Archive Page 2


a man of constant sorrow

If you have ever seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, there is a character that is more than loosely based on the famous (or infamous) Governor of Texas, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.  In real life, O’Daniel moved from Kansas to Fort Worth as a young man where he became the sales manager of the Burris Flour Mill.   This company was heavily involved in radio advertising, and the medium proved to be one the future governor took to naturally.  He also had an affinity for songwriting and ultimately hired a group of musicians to form and old timely band originally called the Light Crust Doughboys.

Now you may have never heard of the Light Crust Doughboys (or later the Hillbilly Boys) but the group launched a few things I assure that you have heard of.  One was Western Swing, and the other was its King and a doughboy alumnus, Bob Wills.


O’Daniel ultimately captured the public spotlight with a noontime radio show that focused on good music and the catchy phrase he often used, “pass the biscuits, Pappy!”  His popularity was so great that he was easily persuaded by his adoring fans to run for Governor of Texas.  He campaigned on the virtues of the Ten Commandments, tax cuts and economic development.  He was often accompanied by his band whose popularity was skyrocketing at the time and thus drew huge crowds.  Aside from the brilliance of bringing your own band, yesterday’s campaign talking points are not so different than todays.  That is of course unless our very own King of Country Music decides it’s not a far hike from San Antonio, or his ranch in Cotullla to the Governor’s Mansion…hmmm.

Well despite his popularity, Governor O’Daniel, who was the only person to defeat Lyndon Baines Johnson, was largely unsuccessful in delivering on his campaign promises.  In fact, as his record suggests, he reneged on most of them and ultimately was known more for his musical legacy than his leadership.

Back then, the colonial practice of “riding the rail” was still within the political vernacular of the times.  In the movie, there was a scene were Pappy O’Daniel works the crowd up in the presence of his political foe and incites them into doing just that.  The masses demonstrate their displeasure by straddling the ousted on a rail held on the shoulders of two men, then taken to the street and dumped – right on a steaming pile of horse apples I might add for effect.  Boy – you sure knew exactly where you stood back then didn’t you?  The good ole days.


President Abraham Lincoln gets credit in a speech for quoting someone else about riding the rail, but history suggests he used it often, “if it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I would just as soon walk.”  Unfortunately, in this day and age it is becoming increasingly clear that this odd, old colonial practice still perhaps has a place in politics today.  Now I am a firm believer that there is no higher calling than serving your fellow man.  Be it your church, community, school or neighbor. And it takes many forms – deacon, peace officer, firefighter, first responder, military, community volunteer, elected official and the list goes on.  But once you demonstrate your inability to distinguish between public service and self service, folks it’s time to hang em up.

If you can’t see that for yourself, well then there is always the rail.  Let’s not forget that we voters speak with our feet, but we can always take a page from history if that message isn’t strong enough.  Go a little further back and tar & feathers were the instruments of choice to demonstrate displeasure.  Now that would be just a little too ridiculous don’t you think?  But given the level of self-service we have seen demonstrated lately – maybe it’s exactly what Pappy would have ordered.


