Hacktackular - Perry, Watson and Delisi

Sen. Kirk Watson has acquiesced — and will allow Gov. Rick Perry's appointment of Deirdre Delisi to go forward says Eye on Wilco. Click the link and read - if you want to throw up in your own mouth:

"Watson didn’t think that busting a second Perry appointee was a good career move."
Don't you just love these double tax - freeway tolling crooks?

Perry appoints transportation commissioners

Perry appoints transportation commissioners reports Houston Chronicle

More EZTag (TaxTag) Problems

Waco Tribune-Herald: Gov. Perry is NOT Serious About Roads

Not serious on roads

Editorial, Waco Tribune-Herald

Rick Perry can’t be serious.

He says he is — seriously devoted to building and maintaining highways. But he is just as devoted to fencing state government into fiscal straits that make these goals impossible without privatizing highways through tolls.

Perry last week said that going full-bore with toll roads is the only way for Texas to build new highways. That’s not so. The history of Texas tells us it’s not.

Toll roads have their function without question. But so do bonds. So does a gasoline tax that has not kept pace with inflation. So does a reexamination of how Texas funds highways in general — including a look at how highway funds are siphoned off for non-highway purposes.

“This is a place for big challenges, not big excuses,” Perry told a Texas Transportation Department meeting last week. Nice sentiments, but words do not concrete make.

The last Texas Legislature bowed its back at Perry’s my-way-or-no-highway fixation on toll roads. Part of this regards blowback against the Trans-Texas Corridor, an entity that seems to have some Frankenstein in it — a life form unto itself owing only to Perry’s TxDOT laboratory.

What lawmakers are saying is that the agency must be accountable to the legislative branch as well as the executive.

“The Legislature must understand that ‘no’ is not a solution,” Mr. Perry said. “It is an abdication of responsibility.” No argument, there. But the logjam goes both ways.

With rapid growth, Perry said the cost of building and maintaining the state’s roads is far beyond what tax revenues will pay for. That’s only if leaders like Perry refuse to look at revenue sources other than tolls.

Waco is made to feel that the only way Interstate 35 can be expanded through town is toll lanes. The choice is framed as firing squad or firing squad.

Lawmakers have serious questions about long-term costs of toll roads and about contracts with private companies that, say state auditors, have been too cushy.

At the same time, lawmakers have a nasty habit of using dollars from the gasoline tax to pay for any number of things that don’t build and maintain roads.

Perry is right to deride lawmakers’ “addiction to gas tax money” as a budget-balancing tool. But, then, he signs the budgets.

The height of irresponsibility at this point is for the state to say basically that it can spend money on construction but not maintenance, or vice versa.

Texas has the resources to do what it needs. Through bonds, through the gasoline tax, through better budgeting, and through judicious use of tolls, it can get moving.

Take any of the above off the table and you’re not serious.


TxDOT Chair Hope Andrade Out, and Deirdre Delisi in?

Read Transportation chair on way out HERE

Southern segment of Texas 130 opens Wednesday

Southern segment of Texas 130 opens Wednesday says the Statesman.

Also, read this Muckraker article from last month:
The Money Trail for TTC Primer (SH 130)

Record Profits for BP and Shell while Two Candidates Pander

Higher oil and natural gas prices helped Royal Dutch Shell and BP to report record first-quarter profits Tuesday beating analysts' expectations and prompting share gains across the industry says the Herald Tribune.

Hillary Clinton now joins John McCain in wanting a 3 month suspension of the federal gas tax,
in a push for votes. Barack Obama calls gas tax holiday "a gimmick". Now some experts say the gas tax holiday could actually push gas prices higher.

US Senators Propose Alternatives to Tolls

US Senators propose using special bonds to raise money for transportation infrastructure projects, reports theNewspaper.com:

"Senators John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) last week sought to gather support from US Department of Transportation officials for the Build America Bonds Act. The legislation would allow states to fund various types of infrastructure project through the issuance of thirty-year bonds."


