It’s a stunning story, really: Michael A. Lindenberger with the DMN reported Sunday that Mayor Tom Leppert and the pro-Trinity tollroad people may have misled voters about the Army Corps of Engineers’ position on building the tollway into the levee walls prior to the November 2007 referendum on the project.

At least, that’s what I gleaned from reading this lengthy story about the project; read it yourself when you get a chance and see what you think.

The story’s fundamental point is that Leppert and a few others associated with the project knew months prior to the referendum election that the Corps was extremely concerned about building a tollway in the Trinity levee walls and had in no way given the city the "green light" to move forward with the project, nor had the Corps at any time indicated the project was safe to build.

Despite all of this written evidence, the News reports that Leppert pushed ahead with statements like these over and over again during the runup to the election: "’The Army Corps of Engineers and TxDOT and NTTA have studied this,’ Leppert told a crowd at the League of Women Voters debate on Sept. 25, 2007. ‘They say it is safe. They say it is environmentally sensitive and they say it is economically viable. … They are the experts … and every single one of them say it’s viable and it works, it can be done and there is no reason not to believe it is {going to be) done.’"

Leppert, of course, has no problem with what he told voters in 2007, telling the News now that even after meeting with the Corps last week in Washington, D.C., "nobody said that it can’t be done or that it’s unsafe or that you will never get there. Nobody in the know has ever said that."

What he appears to be saying is that since no one said it can’t be done, he’s OK with telling voters that it can be done — or at least, that’s my interpretation.

Perhaps what’s more important than my thoughts are what some of Leppert’s tollway cronies are saying now that more information is on the table. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and councilman Mitchell  Rasansky told the News that "they should have been told more about the Corps’ concerns," They didn’t say it changes their support for the Trinity project, though.

Anyway, this is a nice piece of local reporting by the News and Lindenberger, and it’s worth a read (1) if you are interested in the Trinity project and (2) you are planning to vote in May on the downtown convention center hotel referendum. After all, much of the same crowd that produced the pro-Trinity TV ads and mailers and showed up for theneighborhood debates is back together supporting the city’s plan to build and own the $500 million-plus downtown convention center hotel.

A rigorous debate is what we need on the convention center hotel deal, not a PR campaign that doesn’t come clean with all of the facts. Let the voters decide this one — as opposed to the Trinity vote — on all of the merits, rather than just the ones the pro-hotel people feel like dishing out.

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