walking that deck

Foreign Object Damage or FOD is simply any substance, debris or article alien to a vehicle or system which could potentially cause damage.  We all go to great lengths to protect ourselves from foreign intrusion which can cause us irreparable harm, and as well we should.  The disruption of progress can disguise itself in many forms.  What’s most important, is that we identify and protect ourselves from it.  We prepare.  We have a uniform plan to equalize any harmful effects – any unwanted outcome.
I have a buddy who while in the Navy worked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.   He once told me that periodically the whole crew would link arms and walk every square inch of the deck –  forwards and backwards.  Scanning, searching – looking for any object large are small that may have made its way undetected onto the carrier.  While many of you are familiar with the size of an aircraft carrier, the next time you fly out of your local airport, think about packing all that runway, equipment, personnel onto a relatively small space, and then add explosives by way of armament.  I’ll remind you also that the same small space is a floating living quarters for thousands of America’s finest.  Pretty impressive.  That kind of logistical efficiency also brings with it some very high stakes.  Yet it always struck me as odd that arguably one of the most important of tasks, was handled rather rudimentary  – simple, but highly effective.  Get out there with your own eyes and see for yourself.  Put on your coat and walk that deck.  FOD
 So, in this case, should a foreign object go undetected and further ingested into the turbine intake of a multi-million dollar aircraft at the very instance it is being catapulted of the deck of a billion dollar aircraft carrier at full throttle and loaded to the gills with fuel and arms – complete chaos and cataclysmic failure could result.  Not to mention the potential for loss of life.  As I suggested, the stakes are very high.  Therefore, systematically checking for foreign objects that can cause mayhem is mandatory and requires an extraordinary amount of discipline.  Another great example of how taking care of the little things promote the bigger things into falling in place.
And if you think about it – the faster the speed of the aircraft, the more catastrophic the mayhem.  This is not so different then how we manage and lead right here at home.  First, always be on the look out for FOD.  It can come in many forms and all of them are disruptive.  The faster we go and the more we are trying to consume in our day, the higher the likelihood the mayhem will be great should we fail to detect those foreign objects.  Second, when it comes to looking for FOD, make it a team effort and get all hands on deck  – quite literally.  You have already surrounded yourself with a team you trust – now test them regularly.  When they are successful – notice, affirm and give thanks.  It’s that simple.  Lastly, have an action plan for dealing with mayhem.  Remember that no matter what we do or what precautions we take, there will always be failures in the system.  Have a plan that all are rehearsed on and standing by the ready to implement should things go wrong.  In the end and no matter what, it takes a sharp eye to recognize mayhem in the making and strong leadership to know that we must learn from our failures – any degree of failure.  Failure is not always fatal, but failure to change eventually will be.

a good man

The chairman capped-off his year as our leader last week by suggesting something during his membership address that was rather poignant.  I bring it up, not because it bears repeating, but rather it should be swallowed whole and digested slowly.  You see the Texas Trucking Association closed the largest annual gathering of it’s membership last Thursday night.  Thus bringing to an end what is virtually a whole week of educational, inspirational and social programming.  And trust me, it is exhausting for both staff and attendees alike.  But Chairman Richard Minnix not only took the liberty during his farewell to remind us of that fact, but pointed out that in addition – it’s just as taxing on those left to mind the stables back home at the ranch.  In that one same breath he also reminded us of how a vibrant community of peers can recharge one’s soul just when it needs it most.  Funny how your friends have a way of doing that.
You see he’s absolutely right.  The daily grind can be exhausting to the point that we often lose perspective and even get cranky with those we love and respect the most – through no fault of their own.   We’ve all done it.  However – that brand of exhaustion, plus a new one can equal rejuvenation?  Well, yes actually it sure can.  Chairman Minnix points out that it is so infectious, that he himself has returned to the annual conference 18 straight years with his lovely wife Xan and his son Chase to ensure it’s an elixir he doesn’t do without.  Sometimes it may just simply be the reminder that we are not alone in our mutual struggles, just when we feel they are ours alone to bear.
Guest speaker Aaron Thomas, the Athletic and Student Services Director from a small high school in Parkersburg, Iowa described it best when sharing his inspirational story with attendees on Wednesday.  He gave us all an unforgettable account of his own community’s tragic struggle with adversity, first in rebuilding after the devastating direct strike of a EF-5 tornado on his hometown with a population of 2,000.
Yet far more devastating was the loss of the leader who motivated the entire community to rebuild in time for the start of the high school football season that fall – just some 100 days later.  Parkersburg, Iowa USA ceased becoming a town and was reborn a community in that moment.  And from it emerged a true leader who had already distinguished himself by the name of Coach Ed Thomas – Aaron’s father.  Coach Thomas was murdered a short time later by a former player with diagnosed mental issues. Their struggle earned the family the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage presented at the 2010 ESPN ESPY Awards.  Image
Aaron shared his story of this incredibly selfless journey, while capturing our spirits by describing to us all that his father did not have a job – he had a passion.  And he fed that passion every minute of every day as a coach and athletic director who simply loved each and every one of his students.  Never did he measure success in wins or losses but instead it was with an inspiration that only leaders who mentor can awaken.  Whether you were a four-year letterman or a 95 pound freshman tackling dummy, Coach Thomas treated all with the respect and dignity they deserved and all in the order that they came to him in.  No one was preferential – all are individually special.
That perhaps gets lost far too often in this fast-pace world.  Ever the more reason to stop and recharge as Chairman Minnix suggests.  Or as I often share – soar high periodically and hover.  Just see for yourself what it is you have created below for exactly what it is.  Aaron Thomas focuses on where you spend your time and money.  Words are what we share and often times those come at no cost – and others times at the greatest of costs.  But our time and money?  Invite yourselves to recharge and re-evaluate as often as you can afford to.  Look around when you get home tonight, I would suggest to you what you see and feel is an investment you cannot afford to pass up on.  If Coach Ed Thomas were alive today I think he would agree.  Actually, I met his son – I know for a fact he does.

