That’s pretty much the question being asked by Tom Elmore, who brings our attention to a recent story in the Huffington Post. Indeed, it was Istook, as the 5th District Representative for Oklahoma, who single-handledly killed Oklahoma City’s efforts to use $3 million in MAPS money to match up with federal money to establish a light rail or streetcar system in the urban core. Elmore, himself a bit of a controversial figure though undoubtedly passionate about rail transportation, reminds us about another rail system that Istook didn’t try to stop:
Ernest J. Istook?
While he was talking down rail development using a wealth of existing assets in Oklahoma — he was using Oklahoma-derived tax dollars to fund extensive light rail and commuter rail development in the home of his “spiritual brethren,” Salt Lake City, Utah.
Simultaneously, he funded ODOT’s needless destruction of OKC Union Station’s rail yard, last then-unused, grand, capital-city rail passenger hub in the West with all its original train-handling space intact and center of Oklahoma’s 900-mile state-owned railway network.
In Utah the new “Front Runner Commuter Trains” link population centers in Salt Lake / Provo to the south and Ogden to the north to HILL AIR FORCE BASE, blood competitor to OKC’s TINKER AFB — making the Utah base the only USAF Air Logistics Center in the nation with oil-crisis-proof-workforce-mobility.
And you paid for it, Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, in another LDS stronghold, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano had hit static with her Phoenix-Tempe light rail plan. It was being blocked by her state’s own “LDS-conservative-Republicans.” So — she made a pilgrimage to Salt Lake in September, 2004 to visit 93-year-old LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. Three months later, US House Transportation Subcommittee Chair Ernest Istook and Senate counterpart Richard Shelby appeared in Phoenix with a pledge of $587 million for the project — which by then also included extension to the Mormon Regional Temple in Mesa. (See recent, related story, below this post…)
Check it out for yourself, folks.
Also make sure to see how Salt Lake is performing economically today — among “the first big post-recession jobs producers.” And Oklahoma? Well — if the “New Crosstown” opens in 2012 as promised, we’ll have another four miles of expressway we can’t afford to maintain — and no rail hub. Add that to the state’s existing $40+ billion in “unfunded highway maintenance need.”
And now Ernie is working for the bigshot corporatists at Heritage. They ginned up the “highways-only-monopoly” in this country, the “concrete cross” to which we are all nailed — and they enjoy it. Nor do they mind sending “YOUR children” to war to prop it up.
What do “Republican conservatives” like Istook mean when they say “no public subsidy?” They mean — “none for you.”
It’s all reserved for “their special friends.”
Uh — folks — if you’re not angry, perhaps you just don’t understand the situation.
UPDATE: Some of you are asking – was Istook ever asked or challenged on this issue directly? Yes, in the 1998 congressional race, here is how it was addressed:
Istook Opponent Rails Against Vote Church Behind Transit Choice, Foe Says
By Ron Jenkins
Wednesday, October 21, 1998
Edition: CITY, Section: NEWS, Page 10
U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook was accused by his Democratic challenger Tuesday of voting to benefit his church at the expense of his constituents.
M.C. Smothermon, of Oklahoma City, criticized Istook for voting for an omnibus transportation spending bill that included $35 million for a light rail system in Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Mormon Church.
She said she could find no basis for Istook’s vote, other than favoring narrow interests, since he had voted in 1996 against a bill that included $10 million for a light rail system in Oklahoma City.
“He chose to benefit (the) home of his church,” Smothermon said. “I am a Methodist, and if I were to benefit the Methodist Church at the expense of those who put me in office, that would be wrong. It appears to me that that is exactly what Mr. Istook has done and that is wrong.”
Smothermon is trying to unseat Istook in the race for the 5th Congressional District. The general election is Nov. 3.
Istook, R-Warr Acres, who is a Mormon, said it was outrageous for Smothermon to interject religion into the campaign.
“It’s sad to say that, out of desperation, she has made religious intolerance the centerpiece of her campaign,” Istook said. “I think my fellow Christians and other people of faith in Oklahoma will reject this religious intolerance.”
Smothermon said she had worked for years in interfaith organizations and wanted to be clear that “I have no quarrel with the Mormon Church.
“Also, I fervently support Mr. Istook’s right to practice his religion as he pleases, according to the dictates of faith and conscience. My anger is directed at the use of his elected position to influence and affect public policy to the detriment of those citizens he was elected to serve.”
Istook said his vote was on an omnibus bill and had nothing to do with the Utah project.
But he said he understood the Salt Lake City proposal will be used to transport millions of visitors expected for the Olympics in that City in 2002.
“As for the rail trolley which was proposed for downtown Oklahoma City, it was very high in cost and projected to have very few riders and a great many Oklahomans have thanked me for not wasting taxpayers’ money on it,” he said.