Pombo Transforms Himself Into Mr. Transportation
Richard Pombo spent last week focused on his new passion: the traffic woes of his district. Now that he’s in a remarkably tight race to hold onto his House seat, suddenly he’s “Mr. Transportation.” You may recall that last month I wrote about Richard Pombo’s lack of interest in working to provide solutions to the nightmares faced by commuters living in CA-11.
The Pleasanton Weekly had this to say:But now that it's August and he realizes that only 35% of the voters in his district have indicated they would be willing to vote for him in November, he’s decided that it might be a good idea to pretend to be interested in their problems for the next 78 days. So meet the new Richard Pombo:"Transportation is the No. 1 issue wherever he goes in his extensive district," said Nicole Taylor Philbin, Pombo's press secretary.So what is Richard Pombo doing about it?Pombo is currently on leave from the Transportation Committee, Philbin said, while serving as the chairman of the House Resources Committee […]So Pombo, who is actually a member of the powerful House Transportation Committee and thus uniquely positioned to bring vital federal transportation dollars to his district, has taken a leave of absence so that he can focus all his energies on his work at the House Resources Committee. Of course, the fact that he just happens to be raking in ungodly amounts of money from mining, timber and big oil for his campaign is just a side benefit to his passion for eviscerating environmental laws.
Philbin said a priority for Pombo as chairman of the Resources Committee is to protect property owners by revamping the Endangered Species Act.
Incidentally, Pombo’s pollsters clearly have gotten through to him about issues his constituents care about with the November election looming. We quoted him as saying it’s [transportation] the top issue.Speaking of that mailer, the folks over at Nobody Could Have Predicted provided this copy of the flyer:
The U.S. mail last week delivered an official mailing from his congressional office that was all about transportation and funding. His pet project, doing necessary reforms to the Endangered Species Act, wasn’t mentioned.
Funny, isn’t it, how much it resembles a piece of campaign literature. Of course, Richard Pombo has never been bashful about abusing his franking privileges and letting the taxpayers pick up the tab for overtly political mailings. But I digress.
On the heels of this mass mailing, Pombo scheduled a dog-and-pony show last Thursday where he brought out the Acting Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino to meet with local officials and witness first-hand the gridlocked traffic on I-580/I-205 (now, according to the SF Chron, the second and third worst commutes in the Bay Area). But the local reporters weren’t as impressed as Pombo might have hoped with his recent conversion to traffic detail. Lisa Vorderbrueggen had this to say:
GOP Rep. Richard Pombo's tour Thursday with Acting U.S. Transportation Secretary Maria Cino and regional transportation leaders carried the distinct scent of politics.Well, isn’t that the truth. Pombo’s mailer touted his accomplishments — the fact that he brought $75 million in federal transportation earmarks to the district in the 2005 Transportation Bill. However, nearly 1/3 of that $75 million went to fund the now infamous studies for building “Pombo’s Folly,” two brand-new freeways that would cost billions to build and, just coincidentally, would turn Pombo family agricultural land into prime commercial real estate.
Pombo, who faces Democrat Jerry McNerney in November, touted a four-point I-580 congestion relief platform that not only calls for new highways but offers strategies not often associated with Republicans: Higher investment in mass transit and carpool lanes.
"I was pretty shocked to hear him say it out loud," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, also a Republican. "He even said the word 'taxes,' when he talked about how the counties are taxing themselves for transportation projects."
McNerney, a Pleasanton energy engineer, offered a more pointed observation.
"If I was in Pombo's shoes, I would try to make myself look like transportation is my priority, too," he said. "But he's been in office for almost 14 years, and we haven't seen much from him."
Whenever you hear a claim like that — “I brought $75 million in transportation funding to the district” — don’t you kind of wonder what the REAL story is? In the case of the 2005 Transportation Bill, the Associated Press broke down the data, rating each California county by the number of federal dollars it actually received and then extrapolating a per capita spending rate and ranking the counties in order. Number one was Kern County, with $727 million; number two was San Francisco, with $314 million. San Joaquin County was a lowly 32nd out of 58 counties; Alameda was 33rd. Considering that they are represented by one of the most powerful men in Congress, one who, if he cared enough to show up, sits on the House Transportation Committee, that is a pretty poor showing. That’s why it’s simultaneously shocking and sad that Richard Pombo is out there desperately running as “Mr. Transportation.”