Fwd: Indy Star Editorial: No good answers on I-69
- Again Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads and Dan Carpenter are on top of things.
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From: Thomas & Sandra Tokarski <carr@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 8:02 PM
Subject: Indy Star Editorial: No good answers on I-69
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Indianapolis Star, February 4, 2013
Dan Carpenter: I-69 land deal raises many questionsCheck this link for an excellent editorial cartoon on this issue:
Whether a state highway official and his family violated the law or governmental ethics rules when they sold land to the state for a highway project remains for the Indiana Inspector General to determine.
To those who consider this a no-brainer, at least in terms of unofficial common-sense ethics, please note that this is a do-over.
Inspector General David Thomas cleared former Department of Transportation executive Troy Woodruff of wrongdoing in the land sale back in 2010. But he's reopened the matter in response to information turned up by The Star as to deals made by the Woodruff family on that land in the path of I-69.
The Star's Ryan Sabalow and Tim Evans talked to numerous legal and ethics experts who questioned both the propriety of Woodruff's private transactions with his public employer, and the gaps in Thomas' original investigation. They quoted both men as to their self-justifications.
Meanwhile, taxpayers and many owners of land impacted by the controversial highway are left wondering why some sellers, including the Woodruffs, were paid far more than others. Unlike some states, Indiana keeps appraisal and negotiation histories secret.
Of course, justifications are available for that lack of transparency as well. Fairness to reluctant sellers who fear eminent domain is the principal one; though why this should apply after the fact, when public dollars wait to be accounted for, is not convincingly answered.
As technicalities are parsed and excuses weighed, those of us who have been longtime critics of the $3 billion enterprise can only shake our heads and mutter, for the thousandth time, "boondoggle."
The latest development is "the tip of the iceberg," declares Thomas Tokarski of rural Monroe County, a leader of the grassroots opposition group Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads.
"They chose this route 20-some years ago and never changed it, and you have to ask why, when there were alternatives that made a whole bunch more sense," he says.
Why? "Certain individuals have committed themselves to property along the way, and INDOT is under pressure to protect their investment."
Strong words. But even putting things more mildly doesn't exactly make a case for the largest public works project in Indiana history.
From the moment a quarter-century ago when a Southern Indiana mover and shaker named David Graham, who owned land along the envisioned route, began a crusade across several states for a Canada-to-Mexico highway, I-69 has been a motherlode of special-interest benefits that defied public-interest arguments against it.
The most expensive, most land-consuming, most environmentally damaging route was chosen for it from a list of options.
The economic development potential claimed for it remains speculative, conspicuously so for a state that already was among national leaders in interstate highway density.
Judging from hearings, demonstrations, petitions and lawsuits, popular opinion has been negative, particularly among many of those who live in the region that is supposed to be enriched by the highway.
There's no money to complete the final two legs, connecting Bloomington and Indianapolis; and construction defects have befallen what's been built so far.
Finally, looking at transportation, as well as ethics, broadly, freeways are mid-20th century technology, whose monumentally costly expansion discourages mass transit and prolongs dependence on oil.
So, we're left with two questions: Should a state highway official have sold land to the state highway department? Should we even be having this conversation?
I have my answers. I'll leave the lawyers to theirs.