February 25, 2012 | 9:58am
A maddening story in the New York Times this morning about the House transportation bill has a Chicago placeline, but the real story is here in Florida. Specifically the seventh congressional district, which elected John Mica to Congress. This guy is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and now he's put forward a bill that even Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls "the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service."
This is not the first time this year somebody from Florida has made a mess of good intentions -- see Mica's next-door neighbor Cliff Stearns
, whose persistent bogeymanning of Planned Parenthood led to the Komen kerfuffle last month.
Mica's bill has angered folks in transit-friendly cities like Chicago because it calls for eliminating the requirement that 20 percent of funding be directed toward mass (read: "un-American") transit. It also trims some fat by zeroing out a program that encourages kids to safely walk and bike to school. Good going!
It also follows John Boehner's priority of shoving oil-drilling mandates into everything that moves across the House floor, so this "transportation" bill would propose opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, a proposal that has been around almost as long as that state's rapidly melting permafrost.
A right-leaning bunch of Chicago politicians is pissed because of the cuts to mass transit funding. "Suburban commuters and motorists, who pay millions in federal fuel taxes, deserve a transportation bill that is responsive to their needs," said Republican Judy Biggert.
Meanwhile, some Republicans are saying the bill should be minimal, with highway-funding responsibilities thrown back to the states. We look forward to a 17-lane diamond-studded highway through Mica's district and a high-speed El train encircling Rahm Emanuel's block in Chicago.
As for the Florida rep:
Mr. Mica has appeared at times befuddled, annoyed and saddened by the criticisms of his bill, which would replace the current temporary extension, the eighth since a $286 billion, multi-year plan ended in 2009.
Thanks, Congress! Here's the best quote:
The bill began as something of the brainchild of Mr. Boehner, who over his career has never voted for the highway bill, because it has historically been stuffed with earmarks... He wanted a bill that would be, for the first time in memory, free of such pet home-state projects, that would contain reforms, and would streamline the approval process for federal projects and tie in the cornerstone of the Republican energy agenda: more drilling.
Rick Scott must be so proud.
Stefan Kamph: Twitter | Facebook | Email
The Pulp on Twitter | New Times on Facebook