CorridorWatch.org also sends a Formal Complaint to Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice about Macquarie (click to read)
NOTE: The blog data records show a Macquarie subdivision, Macquarie Mortgage Head Office in Memphis, TN has been logging on many, many times to read the Macquarie story I broke last week. Yes, we know who else is logging on as well. : )
UPDATED - SEE BOTTOM
InFactDaily.com had an interesting headline today, “Watson wants Mobility Task Force to start with a blank slate”. Sen. Kirk Watson's "blank slate" is Watson's own rushed predetermined plan, and once again the public is NOT invited to the table.
Does this help to illustrate a rushed predetermined plan?
Get this. Within one (1) week, Watson became CAMPO chair, altered who sits on CAMPO, altered rules so only he and his hand picked committee can decide what goes on the CAMPO agenda, created a task force to trot out his plan "B", and held the first task force meeting (yesterday).
All this within one week!
If Watson truly cares about accountability and healing the community, why is he moving so fast and most importantly, why is he not allowing folks from the community to take part in the “task force” so it doesn’t seem like a rubber stamp of an already agreed upon plan?
Kirk Watson's op-ed in yesterday's Statesman promises openness. And a set-up:
But reality requires action. We must stop talking about “free roads,” as if there ever were such things. Any tool we use, any road we’re on, costs money from some source. We can’t simply oppose things or divert attention from problems with slogans or personal attacks. Our citizens are too smart to let half-truths, untruths, innuendo and conspiracy theories define our future. We don’t have the time and shouldn’t have the patience for unaccountable ideologues distorting our present or jeopardizing our future.Setting up a straw man argument and attacking us personally - calling us conspiracy theorists isn’t going to help his cause. We've done our homework and know what good solutions are.
An interesting note I keep forgetting to share: Many of the TV stations showed a video clip of Watson, who stars in the “Circle of Payola” online video, with bags of cash. Reliable sources say Watson threw a fit, bitched to his aide Steve Scheibal (who once was a decent reporter for the Statesman) and swiftly called the news stations and demanded on air apologies.
My sources tell me Watson is very “sensitive”. Too bad he’s not smart enough to see the public must be part of the process.
I challenge Sen. Kirk Watson to prove he has left his past behind. As part of the new spirit of openness that he says he favors, he shouldn't have a problem with explaining his role in diverting $67 million of year 2000 City bond freeway money to toll roads.
I want to thank Mark Kilgard for this great report of the first meeting of Watson’s CAMPO Mobility Financing Task Force that took place Monday, Jan 29th, 2007. Click to read. Here's our line in the sand: If Watson's plan B has "tolls on roads we've already paid for", we'll tear it to shreds before you can say "Watson's Back Door deal with Intel".
UPDATE 12/1/07: ROGER BAKER GIVES ANOTHER REPORT ALONG WITH PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT (Roger taped the meeting then typed the transcript) OF WATSON TAKING COMMISH GERALD DAUGHERTY TO TASK.
Dispute flared in 2004, when Macquarie raised tolls on Canada’s 407 toll road by 8 per cent WITHOUT government approval.
MIG won the legal case and the courts upheld their ability to increase tolls without oversight. On the day that the court announced the finding MIG announced yet another toll increase. That's adding insult to injury!
Gov. Rick Perry, otherwise known as Mr. 39% (percentage of votes received), is now flip-flopping. In the hearing last year with our organization vs. Perry, CAMPO and SAMPO, Gov. Perry claimed he had the authority to create MPO’s through federal law, and he lost his arguement. In Perry’s appeal hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning, Perry’s attorneys brief shows a clear flip-flop, and now claim he has nothing to do with the MPO’s.
The Gov. wants to bail, which leaves the MPO's all alone, and they were leaning hard on the Gov. to clear the way. Too bad.
In a nutshell, the Gov and the MPO's have been forcing tolls down our throats, and we found out they don't have ANY authority to allocate ANY transportation dollars in the whole state of Texas. Whoopsi, talk about getting caught with your pants down. Oh, yeah, and the MPO's are also unconstitutional.
Our suit began on 10/05/05. In the suit, we the People for Efficient Transportation, make the following legal allegations:
(1) Neither the governor nor the Texas Department of Transportation has authority under Texas law to create special districts like CAMPO and SAMPO;This hearing is focused on the Gov only, and his appeal. You are welcome to come, although justice moves slow and unless you enjoy legal minutiae, or watching paint dry, it’s not too sexy. I’ll report the results here soon.
(2) Legislators serving on the CAMPO and SAMPO boards violate the separation of powers provision of the Texas Constitution; and
(3) neither CAMPO nor SAMPO have authority under Texas law to appropriate the tens of millions of dollars they spend each year.
