A proposed ballot measure that would have raised billions of dollars for transportation statewide died for a lack of petition signatures last week. To me, that’s not the news. The real story is the TIME initiative had to scramble for signatures in the first place.
Now, this isn’t over yet, with the initiative’s backers promising to take this matter to court. But that’s in the future — I have a lesson from the past. In 2000, Florida voters liked the idea of a proposed bullet train enough to approve a constitutional amendment requiring the state to build a high-speed rail network. Four years later, voters balked at the price tag and killed that amendment.
|Click to view a map of East Valley road work|
From the moment the amendment was approved, then-Gov. Jeb Bush declared he hated the projected and wanted those trains stopped before they ever left the station. He already had one bullet train proposal killed after being sworn into office in 1999.
At every turn, Bush and his enlisted henchman, the state’s insurance commissioner*, would tell residents and the media the possible fallout if the network were to be built: raised taxes, fired teachers, released prisoners.
The two lobbied across Florida and sent out direct-mail hit pieces — of which the most brazen said the train’s construction would require the state to establish its first income tax. In the end, Bush won; the bullet train got derailed at the polls by a margin of nearly 2-1.
Contrast Bush’s ubiquitous presence to this summer’s invisibility of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. For a transportation package that was such a big deal — and $43 billion certainly is big — where was the urgency? The publicity? I saw no ads, no maps .
Opponents of TIME will say Arizonans looked at the proposal and didn’t like it. But I wonder if they even knew about it.
*The Florida point man was a fellow named Tom Gallagher. Insurance has little to do with transportation, but I’m fairly sure Gallagher believed leading the anti-train charge would get him a step up on his GOP competitors for the governor’s seat after Bush was term-limited out in 2006. But while Gallagher hammered on high-speed rail, what else happened during the summer of 2004? Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne rampaged through the state. Floridians emerged from the wreckage only to be waylaid by problems with their insurance.
Riding to the homeowners’ rescue was not Gallagher but Attorney General Charlie Crist . Two years later, in the GOP primary, Crist stomped Gallagher and was elected governor. The moral of this story: Before getting on a train, be certain you know where it’s going.
FEWER FATAL CRASHES ON ARIZONA'S HIGHWAYS
Arizona highways became a safer place to drive last year.
In a report released last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that Arizona had 227 fewer fatal crashes — an 18 percent decrease.
While the bad news is traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for Americans, according to AAA, the good news is Arizona’s roadway death toll was second only to California in terms of an actual drop.
And by percentage, Arizona ranked fifth.
Across the country, the number of crashes is also down.
That continues a trend during the past several years, leading to the lowest death totals since 1994.
The report also revealed injuries in crashes dropped by more than 3 percent.
The report didn’t cite reasons for the decreases.
CLOSURES AND RESTRICTIONS
• Power Road will be closed between Pecos and Williams Field roads from Monday to Wednesday as Union Pacific installs new railroad tracks.
• Ellsworth Road north of Rittenhouse Road is closed as crews complete roadwork. Access to Queen Creek and Ellsworth Loop roads will be blocked through this week.
• Lane restrictions on Chandler Heights Road will remain in place though the end of the month between Higley and Greenfield roads.
• Queen Creek Road remains closed between Arizona Avenue and McQueen Road while crews install underground utilities and complete construction to make Queen Creek Road six lanes.
• Lane restrictions remain on Riggs Road from Val Vista Drive to Lindsay Road.
• Hawes Road will be closed between Queen Creek and Ocotillo roads from Tuesday to Sept. 4. Crews are completing the Gilbert CAP Waterline Project.
• Traffic will be shifted to the south on Ocotillo Road from Ellsworth Loop to Hawes roads as construction continues to widen the street.