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Bring Me The Head of Ron Tober

Light rail backers should demand it

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Time for another edition of "Ask BWA." Thanks for sending in questions; I'm glad this is taking off - not to mention that I was getting tired of making up questions myself. One note: if you'd like to use a nickname, please include it with your questions.

Dear BWA: If you're so down on the light rail line, why don't you have the guts to come out in favor of dumping the whole sorry mess?

--Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: Whoa, whoa, whoa. I'm not "down on light rail." I think light rail's a very good idea for Charlotte, and have for a long time. It's about 10 years late getting here, but that's less the fault of light rail itself, than of our slow-on-the-uptake civic "leaders" (notice how no one refers to them as "visionary" anymore?). The problem now, and there's no way around it, is that the city, and specifically CATS Director Ron Tober, have been irresponsible in their oversight of the South Blvd. light rail line's installation.

Tober has been in the public transit industry over 30 years, during which, among other things, he oversaw the installation of new light rail lines in Cleveland, Ohio. He knew that the contractor in Charlotte, Parsons Transportation Group, had a record of shoddy work and massive cost overruns on previous projects. At the very least, he should have set up a much more rigorous oversight system than Parsons has seen before, in order to keep closer watch on the project. I'm having a hard time understanding how he's holding on to his job, but I'm guessing City Manager Pam Syfert knows that once she accepts Tober's resignation, she'll probably be next in the pink slip parade.

Now, conservatives on the County Commission, as short-sighted as ever, see an opportunity to dump the whole light rail system; while progressive politicians (or what passes for them in Charlotte) gnash their teeth over that possibility and close their eyes to Tober's shortcomings. But this shouldn't be a liberal vs. conservative issue; it's about public servants' accountability. In plain language, Tober screwed up royally, and light rail supporters, of which I consider myself a member, should be demanding his head on a platter. It's he, after all, who has put the future of light rail at risk in Charlotte by living up to naysayers' worst predictions.

Dear BWA: [excerpt] I hope that you and other gay rights boosters are happy now that [Rep.] Mark Foley has shown what happens when gay men are allowed to do what they want.

--Joshua Bevins

Dear Josh: The Foley scandal is too fast-moving a story for a weekly columnist to cover thoroughly. By the time this is printed, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's career could be over, and much more information may have been revealed -- in fact, I'd be surprised if both those things didn't happen. But to answer your question, no, there's not much to be happy about in the Foley situation -- but that's not because of what it says about gay men. The latest D.C. scandal is a pretty pathetic tale of a pedophile who abused his position and who deserves to be prosecuted if possible.

Almost as disturbing as Foley's scandal, though, is the attitude you and other homophobes have shown in the matter. Newt Gingrich, for instance, said last week that Democratic sex scandals have been much worse than Foley's Internet trolling-for-pages, and excused GOP leaders' inaction by saying that if they'd revealed Foley's misconduct earlier, they would have been accused of "gay-bashing." Now, I'll take Newt's word about GOP vs. Dems sex scandals; after all, he's an expert, having wrecked his first marriage with his repeated cheating (and that doesn't even include his skipping out on alimony and child support). But as far as the "gay-bashing" crack -- hey, Newt, the issue is Foley's lewd suggestions to minors, not the fact that he's gay. Foley himself tried to skirt the central issue by having his lawyer announce, "Mark Foley wants you to know that he is a gay man," as if there was a natural connection between being gay and talking to minors about erections and masturbation. Study after study after study has shown that homosexuality and pedophilia are not linked. The vast majority of pedophiles, in fact, are heterosexual, in numbers proportional to the sexual inclinations of the overall population.

If there's anything to be happy about here, it's that Republican conservatives' smug pretense of moral superiority is being revealed, once again, as the delusional sham it's always been. There's not enough room in this column, or on this entire page for that matter, to list the Republican "family values" guys who've been caught with their pants down. If the Foley scandal contributes even a little bit toward throwing these clowns out of office, then, yes, Josh, I guess I'll be happy.

Send "Ask BWA" questions, comments or love offerings to: john.grooms@creativeloafing.com.

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