This week, the New York Times reminds us that, even with a House freshman class full of reform-minded Tea Partiers, the notoriously pork-prone House Transportation Committee remains the playpen of old bull Republicans. As the NYT shed light on the proposed SunRail commuter train fiasco, local Tea Partiers were rallying and railing against the project. A local grassroots-run website urged tea party favorite Florida Gov. Rick Scott, R, to "veto" the federal funds dedicated to complete the project. Friday, the embattled Scott whiffed and gave it the green light instead.
SunRail is set to run through House Transportation Committee chairman John Mica's district. It won't stop anywhere near "the Orlando airport or Disney World, among the region’s biggest traffic generators." Its ridership is projected to be so sparse, it might as well travel through the eerily empty subdivisions of Flagler County, a locale full of never-occupied housing boom-era abodes that Chairman Mica represents in Washington. Call it Mica's "myopic monorail to nowhere."
To Competitive Enterprise Institute land-use and transportation policy analyst Marc Scribner, "SunRail is arguably the nation's biggest rail transit boondoggle in the pipe," which is really saying something. While the article duly notes that SunRail is a "project that the federal government ranks as one of the least cost-effective mass transit efforts in the nation," the Grey Lady seems much more troubled by the possibility that Mica donors stand to benefit most from it.
Chairman Mica's entry in the Almanac of American Politics - co-authored by the Examiner's Senior Political Analyst Michael Barone - quotes the quip that-then first-time congressional candidate John Mica used in 1992 to deflect attacks against his years of lobbying in Tallahassee: "Some of the finest folks I've met are lobbyists."
Mica has never been a fan of earmark bans or other anti-pork measures. This raises the odd circumstance of the 2010 election: Mica gets to wield a gavel handed to him by a Tea Party-inspired Republican majority, and push through preposterous porkbarrell projects like this one.