5/29/2007

UPDATED: THE TRUTH ABOUT SB 792 HURTS (So you might not want to read this article)


SB 792 passes the House and Senate. Governor Perry, who injected new unaccountable toll schemes into SB 792, will sign his bill soon.

But, what is 792 really? It’s lipstick on a pig.

If you want to know more, I need to tell you what went down behind the scenes.

Did you ever see the movie “Memento”?

It’s one of my favorite movies. Memento tells the fantastic story of how many of us will go to great lengths to ignore the truth. We will even try to fool ourselves, because the truth just cuts too deep.

First off, none of us are perfect, I’m certainly not. But, I’ve got a special knack for smelling horseshit, especially when it’s sitting in front of me, with stink lines radiating from it.

Some tell me I’m burning a bridge by telling you the truth, but as far as I’m concerned, that bridge was burned by others, when the events below took place.

CorridorWatch, one of the many groups in Texas fighting the TTC, of which I’ve always had enormous respect for, invested a lot of time into trying to lead a coaltition effort to get a 2 year moratorium passed in this session.

HB 1892, with all our help, was voted on almost unanimously by the house and senate, well enough for a veto override. That would have been an embarrassment to the governor, so Perry invested a lot of work into SB 792, and he slipped in a few poison pills.

THE MARBLE HELL HOLE EFFECT?

I believe somehow, CorridorWatch lost their way, in the common deception and seduction of the marble hell hole, otherwise known as our state capitol.

Our citizen group and other groups across Texas stepped up to try and get Amendment 13 passed as part of SB 792. Our main focus at the time was Amendment 13, which would have closed some gaping loopholes to make 792 a real moratorium.

We didn’t realize the crap Perry slipped into 792, until 7-10 days ago, since the bill was created behind closed doors, without public hearings. And our representatives, who care more about their summer vacations than getting the job done right in a special session this summer, certainly don't care.

We followed the lead of CorridorWatch and TOGETHER, coalition groups sent thousands of faxes, emails and phone calls to capitol representatives demanding, “Amendment 13 or Vote NO on 792”. It's important to note our groups contribution is substantial, with 10-15 times the member list of the CorridorWatch list.

The sentence below is printed (with all capital letters and underlined) on the forms CorridorWatch provided for all coalition members to send to capitol offices:

“WITHOUT AMENDMENT 13 PLEASE OBJECT AND VOTE NO ON SB792”
Well, we didn’t get Amendment 13.

Most would assume we’d all stick to our guns, and our word, and continue to tell our representatives vote NO on 792, since 13 was killed - since that is what our crystal clear agreement was.

Right?

UP IS DOWN AND DOWN IS UP?

But, in a strange twist of events, after 13 was killed, CorridorWatch started to send letters of support to capitol offices, and started to tell coalition members and it’s own members, that we should support SB 792.

A couple of the coalition partners, including myself and Terri Halls group, questioned this flip-flop.

CorridorWatch said they didn’t believe we couldn’t stop SB 792 so they wanted to support the bill.

Yet another coalition member said this, "I also was confused with Corridor Watch's 180 degree change. The no compromising strong strategy of “Amendment 13 or Vote NO on 792” was one I understood and agreed with," and "...to unilaterally change the strategy when they saw "no chance of success" didn't seem right to me."

Some of us were shocked, a couple others blindly follow CorridorWatch claiming “they have the expertise”. But honesty and fairness has zero to do with expertise. What about having democratic consensus among the coalition partners when one of the partners is considering a 180 degree change? Not for CorridorWatch.

Personally, I always believed when you step up to fight, you fight for what’s right, not for the side we think might win.

CorridorWatch also said they had made a couple of friends at the capitol that they didn’t want to let down, so we should support 792. But, what about whats right for Texans and the thousands of people we asked to say 13 or no way?

SB 792 IS A SHAM. PERIOD.

The simple fact is SB 792, a so called 2 year moratorium compromise bill, doesn't stop one toll road that's planned in the next 2 years. NOT ONE ROAD! ALL THE TOLL ROADS PLANNED ARE EXEMPTED. And at the last minute, Wentworth, Uresti, Van De Putte, Zaffirini, and highway lobbyists dragged an amendment that would have saved San Antonio’s 1604 from 792!

The Governor is already bragging about 792, and the press is calling it something it certainly is not, a “Freeze on private toll roads”. And CorridorWatch is calling it a “Moratorium”. BUT, IT’S A MORATORIUM ON NOTHING.

It gets even worse.

SB 792 makes the theft of our roads easier as numerous local authorities, dozens of them like mini-txdots, can sell our freeways out from under us. Just like public highway 121 in Dallas is being given to Cintra as a toll road. The previous construction of 121, as part of the Cintra deal, includes $700 million worth of construction plus the cost of the right of way we’ve paid for over the decades according to reporter Tony Hartzel. And the 121 path that was intended to be a freeway, creates a priceless monopoly for Cintra, which has ties to Perry.

In response to concerns of TxDOT being multiplied by many dozens, CorridorWatch had the nerve to tell some coalition members via email that we just need to work a lot harder to stop the dozens of mini-txdots across Texas.

Thanks - like we didn't have enough work to do.

Perry’s "market valuation", that he injected into 792, will allow our freeways to be shifted to tollways faster - tolls will cost the most, without public hearings and without human, social, economic, health and environmental impacts studies.

SB 792 HAS BENEFITS...AND WE’VE GOT SOME SWAMPLAND TO SELL YOU.

CorridorWatch has been sending out a long list of SB 792 fluffed up benefits to it’s members and coalition members. The hard truth is - all of these benefits and studies are 100% unenforceable. And that's why Gov. Perry is happy to sign 792.

SB 792 was created behind closed doors for the naive to buy hook line and sinker - a compromising proposition that is desired by Perry and his band of merry cohorts, and our representatives who prefer the unaccountable taxation of shifting freeway into tollways.

JUST ABOUT EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE NEEDS TO GO except these folks in the house that voted against 792...

THE GOOD GUYS AND GALS WHO SAID NO TO COUNTERFEIT MORATORIUM:

Reps: Garnet Coleman, Nathan Macias, David Leibowitz, Lon Burnam, Joaquin Castro, Joe Farias, Jessica Farrar, Stephen Frost, Ana Hernandez, Jodie Laubenberg, Trey Martinez Fischer, Ruth McClendon, Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, Robert Puente, Joe Straus, Senfronia Thompson, Marc Veasey, and Mike Villarreal.

In the last few days CorridorWatch didn’t think we could stop 792. One night last week, CorridorWatch sent an email to the coalition partners agreeing that we needed to stop 792, but minutes later changed their minds claiming they didn’t want to let a couple of capitol representatives down.

OK, CorridorWatch could have just sat back. But, instead, even after the bill passed, they continue to try to sell the unenforceable benefits of 792 to citizens, while glossing over the problems that are unleashed with Gov. Perry’s new tools.

CorridorWatch told those of us who disagree with them that we need to trust our representatives to make everything right. I’ve heard that line a hundred times. I’ll say this to my representatives, “do the right thing or get fired, you work for us”.

Misleading actions, and the hope that we can learn something is why I was moved to write this unpleasant article about my former coalition partners. Honesty hurts at times and some folks won’t be happy with me for speaking the truth. Too bad.

LET’S GET REAL.

I believe we citizens need a stronger foundation, and a lot more honesty and will power, to win this war. We also need a lot more people involved in what should be a much more democratic process - especially at the grassroots level.

Our families will be the ones who pay and pay and pay. As for Gov Rick Perry, he’s grinning ear to ear, because CorridorWatch is out there selling his new unaccountable schemes for him. At times the devil can make a chump out of almost anyone.

Well played Mr. 39%.

What do you think?
Sound off in the "comments" area.

20 comments:

Sal Costello said...

EMAIL FROM PETER:

Good for you, Sal. I'm with you and feel the same way!

P

Sal Costello said...

FROM SUSAN:

Thank you. I was feeling this same thing and just didn't want to believe we were being sold a load of crap. This is not good for our efforts, no matter how you slice it. We don't need a civil war amongst ourselves, but we also
don't need to settle for watered down nothingness.

Calling defeat a victory is not helpful. Call it what it is. Still screwed. I appreciate your candor and your position on this,
susan

Anonymous said...

This is truly sad indeed. Seems like no one in the Texas legislature has a spine, and everyone is just freakN scared of Gov.GoodHair (after all he DOES look EVIL- especially that photo you posted under the title 'RICKY'S TICKED'). I think someday we'll look back at history and realize Perry was one of the worst governors of all time.

So I guess all we can do now is wait till the next election???

Sal Costello said...

ROBERT'S EMAIL TOUCHES ON ONE OF THE POINTS I MADE TO THE COALITION PARTNERS 10 DAYS AGO (A vote that would best separate the good from the bad):

Sal,

CorridorWatch blew it. It is hard to be mad at them because they have fought so hard. It's kind of like missing a free throw in the last seconds of game 7 of the NBA finals.

They should have stuck to their guns, not fold, put the heat on the legislature, and we would have found out who our real friends are for next session. Choke city.

Robert

Sal Costello said...

FROM BARRY:

I feel sorry for the Stalls, because I believe they are truly decent people.

It's easy to get seduced by professional politicians, who unfortunately, are not decent people, as much as we would like them to be.

When you have the same people in power, you will get the same results.

Essentially the same thing that happened in the last legislative session: The 'new and improved'
transportation bill is actually worse.

Same people in office, same results.

78th Legislature: HB 3588--'Strike one'
79th Legislature: HB 2072 --Strike two'
80th Legislature: SB 792 --'Strike three'

How many strikes do these assholes get?

Gordon Walton said...

Very disappointing! Time to support and give money to all their opponents during the next election. Is there no way to recall a governor? (of course then we get the Lt. Governor!)

Sal Costello said...

EMAIL FROM PETE:

I guess David has his eyes on another run for legislator and doesn't want to lose again? Perhaps he's "bonding" for that reason?

In any case, he and Linda have lost their credibility for me and many others. I can never trust either of them again.

Sal Costello said...

FROM JOAN:

Sal,

I am extremely disappointed by the acquiescence of the Stalls/CorridorWatch to the politicos in Austin re:SB792.

Were they just out-foxed by the foxes or sold a bill of goods on the “merits” of a Bill that is full of loop holes?

I, as many others have, made countless calls, sent numerous faxes and e-mails, marched in Austin against Tolls & TTC and dedicated lots of hours to a cause that now appears to need resuscitation.

Were the Stalls out-maneuvered? EVERYONE should be on the same page and keep to a strategy in order to be effective. Conflicting information re: SB792, getting the “good with the bad” , now looks like just plain ugly

Joan

Sal Costello said...

FROM STU:

Sal,

Please run a list of all sentors and house members who are supporting toll roads

Stu

------

Stu,

Just about all of them. EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE NEEDS TO GO except these folks in the house that voted against 792...

THE GOOD GUYS AND GALS:
Garnet Coleman, Nathan Macias, David Leibowitz, Lon Burnam, Joaquin Castro, Joe Farias, Jessica Farrar, Stephen Frost, Ana Hernandez, Jodie Laubenberg, Trey Martinez Fischer, Ruth McClendon, Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, Robert Puente, Joe Straus, Senfronia Thompson, Marc Veasey, and Mike Villarreal.

Sal

Sal Costello said...

FROM DAVID:

Sal,

I'm glad you are willing to stand up and speak. I'm sorry the Stalls got taken by RP -- but I'm not terribly surprised. Whatever else RP is, he's a professional politician, and its hard to take him down. As you said -- "Well played, Mr. 39%"

At the least, though, you made him work. And maybe your hard work on this made it harder for him to succeed in his other efforts to screw up Texas.

Thanks for fighting the good fight. And lets hope Corridor Watch will stay with the fight, and continue to fight the TTC.

Thanks,
David

Max Concrete said...

Looking at the text of SB 792, I knew it was trouble when I reached the section about market evaluation of toll roads.

