From the “we can’t make this stuff up” file, out of Lubbock comes news that Lubbock master downtown developer Delbert McDougal is working to install a monorail.

You read that correctly. A monorail. In Lubbock.

We have previously written about how certain members of the Lubbock establishment are trying to make the city more like Austin. But now it appears they might be focusing their fantasies more on the Magic Kingdom than our state capitol.

Famously lampooned by The Simpsons, monorails have proven a disaster and a financial boondoggle in real life as well. Costs on American projects have ranged from $80 – 160 million per mile of track. When liberal city leaders in Seattle pushed a monorail, it was rightly derided as a “civic vanity project” and compared to a “high-price boob job” designed to make Seattle feel better about its self.

Does the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce suffer from self-image issues?

Drawing back from this absurd monorail proposal, we see that it is but a small part of a scheme that downtown Lubbock business interests are pushing called “Imagine Lubbock Together.” The people behind that scheme, connected to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, want a special one-cent sales tax for Lubbock that would make Lubbock’s tax rate the highest in the state. The extra tax money would go towards vanity projects like a performing arts center, bike lanes, and presumably the monorail.

The tax raisers behind the plan are backing Steve Massengale, President of the Lubbock ISD school board, against conservative champion Rep. Charles Perry in the March 4th Republican primary. They’re upset because Perry turned them down when they demanded that he push their proposed tax increase. Massengale, on the other hand, has praised “Imagine Lubbock Together” and has close connections with those who are pushing the Lubbock monorail. In interviews surrounding his announcement that he would challenge Perry, Massengale made it clear that carrying the Lubbock Chamber’s one-cent sales tax increase was a centerpiece of his candidacy. Will he be so full-throated in his endorsement of the monorail plan?

Overall, this is one episode of the same story of cronyism and corruption that plays out in politics across America. Remember, Delbert McDougal, the “master downtown developer?” His company owns large swaths of downtown Lubbock real estate. He and his allies stand to get a huge windfall if he can put taxpayers on the hook for a monorail and other downtown “improvements.” But McDougal and Co can’t move forward with their fantasyland projects if a sensible conservative like Rep. Charles Perry is standing in their way. They need a tax raiser like Steve Massengale by their side if they want to profit at the expense of taxpayers.

But, then again, by gum, if monorails put Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haversbrook on the map well then maybe one is right for West Texas after all.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.