As printed in Waco Tribune:
Friday, April 28, 2006
Toll highway pitfalls
To State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, who says of the Trans-Texas Corridor [April 12, Page 1] “they need to do it the right way”: Well, Sir, I haven’t seen anything about this project done the “right way,” from its midnight approval through discussing routes in secret.
I want to toss at state officials just one probability that will happen with this project:
When TTC-35 is constructed and long-term managed by this foreign company, and the toll lanes are open, there will be an ongoing revenue evaluation for profitability.
Let’s suppose it will cost you $20 to $30 to travel from Waco to Austin, but you decide to travel Interstate 35 for no toll. This foreign company will complain to our elected officials until I-35 will become under its long-term management and become a toll road for profit as well.
Our great state, with the best land and highways, will become hijacked for profit because this “was just a vague concept and not something to oppose” as stated by Sen. Averitt.
Wow. Define “vague” now, Senator. How vague is it now to almost a million Texans whose residences, school districts, businesses and farms lie in the pathway of this “concept”?
City of Hallsburg
Last week's Oak Hill Gazette front page headline and story, "OHAN takes a stand against amendments" was disturbing.
The article with picture of presenter Linda Rife, told the story of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods (OHAN) meeting with a one sided presentation (from Linda Rife) that worked the room into a tizzy, to oppose the Austin Open Government Online amendment.
For some reason nobody was scheduled to speak FOR the amendment. According to the article, that lopsided debate caused OHAN to formally oppose the amendment.
I did a little research and found out that Linda Rife, who gave the one-sided presentation, is a high paid professional political strategist who works for the same people who benefit if the Open Government amendment fails.
Financial reports show Linda Rife was paid $13,000, within a two week period last month, by the Committee for Austin's Future PAC. This committee, as reported in the AA Statesman, is funded by the same people that have been pushing the secret deal of two years ago - the privatizing and tolling our public freeways here in Austin.
That toll lobby is the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) and its developer members who have more influence on TxDOT than citizens. RECA is also known to have more influence with special interest politicians whose campaigns benefit from their fat checks.
Linda Rife also works as a consultant for TateAustin. TateAustin has numerous contracts with the Williamson County heavy freeway tolling authority. TateAustin will be telling the public how the double tax toll roads are the best thing since sliced bread.
It's important to note that both State Rep. Terry Keel and Comptroller Strayhorn have confirmed that TateAustin is getting paid with our gas tax dollars to sell us on this new toll tax scheme.
I know some of the OHAN leadership, and consider them friends. It appears they have been hoodwinked.
I am also shocked they didn't have a balanced debate on the important Open Government amendment that night.
I know first hand, after submitting over 100 requests for information from our local governments, that public information is very difficult (and a very dragged out process) to get.
This incident shows how low the special interests will go to stop this important amendment and keep siphoning tax dollars out of our pockets with back room deals with Austin officials.
Open, transparent government will always costs LESS than closed-door, insider dealmaking with our tax dollars in play.
Sure city councilmembers and special interests want to keep making their back room deals. Sure they don't want transparency.
Here's just a few examples, other than tolls on our freeways, of why our taxes are so high.
Why we need the Open Government Online amendment - Prop 1:
LCRA - $100 million of taxpayer CASH diverted for a $1.1 billion 50-year water deal. The deal was negotiated in private by off-the-books outside legal counsel. After the deal was approved, both the Austin City Manager and the head of the City waster and wastewater department took jobs at LCRA.
Austin Police Department Contract - $483 million contract that was secretly negotiated. Public safety budget, mostly the police contract, now takes up 65% of the city's general budget. The back room deal also keeps Austin Police misconduct records a secret, which is in direct contrast to thousands of other law enforcement agencies in Texas that have misconduct records open to the public.
Simon Property Group - $37 million in sales and property tax rebates for the Domain Shopping Center, including a Neiman Marcus store. This is a first – giving developers of a shopping center tax rebates when they will compete against all the other taxpaying businesses in Austin.
Replacing Green Water Treatment Plant - $227 million proposed – with no public input - to build a new water treatment in City parkland.
City Law while raising $67,000.
Formal complaint filed.
I filed a formal complaint on Councilmember Brewster McCracken Wednesday with the City of Austin Municipal Court. City of Austin campaign finance laws demand candidates reveal who is collecting money for their campaigns.