Good Egg Endorsements for City of Austin City Council

I’m not a procrastinator, but to be honest, I’ve been putting this off. Out of all the kinds of elections there are, I hate city elections. I don’t know if it’s because they can attract some of the worst bottom of the barrel political opportunists, or something else. I just despise city elections.

There are a couple bright spots this year and here they are:

Laura Morrison
for Place 4.
Morrison has a track record of open, inclusive decision making, and a demonstrated willingness to stand up to the special interests who feed off the Council ignoring citizens.

Jason Meeker
for Place 1. Meeker is the long shot who is taking on incumbent, Lee Leffingwell who favors special interest and other insider lobbyists. Leffingwell will run for mayor, along with toller Brewster McCracken next year. Both are bad news for citizens. Leffingwell spearheaded a 100 year secret water deal with the LCRA.

I follow the lead of Better Austin Today (BAT PAC), a broad coalition of citizen group leaders, with the endorsements above. The Statesman just endorsed two of the worst candidates (go figure), Lee Leffingwell, Randi Shade, and then there is Robin Cravey, which is an unknown to me at this time.

Jennifer Kim
for Place 3. Jennifer Kim did the right thing, and was in the minority when she voted against Sen. Watson’s plan to shift Austin existing freeways to tollways, just months ago.

Jennifer is far from perfect, she ushered in the red light camera scam. But the fact is Randi Shade is worse, much worse. Shade was moved into this race by tollers, who want to replace Jennifer Kim for her vote against the double tax tolls. Shade is backed by toll scum like Mike Weaver (Created the CTRMA and gave himself a NO BID Contract to do it) and Lowell Lebermann (Vice Chair of the CTRMA). So, even though I’m not crazy about all of Jennifer Kim’s positions, and she’s been rude to me personally, and others I know, Randi Shade makes her look very appealing in contrast.

Also read, from the Burnt Orange Report:

RANDI SHADE Gets A Little Help
from Her Toll Road Friends


Rural residents feel the push from Trans-Texas Corridor

By RAD SALLEE, Houston Chronicle

Minutes south of Interstate 10 and Sealy, the pastures along FM 1458 are their own silent world in the morning. Mists lift to reveal black cattle, brown and spotted horses, snow-white egrets underfoot in lush green grass.

Then a concrete mixer comes churning down the blacktop.

Just up the road is a small subdivision. More are sure to come as city dwellers, including weekenders and retirees, move out in search of a quieter, simpler life — and relief from city traffic.

Although the gradual influx may bring greater changes in the long run, what disturbs residents most is the planned Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor, or I-69/TTC for short.

If it is built, the corridor likely will start out as a four-lane divided tollway. Eventually, the Texas Department of Transportation could expand it to 1,200 feet in places, with toll lanes for cars and trucks; tracks for freight and passenger trains; and space for pipelines, power lines and communications.

Read the whole article HERE.


Trans-Texas Corridor: Your land is their land

by Sonny Williams, Editor of Quarter Horse News

Each day, I make the dreaded drive down Interstate 35 to go to work in Fort Worth. Each day, I slug through the snarl and sludge of ceaseless traffic, which intensifies my growing desire to commit hari-kari, or at least incites a vehement curse of the highway gods. Certainly, we in Texas need more lanes, more roads, more rails, more something to deal with the ever-expanding urban population and growing international commerce. Yet how do we solve our transportation needs without carving up the countryside like some congratulatory cake? Or should the construction of a superhighway-rail-utility corridor even concern us?

Read the rest of this comprehensive article with quotes from Chris Lippincott, media-relations officer for TxDOT HERE.

Coming here Monday, "Good Egg Endorsements" for Austin City Council

The Candidates: How will they look in four years?

The Presidency really takes its toll; just look at how George Bush has aged. To see how the current candidates would fare after a term in the Oval Office, Mouse-over the images HERE to see the before and afters of Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama.

Letter to the Muckraker: Forcing Drivers Onto Toll Roads

Hey Sal,

Just FYI. I commute from Leander/Cedar Park to Austin along free 183 every day (I refuse to take the 183A tollway). Over the past few weeks I noticed the northbound traffic is backing up at the light at 183A service road and Avery Ranch Blvd. Due to the design of 183A, free traffic must exit and pass under the tollway before continuing on free 183 northbound toward Cedar Park.