Court of Appeals, 209 W 14th St, Austin, TX, Wednesday 1/31/07 at 8:30am
Dictatorship and bullying tactics continue across Texas (El Paso's Rep. Joe Pickett: "TxDOT Trampled On Us"). San Antonio's Commissioner Tommy Adkisson letter explains it all. Anyone who dare questions or disagrees with Perry’s version of privatizing and tolling public highways will be punished.
January 26, 2007
Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711
Dear Governor Perry,
At last Monday’s Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting my fellow Commissioner Lyle Larson sought to reinstate overpasses on 281 North of Loop 1604 in lieu of the TxDOT-planned tolling of this stretch of the road. Two VIA Board members on the MPO voted with Commissioner Larson and me on this measure. Unfortunately from reliable sources, I am informed that the TxDOT District Engineer David Casteel and Hope Andrade, your appointment to the TxDOT Commission, sought to reprimand or punish two of the MPO Board members representing VIA for their support for Commissioner Larson. We further understand that you have said that VIA’s legislative program was effectively dead in the current session as a result of their MPO vote.
TxDOT leadership has begun to take on a very different and mean-spirited tone of late. “Ric Williamson and his group take any discussion that seems to move away from their core position as a threat,” said Senate Transportation Chair John Carona of Dallas as reported by Ben Wear of the Austin American Statesman on January 18. It appears as though at least some of his fellow Commissioners are modeling themselves after the Chair.
This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, especially coming from appointed officials who are unable to be held accountable by the public. Though you are a toll road proponent, I respect your right to disagree. I know from my time of service with you that you would certainly respect my right to disagree as well as that of our VIA Board members. I respectfully ask that your appointees and staff do the same.
CC Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst
Speaker of the House Tom Cradick
Members of the Bexar County Legislative Delegation
Watch the DallasBlog.com's Will Lutz interview Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), who says that it is time Texans were given their say on the Trans-Texas Corridor, tollways and other topics. Click on the arrow to watch.
Letter to the Muckraker, from George:
First of all, Sal ...
Bless you for your tireless efforts at keeping these road robbers in line! Without you and your group, these thugs would absolutely, positively toll every pig trail in Texas.
But I also wanted to share a personal experience I had this Sunday morning as I exited MoPac at Wells Branch Parkway, which you have likely already heard about.
I have lived in the Austin area since Jan 1st, 1975 ... now 32 years. And I have traveled that same road since it was first constructed, turning onto Howard Lane from MoPac, before it was even MoPac ! (Of course it was first North Burnet Road). But imagine my surprise when I took the usual Wells Branch exit off of MoPac, to find this time, a little white sign above the exit marker, indicating "Pay Toll".
Imagine my confusion when I took the exit anyway, assuming it to be a mistake, since I could already clearly see the stop lights of the intersection just past what I now realized was indeed a TOLL BOOTH ! No way were they expecting me to pay a toll to take an exit which I'd already been using for a quarter century or more ... an exit to a street just some 100 feet or so in the distance ! In plain sight already ! And for sure I would have taken the same exit anyway, if only to AVOID the tollway, still some distance ahead. But sure enough, here I am at a toll booth .... expected to shell out a half dollar just to take a 100-foot drive up to my turn. Was I PISSED ?? ! ! ! You BET I WAS PISSED ! !
And I'm STILL PISSED ! !
I paid that damned 50 cents ... but it's the last nickel the toll road commission will ever siphon from MY pocket. And you can bet that I'll fight these robbers with my dieing breath, not because of the 50 cents loss, but because of the method of extraction used by them to get it. I will be taking names and paying close attention to every newsletter you send. And let me know what I can do to help return our highways to our citizens.
Watch the trailer for “Truth Be Tolled” documentary by clicking on the arrow. This is a great powerful movie, made by our friend, Director and cinematographer William H. Molina of Storm Pictures, that tells the story of the effect of the special interests stealing our roads and our land with our governments help. Now on DVD (99 minutes) for only $14.99 - find it online HERE to share with your family and friends.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Macquarie Media Group Ltd., a subsidiary of Macquarie Bank and Cintra-Macquarie partner, has swallowed American Consolidated Media (ACM) for nearly $100 million.
The deal could help to clear a political path for potential Texas contracts worth Billions.
The purchase comes after the ACM’s rural independent newspapers have clearly been the most vocal opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC).
Countless articles over the past months and years peg the TTC as an eminent domain land grab. ACM’s publications had placed serious political pressure on the TTC, therefore future TTC contracts worth an estimated $185 Billion dollars.
is being bought out.
The newspapers are the main communication tool for many of the rural Texan communities, with many citizens at risk of loosing their homes and farms through eminent domain. Future TTC contracts are estimated to effect about one-half million acres of land, and 4,000 miles of Texas toll roads.
Founded in 1998, American Consolidated Media is a privately owned media holding company. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company owns and operates about 40 newspapers, primarily in the small-to-medium markets of Texas.
