Sarah Eckhardt: A latter day Benedict Arnold?

Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt ran on an anti-toll road platform, and last Monday evening she broke hearts while she voted to spend $910 million tax dollars to shift our freeways to tollways.

Many are confused, shocked, and angry - and we should be. Many of us worked hard to get Sarah elected, to defeat toller Karen Sonlietner, and we certainly didn't elect her to compromise.

I understand Sarah’s strategy, but, I disagree with it. I had hoped that she’d vote on principle, and simply vote no to these double tax freeway tolls.

Eckhardt invested a lot of time and energy getting her amendments passed, Sen. Kirk Watson tries to give them more importance by calling them covenants, but these amendments could be virtually worthless, as years pass. Eckhardt says this to explain her vote:

“Toll roads as proposed by TxDOT warrant and have my continued opposition.

Monday night we heard eloquent statements from four other board members regarding the serious inefficiencies and inequities presented by the plan as proposed. Knowing that TxDOT will not give us the funding necessary to build the road infrastructure we need unless tolls are used as leverage, it is imperative that we as a board face these inequities head-on and do everything we can to blunt their effects. That's what the amendments that I offered are designed to do.”
Eckhardt’s amendments include: Toll roads can’t be sold to private interests, Toll revenue to be used in the corridor it was generated in (unless 2/3 of a future CAMPO Board votes against), High occupancy vehicles get free access, and the Toll tax to be removed when the debt from building the road is retired.


The problem with these amendment’s is they are NOT guaranteed. Not by a long shot. The amendments could easily be voted down, when nobody is babysitting CAMPO - 3, 5 or 15 years from now. So, in my opinion, they do nothing but give folks a false sense of a tiny bit of security.

Eckhardt has taken a gigantic gamble.

In my opinion, Sarah needs to impress us by making some magic happen in the next couple of years - before the tolls are set in stone, and before her next election. Stay tuned to this blog to find out if lemonade can be made out of these lemons.

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Anonymous said...

Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt's
Coffee Jolt & Think Tank

Come share ideas focusing on local policy and politics.

Next one: Wednesday, October 17th at Austin Java @ 8am
12th and Lamar, Austin

Anonymous said...

Ms. Eckhart would have to produce produce some pretty damn fancy magic to ever win back my trust and support. (I only call people I trust and like by their first names!)

Having Ms. Eckhart cave in and vote for the tolls hurt more than all the lies and manipulations of Watson and the other pro-tollers put together. At least we knew where they stood from the get-go.

I too understand Ms. Eckhart's reasoning that if tolls were going to pass regardless of the opposition, she might as well do what she could to soften their effect. But why couldn't she have gotten the board to vote for her amendments and, once they were part of the package, still voted against the total package?!?!

Did Ms. Eckhart have to promise Sen. Watson she would vote for the tolls to get him to vote for her amendments? If so, then I guess keeping a promise to Sen. Watson (one we must assume was made under duress) meant more to her than keeping the promises she freely gave to the voters who supported her and placed her in office.

The worst of all this is that, after having gotten to know Ms. Eckhart better than any other elected official in my entire life and having worked to get her elected, I'm honestly not sure I'll ever again be able to trust any politician enough to bother even wanting to vote again.