In an email to one area residents posted to the Exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page, US Senator and former Speaker of the NC House, Thom Tillis had this to say regarding the project.
From US Senator Thom Tillis - May 19th, 1:18pm-
“I understand your concerns about the NCDOT I-77 Express Lanes project. However, the responsibility for this issue falls under the jurisdiction of the state, not the federal, government. Therefore I would recommend that you contact your State Senator and State Representatives and share your concerns with them.”
It takes an impressive amount of chutzpah to send that to a constituent when you yourself had been the state Representative just a short time ago who had the most influence to actually stop the project.
One of my early blog posts on the HOT lanes project from way back in March 2013 was titled “HOT Lanes: The Empire Strikes Back”. It recounts WidenI77.org activists trekking to Raleigh to do exactly what Senator Thom Tillis suggests in this email. They went to meet their then-Representative, Thom Tillis, to discuss their concerns. Instead of a meeting with their Representative, they were met by a room full of people including, NCDOT staff, consultants, and even media listening on the phone.
As you can imagine that meeting didn't go well.
Also last Tuesday, former Cornelius Mayor Lynette Rinker posted the below to County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour’s Facebook page. The post came as the County Commission prepared to vote unanimously asking for a delay in the project.
From former Mayor Lynette Rinker May 19th 6:18pm -
“Matthew If it were as easy to get money as the opponents say don't you think this would have gone away long ago. Also just putting GP lanes to exit 28 or 30 solves nothing. This is about winning for the sake of winning.”
As Mayor, Rinker cast the tie breaker in favor of tolls when it came before the Cornelius Board in a surprise vote in May of 2013. She knows a little about “winning for the sake of winning”. Ms Rinker now serves as the MeckGOP Vice Chair where that skill-set will likely come in handy.
The next day, the below appeared on Governor McCrory’s Facebook page after a speech to the Republican Governors Association. It came just hours after the deal with Cintra was inked.
From Governor McCrory May 20th 2:43 pm –
“It was great to join fellow governors and leaders from across the country to discuss the need to invest in our state's infrastructure and transportation to prepare for the future. North Carolina is leading the way in finding innovative ways to fund those generational investments without raising taxes through initiatives like our Connect NC bonds.”
It is telling that the Governor specifically mentions the Connect NC Bonds while keeping mum on the HOT lanes. If he was proud of what his NCDOT had done earlier that very day by signing a 50 year contract with Cintra, don't you think he would have mentioned it?
Finally, there’s this from District 1 County Commissioner, Jim Puckett. His comments are a breath of fresh air in their directness after so much political double-talk.
In an email from Puckett posted on Facebook by former Cornelius Commissioner William Rakatansky, Puckett unloads and says what many in this area are thinking.
From Commissioner Jim Puckett on May 20th 5:02pm –
“I have been informed NCDOT has signed the final documents for I-77. I find this impossible to believe. To ignore the request to delay of five elected bodies and instead accelerate the signing of the contract that further obligates the State of NC to $80 mil. is the single most insulting and arrogant act of governance I have witnessed in my 18 years of politics. For the first time in my life I am ashamed of being part of the political process, Watergate, Clinton’s affair, Easley’s shady land deals Patrick Cannon’s bags of cash were all driven by personal gain, this however was government acting against the request of the governed without even the decency of a response.”
Puckett’s strong words call out perfectly everything that is wrong with this situation in particular. At the same time, the other three comments offer up a trifecta of what’s wrong with our government at the Federal, State and Local levels in general. It's government where politicians refuse to take responsibility for what they've done to those they supposedly represent