Texas newspapers under the ACM umbrella include: Waxahachie Daily Light, The Hearne Democrat, Calvert Tribune, Alvarado Post, Bonham Journal, Ellis County Chronicle, Ennis Journal, Stephenville Empire Tribune, Midlothian Mirror, and the Franklin Advocate.
Macquarie is currently poised to buy more newspaper groups. From the Sydney Morning Herald report:
“The Macquarie Bank-backed fund, which already has broadcast assets, is "in a number of discussions" with other US newspaper businesses, including some exclusive negotiations, but declined to offer more details.”This is Macquarie's first print media purchase and first move into the U.S. media market.
Macquarie Bank is the parent of Macquarie Infrastructure, one of the largest toll road operators in the world. Macquarie Infrastructure last year partnered with Cintra (Cintra-Macquarie) in a $3.85 Billion dollar toll road deal in Indiana.
D.J. Gribbin, a director for Macquarie, has just been nominated by President Bush to be General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Transportation and is awaiting senate confirmation.
ALSO: OUR LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARD
CLICK ON BLUE HYPERLINKS TO LEARN MORE.
In early 2004, TxDOT and the new toll authority (CTRMA), presented a $2.2 Billion dollar Phase II toll plan to our elected officials on CAMPO, that would steal and toll our freeways for the first time in our country.
Back in 2004, CAMPO asked for public feedback. Naturally, 93% of the feedback opposed the double tax toll plan. Our elected officials on CAMPO, ignored the overwhelming public opposition, and voted YES for the freeway tolling plan.
That is when AustinTollParty.com was created.
Monday night, with a packed auditorium, after 31 months of battle - and our many accomplishments along the way - the bureaucratic money-hungry corrupt giant, finally said “Uncle”.
This was a huge battle that we won by using political pressure. But the war to keep our freeways free is not over because the special interests are behind the scenes pushing a “Plan B”. The good news is, we’ve already put a dent into “Plan B”, by not allowing Sen. Kirk Watson to be seen as the hero.
Monday, Kirk Watson became chair of CAMPO, as predicted in early December on this blog. And, Watson hijacked CAMPO as I predicted last week, as he now hand selects his own powerful special committee and only that committee decides what can go on the agenda. Watson also altered CAMPO from 23 voting members to 18. The unaccountable Waston, who has a history of back-room deals that costs us millions, refuses to create a citizens committee for crucial input needed for any successful transportation solution. Watson is only interested in controlling the process by having a massive majority of his special interests Krusee/Toller pals run the show.
STEP 1) Monday night, State Rep. Mike “King Toller” Krusee recommended that Senator Kirk Watson chairs CAMPO so Watson can run CAMPO and repackage the toll roads to sell them to the public.
INSIDER FACT) A lawsuit we filed in 2005 will most probably remove Watson from CAMPO within weeks or months.
The constitution states there must be a “separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch”, therefore, the legislative Senator Watson (and others) cannot sit on CAMPO’s executive board. Only City and County officials are allowed to sit on CAMPO. People for Efficient Transportation, Inc. is represented in this suit by the Texas Legal Foundation and its President and General Counsel, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith. Next hearing is scheduled for Jan 31st, news here on this blog soon.
STEP 2) Have Kirk Watson stop Phase II tolls and be seen as a hero. That credibility will allow him to sell the newly repackaged toll roads on roads we’ve already paid for, without calling them toll roads.
INSIDER FACT) Kirk Watson has now been exposed as part of the problem in the press. Watson’s past also includes a diversion of our freeway funds for toll roads as $67 Million of his Prop 1 City of Austin Bonds intended for free roads, have been diverted to 45N and 130 toll roads.
Have the Watson “hero” introduce “managed lanes”, and not use the nasty “toll” word.
What are managed lanes exactly?
"Managed lanes" is a marketing term that sounds better than “toll roads”: Express lanes that parallel an existing highway and charge drivers a toll. So, a managed lane on a road we’ve already paid for, is a toll road on a road we’ve already paid for.
"Value Pricing" is another marketing term that goes hand in hand with Managed lanes. The tollers sell it to the public by saying Value Pricing will "reduce congestion".
How does Value Pricing reduce congestion you ask? By increasing the toll cost within the day as the need rises (such as charging more during rush hour). If less people can afford to drive, less people are on the road. Viola, less congestion. And more money into the pockets of the tollers.
And, why didn’t the Statesman report the death of Phase II? The Snakesman endorsed the Austin freeway tolling plan on June 27, 2004. Since then they have failed to do any investigative reporting on the corruption of the privtization and tolling of our public highways. They have even deleted a blog on the Statesman.com website that exposed that corruption. Read about it HERE.
Once again, KXAN's stellar Chris Willis, our good pal, did the story right!