Brewster McCracken’s 30 day finance report failed to list the names and addresses of the people who have solicited and obtained about 500 contributions (also called bundlers) for McCracken. Not one bundler was listed, for any of the 500 contributions, some of which were from couples with a total of over $67,000 raised.
Last year Betty Dunkerly listed Lowell H. Lebermann, Jr., the toll authorities vice chair, as a bundler for her campaign. I reported that fact.
Brewster McCracken has taken the lead on City Hall back room deals, crafted ballot language to torpedo a citizens Open Government Amendment - that a judge later ruled was illegal, voted to toll hundreds of millions of dollars worth of roads we’ve already paid for, hijacked the Toll Road Independent Study with other tollers AND NOW McCracken is "hiding the ball" and ignoring the law by not listing the names of the special interest people that have collected money for his campaign.
As stated in the Austin City Charter and Code of Ordinances, ARTICLE 3. DISCLOSURES AND FILING PROCEDURES FOR CONTRIBUTION AND EXPENDITURE REPORTS:
§ 2-2-14 FUNDRAISING AND BUNDLING BY INTERMEDIARIES. Candidates and officeholders shall include in their contribution and expenditure reports the name and address of any person who solicits and obtains contributions on their behalf, during a reporting period, of $100 or more per person from five or more individuals. This disclosure requirement shall not apply to individuals who raise funds in an aggregate amount of $5,000 or less for a candidate or officeholder through a fundraising event in that individual’s residence. Source: 1992 Code Section 2-9-14; Ord. 031204-9; Ord. 031211-11.
Tell everyone to FIRE
Brewster "Toller Weasel" McCracken!
Word of mouth will be key in removing one of the biggest weasels our city council has ever seen. We need YOU to tell everyone you know to vote and FIRE Brewster McCracken from office in this City Election.
Brewster "Double Tax" McCracken:
• Voted to toll roads we've already paid for in 2004 & 2005.
• Hijacked the Independent toll road study with other tollers (like Enron auditing Enron).
• Lied again by failing to broadcast toll road study public hearings.
• Was ringleader for crafting ballot language Judge found to be illegal (to keep his back room deals a secret!)
• Recommend the Beautiful Guerrero Park site for a water treatment plant!
We've just endorsed Kedron Touvell as our finest champion to stop Brewster McCracken and his Robin Hood tolls on roads we've already paid for. Kedron Touvell has gained momentum in the past 2 weeks to put himself ahead of the other candidates in the McCracken race, by accumulating numerous endorsements, including ours. Kedron doesn't have $70,000 special interest dollars in his campaign as Brewster McCracken does. So we need you to help tell everyone to FIRE McCracken.
Even if you don't remember Kedron's name when you talk with folks, it's OK because any vote, for any candidate EXCEPT Brewster McCracken gets Kedron Touvell closer to a run off. There are 3 candidates running against Brewster, if Brewster gets less than 50%, there is automatically a run-off between Brewster McCracken and whoever gets the second amount of votes.
YOU can show McCracken and his special interest crooks that word of mouth can be more powerful than McCracken's $70,000 toller campaign war chest, IF WE ALL START FLAPPING OUR LIPS right away. It's up to you.
Gov. Rick Perry and state Rep. Mike Krusee should place tolls on all doorways to the Capitol. Legislators can then experience the reality of being tolled going to and from work daily, which Austin commuters will soon face.
The legislators could still choose to use the free adjacent windows. The construction and management of the door tolls must be outsourced to another state such as Ohio to diminish local resources.
To extort more tolls, this contract should include secret, non-compete provisions, such as not allowing the improvement of window entries with ladders, not maintaining bushes under the windows and running sprinklers under the windows during rush hour.
After Ohio skims the cream of the toll money, Texas politicians can squander the balance not on the Capitol but on advertisements touting their fiscally responsible work. Next: toilet tolls.
DANIEL J. JASINSKI
Toll plaza's turn out to be a real killer, and this time we're not talking about your wallet.
A new Associated Press report shows how you or your family are much more likely to get into an accident at a toll plaza, than a non-tolled road.
Another report shows how accidents on a tolled road are up to 5 times as frequent compared to accidents on non-tolled road.
Brewster McCracken and others voted for Austin to go from having 0% toll road lane miles to 50%* of our lane miles to be toll roads - in just a matter of the next few years. The tolls they voted for include shifting Austin's freeways to tollways. Austin will be the first city in the country to shift freeways to tollways.
