Why is it that whenever I go out of town, something gigantic happens with the Trinity toll road? What’s worse, when I got back this time, I found out that various someones are accusing us at the Advocate of not sounding the tocsin all those months ago.

Because that’s what happened. I returned from judging a wine competition to discover that Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper, which has been shilling for the toll road for so long that one of our regulars suggested that it be named the Belo Parkway in 2007, has decided to do just the opposite and to report that Mayor Park Cities may have stretched the truth a bit in convincing people to vote for it.

What was even more astounding – and believe me, The Morning News story was plenty astounding enough – was to find out that several people have decided to lump us in with the News as defenders of the Trinity party line. To that, I can only quote the great William T. Kirk, who had to remind Jean-Luc Picard: “I don’t need to be lectured by you. I was out saving the galaxy when your grandfather was in diapers.”

After the jump, a few thoughts about what’s going on and why the News has changed its mind about Leppert and the toll way.

Sam Merten is normally a sensible and pleasant young man who does a more than creditable job of wrestling with the bosses down at city hall for the Observer. So imagine my shock when I saw his entry on the weekly’s blog lumping our Rick Wamre in with D’s Wick Allison.

Sam wrote that he was “tickled” that each man noted that the News has apparently changed sides in the Trinity debate. Where were they when Sam, 18 months ago, was single-handedly reporting the news that the News has finally decided to report? Or, even more mind-boggling, this comment from Jay Jay in Wamre’s post: “The only thing stunning about this story is the pure ignorance of the reporter for not knowing and reporting what we knew during the referendum. Well, that and the fact that the Advocate was apparently not listening either. None of this is new. None of it.”

To which I can only say: Where were the two of you 18 months ago? We were among the very, very small group that publicly opposed the toll road during the run-up to the referendum, a group that included city councilwoman Angela Hunt, Jim Schutze at the Observer, Merten during his time at Dallas Blog, Wamre and I. (I’d mention others, but some of them are still in hiding.)

And we took tons of crap for it, including and especially from D. Why Sam has forgotten this is beyond me. Ask Schutze or Hunt. Or Sam can check this out, from Sept. 24, 2007. And, Jay Jay, my friend, send me an email and I‘ll send you dozens of links to the solid, professional work we did on the toll road, including our award-winning October 2007 issue. Plus the post where I was first called a neener.

I don’t mention this to pat ourselves on the back. In fact, if Wamre knew I was writing this, he’d tell me not to. One of the differences between Rick and the people at D (who don’t like us, which is OK, because we don’t like them) is that he doesn’t do this for the publicity, he certainly doesn’t want to be famous and the absolute last thing he would ever do is call someone out. Rick is doing what we have done for 18 years at the magazine – offer a forum for reasoned, sensible discussion about the issues, because our goal is to make this a better place to live. Corny? You bet. But that’s what we do. And it’s why we’re still here.

Why the News decided to call the mayor out is equally as confusing. Which, of course, is the point of what Rick was writing about. My guess – and it’s only that – is that it has something to do with the paper’s financial woes. Better reporting, theoretically, should translate into a better paper, which should translate into a better bottom line. The problem, of course, is that better reporting now will remind everyone how sloppy the reporting was two years ago. Regardless, we should be glad that the News has finally seen the light. Which actually is a pretty big story.