Coming Tomorrow - HOT EXCLUSIVE right here on the Muckraker Blog: Toll Profiteers buy Texas Newspaper Companies to Control the Negative Toll Road News! (This is for real)
Coming Soon - A big thank you article and list of some of the important organizations and individuals that over the past years and months have joined in the successful fight to keep our freeways free.
Stick a fork in it!
Phase II Tolls are DONE!
We just won a huge battle. But, the war for our roads, land and water is far from over. A full in-depth report from what is really happening behind the scenes, and what is coming next, will be on this blog within 24 hours - right here on "The Muckraker". AND, the best, most shocking, "dancing in the street" news yet, is just days/weeks away. : )
See comments below...join in!
- CAMPO PHASE II FINAL PUBLIC HEARING TONIGHT -
The Commons Building, UT Pickle Research Campus-Austin.
Be there to say "No tolls on roads we've already paid for!"
12:05 pm 1/22/07
As of today, Watson's Agenda Item #4
IN NOW AN ACTION ITEM!!!
ALERT: This was NOT an action item until today.
This is a last minute change - to allow Watson to stack
the CAMPO deck faster, under the radar.
Read the article from last Wednesday below!!!
BIG NEWS COMING IN DAYS - Including Update of People for Efficient Transportation vs. Gov. Perry and CAMPO lawsuit which was filed in 2005.
Find the last update here. Gov. Perry sent case to the wrong court - which took almost a year to correct!
to Monday Jan 22nd at 6pm
NEW LOCATION! -10100 Burnet Road, Bldg. #137,
The Commons Building, UT Pickle Research Campus-Austin.
Read the latest report below about the toller's new detailed plan
to take our freeways - show up to keep our freeways free!
Senator Kirk Watson, who has yet to sit on CAMPO as a board member for one meeting, already has numerous proposals submitted for the next CAMPO agenda. The changes Watson seeks will severely reduce accountability and further squelch public feedback on CAMPO. The power hungry Watson has been working behind the scenes for months to set himself up as CAMPO Chair.
CAMPO allocates Billions of our taxpayer dollars for regional transportation, therefore accountability is paramount, but Agenda Item #4 (http://www.campotexas.org/pdfs/item4Jan.pdf) proves Sen. Kirk Watson doesn’t care.
BRIEF KIRK WATSON HISTORY: Watson was Mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001. Watson’s City of Austin Prop 1, of the year 2000, diverted a whopping $67.2 million of our bond dollars, intended for free roads, into toll roads! Watson’s back door deal with Intel cost city taxpayers $7.5 million in subsidies after they left us with the downtown Austin “Intel shell” eye sore (That Intel “shrine” should be a reminder to all of us of how Watson’s deals with special interests always costs the citizens more).
“THE POWERS OF GOVERNMENT, Section 1 - DIVISION OF POWERS; THREE SEPARATE DEPARTMENTS; EXERCISE OF POWER PROPERLY ATTACHED TO OTHER DEPARTMENTS The powers of the Government of the State of Texas shall be divided into three distinct departments, each of which shall be confided to a separate body of magistracy, to wit: Those which are Legislative to one; those which are Executive to another, and those which are Judicial to another; and no person, or collection of persons, being of one of these departments, shall exercise any power properly attached to either of the others, except in the instances herein expressly permitted.”The constitution offers no allowance for members of the legislature to be part of an executive body like CAMPO.
Former State Representative/CAMPO board member Terry Keel and others feel Legislators who create the law, should also not be implementing the law. Published in In Fact Daily on 11/15/04:
“Keel said he supports eliminating House and Senate members from the Transportation Policy Board. Those who make law should not be implementing it, Keel said. The Transportation Policy Board is best left to city and county elected officials”
Sen. Watson’s proposal offers even less accountability, as 6 of 18 CAMPO Voting Member seats, or 33%, are those of unelected individuals (1 TxDOT, 1 Cap Metro and 1 CTRMA) and 3 seats for a phony organization with NO transparency. Watson wants the secretive Alliance of Cities to increase it’s seats to three (3)!
Alliance of Cities has never offered its members opposing views on tolls.
Peggy "Peg" Croslin (also known as Peggy Smith Croslin) and her husband, Charles "Chuck" W. Croslin, have interests in Croslin and Associates, which is pre certified contractor for TxDOT and a division of PBS&J.
PBS&J is a major contractor with TxDOT. PBS&J was found to have embezzled $36 million from more than a dozen states in 2006! The agendas for Alliance of Cities, going back over 10 years are filled with pro-toll speakers with one sided presentations, and at times, the Alliance of Cities has met at PBS&J offices.
Peggy Croslin also worked for Mike Weaver’s Prime Strategies, a provider of services for Williamson County road bonds for many years. Prime Strategies is known for helping to create the CTRMA. Prime Strategies awarded itself a NO BID contract as CTRMA’s 1st contractor!
Alliance of Cities:
• Fails to disclose information required of government agencies under Texas Open Government laws.
• Meetings, minutes and other records not accessible to the public.
• Administered by special interests who benefit from vote(s) on CAMPO.
1) The unaccountable Alliance of Cities should not have any Voting Member seats on CAMPO.
2) Public feedback should be directed to all CAMPO Voting Members, not another committee to be used as a buffer. On another note, more than 10 citizens should have the right to speak during CAMPO's monthly "citizens comments" period - and signing up in advance should also be rescinded.
3) Legislators should not have any Voting Member seats on CAMPO. It’s Unconstitutional.
4) Tolling Authority (CTRMA) should not have any Voting Member seats on CAMPO.
by clicking on the envelope below.
Toll Roads are known for being more dangerous everyday because of collisions at toll plazas (see links on right side of blog), but for an agency to fail to deliver the basic need of salt on an icy day is the ultimate “bureaucracy costs everyone more” story.
From Statesman 2007 "Storm Blog" yesterday at 4:42pm:
In Williamson County, city and county trucks covered most bridges with sand. But there were, conspicuously, a few new bridges and overpasses that remained icy: the toll roads.
On the Loop 1 and Texas 45 North overpasses and bridges - which in some places span much longer than your average cross-a-river bridge - the ice remained pure white late today. No sand or dirt in sight.
Tires, fortunately, have melted tracks for drivers to follow, but by 4:30 p.m., most of the ice remained. Maybe the tollway agency expected the traffic to melt the ice, as happened on Interstate 35. But on a holiday, especially one about a week after the Texas Department of Transportation starting charging cash customers, there aren’t enough vehicles on the toll roads to melt the ice.
WE NEED EVERYONE TO ATTEND THIS
CAMPO PUBLIC FEEDBACK PHASE II TOLL MEETING
NEW DATE - MONDAY, Jan 22nd at 6PM
10100 Burnet Road, Bldg. #137
The Commons Building,
UT Pickle Research Campus, Austin, Texas
- UPDATED -
If you couldn’t tell already, momentum is here, and it’s with us.
A new Transportation Chair, on the Senate side, Senator John Carona, is ready to lead the fight in the legislature to keep TxDOT from selling our roads to special interest profiteers.
And it's not just lawmakers stepping up, it's reporters and papers telling the truth, such as this HARD HITTING article from Peter Gorman of Fort Worth Weekly called "Detours on a Super Highway" with this subhead, "The only thing bigger than the Trans-Texas Corridor may be the rebellion against it". My favorite pearl from this important article:
“The only solution is a moratorium on not only the TTC but all toll roads, statewide,” said Rep. Coleman. “I submitted a bill to that effect in the last legislative session, but Mike Krusee, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and author of HB3588 ... wouldn’t let it out of committee. This is about cronyism and creating Lexus lanes and paying pals.”AND TODAY, The San Antonio Express article “Some lawmakers want to rein in TxDOT toll roads” today illustrate that fact clearly. The reporter, Patrick Driscoll writes:
“The Texas Department of Transportation's full-tilt charge to build toll roads wherever possible and let private companies collect fees and profits for half a century or more could hit a wall this legislative session. TxDOT officials are asking for more money, more power and more flexibility to carry out toll-road ambitions, but some lawmakers say the agency has gone too far already. "There is a growing concern about the wide authority that has been given TxDOT in recent years as well as the abuse of that authority," said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. "I believe the Legislature will either significantly rein in TxDOT or at a minimum be very reluctant to pass any of the initiatives that TxDOT brings forward," he said.”The special interests Rep. Mike Krusee chimes in:
"I don't know if it'll be a battleground," he said. "I think there'll be a healthy debate and a healthy discussion."The sleeping beast awakens:
TxDOT's road to tolls got bumpier last year as more people began to realize what could be in store — the agency wants to toll every new highway lane feasible and is willing to limit improvements to free roads to guarantee use of tollways. Then complaints rolled in that TxDOT was using its financial might to coerce local officials from El Paso to Houston to play along, which the agency denies, and was pushing for 50-year concession deals with companies offering cash up front in exchange for profits that motorists would have to pay in higher toll fees. "It's our own fault," said Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who as a member of the House Appropriations Committee helped write TxDOT budgets. "We gave them too much authority and trusted them too much."TxDOT asks for more power, as they might get a good spanking instead:
The agency also wants to be able to suspend drivers' licenses and deny vehicle registrations when people fail to pay tolls and related fines, and give the same power to companies operating tollways for the state.The line is drawn:
"Carona has other ideas, especially when it comes to eliminating caps on how long concession contracts can last.
"They're dreaming," the senator said. "Under no circumstances will that be allowed to happen. We should be doing, in fact, the reverse."
With concern brewing across the state, Carona scheduled a March 1 hearing to air out how tolls are being implemented.
He also filed SB 149 to stop TxDOT from including non-compete agreements in toll contracts, which restrict improvements to free roads, and another bill to index the gas tax to rising construction costs.