The Associated Press article shines the light on how toll roads increase accidents, throughout the United States, caused by drivers stopping at toll booth plazas with cash booths which increases rear-end collisions.
When electronic tolling is added to the hazerdous equation, as an option to cash booths, as will be the case in Austin, thanks to Mark Strama and others, the studies show accidents are increased even further.
"Toll plazas have been designed for 50 years without national design standards," Dan Walsh, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Tuesday. "The need for standards is paramount," Walsh said.
As stated in the new AP Report:
"Investigators also said that traditional toll booths, where drivers pay attendants or throw money into an automatic coin machine, increase the danger of rear-end collisions because drivers must stop suddenly.
NTSB investigators said:
_49 percent of all interstate accidents in Illinois are at toll plazas, and three times as many people die in them as in accidents on the road itself.
_30 percent of all accidents on the Pennsylvania toll highway system happen at toll plazas.
_38 percent of all crashes on New Jersey toll highways are toll plaza accidents.
Introducing electronic toll collection lanes, though, can make the problem worse.
Mohamed Abdel-Aty, associate professor at Central Florida University's department of civil and environmental engineering, studied the Orlando-Orange County Expressway system in Florida.
Between January 1994 and June 1997, 31.6 percent of total crashes occurred at the 10 main toll plazas and 46.3 percent at the 38 toll booth ramps, Abdel-Aty found.
Introducing E-PASS electronic toll collection lanes beside the regular lanes increased the accident rate at the busy Holland-East Mainline Plaza, he found.
"It's the mixture of E-PASS lanes and other lanes — the confusion from nonfamiliar drivers — that's causing most of the rear-end collisions," Abdel-Aty said."
Another report, produced by Citizens Against Tolls in New Jersey, used data directly from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. That report documents how accidents on the New Jersey Parkway toll road are up to 5 times as frequent compared to accidents on a non-tolled road.
* 50%* of our lane miles will be toll roads, as stated by CAMPO's Executive Director Mike Aulick (512-974-6441) in numerous public presentations.
Travis County Commissioners are working on a plan, in executive session today, to allow citizens to vote on a non-binding referendum on toll roads.
But the devil is in the details, and based on a misleading article written by Commissioner Gerald Daugherty in the Oak Hill Gazette and West Lake Picayune this week, I believe there is a plan to rig the ballot language.
The article from Commissioner Daugherty caused me attend the Travis County Commissioners Court this morning and speak up about the importance of fair language and about the experiment of privatizing and tolling our public highways. The following was used for my presentation today and placed in the public record:
IS ESSENTIAL FOR NON-BINDING ELECTION
ON THE EXPERIMENT OF PRIVATIZING
AND TOLLING OUR PUBLIC HIGHWAYS.
In this weeks Oak Hill Gazette, Mr. Daugherty claims that examples of our Austin toll roads (phase 2 tolls) can be found all over the U.S.
That statement is more than misleading.
Even though over 5,000 miles of traditional toll roads have been built in the United States, Freeways have never been shifted to toll ways in the history of our country, except once in California with US 91, and it failed, and it cost the taxpayers even more.
TRADITIONAL TOLLS VS. FREEWAY TOLLS
Traditional toll roads are designed and built as whole new routes or highways.
Austin's Freeway Tolls privatize and toll gas tax funded right of way and construction of our public highways.
Traditional toll roads are primarily financed with investor dollars
Freeway Tolls are primarily financed with gas tax dollars.
Traditional toll roads are an ALTERNATIVE to our public expressways.
Austin's Freeway Tolls PERMANENTLY take public expressways away from drivers.
Traditional toll roads are promised to be free roads after the road is paid for.
Austin's Freeway Tolls will never be removed.
An unbiased Illinois study shows the average cost for the traditional toll road is 9 cents a mile.The CTRMA latest estimate for freeway tolls in Austin is 12 to 18 cents per mile. Yet, CTRMA documents show a cost of 44-64 cents per mile. The Comptroller's report found one toll at the rate of $1.00 a mile. The final toll tax rate will be determined by the unelected CTRMA.
Revenue from traditional toll roads pay for the road you are driving on.
Revenue from a freeway toll in Austin will go into a slush fund controlled by Williamson County and spent as far away as Williamson County.
ROBIN HOOD TOLL ROADS
For two years Travis County has been told, by the powers that be, that we must place toll booths on our freeways because there is no more money for free roads.
