Link to article here. Hmmm, Coby Chase at TxDOT states what the public already knows, that this PR campaign is about pushing tolls on a public who doesn’t want them and that TxDOT thinks of itself as a wholly-owned subsidiary of road contractors and private corporations than public servants funded by taxpayers. Get a load of his comment:
“You generally try to figure out what is coming out of the Greer Building (state transportation headquarters) and attempt to explain the company message to others.” That says it all, don’t you think?
DOT guru for Perry skips PR training
By Peggy Fikac
Express-News, Austin bureau
AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry’s deputy chief of staff decided to skip Friday’s training session meant to prep officials for talk-radio appearances promoting the Trans-Texas Corridor and toll roads, a spokeswoman said.”With the workload he had, he wasn’t able to give up a half day,” Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said Friday of deputy chief of staff Kris Heckmann, Perry’s point person on transportation.
The training by political and corporate strategy experts from ViaNovo is part of a $20,000 consulting contract included in the Department of Transportation’s multimillion-dollar Keep Texas Moving campaign. The campaign uses advertising and other efforts to promote the divisive transportation plans pushed by Perry.
The campaign’s estimated cost of $7 million to $9 million in state highway funds has been criticized by anti-toll activists and some lawmakers, who question the use of public funds on what they call a public relations push.
Supporters of the program said it answers lawmakers’ demands for the agency to do a better job of communicating with Texans.
Perry and others have championed toll roads and the ambitious transportation network known as the Trans-Texas Corridor as necessary to ease traffic congestion and boost highway funding that lags behind road needs. The initiative has sparked worry and outrage over the corridor’s potential route and the state’s decision to partner with private firms on toll roads.
Friday’s training session was the third for various TxDOT division directors, two district engineers, the agency’s acting executive director and media and marketing staff. TxDOT also invited Heckmann and had confirmed his attendance, but Moody said he decided on Thursday not to go.
Heckmann’s decision doesn’t imply any criticism of the training, Moody added.
“We think it’s definitely going to be very beneficial for the policy professionals and policy wonks to get a better grasp on how to communicate their message and their vision to Texans,” Moody said.
She said Heckmann “has been our transportation guru for some time. He’s invited all the time to give speeches and interviews regarding transportation issues in Texas.”
Coby Chase, director of the agency’s government and public affairs division, said training session participants were picked because “You have a title that is impressive or is tailored to a specific audience … You generally try to figure out what is coming out of the Greer Building (state transportation headquarters) and attempt to explain the company message to others.”
The divisiveness of the transportation initiatives was the basis of an e-mail joke by TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott as he let people know about one of the training sessions, which was at the downtown Austin Club.
“Our room is reserved under the name ViaNovo,” he quipped, “because ‘Mile-Wide NAFTA Drug Corridor Conspiracy’ wouldn’t fit on the reservation card.”