This hasn't been much of a problem until lately when the lights seem to have been "untimed", so to speak. Now free traffic has to wait through several cycles of the lights at 183 and Avery Ranch Blvd, often without any cross traffic present. In fact, the light timing is so inefficient that it seems to be intended to force free traffic back onto the 183A tollway. But it doesn't stop there -- the lights along free 183 through Cedar Park also seem to be "untimed" to cause maximum congestion lately.

Although I can't prove the lights are intentionally "untimed", I'm sure there are thousands of other free 183 commuters out there that would agree with me. Keep up the good work.


Poll results: SPP plans are 'treason'

by WorldnetDaily.com

97 percent oppose North American Community
without congressional approval

A new poll by the American Policy Center has revealed that the lack of widespread opposition to the agenda of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, announced in 2005 by President Bush and his counterparts from Mexico and Canada, is because more than half of the American residents polled hadn't heard of it.

But when they did, their voices were clear, with overwhelming majorities opposing the concept, plans and ideas.

The poll was done by the APC, a grassroots activist group in Washington that asked a series of questions about the SPP, the Trans Texas Corridor transportation project and other issues.

"While President Bush and his counterparts in Mexico and Canada continue to deny that the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is the beginning of a North American Union, Americans around the nation are expressing their growing opposition to the scheme," the center said in introducing its poll results.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


CorridorWatch Responds to Governor Rick Perry's Speech

by David Stall, CorridorWatch.org

Today Governor Perry used the podium at a TxDOT conference to deliver a verbal assault on the Texas Legislature and every citizen of Texas.

We can certainly agree that the last few years have been challenging times at TxDOT. Finally, TxDOT is in the public eye, and the result so far has been a real poke in the eye to anyone looking.

The heat TxDOT receives today is the direct result of the direction they have been forced to take by two powerful men, Governor Rick Perry and his late best friend Ric Williamson. It is their planning, not TxDOT's, that has people puzzled.

It is their insistence that a projected population growth somehow justifies anything they want to do, anywhere they want to do it, using any financial scheme available.

It's building roads from where no one lives to where no one works that leaves us puzzled.

No matter how many Aggies you put in Kyle Field you still don't need a 1/4-mile wide Trans Texas Corridor in Pecos County.

Yes, companies are moving to Texas in droves, but will they continue to find our state as inviting when the toll cost of driving to work or moving their goods to market skyrockets? Texas is a big state and tolls here will add up to big money in a big hurry.

Perry accuses the legislature of abdicating their responsibility when in fact they are among the few who are acting responsibly.

We believe the Governor's headlong rush to public-private partnerships could lead to disaster.

Wall Street firms are just now starting to describe these deals as financially-engineered infrastructure models that should raise great concern. We agree. Does anyone remember the marvelous financial model that led to the rise and fall of Enron?

Today Perry described this private financing as something that you would have thought too good to be true. Then claims, "But it is true." Really? And if Texas is such a powerhouse economy why is it that the only way we can afford to build highways is with one of these private partners?

We have not lost sight of the facts, even though they are hard to find among the something for nothing public-private partnership rhetoric. And when was there ever any honest debate to stifle? When was there any debate?

One thing we know for sure is that market-driven solutions will, by design, produce the highest possible tolls to maximize revenue. A good deal if your on the collection side of these state sanctioned monopolies. Not so good for the travelling public and those who will pay the added cost for goods and services using these maximized toll roads.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


Avis Gets Snagged in The Toll Tax Bureaucracy - And Gets a Deal

Avis Rental Car company (via parent V.P Holding) got caught up in the Harris County toll road bureaucracy, having to cough up almost $200,000 worth of fines in unpaid tolls, administrative and attorney fees that accrued over the years.

Avis was facing a fat $374,000 bill from Harris County, but it was "settled" this week, for about half the cost, at $190,000, to cover the original $12,116.47 in tolls not paid.

Did Avis get special treatment? Do you think you would get your toll tax fees and fines cut in half?