Yet, within the same two years, Williamson County has been given numerous free roads, through CAMPO, without toll booths.
• FM 1660 from CR 134 to CR 101
• IH-35/SH 29 Interchange turnaround structures
• US 79 from east city limits of Hutto to CR 402
• US 79 from east of Taylor to the Milam county line
• RM 2338 from FM 3405 to Ronald Reagan Boulevard and
• US 183 from San Gabriel River to SH 29.
100% of the tolls on existing freeways are placed in Travis County.
0% of Williamson County’s current freeway's will have tolls on them. Zero.
Even though Travis County has three times the population than Williamson County, and 100% of the freeway tolls, the majority of the toll authority board is made up of Williamson County people. Four of the seven are from Williamson County. The executive director Mike Heiligenstein as also from Williamson County. The enabling legislation was created by Williamson County's Mike Krusee.
Before he was executive director, Mike Heiligenstein was a Williamson County Commissioner who focused on getting more freeways built for Williamson County. Heiligenstein voted to create the toll authority. Heiligenstein also named and voted for the Williamson folks who he wanted as toll authority board members. Those board members Heiligenstein selected - later thanked Heiligenstein by hiring him for the $130,000 a year plus perks executive director position.
The Comptroller's report found these same board members giving No Bid “gas tax dollar” contracts to themselves and their friends. In 2005 the Comptroller demanded that chairman Robert Tesch and board member Johanna Zmud resign because of conflicts of interests. A year has passed and the two board members continue to refused to resign. The Comptroller's in-depth investigative report calls the toll plan “Double Taxation without Accountability”.
Records show, Mike Heiligenstein was divorced by his wife Anne in 2004, and she filed papers in Williamson County to garnish Heiligenstein's toll authority (CTRMA) wages for child support. If Heiligenstein can't be trusted to give money to his own kid's, he'll have no problem funneling Travis toll tax dollars for free roads in Williamson County.
Since the Austin freeway toll roads are already paid for, the toll revenue collected will go into a slush fund the Williamson County toll authority controls. Revenue collected in Travis County will be controlled and spent by those in Williamson County.
What are some common sense and fair solutions?
1) Use our gas tax dollars to finish building the roads we've already paid for, and open them up as freeways NOT tollways. Tolling roads we've already paid for with gas tax dollars is highway robbery. Permanently taking and tolling our already funded public expressways is immoral. Sending Austin's toll revenue to Williamson County is more than obscene.
2) Texas has more sprawl than any other state in the country. Zone for denser development in urban and suburban areas so people don't have to drive as far for needs.
3) Focus on building more arterial road lane miles and less highway lane miles. Phoenix, AZ produces more arterial lane miles that cost 90% less than highway lane miles.
4) Just like our families learn to live within a budget, TxDOT needs to get a hold of it's expenditures. And, we need to get rid of the TxDOT good old boy network that causes our roads to cost much more than other states. The General Accounting Office report of state highway construction shows the median cost of a road lane mile in the US to be $1.6 million per lane mile. A look at 130 east of Austin shows it costs a whopping $7.6 million per lane mile.
5) Some states realized that the smartest way to stop the political blame game of considering to raise the gas tax every two or four years (to keep up with inflation) is to index our gas tax. Texas needs to index the gas tax.
6) Stop Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs). CDA's are road and land development contracts that hand over our tax dollars, our public highways, our right of way, and our private property to private corporations for profit. These NO BID, Secret, Corporate Welfare contracts must be stopped.
7) Remove special interest politicians who ignored 93% of the public feedback and vote to toll roads we've already paid for.
Gerald Daugherty says tolling roads we've already paid for is the only way to get revenue for new roads. Yet, the legislature has the opportunity every two years to increase or index our gas tax. Tolling our freeways is a permanent solution.
No other city is shifting most of it's public highways to tollways. There are currently two other public highways in the whole state TxDOT has plans to privatize and toll. 121 in North Dallas and the city of Frisco has opposed it. And HWY 281 in San Antonio, which was stopped by a lawsuit.
There are no economic impact studies to show how this experiment of privatizing and tolling our public highways will effect our Travis County economy, as the additional costs of moving all goods and services will be passed down to Travis County taxpayers.
If this weeks article in the Gazzette, is anything like what Gerald Daugherty sees as a "true public information" campaign about Austin's Robin Hood tolls, we are in big trouble.