SB 165 covers the combined 38.4-cent a gallon state and federal taxes, but the increases for both would be added to the state portion. Borrowing on the proceeds would cover state transportation needs through 2030, a recent Governor's Business Council study says.
"Of all the options out there, this is the least painful," Carona said. "Most painful is the proliferation of toll roads.""
Yesterday, there was a tiny article on B2 in the Austin American Statesman titled, “Tollway Use Falls”. The article was so small, it didn’t make the Statesman’s online edition. The Statesman has failed to print any opposing view since the tolls went live, and very little, if any negative toll press for months, some would say ever. On the flip side, they have given free advertising for TxTAG in many of its recent articles, shown maps, phone numbers and more. Here are the actual numbers of Phase I tollway use found in the tiny article:
“Saturday there were 78,909 toll transactions, that is, times when cars passed a ramp or main-lane toll plaza. On Dec. 16, the last Saturday before the holidays, there were 163,950 transactions.This is a substantial DROP: It equates to only 48 - 60% of the usage from one month ago. That's not big news?
Sundays 63,977 transactions compare to 129,531 on Dec. 17.
Monday, there were 123,481 transactions. On Dec. 18, the tally was 203,664."
And, drivers with TxTAGs still drive free this month. Imagine what happens when they get the costly bills, a percentage of them will also stop using the Phase I tolls. And what about the drivers who get the “Bill in the Mail” from the Tollers?
And, some question the acuracy of some Statesman articles. January 6th AAS article states:
"...be prepared to pay an average of about 12 cents a mile."But the fact is, some segments open today can cost drivers as much as 50 cents a mile. That’s a 416% increase from what the Statesman reported.
It’s no secret that Statesman Editors have friends who are involved in the toll road profits. CTRMA’s Mike Heiligenstein and Editor Richard Oppel have close ties, enough to delete my Statesman blog last year. Is the Statesman, who endorsed Phase II tolls in 2004, covering for toller pals and the toll roads?
Why hasn't the Statesman reported the $67.2 Million bond dollars, promised for free roads, that were diverted into Phase I toll roads? I gave the Statesman the City Documents.
Eye on Wilco has an opinion on this very issue.
What do you think?
I know of many who have submitted letters, slamming the tolls, over the past months, and they have not been printed. Including my own. Try for yourself, write a letter to the editor, 150 words or less, include your name address and phone: email@example.com
automatically send this article to others.
As regards today's TxDot hearing in Kyle.....I attended the 4pm meeting and submitted a ton of questions. There were only about 12 people in attendance and many of them were not regular citizens, but people like John Trube who was introduced as the "acting chair of CAMPO". Scary thought.
There were as many TxDot flunkies and functionaries there as "citizens". The reporter from the Wimberley View/Kyle Eagle was there and I gave her a list of my questions. I saw her scribbling down some of their answers. That should prove interesting journalistic fodder.
I submitted so many questions that I was considered practically a nuisance. I had printed them out on my home printer, took my scissors and glue stick to the meeting and cut and pasted them onto the question forms...really great idea if I do say so myself and not only easier for them to read, but you can ask alot more questions this way since you don't have to spend any time writing. They responded with their same old canned answers, but I guess those dubious responses are in the public record now.
I sometimes feel sorry for Mike Aulick. He is so tired of all this and it shows.
I failed to submit one crucial question asking them how come nobody knows about their stupid hearings and how come they don't spend any money publicizing these hearings, but millions on advertising their TxTags and toll roads. My bad. Oh, well, maybe next time. Besides, we all know the answer.
This one's not even online yet!
One of the good guys, Rep. David McQuade Leibowitz from San Antonio, who has been very outspoken against tolls, just filed HB 570, a Bill limiting use of license plate information collected on a toll road. That means - no selling our data for profit!
CNN's Lou Dobbs show did a report 2 nights ago on how critically important parts of our national infrastructure are being sold. From the transcripts:
"...Congressman Peter DeFazio says it is a deal for corporations and investors, no deal for taxpayers.
REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: These private interests would have the power of eminent domain, and they basically would have unlimited authority over the term of the contract to raise tolls. A private entity beyond the reach of any future state legislature, governor, or Congress under contract.
SYLVESTER: Critics also call it fiscally irresponsible. States receive a lump sum up front. Future generations receive no toll revenues. And public sentiment is solidly against selling off taxpayer-owned assets. especially to foreign companies.
In Indiana, more than twice as many people were against the deal than were for it. The transportation groups are dismayed the Bush administration has officially backed these private-public arrangements.
TODD SPENCER, INDEPENDENT DRIVERS ASSN.: We were stunned. We were amazed, but I'd have to say, unfortunately, we were not shocked. They have been shopping this idea, this draft legislation, this proposal to states for over a year now and, you know, to them, rather than responsible transportation policy, their answer is to sell-off our highways.