goodbye mister graves

Last week, Texas lost an impossibly talented author with an unmatched writing style and wit.  He was 92.  A book that began as a magazine article became a Texas classic and an all time favorite of mine.  John Graves wrote Goodbye to a River in 1960 after completing a three-week canoe trip down the Brazos River, which he feared would forever be changed by the dams that were being proposed at the time.  It was his farewell to youth and an acknowledgment of the innocence lost therin whilst making way for progress.  Graves was the author who awoke a love in me for the streams and tributaries that span this great state, not to mention the history of the people who converged on these life-giving byways.  As it turns out, the first roads of Texas were traversed with a paddle.  He was the one author who showed me and so many like me – that a river does indeed have a soul.

At home at Hard Scrabble - photo by Michael O'Brien

At home at Hard Scrabble – photo by Michael O’Brien

Graves was an environmentalist by association and I can assure you that those who shared his love for this great land we call Texas would be destined to become fast friends.  I had the opportunity to meet him about five years ago and will forever lament that I did not bring my first run copy of this classic for his signature.
I was like a kid in candy store,  just hearing him discuss his work much less be introduced to the man.  As we say our goodbyes, we also play taps for yet another veteran of WWII.
Graves was injured on the island of Saipan and his experience as a Marine could often be found infused in his work.  William D. Wittliff, the screen writer who helped bring Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove to television perhaps put it best in a recent interview with the New York Times.  “He cared about things that were worthwhile caring about, and he wrote about them in a way that made you care about them.”
Whether it’s  trucking, writing or running an association,  you had better feed the soul in order to be successful.  Graves understood that like no other and wrote about it with emotion, authenticity and authority.  Although he spent time abroad in the Marine Corps and began his work in New York City, he came home to Texas to find his true voice – expressed in so many essays and so many literary works.  He will truly be missed.
“Neither a land nor a people ever starts over clean. Country is compact of all its past disasters and strokes of luck–of flood and drouth, of the caprices of glaciers and sea winds, of misuse and disuse and greed and ignorance and wisdom–and though you may doze away the cedar and coax back the bluestem and mesquite grass and side-oats grama, you’re not going to manhandle it into anything entirely new. It’s limited by what it has been, by what’s happened to it. And a people, until that time when it’s uprooted and scattered and so mixed with other peoples that it has in fact perished, is much the same in this as land. It inherits.”  – John Graves, Goodbye to a River: A Narrative 

semper gumby

Every once in a blue moon, things run as planned.  You hit all the cues, the lights go down when they’re supposed to and the music is not too loud.  Your presenters are all insightful and the food is fabulous – not cheap mind you, but good groceries.   All the minute details come together at the prescribed times and even the weather cooperates – yes even the weather.  Much like the written word where Spanish Playwright and Philosopher Enrique Jardiel Poncela once said, “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into it’s writing,” so too must great effort go into well planned meetings of your making.
Careful planning first comes with knowing your environment.  By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.  That takes time, talent, discipline and the relentless pursuit of attention to details.  If things are rolling like they are supposed to be, even when things are going horribly wrong according to your standards – your guests are oblivious.  The preverbal duck gliding on top of the glassy pond – on top graceful and beautifly effortless, while underneath all elbows and…well you get the picture.
In the world of political advance we used to call it, “getting rolled.”  No one liked it nor planned for it, but if something came down the pike that causes you to make an adjustment – you roll with it.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith any luck you owned it and make it flow for you.  Not unlike what you do everyday that makes you successful, you are able to maneuver the daily land mines that were not evident when the day started.  Such is the life of the working man & woman.  The well known motto of the United States Marine Corps is  Semper Fidelis, Latin for Always Faithful.   The unofficial motto is one we have adopted around here, that is simply and appropriately, “Semper Gumby,” or Always Flexible.
We have to be ready to accept what comes that is unplanned and deliver despite adversity.  It’s what makes us uniquely qualified to be successful in our own environment and cultivates us to realize success even when thrust into unfamiliar territory.  The novelist J.R.R. Tolkien may have put it best, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”   Make a sound plan to slay those dragons and you’ll have no problem with a few horned toads that crash your party.