That is why it is crucial that the ballot language for the voters be truthful about the experiment of privatizing and tolling Austin's public highways (phase 2 tolls).
Yesterdays Statesman article about Brewster "Special Interest" McCracken challengers, taking him on, failed to mention a couple of crucial items.
After McCracken voted to toll roads we've already paid for in 2004, the article said he changed his mind in 2005.
But, this so called "revelation" of the Robin Hood Toll Roads is absolute nonsense. Brewster McCracken voted again, in 2005, to toll gas tax funded roads. The Statesman failed to mention that simple fact.
Two of the past three public monthly meetings of Brewster's "Independent Review" have been canceled.
Over the past year, Brewster McCracken was able to stack the deck of the steering committee with pro-tollers. It's an absolute sham because the tollers, like McCracken, Strama and Daugherty have hijacked the study.
Not surprisingly, McCracken's finance report shows how the toll lobby (including RECA members, past RECA presidents and a toll authority board member Lowell Lebermann) have thanked him with campaign dollars for ignoring the people and helping to push the toll plan.
Read about Brewster McCracken's "Independent Review" sham HERE.
On a San Antonio Councilmember's Blog, Chip Haass said, "Toll roads are not the answer" for San Antionio.
As in Austin, TxDOT has been trying to privatize and toll their public highways as well.
In one post Haass made a pitch for a city bond referendum that would emphasize traffic congestion. The real interesting part came after several people posted encouraging comments.
Haass responded Thursday:
"I really am scared of what the future holds. I know toll roads have received a lot of publicity recently. Certainly, they are not the answer."And, he also mentioned one of the many smart alternative solutions to tolls we've been discussing for many months:
"We have to study the big picture. I really believe strengthening our major arterial system around the highways will take pressure off the need for vehicles to use highways."Why don't we have a smart Councilmember in Austin talking about arterials that cost 90% less than highway miles?
Back door deals in Austin cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and hide police misconduct records.
I went to the City of Austin Prop. 1 and 2 amendments debate last night at the St. Edwards Campus and it shored up my feelings about the dire need we have for the Open Government amendment.
Austin is strangely unique when it comes to hiding police misconduct records.
More than 2,000 other Texas law enforcement agencies operate right now with police misconduct records open to the public, while here in Austin they are a secret.
How did that happen? A back door deal between city council members and City of Austin police.
Just like the hundreds of millions of tax dollars our city council members give to corporations in the dark shadows.
If you try to do a city request for information, as I have many times, you know it's nearly impossible to get a shred of just about anything.
The opponents (the folks that do the back door deals) say it will cost 30 million dollars. Not true. We found out weeks ago, when the judge had the city take the stand, that under oath the city said $30 million was not true.
We will save hundreds of millions of dollars when we let the sun shine in, where the massive tax giveaways usually take place in the shadows.
Click here to read more about it.
Burnt Orange Report Blog,
Based on your open letter, on your blog, I see you don't like me. OK.
You claim I repeat myself and add nothing of importance. Over 1,000 hits a day tells me you are wrong.
The fact is you failed to post my whole comment.
Here it is. It is 100% true:
"As a candidate two years ago, Mark Strama promised to vote against all freeway toll legislation.
Then, Mark Strama turn his back on his promises and voted with Mike “Toll Road King” Krusee every time on freeway tolling legislation in the last session. Every Time.
MARK STRAMA LIED AGAIN and voted to toll roads we’ve already paid for as a member of CAMPO in 2005!
After one of the CAMPO meetings last year, Mark Strama told myself and Matt Turner that he voted with House Transportation Chair Mike Krusee on the freeway toll bills because “I’m a Democrat in a Republican house. It’s kind of like being in prison and I’ve got to be someone’s bitch.”
Mark Strama needs to go. He’s the worst kind of politician."
Let's focus on my statement. I stand by it. But you don't dispute it.
You say I have not provided solutions. I assumed you did your homework. I was wrong by doing so. I've posted solutions many times before on this blog. Here is my latest version of solutions.
Our PET PAC champion, House 47 Bill Welch, who will fight to keep tolls off roads we've already paid for, won last night with 55%.
This is big, because Alex Castano, the establishments choice, who failed to answer the PET PAC questionnaire properly had tons of money pouring in from the powers that be. At least $45,000 from Houston home builder Bob Perry.
Our special PET PAC focus with direct mail and other mediums for Bill Welch, just as we did with Democrat Sarah Eckhardt (57%) in the last election, proves to push our candidates over the top!
Put tolls west of I-35
Re: April 5 article, "I-35's toll road twin to swing east, go to Laredo":
The proposed route for the Trans-Texas Corridor parallels Interstate 35 on the east for most of its planned route, cutting through fertile farmland in Texas. This was deliberately done to make it more palatable to monied interests planning to build and own the toll road.
Desirable land will be acquired through eminent domain. Clearly, this is not in the best interests of the public.
The corridor should be built west of I-35 on the semi-arid stretches of prairie that need development. New towns and communities will spring up as necessary support to the trucks, trains and automobiles that would avoid the more congested areas now under consideration.
Don't take away land
We have given away our ports to foreign countries, and now Texas is wanting to give away a 10-mile wide strip of our best land to Spain. We need to get Gov. Rick Perry out of office — he is totally out of touch with the people of Texas.
Why do they need a strip of land 10 miles wide to build a highway and railroad tracks? The population of the United States is getting bigger, and the land is getting smaller because of development.
Is there a politician running for governor who can stop this madness?
Trashing Austin with tolls
The folks who support "Keep Austin Weird" are very successful, and the ones who advocate keeping Austin trashy are doing a tremendous job.
Look at the proposal to toll roads that have already been paid for.
I'm glad to see that Jesse James is alive and well in Austin.
Special interest politicians are like cancer. Democrats like Mark Strama and Dawnna Dukes, and Republicans like Gerald Daugherty and Mike Krusse want to create a new drivers tax by tolling public highways for the first time in the United States. This ROBIN HOOD Road plan funds Williamson County free roads with toll revenue from Austin's freeway tolls.
Almost two weeks ago, on this Muckraker blog, I pointed out that State Rep. Mike Krusee's personal financial disclosure's fails to describe his sources of occupational income. A violation of Texas law.
On 3/29/06, I filed a formal complaint (Sworn Complaint SC-260399) with the Texas Ethics Commission with the following statements:
- In 2005 Mike Krusee lists Paramount Document retrieval at 550 Westcott, Houston, TX 77007 as his employer and lists "Executive Vice President", yet Secretary of State lists "David M. Hasha" as Vice President.
- In 2004 Krusee listed "Legal Services" as nature of occupation, yet Mr. Krusee is not an attorney, nor does he hold ANY college degree.
- In 2003 Krusee claimed to be self employed and lists "consultant". This limited description hardly describes the "nature of the occupation.
Since this formal complaint, I received a letter dated 4/4/06 from the Texas Ethics Commission stating they have accepted my complaint and they have "jurisdiction over the violation of law alleged in the sworn complaint. The complaint alleges that personal financial statements that you (Krusee) filed fail to properly report your sources of occupational income, including the nature of the occupation, in violation of section 572.023(b)(1) of the Government Code".
Mike Krusee has 10 days to respond in writing and under oath. Failure to respond will constitute a separate violation for which a civil penalty may be assessed. I'll keep you posted.
In the 2002 election when precinct chairman Don Zimmerman gave money and worked tirelessly to turn out record numbers of voters for the 2002 primary election and runoff, Jeff Fleece literally stayed home. Jeff Fleece was M.I.A.
Jeff Fleece DID NOT VOTE in the same primary he is now asking voters to help him in, nor did he vote in the 2002 runoff election for the office he now seeks. Jeff Fleece was M.I.A.
While Don Zimmerman organized, led and partially financed the fight to make sure taxpayer dollars were being spent responsibly, Jeff Fleece couldn't even be bothered to vote in the March 2005 RRISD bond election, which had by far the largest turnout ever in a RRISD bond election. Jeff Fleece was M.I.A.
Don Zimmerman, an independent maverick, has been active with People for Efficent Transportation for nearly 2 years in the fight against tolling roads we've already paid for. Zimmerman filled out the comprehensive double tax toll Questionnaire from People for Efficient Transportation with flying colors.
Jeff Fleece failed to fill out or return his questionnaire. Jeff Fleece is M.I.A.
Why is it important that Don Zimmerman wins?
Jeff Fleece has failed to tell folks any details of where he stands. The reason Fleece has been so mysterious and MIA is - he's is a puppet for the establishment. He'll vote the way they tell him to when the time comes. He'll vote for the establishments new hidden taxes - like tolls on roads we've already paid for - when they tell him to.
