The state of Texas is giving away a holiday trip.But not to Texas.This might be a first. As part of a holiday safe-driving campaign, Gov. Rick Perry’s state is giving away a grand-prize trip to the home of all things Yankee, New York City.I’m not kidding. The Texas Department of Transportation wants us to spend money in New York.Six months after Perry unleashed TV ads mocking New York’s soda ban and saying “Opportunity Awaits” in Texas, his highway department will reward safe driving by sending one winner for an opportunity Texas apparently can’t match: a Big Apple New Year’s Eve.The “NYC for NYE” Sweepstakes includes airfare, two hotel nights, dinner, a Broadway show and a limo with driver.Value: $5,350 in tourist spending for NYC.Zip for Texas.The sweepstakes ends Dec. 21. Sponsors will draw the name of one Texan who pledged by tweet, text message or online at holidaysoberride.com to catch a “sober ride” home from holiday parties.The campaign promotes using cabs, public transit or limos or calling a friend.The marketing effort by social media contractor EnviroMedia of Austin also includes a Texas-size red stretch limo touring the state to register entries and promote TxDOT’s Save A Life advertising campaign.On TxDOT’s Facebook and Twitter pages, the contest is promoted with the pitch: “Want to spend your New Year’s Eve in New York City?”The very first comment was from truck driver James Rowland of Midland: “New York City?”He’s old enough to remember the 1980s Pace Picante TV commercials where cowboys around a campfire started reading the back of a salsa bottle.When a cowboy read that the salsa came from New York, Dallas actor Burton Gilliam and other cowboys shouted, “New York City? Git a rope!”Hold off on that, said spokesmen for TxDOT and for Perry’s office, which promotes tourism to but not from Texas.TxDOT’s David Glessner wrote in an email that the contest is meant to “save lives and remind people to drive sober during the holidays and every other day.”The trip is “donated” by New York-based sweepstakes operator Katz Media, he wrote, as a “partnership in the ongoing efforts to reduce crashes and fatalities.”Look, I’m all for safety.But is the answer really sending Texas tourists to New York?What if the winner finds the Big Apple has more freewheeling fun?Bigger museums?Better chicken tikka masala?Reliable subways?Real healthcare?Six months after Perry’s ad warned New Yorkers to “get out before you go broke,” his spokesman said there’s no reason to worry about sending Texans there as a prize.After all, he said, it’s not state money.“It is our understanding,” spokesman Josh Havens wrote, “that no taxpayer dollars will be used for the prizes in this campaign to promote safe conduct on our roads this holiday season.”Don’t mess with a freebie.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy