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Tony Tata 2It appears that North Carolina’s Transportation Secretary is really fired up and ready to battle over the state Senate’s plan to lay off 5% of his workforce as part of it’s rather odd “cut the rate first/raise it later” gas tax plan. How else to explain his decision to spend the evening immediately after the first Senate vote on the matter…er uh…going on Fox News to attack President Obama over his foreign policy?

And the passion for defending his agency just keeps on coming. Today at lunchtime, the Secretary tweeted (or maybe it was his publicist) the following semi-offensive plug for his “Hannity” appearance:

“The President needs to stop waging war on American values and immediately declare total war with ISIS….

Finally, on Tuesday February 24, when we’re guessing there might still be a few DOT-related matters happening in the state, our $136,000-per-year public servant will be…plugging his latest novel at  at an event in Chicago.

Good to see that the Secretary has his priorities in order.

Commentary

Tony Tata 2As political observer Gary Pearce first pointed out on Twitter last night and again on Talking About Politics this morning, it was downright strange that North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata was tweeting out promotions of his new novel during Governor McCrory’s State of the State speech last night.

I mean the speech did go on and on but, honestly, Mr. Secretary.

Here’s Pearce:

“My highlight of the night was seeing tweets from Tony Tata being posted during and after the speech. Gadzooks! Was a member of McCrory’s Cabinet actually tweeting during the speech? And not even about the speech, but about the novels Tata has written?

This is a big story!

I had to go on Twitter myself to spread the news. Within minutes, Tata himself tweeted back at me: ‘@jgaryp didn’t touch my phone during state of state. Publicist runs personal Twitter and schedules tweets. Thx for asking.’

He added, ‘Great speech!’ Which just proves he wasn’t listening.”

Later, Tata tweeted this:

“no this is me! But rarely on personal Twitter and only late at night if so. Hope you have a great night!”

The tweet exchange appears to have been deleted later from Tata’s account. I found it in the cache on TweetDeck.

Okay, so now we know that Tata’s tweets are apparently not really his own…most of the time. That’s a bit of a relief in light of Tuesday’s story (“What’s the deal with North Carolina’s Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata?”) in which we explored Tata’s ambitious second life as a novelist and political commentator. Let’s hope he also soon informs us that he’s not really penning the novels that bear his name and that a stunt double handled all those appearances on Fox News as a foreign policy commentator. Then maybe we won’t have to worry so much about why we’re paying a man $136,000 per year to run a $4 billion, 14,000 employee agency who seems to have so much spare time on his hands.

Commentary

Tony Tata 2How does the leader of one of the nation’s largest transportation departments with 14,000 employees and a $4 billion budget find the time to be a prolific author of “thriller” novels and a regular military policy commentator for national media outlets? Are North Carolinians receiving adequate loyalty and dedication to the job for the $136,000 per year they pay him?

Today’s Weekly Briefing explores these questions.

Click here to check it out.

Commentary

Charlotte light rail.jpgThere are too many details to be fleshed out and examined to provide a definitive assessment of Governor McCrory’s new proposed state transportation plan that he unveiled yesterday.  For instance, the summary talks about expanding mass transit and building new light rail — both encouraging signs — but it’s too early to say whether these ideas are just polite nods in that direction or real signals of an intention to move away from paving the entire state, one new interstate lane at a time.

One thing that can be said for certain at first blush however is this: It’s encouraging to see the Governor talking optimistically about public investments for the common good. After almost nothing but right-wing bluster about slashing public structures (and the spending that supports them) in education, health care, environmental protection and several other important areas, it’s nice to hear the McCrroy administration at least admitting that public institutions and new investments have an important role to play in the state’s future.

Of course, the idea of investing in roads has always been the one area in which most conservatives have made an exception to their rules about the supposed evils of government.  So, it seems quite possible that the new DOT plan could just be a brief interlude in the ongoing assault on all things public. We’ll know more in the days ahead as the plan gets spelled out in more detail, but until then, we’ll try to maintain a little hope that, with the General Assembly out of town and Art Pope out of the budget office, McCrory has, at least temporarily, morphed back into his civic-boosting mayoral persona of old.

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Bonner-BridgeICYMI, be sure to check out the op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by Derb Carter, the Director of the North Carolina office of Southern Environmental Law Center. In it, Carter explains yet again why the longer Bonner Bridge replacement championed by his organization is by far the more responsible option — both in terms of protecting the environment and protecting taxpayers.

As Carter notes, it’s a classic “pay me now or pay me later” scenario: pay upfront for a stable  and lasting bridge that will be sheltered from storms and avoid the fast-eroding part of Hatteras Island or rely on a constantly changing set of patchwork “solutions” that are based upon repeatedly repairing roads and reclaiming land swallowed by the sea.

Isn’t it interesting that yet again, the sober, hard-headed, fiscally responsible solution is being advanced by so-called “liberals” whilst the dreamy-eyed, hope-for-the-best-and-improvise plan is being put forth by so-called “conservatives”?

You can read Carter’s essay by clicking here.