We need Zimmerman, and independent thinking candidate who has been a proven leader and has fought for the people. We need Zimmerman to keep our public highways from being privatized and tolled.
We need Zimmerman to run against State Rep. Mark "Double Tax" Strama.
As a candidate two years ago, Mark Strama promised to vote against all freeway toll legislation.
Then, Mark Strama turn his back on his promises and voted with Mike "Toll Road King" Krusee every time on freeway tolling legislation in the last session. Every Time.
MARK STRAMA LIED AGAIN and voted to toll roads we've already paid for as a member of CAMPO in 2005! After one of the CAMPO meetings last year, Mark Strama told myself and Matt Turner (who I had just met) that he voted with House Transportation Chair Mike Krusee on the freeway toll bills because "I'm a Democrat in a Republican house. It's kind of like being in prison and I've got to be someone's bitch."
Hello Texas Toll Party,
I threw my resume onto Monster.com last week. I have telephone call center experience. I got a message from a Karen last Friday. She left her number of 415-7677 and said she had a potential job for me. I called.
Karen works for a firm called ETC. They are opening an Austin based phone call center to call people to support the tolls.
I told her right up I was anti-toll road and we both laughed. She was nice. But soon some call center will open to call people to support the tolls. I have no idea if this is state wide or nation wide.
Who is funding it?
YOU (and I) are funding it with our gas tax dollars. Along with some debt.
The major problem with Gov. Perry's Double Tax Freeway Tolls is our gas tax dollars are used to build them, and then we have to pay daily to use them.
A new layer of bureaucracy is needed to privatize and toll our public highways. So, Williamson County folks have stepped up to control the new taxes on Travis County. Think of it as another Robin Hood type plan. This is a Statewide plan, but other states are watching this new drivers tax and they want a taste too.
Texas elected thieves, fools with a toll road fetish, like Mayor Will Wynn, Brewster McCracken, Mark Strama & Gov. Perry, want to place tolls on roads we've already paid for.
What can you do about it? Vote out the tollers above, and tell everyone you know to do the same. We CAN stop most of the freeway tolls if we remove the tollers. We need everyone to spread the names of the tollers to continue our progress.
Last week, with jaw dropped, I watched the Statesman House 47 debate between Bill Welch and Alex Castano online. Like most people, I had not seen these two candidates in any public debate before.
Somewhere between 8 and 15 minutes into the video debate my jaw hit the floor, as the big, burly former football player, Alex Castano, started blubbering like a giant baby hulk.
Alex Castano had gotten himself in big credit card debt. He defaulted on over $35,000 dollars worth of debt to 3 banks, and then loaned his campaign $30,000.
After this crying Castano event, I wanted to look a little deeper, get all the facts, and get involved.
Capitolinside.com broke the Castano Debt Default story on March 29th with "House Runoff Contender Helped Finance Campaign Despite Credit Card Problems". I had never heard of this political website before, and have since signed up. The Statesman's article took place after the Capital Inside story on March 30th. The debate took place on the 31st. Bill Welch said he found out about the Castano Debt when the Statesman had called him to do the story on the 29th. And, sources tell me this was the case, since the source for the Capitalinside.com story was not Welch or his campaign.
Back to the debate.
After the emotional outburst, Castano said Welch had attacked him, then somewhere later in the debate, Castano defensively again claimed "Shame on you Bill Welch for attacking me". This didn't add up to me so I watched the debate again. I saw no attack from Welch. All Welch had said was that it was not responsible to get into over $35,000 worth of credit card debt. Heck, that's common sence, not an attack. I read the Statesman story again, and saw no attack. I chalk this up to Castano being desperate and in a corner over his many, many problems:
- Defaulted on over $35,000 worth of debt to three different credit card companies.
- Loaned his campaign over $30,000 after two of the default credit card judgments.
- FAILED TO FOLLOW STATE LAW by not disclosing his defaulted debt AND court ordered judgments on his Texas Ethics Commission personal financial statement.
- Had several ethics complaints filed against him recently by the leadership of a major statewide Republican organization.
- Failed to take personal responsibility for his legal and financial problems and instead blames others.
Castano's schizophrenic claims of Welch attacking him gets worse. I received campaign literature from Castano yesterday (most probably paid for with borrowed money) with huge letters on it. It says "WARNING, Mud slide ahead" and "Say NO to Bill Welch's Negative campaign".