no orange cone fatigue

A few short weeks ago, the Texas House voted out their version of a transportation funding bill during the second called special session.  I should say, eeked out rather.  As I stated here before,  it will not be an easy vote the second time around.  At second reading back then, they did not have the mandatory two-thirds majority needed.  They were eight votes short.  They did however, manage to be eight votes over what they needed during the third reading.  That’s actually only three votes more than what would have made the vote eligible for verification – strict enforcement was requested.
Ok now, what all that means is that you can’t vote on your friends behalf, even if they said you could.  If a verification was called, they would essentially have a roll call and that would be the official vote.  One member present, one vote.  So while it looks like a solid majority got it out the door – there was plenty of nail-biting to go around.  We were happy to do our part, talking to members on the fence that whole week.
Much to the House’s credit and to that of the Speaker, they got the first part done.  And it was a big part.  The Senate also had a plan with momentum on their side as well.  So, in the end, this all went to a conference committee made up of a few House members and a few Senate members who got to hammer out all the gory details and come to an agreement that has a little bit of both of their ideas.  All for moot as we sit today, but let’s also be clear, whatever comes out of any compromise now will not solve all of our highway funding problems – it will just be a start.  It will also have to be put on the ballot in November, a constitutional change such as the ones being proposed means you all get to vote on it.  But lets also focus here on what will happen if we don’t start making some significant strides to fund transportation.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus

Our biggest problem is that it won’t be immediately felt – no immediate impact.  In fact, if it doesn’t happen you may or may not even read much about it.  It’s not that volumes wont be written, but it just may not make its way into your above the fold priority of reading for the day, for the week, or however and whenever you take your news.  It will be lost somewhere further down.  But make no mistake, with Gov. Rick Perry’s recent announcement that he will not run for reelection, the stage for some interesting political theater is setting.  Allow me to be a little less cryptic.