COURT HEARING for Toller/Arrested Gunman Tomorrow

Dwight Dallas Thompson
Felony Arrest Photo

Dwight Thompson, former mayor of WestLake Hills and former Vice Chair of CAMPO (who voted to toll Austin freeways) and current candidate for mayor, was arrested on 7/21/06 for having a LOADED .38-caliber handgun at an airport checkpoint - a Felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine is HERE.

The Austin Police Department reports that the third degree felony charges of were reduced to misdemeanor charges.

A court hearing for the misdemeanor charge is scheduled for Tomorrow, April 24th - a trial by Jury in Travis County Courtroom #6. Think he'll get a sweetheart deal that you or I wouldn't get?

Bureaucracy in Action - Watch it live!

TxDOT and other tollers like the CTRMA are on the hot seat right now - all day, as the Senate transportation committee holds a hearing to discuss the future of toll roads in Texas, TxDOT finances and the Trans Texas Corridor. As our elected representatives get political favors, they magically allow more unaccountable toll tax schemes.

Watch it live online now in Room E1.016 HERE.

Terms to know:

Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) = Secret Deal
Market Valuation = Highest possible Toll Tax

YOU will pay $10 a Day in Toll Taxes, Says Star Telegram

A new Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, on the costs for the Texas proliferation of tolls (The Perry/Watson plan to toll freeways) has this quote:

"A typical commuter might average $10 a day in tolls... with very few alternative routes to escape them."

Gov. Perry sticks to privatization for toll roads

By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER, The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry promised to keep fighting for private toll roads and his other transportation priorities Tuesday during his first major speech on the subject since the death in December of transportation commission chairman Ric Williamson.

"This is a place for big challenges, not big excuses," he told state Transportation Department employees and highway experts from around the country at the annual Transportation Forum.

Next year's legislative session, he said, can't be anything like last year's.

"The Legislature must understand that 'no' is not a solution," Mr. Perry said. "It is an abdication of responsibility."

Before last year's stormy session, lawmakers had steadily expanded Texas' ability to partner with private firms to develop toll roads in Texas.

"There remain many, many financial institutions who are ready, willing and able to invest their money to build the roads we need," Mr. Perry said Tuesday.

Across America, states from Georgia to Indiana to Pennsylvania – all facing huge road-funding deficits – have actively considered following Texas' example and seeking out private toll road deals. The results have been mixed, but since last year, those same companies' welcome in Texas has been uncertain.

In 2007, legislators rebelled over Mr. Perry's ambitious push for toll roads and privatization, demanding greater roles for public agencies such as the North Texas Tollway Authority.

Mr. Perry said lawmakers and voters alike reacted too quickly to an idea they may not have fully understood.

"Too often these debates over highways have been driven by emotion and not reason," he said. "As a result, honest debate has been stifled, and progress has been sacrificed on the altar of politics."

With Texas adding 1,500 people a day, Mr. Perry said the cost of building and maintaining the state's roads is far beyond what tax revenues will pay for. Only by inviting private firms to invest their billions in toll roads can Texas build its way out of its increasingly congested traffic jams, he argues.

Mr. Perry and his transportation department have said private companies often are willing to pay more for toll road contracts. They also agree to take on risks that have traditionally been borne by the public, such as the risk that traffic will be less than expected on a toll road.

In addition, he argues that competition with private companies helps boost toll rates, and forces even public toll authorities such as NTTA to pay more for the right to collect tolls.

Critics, however, have said it is the transportation department that has insisted for too long on building highways its own way, with too little input from the Legislature.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


I'm on Facebook

I'm now on Facebook, here. Other national news, Oil rallies to record near $120 on supply worries.

HOW TO FORM A 391 COMMISSION to help stop the TTC

Any local elected officials, from any part of the state, can form a commission to ask TxDOT and the feds questions, which will bog down the TTC. Start talking to your elected officials and to get a 391 commission started today.

Anyone interested in learning how to form a 391 Commission to require TxDOT to Coordinate the TTC with their local community needs to read the article prepared by attorney Fred Kelly Grant titled "The Creation of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission" on our website a www.stewards.us. This is the most complete explanation of how easy it is to form a Commission, and how effective it can be. A new article below...

County tables resolution to organize panel

By Holly Green, The Hunstsville Item

It has been roughly three months since residents of Huntsville and Walker County attended town hall meetings to voice their opinion on the Trans-Texas Corridor/I-69 project to the Texas Department of Transportation.

There was no question then that there was strong opposition to the proposed 1,600-mile national highway, and it seems as though residents’ efforts to stop it has not lost any of its momentum.

Read the whole article HERE.


The Perry/Watson Hidden Tax: YOU Can Take The Bus

Gas prices are getting closer to $3.50 a gallon, as oil hit another high this week — more than $117 a barrel, many experts expect oil to hit $200 a barrel soon.

Now, imagine paying the coming $8.00 a gallon for gas.
For a 20 mpg car that equals .40 cents a mile.

But, don't forget the new hidden tax to drive the freeways - the Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. Kirk Watson (D) toll tax will more than double your $8.00 per gallon.

Add .44 cents a mile for the Perry/Watson freeway toll tax. That's an exorbitant amount of money to pay to drive to work, school and shop. How many miles do you drive?

Right now, if you have a car that gets 20 mpg, you are paying .16 cents a mile. Can you afford .84 cents a mile?

And, don't forget the managed lanes scheme (planned for Austin's MoPAC and other freeways across Texas). Folks in California are paying as much as $1.00 a mile at peak hours, for the managed lane toll tax. Gov. Perry and Sen. Kirk Watson will financially force you and yours out of your cars — you can take the bus for all they care.

In the past many months, the rising gas prices are already causing people to drive less.

And, who will pay when these double tax toll schemes fail, because many people can't afford to drive to work school and play?

All Toll Roads have Traffic and Revenue Studies that carefully map out the viability of the project. The official statement for Austin's 183A toll road states that if gas costs more than $3.00 a gallon over the next 40 years, it will not make a profit.

Austin 130 toll road, which has been behind in it's traffic projections already, has a ceiling of $2.50 per gallon over the next 40 years. We already shattered that $2.50 a gallon mark.

Will the toll roads fail?
Most probably, but don't worry, Gov. Perry, Sen. Watson and their ilk will bail them out with your families tax dollars, while you are taking the bus.

The Perry/Watson plan to shift more Austin freeways to tollways will put even more financial pressure on Austin families.

Read Austin American-Statesman's:


Crooks Reach Deal for SH 161 Tollway

State crooks will share the booty from converting SH 161 to a toll road, says WFFA:

"Friday afternoon, state Senators John Carona and Florence Shapiro helped along with Lt. Governor David Dewhurst helped TXDOT and the NTTA reach a breakthrough in Dallas.

Neither side would release precise details about costs and years involved until the NTTA board approves it. NTTA called a special board meeting Sunday afternoon to consider the proposal

NTTA spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt said the agreement reached is similar to one of its own proposals in which the NTTA would turn 161 into a toll road and collect revenue from it for 52 years. After that, Coffelt said, the NTTA and TXDOT will share toll revenues."

They actually begin the SH 161 toll road construction on Monday, with hundred of millions of your tax dollars, which were intended for free roads.

John McCain and Pal Mary Peters push freeway tolls and NAFTA Superhighway

Two years ago Senator John McCain, now a presidential candidate, spoke in support of Mary Peters becoming Bush's Transportation Secretary:

"I commend the President for selecting such an outstanding and capable individual to fill this important leadership position."