Here's the kicker. I've received a truck load of direct mail from both candidates, and not one negative shred of paper with any attack on Castano by Welch.
OK, so the wheels have fallen off the Castano wagon.
That aside, I ask another more natural question. With 7 children and over $45,000 in debt and legal fees how can Alex Castano take on a job as State Representative that pays only $600 dollars a month?
This is the proposed language sent to Council for today's court-ordered rewrite at 10AM at the City Council (Ceasar Chavez and Lavaca):
“Proposition 1-- Shall the City of Austin Charter be amended to place certain public documents on the Internet, to place additional information on the Internet to the greatest extent practical and protective of privacy, to ensure that public records are archived, to open certain new information when requested under the Public Information Act including police misconduct records, and to conduct public meetings to negotiate economic development agreements and the police meet and confer contract?”Glen Maxey, former state representative and plaintiff in the suit, said that "The city has a chance to make democracy work." We will find out what the council does starting at 10. Will Brewster McCracken and the other special interest council members follow the law and the will of the people with balanced language?
Anything is possible (But don't hold your breath).
Today's article in the Statesman, "Travis officials call for toll road vote" tells the story of two Travis County Commissioners, Judge Sam Biscoe and Gerald Daugherty, who now, after almost two years, are asking that Travis County citizens be able to vote on a plan that tolls our Austin's freeways.
Of course we should be able to vote on these freeway tolls. Traditional toll roads in our country have been whole new route's designed and built as toll roads and the money collected funds the road you drive on. Austin's toll plan privitizes and tolls our freeways and the money collected goes into a slush fund, since the roads are already paid for.
The Statesman fails to point out that the opposition of allowing us to vote on tolls comes from Williamson County officials. Williamson County will syphon toll tax dollars from Travis County citizens for the benefit of Williamson County freeways.
The Statesman has also failed to report a host of disturbing inequities for Austin and Travis County:
For two years Travis County has been told, by the powers that be, that we must toll our freeways because there is no more money for free roads. Yet somehow, over the same two years, Williamson County has been given numerous free roads, without toll booths. Amazing.
The toll plan has 100% of the tolls on current freeways placed in Travis County. 0% of Williamson County’s current freeway's will have tolls on them. Zero.
It gets more absurd. Even though Travis County has three times the population than Williamson County, the majority of the toll authority board is made up of Williamson County people. Four of the seven are from Williamson County. The enabling legislation for the freeway tolling authority, a whole new layer of bureaucracy was created by Williamson County's Mike Krusee. And of course, the executive director of the toll authority is Williamson County's Mike Heiligenstein.
Before he was executive director, Mike Heiligenstein was a Williamson County Commissioner who focused on getting more freeway built for Williamson County. Heiligenstein voted to create the toll authority. Heiligenstein also named and voted for the Williamson folks who he wanted as toll authority board members.
Those board members Heiligenstein selected - later thanked Heiligenstein by hiring him for the $130,000 a year plus perks executive director position.
The Comptroller's report found these same board members giving No Bid “gas tax dollar” contracts to themselves and their friends. In 2005 Comptroller demanded that chairman Robert Tesch and board member Johanna Zmud resign because of conflicts of interests. A year has passed and the two board members continue to refused to resign. (http://www.window.state.tx.us/news/50309ctrma.html) The Comptroller's in-depth investigative report calls the toll plan “Double Taxation without Accountability” (http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ctrma05/).
Records show, Mike Heiligenstein was divorced by his wife Anne in 2004, and she filed papers in Williamson County to garnish Heiligenstein's toll authority (CTRMA) wages for child support. If Heiligenstein can't be trusted to give money to his own kid's he'll have no problem funneling Travis toll tax dollars for free roads in Williamson County.
Since the Austin roads are already paid for, the toll revenue collected will go into a slush fund the Williamson County toll authority controls. Revenue collected in Travis County will be controlled and spent by those in Williamson County.
All the blame does not lie with the Williamson County crooks. Austin and Travis representatives voted for this unaccountable scam and ignored 93% of the public feedback that told them to vote NO on the double tax tolls. Here's the list of who voted FOR tolls on roads we've already paid for: Mayor Will Wynn, Councilmember Brewster McCracken, Rep. Mark Strama, County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Rep. Dawnna Dukes and more (make sure you remember them the next time you vote).
When you see the toll booths being built around Austin, just think about how they represent your $1,000’s of dollars a year helping Williamson County to build more free roads.