the blank]. He would fit right in with the Washington DC crowd....but there must be an actual human being we could elect instead.

mightcan
mightcan

The only thing that appears to have been built in the flood plain was Leppert's senate campaign. glug-glug.

Marc
Marc

That is not quite accurate. Without the federally mandated Environmental Impact Study ever being done the City of Dallas wasted over $4.2 million of taxpayer money building a "whitewater" park in the Trinity River at Corinth Street that remains closed because it was not built properly, and the bypass channel for recreational canoeists and kayakers is actually more dangerous than the whitewater wave. Now, the city is obligated to spend an additional $200K that we do not have for an engineering assessment to determine what must be done to correct the problems they caused by their incompetence in building this thing in the first place, and after that we will have to come up with probably $1 to 2 million additional to actually remedy the mess - during a period when the city is facing a budget shortfall of $60-100 million for the coming two years.

This is the true legacy of Tom LIEppert and Mary Suhm. This is what happens when greedy idiots get control of a city because the voting citizens are too apathetic and uneducated to care.

OED_Denizen
OED_Denizen

and you might note it was probably done when Mike Rawlings was the Chair of the Park Board!!!

Marc
Marc

You, sir, are absolutely correct. And now, Rawlings wants to be our next mayor so that he can continue the policies of LIEppert. In fact, Rawlings said, in a Dallas Morning News candidates questionaire, that he only has two regrets about Tom LIEppert - first, that he did not serve out his first term, and second, that he did not serve a second term.

The run-off election between Rawlings and former police chief David Kunkle is THIS COMING SATURDAY! I think that early voting ended today, but it might be tomorrow. At any rate, anybody who does NOT want the city to continue down the failed path of LIEppert and Suhm needs to go vote and cast your ballot for David Kunkle.

This is a crucial election that will help determine the future of our fair city and the direction it takes. David Kunkle wants to end these speculative and overly expensive projects that are unnecessary, and that do not contribute one single thing to the quality of life for Dallas citizens (other than the small few who stand to reap huge profits because of their close relationships with the "powers that be.")

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