"Mary Peters is a fourth generation Arizonan and was the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, known as A-DOT"
Today, Peters is pushing to shift our freeways to tollways, from the federal level. "U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ push for more PPPs and tolling is disheartening." says Land Line Magazine

Dave Hodges, a spokesperson for the Arizona Coalition to Protect Personal Property Rights, a grassroots organization fighting forces of NAFTA/CAFTA and the CANAMEX Corridor land grabs in Arizona says this of Sen. McCain's anti private property rights stance:
"We spent the better part of a year trying to fight local government only to discover that we were up against the much larger forces of the NAFTA/CAFTA legislative sponsors John McCain, Jon Kyle and Ted Kennedy. We’re up against their multinational corporate backers of this internationalist agenda who benefit from the illegal immigration."
So, not only does McCain support the continuation of the $10 Billion a month Bush/Iraq war, but the failed Bush economic policy and the Bush/Rick Perry plan to toll freeways, and the TTC/NAFTA superhighways.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Gov. Perry, and Sen. Carona Attend Secret Meeting Over SH 161 Toll Tax Profits Today

After TxDOT's pretend "drop dead" deadline passed, for an agreement on shifting SH 161 to a toll road, TxDOT now says there is more time.

Like hungry tax vampire zombies fighting over the same piece of eternal tax meat, the NTTA (local tolling authority) Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, a Gov. Perry representative and Sen. John Carona are expected to attend a secret meeting, behind closed doors today to fight over who gets more of the toll tax profits according to the Dallas News:

"Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and other key legislators are expected to meet behind closed doors in Dallas today to end a deadlock over State Highway 161 that has threatened to derail plans to toll the highway, a development that could cost North Texas more than $1.2 billion in road funds...

...The Texas Department of Transportation has insisted for weeks that if no agreement was in place by April 16, the road could not be built as a toll road.

That prospect prompted howls of protest from local elected officials. Senate transportation committee chairman John Carona, R-Dallas, stepped in Thursday to initiate the unusual last-minute involvement of some of Texas' most powerful elected officials."
What happened? Why did the agreement break down before the pretend deadline?

NTTA tried to slip in one word into the contract, that would allow it to keep the profits of the toll road forever, when TxDOT planned on getting the profits after year 52.

SH 161, a state highway, was always promised to have a free expressway. There is right of way we've paid for involved as well as hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars, intended as a sort of corporate welfare for the tollers.

Read, Draining the Highway Fund

Update: Peter Stern's blog tells folks to contact the AG to file a formal complaint for a lack of "Open Government".


BREAKING NEWS: Gov. Rick Perry to run for re-election in 2010!

That crook Gov. Rick Perry has a pair of planetary sized nuts on him.

Despite only getting only 39% of the vote last time around, Gov. Perry's gonna run in 2010...reports the Dallas news. Sounds like fun.

Texas Monthly's Evan Smith doesn't believe it, Evan said:

"This is a thinly veiled attempt to stave off lame-duckery."

Molest Kids And Still Get TxDOT Contracts!

Last week I wrote an article called, "Father and Son Tollers Accused of Molesting Children" (see below).

This week, Frank Hoy,
one of the "higher ups" of the University of Texas at El Paso, says that the J.D. Abrams molestation lawsuit, involving reported video tape evidence, isn't likely to hurt the J.D. Abrams' company or its ability to get road contracts from TxDOT, as stated in the El Paso Times:

"For the most part, in the business world and in government contracting, (people) separate the non-business actions of corporate executives from the business itself", said Hoy.

TxDOT, tollway authority clash on value of State Highway 161 contract

"The Texas Department of Transportation and the North Texas Tollway Authority unexpectedly failed to agree Wednesday on how much the State Highway 161 toll contract should be worth, a development that could cause negotiations that have stalled for months to begin again from scratch." says Dallas News today.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley:

"There isn't any chance in heck that we're going to let this road not be built as a toll road."
Yea, why not tax people, if you have the chance...right?


"Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos turned in shoddy, despicable performances", says the Washington Post, and I'd have to agree 100%. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took a backseat to these two clowns last night.

Read the Washington Post article about the most shameful "debate" I've ever seen — called, "In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC".


Sierra Club weighs in on TTC69

Sierra Club weighs in on TTC 69 with well over 34,000 words. I posted their letter to the FHWA here.

Cry Baby Sen. Kirk Watson

The Voice of the Taxpayer blog has a good article called "Waaaaaa Watson", on how Sen. Watson is a damn fool. And....learn how Watson is crooked.

Fat Cats Fly TxDOT Airways

What's better than TxDOT building roads that always cost the most to build and maintain?

