Rick Perry Says He's Mr. Grassroots, But His Trans-Texas Flop Suggests Otherwise

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Tea Party people say they hate Washington and its top-down style of governance. They're the political version of eat-local. Everything should be grassroots.

Here in Texas the Tea Party loves Governor Rick Perry, but if you talk to people who've gone up against Perry on local issues, they will tell you that grassroots is one word the man cannot even find in the dictionary.

I ran into this particular Perry disconnect when I was doing the reporting for a story on Perry in this week's newspaper. One of the little sagas we had to trim back for space had to do with his attempt to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed but now defunct 4,000-mile-long high-tech transportation right-of-way, four football fields wide, from Mexico to Oklahoma.

Talk about top-down. Perry got beat badly on the TTC because he acted like he didn't even know local communities existed. The local communities that probably had more to do with beating him were our own town, Dallas, and Fort Worth.

For that part of my Perry story, I hardly talked to any progressive anti-highway Democrats at all. The people who fought Perry on it and beat him were mostly conservative-leaning pro-road-building Republicans. They all told me they liked Perry's basic idea but just couldn't reason with the man because of his autocratic style.

The TTC was the brainchild of an oil and gas millionaire pal of Perry's from back in the day, the late Ric Williamson, whom Perry had appointed chair of the state's Transportation Commission. The idea is dead now, shot many times over in the head by the Legislature. In fact, even though it had already been dead four years, the most recent Legislature dragged out the corpse and shot it again just to make sure, passing new legislation to curb the state's use of eminent domain.

One of the first people I interviewed for my piece was Republican State Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano. She said rural dwellers in the proposed path of the TTC learned the details from local newspapers and blogs, not Perry.

"Think if you're living in one of these communities. You've had farm land for three generations, and one day you read in the paper that this mammoth, behemoth, much larger than necessary thing is going to condemn most of your property. They were livid and rightfully so."

But so were the cities. Dallas and Fort Worth at the time were pouring hundreds of millions in infrastructure dollars into our two competing "logistics centers" -- rail and freeway hubs with gargantuan automated warehouses to handle Pacific Rim trade coming up from deep-water ports in Houston, Mexico and Southern California. The TTC would have stepped around both centers, carrying all of that lucrative trade instead out into hinterlands where people didn't want it.

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Bill Blaydes, then the Dallas City Council member in charge of our "inland port" project, says he, like Shapiro, thought the TTC idea had merit. He says it could have been married to Dallas' project, as well as to Fort Worth's Alliance Logistics Center, had Perry merely been willing to deal.

"It was a magnificent idea, had he been willing to work with the metropolitan areas and not try to bypass something that we had been working very hard to promote," Blaydes says. "We probably would not have fought it as hard as we did, but we fought it all the way to Washington."

In several years of trying, Blaydes said he was never able to find an inch of common ground with Perry or his friend Williamson. "They were headstrong and hard-headed. They could not and would not revise their vision," he says.

Sandy Greyson was the Dallas City Council member responsible for long-range transportation planning policy. She says when Dallas realized Perry wouldn't negotiate, the city mobilized quickly, hiring David Dean, a transportation lobbyist with strong ties to the Legislature.

Before Dean ever approached the capital, Greyson says, he ventured into the boondocks and did the grassroots work Perry and Williamson had failed to do, knitting together a coalition of every town council, aggrieved rancher and outlet mall he could find along the proposed route. By the time Dean took his "River of Trade" coalition to Austin, the TTC was a dead letter.

Greyson calls Williamson "a brilliant man" and mourns for the better parts of his concept. But, she says, "The fatal flaw in the whole thing was that it seemed to be a very top-down plan that would be imposed on people and cities and counties."

Shapiro says of the plan now, "It's gone." She says Perry could have pulled it off, had he been willing or able to work the grassroots.

"The idea should have been from the bottom up rather than from the top down. You would talk about it," Shapiro says. "You would have discussions about why we need this kind of infrastructure, so it comes from the grass roots, from the community leaders, from the people who own the land, not the government here telling you what to do."

Toss in Perry's decision to order HPV vaccinations for Texas girls and the way he handled the education budget in this recent legislative session: You have a man here who doesn't know a grass root from a railroad tie.

Given his campaign ads and his promises on the stump to put power back in the hands of states and local communities, there is enormous irony in how he really governs. But if something happened to Romney, Perry got the GOP nod and beat Obama ... well, that situation would go way beyond irony.

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20 comments
William Blesch
William Blesch

Thank God Perry is out of the race! As somebody that has lived in Texas, and that considers himself a conservative, I have to say I don't believe Perry upholds "my" values at all.

The whole HPV thing pissed me off more than I can say. And now, when new studies are coming out showing that Gardasil is not effective in boys at stopping anal cancer or genital warts AND when Merck’s own studies show that the vaccine is only effective for 5 years (so if your 11 year-old daughter gets the Gardasil vaccine, it will have stopped working by the time she is 16) it really makes you wonder where Perry's head was at.

