When and Where Does it End?

I read an interesting story in the Houston Chronicle recently. The headline “City told ‘to get its act together’ on rail” caught my attention as a council candidate, but more importantly as a native Houstonian.

Here are a couple of key points from the article that I feel are worth looking at more closely:

“Politicians are not the only Houston-area people divided on the merits of rail. Many taxpayers inside and outside the city remain skeptical that light rail is right for Houston, and that the investment thus far has paid off. For them, a lack of federal investment is a good thing.

Others have pressed for greater investment, but have largely not garnered the support to advance projects like the University Line, linking downtown with the Galleria area.”

Rail is starting to come across to me as an endless spending boondoggle. Where does the spending end? Is there ever an end of the line (no pun intended) to the pro-rail advocates?  Legislatures sometimes have a habit of creating a fictional problem just so they can be the solution to that problem.  I think you see that bright and clear with the Rail line and the City’s insistence that we keep laying more tracks. Until any legitimate data suggests that we need to keep expanding the rail line, then we need to use the City funds for other items where real needs exist.  If we were to be given Federal funds for the rail project, we don’t have the discipline to stay within that allocation, and we end up building more and more that exceeds the funds and come out of the Taxpayer pockets.

Congressman Culberson made a couple of interesting comments:

“Rep. John Culberson, a longtime critic of efforts to run rail down Richmond Avenue westward toward Loop 610, has opposed any federal funds aimed at the University Line because he views the line as unaffordable.”

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“Metro has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars, and they cannot afford to build any more rail beyond the three lines already under construction,” Culberson said. “I look forward to the day when Metro publicly admits what they have privately told me: They can’t afford to expand light rail in the city.”

Will we ever get straight answers and accurate price totals? Unlikely. Until we do, I can’t see the need to keep throwing money the city doesn’t have, and the federal government doesn’t have it either for that matter, at an endless amount of light rail dreams. Instead, let’s focus city resources on priorities, efficiency and revitalizing our community. . . . BECAUSE COMMUNITY COMES FIRST.

A Distraction is a Distraction is a Distraction

They are at it again. The Mayor has declared that she wants Houston to be the first major city to ban Texting while Driving.  Mayor Parker has declared that if the State fails to pass legislation, then she will take it into her own hands, and that of City Council.  Now before I rant about why this is just plain wrong, I want to make sure that the seriousness of the issue doesn’t get lost or that what I say doesn’t come across as insensitive.  As the recent Houston Chronicle article noted, 13% of 3,000 traffic fatalities could be blamed on texting while driving. That is roughly about 390 traffic fatalities that were preventable, but what about the other eighty-seven percent?

The strong and long arm of our city government again wants to turn an issue into a muscle match to dictate what and how you live your life.  If you remember last year, I was one of the biggest opponents of the feeding ordinance that made it illegal to feed more than 5 homeless people at a time on public property without first getting the  Mayor’s permission.  Many were confused why anyone would be opposed to the “coordination of feeding efforts,” but that was not the main source of the opposition.  It is about the local government going too far.  It is simple to say you should get permission from the City to feed people on Public property, but when will the “needing permission” stop?  If there were a rash of children getting hurt on public playgrounds, would the City then start requiring that prior to you playing on the Public playground you must first sign a waiver of liability and proof of insurance and file it with the Mayor’s Office?  Requiring individuals to get permission to use public property for feeding sets us up for this type of nonsense going forward all in the name of “Public Safety.”

Now the Mayor wants to use the same Public Safety cloak to again be everyone’s parent because you cannot care for yourself and you need her to save you. Making it illegal to text while driving is a bad idea for numerous reasons and City Council should not vote to support such a proposition.

The first reason is because making it illegal will not solve the problem of texting while driving, it will only increase revenue to the city for violators much like speeding does.  Getting a ticket is not a deterrent for individuals that speed, it only becomes a thought when an officer is within your purview.  The same will apply to the new proposed texting ban.  Second, under the color of law, all law must be applied equally and all protections applied equally.  So if it is illegal for an electronic apparatus to be used while driving, then that would mean that HPD could no longer search their in-car computers while driving as well. I don’t think the City or HPD is ready to make that move, so the texting ban must stand down as well.

The last, and most important reason, this proposed ban must fail is because like the feeding ordinance, once we let Big Sister regulate what we do while we are driving, then there  is no limit to where she will stop.  Texting while driving is a distraction, but so is eating a Whataburger with bacon, jalapeños and cheese while drinking a 44 oz. Dr. Pepper. If we make it illegal to perform one distraction, shouldn’t we ban all distractions, including changing the radio station, which in one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents or arguing with a co-rider, which is also in the top causes of motor vehicle accidents?

It is absurd to think that the local government can ban these types of things while we are driving, but if we allow the Mayor and City Council to pass an ordinance making it illegal to text while driving, then we are opening the door to allow them to ban anything that can distract us while driving.  A distraction is a distraction regardless of what it is, and we need to take ownership of our own actions and behaviors while we operate a motor vehicle. There are already laws on the books that allow for a citation for the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle as well as reckless driving. If a peace officer feels so inclined to pull someone over for erratic driving because of a distraction in their vehicle, then let them do so, but we do not need additional laws enacted as a money grab cloaked in public safety.

As technology advances, so will cars and mobile carriers to sync with each other to allow the safe operation of both. Let’s encourage these two industries to find a solution quicker rather than later to address the root cause and solve a problem, not profit from a sensitive subject.  When families get involved in the process and have an impact on business development that provides for true public safety, then that is when the community really thrives, and in my eyes . . . COMMUNITY COMES FIRST!