Politics: That Oily FDOT

By Jeffrey Bradley

We recently attended two FDOT (stands for Florida Department Of Transportation, not Friggin’ Defense Of Traffic) workshops inviting public feedback. Well, only one really (at the downtown Wolfson Campus) solicited input; the other, Harding Avenue Project, simply informed of foregone conclusions. Good Ford! Seldom have we been in the presence of an agency so out of synch, or people who seemingly fell from Mars. Both times we left feeling as if we’d just crawled through the elephant grass with a knifeblade clenched between our teeth.

As your old Granddad might say: “Nice bunch of people. Real nice. But stay the hell away from ‘em.”

That’s because everyone there was a near-rabid transit freak but FDOT put on their We’re Here To Make Cars Go Faster show. Faced by—we admit it—our less-than-tactful concern over their smiley-face plans for wider sidewalks, brickwork pedestrian x-ings with meaningful crossing times, shady tree medians, bicycle lanes and streetcars, then winding up with eastern extensions of I-95, they actually—we kid you not—blinked rapidly and backed away as if threatened. <Sigh> Definitely a classic FDOT “We hear you!” magic act that, abracadabra!, finishes with the pretty girl swallowing the goldfish. Listen, we want rabbits pulled out of a hat, we’ll get the retired old guy who does tricks at your kid’s birthday party between nips of Sneaky Pete from his flask. Somehow, we expected etter.

At the Horizon meeting, we broke into groups and listed suggestions for transportation improvement on a blackboard (or was it a whiteboard?), and damn us if everything up there wasn’t a riff on slowing down traffic, or charging a hefty vehicular tax. (We’re for kicking it off roadways completely, but who listens to us?) Nary a person was a car aficionado—unless it was a streetcar—which leads us to wonder whether the internal combustion crowd is so smug in its primacy as to not even bother to show or, more probably, if FDOT isn’t really that clueless. (We think it’s that.)

FDOT’s approach is textbook enabling. Do we want higher prices with the dislocate that shifting away from a cheap energy source is going to cost us? We do not. But 50 years into the making, anything’s better than witnessing that black, gooey mess slowly strangle the Gulf as we stand by and do nothing. In truth, not much can be done—until we abandon the crack pipe, that is.

Like a twined caduceus, FDOT’s outlook and our own denial of a dying Gulf allows this pretense that nothing is wrong. Or, if something is, it’ll go away if we only ignore it. But it won’t and we know it and still we press on. A “fatal lassitude” similarly overtook Robespierre during the French Revolution as he grew horrified by the toll of victims. Put into play by others, things seemed to move of their own accord; besides, what could one man do—even if he’d helped set it all into motion, and found himself now knee-high in blood? Poor Robey could only continue as the Great Terror raged—that inexorable rise and fall of the guillotine’s blade—until he himself was dragged to his doom. Is the Gulf disaster our wake-up call? Will we acknowledge the uselessness of it, and commit to different? Or are we the bacillus that’s killing the Earth?

Meantime, we launch into hidebound FDOT and their bumpkin excuses. And what’s so churlish about saving the planet? At the Harding Avenue Project, the Information Officer—information, mind you—opined that no one should ride their bike where it “rains for six months”. (No doubt she considers Portland a dry gulch somewhere south of Kabul.) This scurrilous rot was met with the opprobrium it deserved. We’ve heard this all before: one of our favorites? “In 15 or 20 years, we’ll look at it again..” Actually, no; you’ll look at it now, if we have to hold your nose to the map. Save the boobery for the boobirds that crawl forth whenever “alternate transportation” is mentioned. We’re here to tell you that this is no longer acceptable, and we won’t accept it. Claptrap like this may have propped up Dermerite Suburbanite autocentricity, but he’s gone now along with his shills (find ‘em in that dusty wing of the museum where they keep the stuffed dodoes). In future, in fact, this will be raised at peril.

As coda to their latest silliness, FDOT affixed plans for a spaceport, another “concept” that’s sure to get our attention. (What will that cost, gas-wise?) We brought ‘em back to earth when we told them Buzz Aldrin was not in the house and, besides, exactly how does a moon launch help us get across town? That’s FDOT, proving again they’ve got both feet planted firmly a foot off the ground.

This cobwebby thinking—a billion-dollar tunnel-to-nowhere and an offshore oil slick that wreaks havoc—might, you think, make them reconsider. But no. So let’s help ‘em out by segueing to the latest disaster as these two things are inextricably linked.

60 Days and counting…

Is there no end of the sludge that’s creeping ashore? Of the agonized animals dying by poison? Of politicians who make this all possible but shift responsibility? Let’s not kid ourselves here: as long as officials maintain the pretense of supplying unending cheap (read subsidized) fuel (don’t we already rely on Marxist and Muslim countries to get hold of it?), this preordained endgame will continue to haunt us. Try sticking that up your tailpipe, Gertrude.

So pay attention when this administration reiterates that BP “better come up with another plan”, or bangs on about them paying the salaries of shrimpers and such. It’s all flapdoodle. BP is only doing what market-economy companies do; in this case, search for oil for profit.

Which they can do if the government will let them and which they can’t do if the government will not.

In actuality, BP owes nobody anything, except supplying cheap gas. They are, however, obvious and worse, public. So whose fault is it? Let’s put it this way: if the price was 12 bucks a gallon, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. They would no longer be in business or, at least, not this business. Cogitate on that when you stick a gas nozzle into your car. And if ever a time was to start shifting away from our Neverland reliance on oil—dirty, smelly, dangerous stuff—now is it. In his upcoming address we hope Obama stops complaining about the press, or Bush (when does the president plan on being, you know, president?), or “doing everything possible” (proof positive that he’s not lies in that still-spewing oil), and explicates a plan for ending this crisis, painful or not, and shuts down a 19th century resource older’n Henry Ford. About time for a change, ain’t it Mr President?

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