If we do not get something done during Perry’s waning months as governor, a new governor will have different priorities.  Who’s to say transportation is not on the top of the list, true.  But who is to say, that a new governor will have a full agenda of policy deliverables to fit alongside campaign promises – which includes transportation at the top.  It won’t be for lack of love for good roads,  not at all.  It will be a matter of priority.   Now let’s go back to where we started.
If the general public (who I like to call the motoring public) is really not motivated by the current condition of the state’s infrastructure to believe we have an actual road problem, then generally speaking, it’s not high on the list of things you want to see your next governor fix.  Well, then there is a strong chance your next governor may not have it high on their list also. That goes for all our state elected officials as well.
It’s not that transportation is widely believed to be unimportant.  Trust me, we all want to have a world-class infrastructure that we can all be proud of once again.   I mean, come on – that’s a wonderful deliverable for any elected official or association.   Like it or not, there is just not a public perception that it’s an emergency.   You see that’s the real issue here.
It’s no secret, many other states see this problem as well, we are not alone.  But until we can impress upon the masses  –  or the average Texas Joe or June, that we are about to start seeing big problems if we do not make highway funding an absolute priority, then you will see the docket fill with more important things.  Things such as water, education, health-care and the like.  These are all important of course, but are they critical?  Well, yes.  Some are more critical than others, but do you know how critical?  No, and that’s not all on you, it depends on who you talk to.  But ask yourself this, have you ever sat frustrated in traffic wondering where all these people are coming from and going to, and then asked yourself why don’t we add more lanes?
You see this gets so muddied-up that it takes good leadership and a good grassroots advocacy campaign to first define the problems.  Then capital must be invested to educate the public on the fact that we have a huge problem that needs to be remedied and point to scenarios such as the one I just did, that we can all personally relate to.  Initiate a grass roots effort to work the political side of this hard enough to ensure our elected officials that their respective constituencies loudly support the issue.  That they expect some deliverables here – you expect some deliverables.  Clear as mud?
You see, this, in a nutshell – is our challenge.  This is the game.  You see orange cones on the road everywhere and it’s easy to believe that progress is occurring so you wait and you hope.  You see roads being repaired today and you say, “Joe this is nice, do you see where they widened this,” or “June look, they finally resurfaced that – now this is a good use of my tax dollars.”  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a solution waiting for a campaign.  The issue is there, the motoring public is just largely unaware or just unmotivated.  Generally speaking we are in such a state of laissez faire that the majority believes it will be fine, that it will all work itself out.  You don’t believe that, because you’re tuned in here and you know that it’s not without a lot of labor first.
The process of checks and balances works, this is mostly true, but the reality is that if this legislature doesn’t find the needed infrastructure dollars to fund projects moving forward to even near the numbers TxDOT has been talking about for sometime, then the projects will dry-up with the money.  The sick humor in this is that TxDOT is just sitting back knowing and warning – no money, no construction.  That part is not rocket science, it doesn’t take a room full of engineers to explain that one.   Projects won’t get “let” and soon you will be asking yourself not when will they finish this project, but why don’t I see any more orange cones?  So while you’re slowing down in those work zones, if we are not successful in Austin, you’re going to have to also make note of the number of them that you see.  The state’s road maintenance is ongoing, meaning simply that it should never end.  It takes time to let projects – to research, study, design and plan, much less actually build.  So much so, that projects you are seeing completed today were likely approved well over 2 years ago.  That’s the dilemma we have.  Therein is the delay.  It takes the public to apply genuine pressure, sometimes over time to give the backing the legislature and elected officials need to act.  Then the political wheels must move before good public-policy can be successful.  Let’s do our part to keep these wheels a-turning, your ability to keep your own wheels turning depends on it.  Let us also hope time doesn’t run out – especially on special session numero tres.

weak of heart need not apply

December 21, 2000, after the longest election night in history, one that started on November 7 and lasted for over five weeks – a day marked by the resignation of the 46th governor of Texas was also the day Texas welcomed its 47th governor.

It was a modest ceremony in the chamber of the Texas Senate, one befitting a week or so of preparation, but certainly worthy of the pageantry Texans have come to expect when welcoming a new leader to the helm.  As a young aide-de-camp, I recall precisely when the magnitude of what was occurring hit me.  It was the cannons firing outside of the chamber on the grounds of the capitol at the moment the governor finished taking the oath.  The windows were flexing in their panes so hard I thought they were going to shatter.  It was at that moment that I knew that even things for my own family and my career would be drastically changing. 

Former Lt. Gov. Rick Perry was poised to take his position with the likes of the many fine men and women who held the honor before him.  Governors like Sam Houston, Francis Lubbock, Elisha Pease, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, James Hogg, Pat Neff, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, Coke Stevenson, Beauford Jester, Allan Shivers, Price Daniel, John Connally, Dolph Briscoe, Mark White, Ann Richards and of course George W. Bush – just to name a smattering.  All have taken their place in Texas history, and all have served this state well.

As you have all heard by now, Rick Perry announced that his unprecedented run as Texas Governor will come to an end, as he will not seek re-election to the office in 2014.   And when we have a new governor, the 48th in our history, the former governor’s portrait will take its place in the capitol rotunda.  And there it will hang, closest to the South steps and next to that of former Governor George W. Bush – thus closing the chapter on another Texas legend.  There will be much written about the Perry administration and about his legacy.  I would simply say that while time will be the ultimate judge, simple facts readily available to you today will not deceive you.  The strong, steady leadership of this governor and his no-nonsense approach to strengthening the economy may very well be his biggest legacy.  But it will not be his only one – far from it. 

Personally, I think it will be left to those who worked closest to him to tell the story of Texas during that time; his time.  Those who know him best and understand that it was thanks to those principals honed on a dry-land cotton farm in the “Big Empty” of West Texas with his mother, dad and sister.  The pages of so many Boy Scout Handbooks; the experiences as a student in the Corps of Cadets in College Station and the many missions flown around the globe in a C-130 as a pilot in the United States Air Force just to name a few. 

