A Toll Night at the Texas Capitol

Folks, This is a great article by a great Texan and pal Peter Stern...Check out his Statesman blog HERE. Many people were turned away when they asked to sign up to speak, one person told me that hundreds of people were in the hallway, when she was told it was too late to sign up to speak about 6:30pm. That's dead wrong. That blame lands at Sen. Kirk Watson's feet.


By Peter Stern
September 10, 2007

Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) followed Texas law by holding an open meeting on toll roads to the general public for its comments. However, as too frequently occurs the auditorium at the Capitol was not large enough to permit the public entrance to the meeting. As may be seen from some of the following photos, more than 100 individuals were forced to wait outside the auditorium in the Capitol hallways. Many of those not allowed inside decided to leave.

Is this any way to run a meeting? Perhaps not, but it certainly ensures the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and CAMPO of a more controlled environment and stifles more urgently needed open public dialogue. Maybe the lack of seating was accidental, but you have to wonder when it seems this happened quite frequently at other "open" toll meetings at other locales.

Those in the hallway were told they were not permitted entrance because of standing room only, which is not permitted, a.k.a., fire marshal regulations.
A legitimate question could follow: Why are CAMPO and TxDOT planning the building and maintenance of our roads and toll roadways when they cannot even plan appropriately for a public toll meeting?

There were more than 120 individuals who requested speaking before the CAMPO Board and by approximately 8 PM only the first 20 had spoken. Most vocalized against toll roads.

Whether CAMPO and TxDOT actually listen to the public regarding toll road plans may be observed within the next several weeks. So far, neither one has a good track record when it comes to listening to the majority of taxpayers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Austin needs changes...
...but not change that makes short-term thinkers and profiteers wealthy. As a 20-year citizen and Austin taxpayer, I object to the Statesman term "robot" email in reference to the means provided to contact all members of CAMPO with a single mouse-click. Efficiency in among bureaucracy is often suspect because it often eliminates open hands.

The Public Trust
Is uncovering and blowing the whistle on highly suspicious situations unpatriotic? If someone is trying to tax my movement through my city and country so I cannot move freely without leaving a financial trail then I would question the patriotism of those who would create that situation for fellow Americans. And those who support them I'd view with a great deal of contempt. I think shining a light into the dark corners of political situations is ethical, American and it is surely - Texan!

Anti-tollers are hardly anti-progress, rather we value the simplicity of living without someone's hands uncomfortably squeezing our pockets and pocketbooks so we can spend time balancing work and family. We cherish freedom. We chose not to live in Dallas, Houston or California where it's apparently "ok" to be taxed over and over and we've seen the results of having a blank check being handed to government.
Sports stadiums, energy debacles, toll roads...rediculous.

Superficiality is something real Austinites despise. Pretentiousness is the burden of adding layers that don't matter. Layers that embellish with little efficiency. The growth of Austin into a glass-lined horizon is not what Austin wants and we sure as hell don't want to be taxed for the benefit of making our once friendly, relaxed town untouchable for the benefit of a few - these few who never bought-in to the Austin lifestyle but who have achieved power and seek to pay for their cultural desires with our paychecks.

These folks have come to Austin with visions of grandeur about recreating the Austin skyline so that seeing a Texas sunset becomes something for those that can afford the view. What motivates this?

Anti-toll folks' motivations are pretty transparent and pure. We're not seeking to profit from the sequential deconstruction of all of the true character of a fine city lot-by-lot. The Anti-toll movement is purely concerned with fixing the problem correctly and openly.

The Pro-toll movement has a big agenda that runs to the Capitol and the Austin Chamber's involvement seems all too willing to lock-step.

Austin has become a big fat steak for developers to carve up. I counted on our Mayor to take a stand for the culture of Austin, not ask if they'd like a little steak sauce. Remember the Loop 360 overlook that used to be a beautiful view on Austin? Now someone's home blocks 1/3 of that view. That says volumes about what the city is willing to allow to happen to this jewel.

Austin is limited. Our resources finite.
Austin, the city that was once easy live in is overcrowded and it is no longer the city many of us fell in love with. It's now the sanctuary of a languishing national real estate wealth-building market and the last straw are these carnivorous and power-hungry organizations deciding how they can manipulate the system to pad the political wallet and their pockets with our families'income. I'm not falling for it. I'm not giving up my Texas to private profiteers for a quick fix. That would be called "selling your soul".

Yes, we need to fix the traffic problem, fine. But there is no problem that requires an infinite supply of cash to cure. I'm sorry, why don't citizens see that we are being set up by our government not only to fail but to pay: over and over and over. There's a fine line between economic prosperity and canibalism.

When someone asks me where I live in Austin, I don't want to give them the New Jersey Turnpike Exit # answer.