SYLVESTER: Despite the many concerns, privatizing highways is gaining momentum across the country. Legislation is expected to be introduced in Pennsylvania in the coming weeks that will call for a long-term lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Right now, Lou, the leading bidders are from Australia and Spain -- Lou.
DOBBS: It -- I mean, this is just -- it's incredible. The ideas that are being put forward to avoid public responsibility, the idea that a state government or an authority of any kind could sell infrastructure, highways, it just boggles the imagination."
San Antonio Express Pat Driscoll, in his informative "Move It" blog, writes about how Sen. Carona is using TxDOT as Punching Bag. Sadly, the Austin American Statesman, who endorsed Phase II tolls in 2004, no longer seeks toll opponent views in it's articles, and they have failed to print ANY anti-toll "letters to the editor" since the toll roads have gone live. Is the Statesman now part of the problem?
The article states:
"When Amadeo Saenz, a top honcho at the Texas Department of Transportation, made a proposal two months ago to the Senate transportation and business committees to revamp utility relocation fees, he suddenly turned into a punching bag.Audio Excerpts from Carona "Walking Tall" in the Nov, 9, 2006 meeting - at 2:07 mark:
But Carona, a Dallas Republican who filed bills to index the gas tax to inflation and stop non-compete agreements that restrict improvements to free roads as a way to foster a market for toll roads, was sympathetic.
He told Saenz, who remained calm and respectful, that it's not his fault when his bosses are sometimes arrogant, uncooperative and even a bit rogue."
"My concern is that this kind of arrogant and uncooperative attitude seems to be growing at TxDOT. I hear a level of complaints and a higher volume than at any point in my near 19 years now in the Legislature."
"I do think some of it has to do with the current makeup at the commission over there and the operating practices that go on over there."
"That attitude's going to have to soften and you all are going to have to become a more cooperative agency."
"I think you're a good agency but the public perception is that things have changed in an unfriendly fashion over there or a high-handed fashion and I think that we owe it to all of these people who come before this group today to try to do better than that."
Want to volunteer for the Flier Brigade that is still handing out fliers? Help save our families $1,000's a year in tolls for roads we've already paid for! email Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
There are some other things I believe that should be included in the notices to the people that are not often said:
1. The capability of TxDot to read license plates to issue fines or send bills to anyone means Big Brother is stepping into our lives even more. It has been pointed out nationally through Bottom Line Publications that the database can also be used to track people and report their location history to the courts. These and TxTag can also be used to clock vehicle speed for issuing speeding tickets.
2. Our highway dollars are now being spent to sell the TxTag to everyone.
3. Why do you think they suddenly changed the notice to the people that they would be billed for driving on through the gates instead of issuing the $500 fines initially advertised? TxDot and all those in the toll road system knew to fine violators immediately would give too much negative publicity.
4. The money spent to operate toll roads, as well as build them, goes to operational costs, not to building more roads. The money wasted on operational costs that don't need to be there (electronics and communications, money management, new workers, new workers medical and pension plans, etc.) could build all the new roads.
5. Why has no one connected the fact that Texas has under some reports 14.2 (or 16) billion dollars of our tax money that could be used to build the new roads? Instead they tell the lies of how the Governor wants to use some of that excess to fund the school tax relief. The fact is that when all the new taxes were passed to offset the school tax relief, the state told the appraisal districts at the same time to raise property values, while they also left out the 65 and older citizens from the break. What break. My land value increased $9,000 and house value increased more than $8,000 before improvements, and my local area has not developed any more than it was last year except for SH130 being run about 3/4 mile to the east of my property.
We need to tie these things together and present to the people. We need to force the issue of Initiative and Referendum for the State Constitution.
STATE SEN. JON LINDSAY writes a MUST READ article in the Houston Chronicle today called, "State's game? Highway extortion."
Lindsay, a Republican, has represented State Senate District 7 in Houston since 1996. Prior to that, he was Harris County judge for 20 years. The article is full of fantastic insight, here’s just a taste:
"Selling our state highways to anyone is terrible public policy. It's up to the Legislature to make some changes in the law."
State Rep. Asks DA to Open Formal Investigation on Craddick Corruption! (DETAILS OF CORRUPTION IN THIS LETTER - click here to read)
"William Lutz, managing editor of the conservative Lone Star Report, said the governor also could find opposition from Pitts to the centerpiece of his administration: expanding the state highways and building the Trans-Texas Corridor.
"Jim Pitts is not a friend of TxDOT (the Texas Department of Transportation)," Lutz said. "If Jim Pitts is speaker, the governor might get a few bills sent to his desk that he doesn't like.""
PRINT, COPY AND HAND OUT THIS FLIER TO NEIGHBORS, CO-WORKERS, ETC....ASAP...DEADLINE FOR PUBLIC FEEDBACK ENDS SOON!