But most important perhaps are the influences of his children and his wife.  Don’t tell the governor, but it just might be as bittersweet that one of the classiest and most graceful first ladies to ever occupy the mansion will also see her tenure end.  Actually, you can tell him – he will agree without hesitation.  You see, he is more than a man of strong faith who never minced words about the direction he proposed taking on a multitude of different issues, on any given day or any given hour as governor.  He always understood that the CEO of the state of Texas requires a steely nerve and a steady hand, and what I will always know for certain – is the tremendous leader we have come to have the good fortune to serve us all these years.  It was fate.  Rick Perry has never lost sight of the fact that leadership is a gift given by those who follow.

There will certainly be more written over the next 18 months as we come to the end of the Perry era in Texas.  What will be next for him will be fraught with speculation, but perhaps more importantly, is what will be next for all of us.  Texas loses a powerfully effective leader, but into whose hands will our beloved state go?  Let the game of musical chairs begin as the Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Ag Commissioner, Land Commissioner and even Railroad Commission offices are about to be up for grabs – those weak of heart or tin political ear need not apply.  


because governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed

In a speech delivered in Philadelphia back in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge chose the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence to isolate what he believed to be its sole inspiration.  And as such, reaffirming the truth of its principals.  He called it a “spiritual document.”  He proclaimed that, “…if all men are created equal, that is final.  If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final.  If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.”

Coolidge was known as a man who actually said very little.  As legend had it, when “Silent Cal” was Vice President, a lady at a dinner party took the seat next to him and told him she had a bet with a man in the room that she could get more than two words out of him.  His now famous reply,  “You lose.”

He was man of decisive action thrust into the national spotlight upon the untimely death of President Warren G. Harding in 1923.  Coolidge was a small-government conservative and as the name would imply, he was one cool cat in my book.

He was, as they say, cultured.  He translated Dante and read Cicero in Latin,  but far more importantly, he had a great love and understanding of the Declaration of Independence.  As a country lawyer in Massachusetts, he built a reputation as a hard-working, diligent attorney who also believed he best served his clients by keeping them out of the courtroom.  He brought this same diligence to the White House.

As president, Coolidge understood the true meaning of equality.  It was after all, the roaring 20’s.  At a time when gender was center stage in America, his focus was on the classes –  specifically those who held power over those who did not.

I referenced this earlier regarding government deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and this my friends is an important point.  It also happens to serve as the basis for the argument for those who are passionate about protecting our 2nd amendment rights.  Now there’s something that has been in the news a lot these last few years.  And it’s not going away anytime soon either.

So while the Independence Day celebrations have come to an end.  The hot dogs have all been eaten, the annual neighborhood parade now all but a memory, and all the firecrackers have been reduced to charred paper blowing around your yard.

Give yourself a break – take 15 minutes this weekend and read Coolidge’s 1926 speech.  It’s a great way to exercise the mind about the intent of our forefathers going on 238 years now.  And remember It’s always good to take the time to remind ourselves in many different ways, what it all was for anyway.

Just when we think we know for sure, or perhaps its something we have unintentionally taken for granted.  We all should be doing this in our business practices on a regular basis – take out and read that mission statement – those articles of incorporation.  Our very own individual declarations if you will.  You never know what fresh prospective may come over you or what you might learn.  Too busy?  Yeah I get that a lot too, make the time or else, “Your loss.”

(Best selling author Amity Shlaes has written two great books on Coolidge I recommend picking up sometime.  One titled simply Coolidge and the other, The Forgotten Man – A New History of the Great Depression.)



If you follow Texas politics, and I know you all do – the last night of the special session last week was an historic night for lots of reasons.  Not to be a downer, but I have to take a moment and focus on one particular negative aspect as it relates to my professional goals as a lobbyist for trucking in Texas.  And that is, supporting the growth and maintenance of our state’s highway infrastructure.  

This is a HUGE concern, who would have ever guessed that transportation funding and abortion had anything in common, but nonetheless – on the last night of session those worlds collided.   Now clearly abortion is and has been a red-hot social issue for some time, but the events of this past week just catapulted a heretofore little known public servant from Fort Worth into the national spotlight.  And good for her, she’s smart and the spotlight will serve her well I’m sure.  But I am not about to open that can up.  What was historic, and not in a good way, was the complete loss of decorum in the Senate chamber.  While that may not be surprising to many capitol junkies, it was absolutely painful to watch – especially for alumni of the senate like myself.    Achingly embarrassing in fact, but far more important is what the impact of that night will have on the politics and policies of this state for years to come. 