(Here are the references for the claims made above about Gardasil)

Tomljenovic L and Shaw CA, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Policy and Evidence-Based Medicine:  Are They at Odds? Annals of Medicine December 22, 2011;

http://informahealthcare.com/d...

Lenzer J, Should Boys be Given the HPV Vaccine?  The Science is Weaker than the Marketing, Discover Magazine, November 14, 2011

I think people should look into more natural remedies that don't include fragments of HPV DNA. ( http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBl... )

Check out http://www.gene-eden.com

whitman1
whitman1

If he is grassroots, can we spray him with Roundup?

Max from the Sandspit
Max from the Sandspit

 Shit Jim you're gettin' lazy. You should have had a sit down with Amadeo Saenz, the thankfully retired ED of TXDOT. He is the Valley dumbass that screwed the pouch called the TTC. This could and should've been designed using existing right-of-ways. I had a ringside seat when the Bridge to SPI had a hole knocked in it. The taco hound should've been flogged at the Treaty Oak,.   Instead they removed him from the Pharr district to Austin, we thought he'd be fired, instead he was promoted.

Snarl
Snarl

So what is the status of Texas's North/South Transportation future? Are we stuck with an I35 buildout now that's gonna cost billions more because of the required adjacent existing business buyout amounts? Taxpayer loses. The Real Story: TransTex corridor was doomed even without Perry misfires because it was politically manipulated to be a 100% eminent domain big government diabolical plot giving contracts to foreigners.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Actually Jim, here's a related story idea for you.  It wasn't just Perry ramming stuff down the state's throat in the early '00s.  Remember the Arlene Wohlgemuth-authored  HHS sledgehammer known as HB 2292?  And her Mississippi-based cronies that got foisted off on us?  It was like the Texas Republican Empire.  The state is still digging itself out of that nightmare.

Aganuls
Aganuls

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214 Cocksucker Lane
214 Cocksucker Lane

In the words of my beloved departed Mollie Ivins, " if it weren't for Alabama, we'd be dead last," in taking care of our less endowed people. I guess poor Rick wants the US to have an impoverished country while business looks good. He would be a gift to Obama. Run! Rick! Run!

Paul
Paul

Whatever happened to "Thank god for Mississippi?"  ... Are they now #48?

Yakuza_Fighter
Yakuza_Fighter

Isn't Mississippi the state that is dead last in everything?

dt&ot
dt&ot

Grassroots. Funny, I had not heard that one.  Grassroots players don't raise the kind of money he has raised.

I like the illustration: Is Perry to Reagan what "buddy jesus" is to Jesus?

Jackmack65
Jackmack65

I think what most people seem to fail to grasp about Perry is his fundamental and consuming corruption. His style is exactly that of a mobster. He seems to have no respect whatever for ethical behavior, or frankly, for the law except as a tool to destroy his "enemies" and consolidate his own power.

While I recognize that there is a great deal of human nature at play here, is this REALLY what we want in our political leaders?  I think not.

Nevertheless, if he does become the Republican nominee, he's a guaranteed winner. The Republicans could run a rusty Schlitz can and a half-eaten sausage pizza against Obama and win 42 states.

East Texas P1
East Texas P1

I am a middle-of-the-road conservative, by which I try to listen to all sides and make my decision based on long-term value and not short-term gain.  If the election was tomorrow between Obama and Perry I honestly don't know which one I would choose.  Probably Obama, at least you know what you are getting.

Huh
Huh

Chronic plus nine percent unemployment with steadily decreasing labor participation rates?

ASDF
ASDF

I'm not giving Obama a pass but I'm just going to say it's completely ignorant to blame all economic issues on the president (especially in light of what primarily put us in the situation we're in).

Rooster
Rooster

I don't buy this.

He spent his first two years in office declaring GWB was the boogeyman, and not doing squat about the economy.

Now he's facing re-election, and has suddenly realized people have noticed he hasn't done squat about the economy.

GWB may very well have been the boogeyman, but if I walk into my boss' office and tell him I can't fix the company's problems because the last guy screwed up too bad, he's going to fire me so fast it will make my head spin, and bring in a guy who CAN fix it.

This is what I see in our president's future, provided its not Governor Goodhair running against him.

Kevin H
Kevin H

Yeah, Perry and Obamanator have about the same records...Scary, Huh , Huh ?

Paul
Paul

"Next time I tell you not to vote for a governor from Texas as President, will you listen to me?" -- Molly Ivins

Michael C
Michael C

Any one who has had any direct dealings with Perry quickly realizes that he is just a total prick. Obnoxious and arrogant. Just watch videos of him back when he actually did press interviews, especially sit down, one-on-one type shows. It's really amazing.

Whatever you want to say about Bush, at least in person he's a fairly nice guy.

chinny chin chin
chinny chin chin

it's actually the nice ones you need to worry about...

cp
cp

Um, no, I mean, did you even read Schutze's story above?

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