We've already stopped one of Phase II tolls. South MoPAC at Wm. Cannon tolls was pulled from the Phase II plan because of your help. The SW Austin community saves millions of dollars a year, by not having to pay a toll to drive a stretch of South MoPAC we’ve already paid for.
Click on this link (or copy and paste) to download the flier NOW:
The Austin American Statesman's (they endorsed tolling tax funded roads in 2004) new article “Third way to pay toll added: Drive through and get a bill” is interesting. It tells the story of how TxDOT has decided (last minute) to charge people for using the new Austin tolls by taking pics of the plates and mailing them a bill. Of course the Statesman also gives the TxTAG free advertising (again).
Drivers will be given a third way to pay to drive on the toll roads, a new approach in the rapidly evolving world of toll roads typically called "open-road tolling" or "video tolling." It will be more expensive than paying cash or using a toll tag.TxDOT decided this last minute? Right. Just weeks ago lied to KXAN and claimed they were not creating a data-base. They never mentioned this possibility. But hey, TxDOT runs the show, even though we pay to build the roads.
Here’s the kicker. SH 121 in Dallas was 100% funded with tax dollars and they tolled it anyway.
Denton Record-Chronicle’s article exposes some of the problem TxDOT is having with "open-road tolling" or "video tolling." on SH 121:
Department spokeswoman Kelli Petras said drivers have objected to receiving bills of as little as 25 cents for using the road, the first all-electronic toll road in Texas.The Fort Worth Telegram hits the nail on the head with "State needs lessons in arithmetic". It's the unbelievably real story about how the state of Texas spent 30.8 cents on postage to mail Don Ferguson a bill for 25 cents for driving on a toll road.
"There have been some complaints about being billed small amounts," she said.
The Texas Turnpike Authority Division in Austin, which governs the billing process, is working to resolve bugs in the system so that bills won't be sent out for totals that low, she said.
The remarks on the Statesman.com Poll, "How will you pay?" are priceless AND FUNNY. It looks like a lot of folks know the real deal. Here's just a few:
"I plan to save money for the tolls by cancelling my subscription to the Austin American Statesman and buying more from the internet where I don’t pay any local sales tax."
"Toll roads are not needed. TXDOT needs to be held more accountable for all the tax dollars they use for other things. It is setting on collected tax dollars earning the interest instead of using it to build & maintain roadways. I will never use toll roads. They are special interest roadways and I refuse to make it easy for those folks to make money."
"I will borrow money from my kids when they’re not home. Or maybe I will just have the toll guard ask me three questions, and try to get them right. Possibly leave a piece of my 95 Audi as I pass under each blinking light."
Somebody, besides being a thief, is canvas tuxedo, certifiable insane. Paying $3.00 one way, $30.00 a week to work and back is more than just common theft. I need a few of the plump little white envelopes that the politicians get from the lobbyists. Then I might be able to afford to drive a toll road once a week. You know, I think I’ll just pass on the whole thing. I’d rather wait and be fleeced at the gas pumps.
from Quorum Report:
[M]ultiple independent sources tell us that speaker candidate Brian McCall has thrown his support behind Jim Pitts and that the two are calling members now bringing together the coalition. Our sources, including members, tell us that there may be a press conference as early as tomorrow. What we cannot verify yet is whether or not the Democrats have been consulted or signed off on the proposed coalition. We know that those calls have begun.
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Failed Traffic and Revenue Forecasts from Hyder Consulting UK and Masson Wilson Twiney an Oz company force BANKRUPTCY on Sydney Cross City Tunnel
URS was not involved in this one, but they are responsible for many others in Florida and Texas.
AustinTollParty.com has been updated to fight the upcoming re-vote for Phase II tolls.
In the spring of 2004, 30 months ago, Phase II (includes Hwys 183, 71, 290 & 360) came to a vote at CAMPO, and even after 93% of the public feedback opposed the plan to toll roads we've already paid for, elected officials voted for it. We've won a lot in 30 months, and we are going for the knockout punch.
– Texas Comptroller investigative report on Austin freeway tolls, 5/2005
"It shifts almost every local highway to toll roads!"
– Daryl Slusher, former Austin Councilmember
"I don’t know what kool-aid they’re drinking!"
– Terry Keel, former State Representative
Austin will be the first city in the country to ever shift publicly funded freeways to tollways. Phase II tolls are NOT conventional toll roads. Tell everyone you know - Go to AustinTollParty.com to tell 23 CAMPO board members "NO PHASE II TOLLS" with the click of one button!
"House Pensions and Investments Committee Chair Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) had lunch today with speaker candidates Brian McCall and Jim Pitts. Afterward, he issued the following statement:We can hope.
“It is clear that based on the support that they have, Mr. Craddick is way short of being even close to the seventy-five votes he needs to remain as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Therefore, it is apparent that the House will have a new Speaker.""