The way I read this, TxDOT now has to agree to a toll rate and toll rate escalation policy otherwise the toll road won't be built. Then a market evaluation has to be performed. Of course, this will involve a concession fee, possibly pricing out the local entity. Then TxDOT has to agree on who will build the toll road, TxDOT or the local entity.

Basically, it looks like the bill burnishes TxDOT's iron fist. Local entities have veto power, too, but if they use it nothing gets built. For something to be built, it must be on TxDOT's terms.

The only good news is that several Houston projects, except the Grand Parkway, are exempt from this process. But the Grand Parkway is the money-maker, the others are not.

Sal Costello said...

FROM TERRI HALL:

I tried to leave a comment but it wouldn't publish. Would you put this up for me?

"Max Concrete,

You're EXACTLY right! I, too, didn't need to read any further when I came upon this horrific new policy called "market valuation." It allows TxDOT and the PUBLIC tolling agencies to essentially do a back door CDA (the private toll contracts that are supposed to be halted in the moratorium) and charge us the HIGHEST POSSIBLE TOLLS. Now the toll rates will be based on how much money they can extract from taxpayers before they cry, "Uncle," rather than a toll based on the cost of actually building the road.

Read more about this oppressive new policy here: http://texasturf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=92&Itemid=2.

For more info visit: www.TexasTURF.org"

- Terri Hall

Peter Stern said...

I spoke out as well on my blog and sent letters to all newspapers in Texas. The Stalls AND Linda Curtis have lost me as an ally. They say we need to stick together, but now they are too "sticky" for me to stick with.

See http:www.statesmanblogs.com

Keep up the good fight!!!

PS

Marcie said...

I think Texas needs a GIANT HOG ROAST!!!!
Thanks for your continued efforts.

Now what?

Sal Costello said...

FROM JEANETTE:

Sal,

What is the status of HB 1892 -- Has it been signed - or vetoed??

Jeanette

--------

It was vetoed some days ago.

Sal

Sal Costello said...

EMAIL FROM WILLIAM:

Hey Sal,

Obviously no one is happy with the outcome of this compromised bill. But I guess what is really sad is that the grassroots that have fought so hard are now publicly attacking each other and giving Perry and his pro-tollers something else to smile about.

I am not taking sides. But the blame should really be with our failed legislature and governor. Accusing Corridor Watch of mishandling the outcome is somewhat unfair. I agree with you and Terri that 792 is a bum deal. It really, really sucks! And I also agree that many things were mishandled. But we learn from our mistakes and move on. Yes, united we should of stood on Amendment 13. Unfortunately emotion got the best of everyone and others got played like a fiddle. But that bill was hatched and made behind closed doors. It was a done deal regardless. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and emotions but to air out dirty laundry in public just weakens the grassroots cause. We got to remember this is the beginning and not the end of the long fight.

The blame rests squarely on our corrupt political system and voter apathy.

William

--------

William,

Unfortunately, to properly hit 792, I needed to tell the whole story.

And it isn't pretty.

I don't like fighting those who I've worked with. But, I believe the only way to learn, advance and succeed is to always have the truth be paramount.

Thanks,
Sal

Anonymous said...

Well, time to move up my move to Wyoming. Texas = Taxes and nothing more these days. Totally disgusting and our nation is going the same way.

Mandi said...

You can imagine my confusement when I opened up my email and from CorridorWatch had an email headlined "Success" and right under it an email from you "Utter failure"! I agree that truth should be paramount or else we are just like those we oppose. So what do we do now???

Sal Costello said...

What do we do now you ask?

They work for us.

We can fire them.

We work and talk to our neighbors, family and coworkers to fire them.

Krusee, McCracken, Watson, Strama, Rose and all the rest.

Stay Tuned.
Sal

Sal Costello said...

FROM JOAN:

Just when I think that things can’t get any worse (SB792) I read in today’s Dallas Morning News that Gov. Rick Perry has been invited to attend the super secret Bilderberg Conference in Turkey !! This by-invitation-only group of legislators, corporate c.e.o./s, and media moguls from around the world advance their global agenda.

Included in the batch of “big-wigs” is a group from Spain . Can CINTRA/Texas Tolls Roads be very far behind???