Your pan-handlin’ man-handlin’ dustbowlin’ daddy

A fresh deck in New Deal

While the Obama and Clinton firmaments rotate their star-studded constellations over the skies of Texas (two Kennedys, three Clintons, and an Orion’s Belt of less heavenly bodies at last viewing), drawing our gazes up, up, to modern-day Mount Olympus, on the dirty, careworn earth the machinery of for-profit progress churns ever onward.

But despair not. Here rides our fair David, engaging the forces of economic partition in our contemporary Valley of Elah, that adjuster of ambition and responsibility: the federal courtroom. Terri Hall has united anti-toll TURF minions with enviro advocates Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas to sue for formal Endangered Species Act review of the planned U.S. 281 toll road.

Last fall the Texas Department of Transportation and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife folks said build away over that karst (read: more easily penetrated than Britney Spears) aquifer — those golden-cheeked warblers and rare swimmers will be just fine. That wisdom being based on TXDoT’s own Environmental Assessment (the state agency “had a consultant go out there and kind of walk around,” says AGUA’s Enrique Valdivia) and “informal consultation” with USFW. (Hmmm. Where has Queque been vexed by that bureaucratic runaround before?)

“It’s ridiculous to say adding $2 billion worth of infrastructure over the recharge and contributing zones will have no significant impact on the aquifer,” scoffed Valdivia in the official press release.

The law, he says, requires the agencies to consider the cumulative effect of the adjacent 1604 expansion and the 281 project, a proposed total of 300 acres of pavement in the Edwards’ most sensitive areas. “The ESA requires a more rigorous investigation,” Valdivia argues, “and that hasn’t been done.” The plaintiffs will likely be seeking a temporary injunction, too, so TXDoT doesn’t “change the facts on the ground.” (Read: negatively adjust the impacted wildlife populations before a new wing-and-intervebrate count can be marshaled.)

Some power glide

Yet our Lone Star Goliath-slayer must deal with defection of sorts, in the form of wayward endorsements. What up with the Texas Farm Bureau’s Friends of Ag Fund, opponents of the TTC, which would turn our fabled blackland prairie farmland and more into blacktop at a rate of a quarter-acre per every man, woman, and child in the state? The tillers in their

2wisdom have endorsed
State Rep. Frank Corte (District 122), would-be encumberer of birth control and — according to Hall’s lobbying-enabled arm, the San Antonio Toll Party — a toady for tolls. SATP has instead endorsed Corte’s Republican rival, teacher Tony Kosub, in the March 4 primary. The winner will face teacher Frances Carnot in the general. (Who’s administering our standardized tests, what with our educators out seeking more gainful employment?)

Post holin’, high rollin’

Much as the Queque might like to chain ourselves to our laptops, slave to your edutainment, we do get the cabin fever from time to time. The prescribed remedy being verbal exercise, the Queque stopped by KTSA 550 AM on Monday for question-and-answer sessions with Rick Noriega and Ray McMurrey, Democratic hopefuls for the U.S. Senate seat currently being kept warm by John Cornyn.

Noriega, 50, a five-term state rep from Houston and an Afghanistan war veteran, conceded that he wouldn’t be able to match Cornyn’s campaign war chest this fall, but rejected any suggestion that this year’s Democratic nominee will face an impossible task. He talked about an American withdrawal from Iraq, saying “we need to get off the dance floor” to push the Iraqi government to consolidate their feuding factions. Although he declined to take sides in the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama presidential campaign (“I don’t care if they’re for Hillary or Barack, as long as they’re for Rick”), he expressed his support for Clinton’s mandated universal health-care plan, saying “we all have to have some skin in the game” to keep costs down.

By any reckoning, McMurrey, a 42-year-old government teacher (!) from Corpus Christi (think of him as the Chip Haass of this senatorial campaign), is a longshot candidate, but he’s enjoying his status as the campaign’s clean-up-the-system insurgent and attempting to outflank Noriega from the left. McMurrey, a campaign virgin, talked about his own successful battle with cancer two decades ago, and how it made him acutely aware of how many people die because they can’t afford adequate health care. He also advocated for the development of national teaching standards. But he spoke most passionately about campaign-finance reform, pushing for increased public financing of elections and decrying the impact of lobbyists and special interests.

More Queque on Curblog: Art Hall v. Dale Henry, or The Bridge-builder v. “Well, what’s wrong with that?!”