A compromise of plans on transportation funding was lost that night, and a good one at that.  It was all but ready to send to the Governor’s office, it merely needed a final sign-off by the senate.  However, and for reasons still unexplainable to all who try and armchair quarterback this whole thing, the transportation funding bill was not called up before the abortion bill.  Which everyone, and I mean everyone – knew was going to be filibustered. 

The anticipation was that this major transportation funding bill was going to come out beforehand.  That along with a juvenile justice bill and then the abortion bill would hit, and the filibuster would ensue – and that would be that.  This seems very minor I know, but instead we are staring down the face of another special session in which transportation funding will be back up as well as the abortion bill and the juvenile justice bill.  Watch closely as to the order of the bills that do come up as they will tell you what the priorities are.  That usually doesn’t matter a whole lot in regular sessions or even specials, as things just happen and delays occur for lots of reasons out of any one persons control. However, because of this debacle there will be a lot of emphasis placed on priorities and on the schedule of things in this new special.  And by the way, the end doesn’t have to be on the 30th day of a called 30 day session – if they can get things moving early then that is all the better.  They can get the bills on the call done and then summer vacations can begin.   

Let’s hope it is that simple.  The word on the street is that the tough votes that were taken to get to that compromise on the transportation funding bill, might not be so easy to get the second time around.  All we can do is OUR part to support those efforts. But for now, and for those of us who make a living off of our highways and byways, special session part two starts on Monday; wish us all luck.


change your state of mind

Ain’t it funny how a melody can bring back a memory. Take you to another place in time. Completely change your state of mind. 

Lyrics made famous by a country music artist in the early 90’s came back to my mind this past week,  but I wasn’t listening to iTunes.  It was a used car advertisement on the radio – and a terrible one at that.  An actor doing a very poor job, proceeded to try and evoke the golden voice of a true American icon, the late Paul Harvey.

Most of us old-timers recall that from the 1950’s through the 1990’s, his was the voice we all heard and trusted on weekday mornings, mid-days and even at noon on Saturdays.  Remember those famous The Rest of the Story segments that gave you that warm fuzzy feeling?

“Hello Americans this is Paul Harvey…stand byyy for newwws!” And so, effective as it might have been, you understand why I took offense to this impostor trying to sell me a used Chevy posing as someone I had grown to trust.  Who by the way had nothing to do with used cars, aside from the fact that he may have owned one or two.  Well, and I hate to admit this, but I had not thought of what I had been missing on the airwaves for quite some time.  Perhaps since Paul left us in 2009, or actually come to think of it, even a bit more recently since that brilliant Dodge “So God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial spot that got so many people talking.  Dodge used an excerpt from a 1978 speech delivered to the Future Farmers of America Convention by Paul Harvey himself, the spot became an instant classic taken from a genuine classic.

Now that much despised mangled used car voice from the radio did make me think of the real voice, and all those years stuck in time were like an old friend; those wonderful tones evoked feelings of trust.

American Icon, Paul Harvey

American Icon, Paul Harvey

We meet new people all the time in our workaday lives, but do we trust them?  No and why would we.  Trust takes time and time harbors history.  Generally speaking, we are the most loyal to those who we share the most history with.  Or we might trust our instincts when we make new contacts and we decide to invest in those instincts through exchanged words and ideas with no real history.  This is also a common thread in the relationships that you have in your work or in your daily lives.  It’s why you trust in your friends, family or the people you work with, be it employee or vendor and even the clients that you keep.  Just the mention of them and you reach back into your opinion file – you have real history to lean on.  So, It is still about relationships in your line of work, just as it is in mine.

We have all had one or two of those days when everything feels like a struggle, but then we get that call, hear that tune, or even a voice from our past.  The one that can change your state of mind.  So as that American icon put it for almost half a century in words that will undoubtedly be uttered over and over until the end of time,  but never once again like him, not near the original – “Paul Harvey…good day!”


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