Well, TxDOT has a fleet of private jets, for fat cats only. But don't feel bad, although you can't use them, you and your family do get to pay for the costly flights with your hard earned tax dollars (so you can feel you're part of the magic). From a Houston Click 2 Report:

We discovered the total price tag for the program in just two years is more than $6 million. But is it necessary?

Say you're heading to Austin for business or fun, would you pay $1,173 to fly roundtrip from Houston to get there? Get out your wallets. That's what you paid to fly a state official in a small private plane from Austin to Houston.

Your tax money funds a fleet of small planes run by the Texas Department of Transportation in Austin.

Local 2 Investigates tracked two years worth of the taxpayer-funded flights (fiscal years 2006 and 2007) to see who is taking the flights and why. We wanted to know why taxpayers are paying so much when other travel options can often cost so much less.

We found the state's most frequent flier in those two years was former state Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley. Neeley traveled for speeches and meetings, racking up 62 flights in two years with a total price tag of $97,645.

State Highway 161 To Be Shifted to Toll Road

Last year, TxDOT and Dallas shifted State Highway 121 into a toll road, now a second public highway, SH 161 gets turned into a mega cash cow toll for 52 years, according to Dallas News today. They give away SH 161, a public asset without a public vote.

A diversion of nearly $1 Billion tax dollars subsidized SH 121 toll road, at least $200 million are involved with Hwy 161, but it's really unknown at this time (not to mention the right of way we've paid for).

These are not conventional toll roads. Shifting promised public highways with tax dollars into tollways creates a monopolistic hidden unaccountable tax. Read, "CONVENTIONAL TOLL ROADS vs. FREEWAY TOLL ROADS"

And, Sen. John Carona, he's fine with all these freeway to tollway conversions.

Tollers Get $1 Million "Leftover" Tax Dollars

Hey, do you have a million "leftover" dollars hanging around? Well, apparently Willaimson County Commissioners did. And, you guessed it, those $1 million "leftover" dollars were tax dollars.

The one million "Leftover" tax dollars went to Martin & Salinas Public Affairs Inc. Martin & Salinas was one of the many special interests who got a fat NO BID contracts from the Central Texas toll authority (CTRMA).

From the Statesman today:

In late March, county commissioners agreed to hire Martin & Salinas Public Affairs Inc. and pay the firm up to $1 million, using money leftover from the county’s $228 million road bond package that voters passed two years ago.

Greg Windham, a Democrat running for the Pct. 3 Commissioner seat in November, during a morning meeting today accused commissioners of “backroom” deals, saying voters didn’t know bond money would be used to hire the firm when they went to the polls.

Eye on Williamson has more here.

ABC-Post Poll: Americans No Longer Trust Hillary Clinton

Nearly 6 in 10 in the new poll said that she is not honest or trustworthy.


Call to Abolish TxDOT For Not Wacking Weeds

Gov. Rick Perry's TxDOT has refused to properly take care of it's landscaping responsibility, as weeds grow uncontrolled beside it's highways across the state. A Dallas city council is so frustrated with the weeds that they talked about abolishing TxDOT. From NBC:

"Our freeways look absolutely terrible. You know, it's the introduction to our city for many people," said Angela Hunt, Dallas City Councilmember.
"On Monday the council committee considered another option, bringing into question whether or not the Texas Department of Transportation should even exist.

"If the city of Dallas isn't getting what we deserve, then yes, I think we need to look at whether we even need a Texas Department of Transportation," said Hunt"
Perhaps placing some signs that honor Veterans would get TxDOT to start up those lawn mowers. : )
A Must Read:

TxDOT Mows Down Signs
Honoring Veterans

John McCain: Suspend Gas Tax for 4 Months

John McCain is on the presidential campaign trail saying he wants to suspend the 18.4-cent gas tax for four (4) months — from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This dries up funding further for highway/public transportation infrastructure.

I assume he'll suggest we just create more debt, like the $10 Billion dollar a month Iraq war debt he supports, to fix that gas tax shortfall.

From NBC's First Read:

"The 18.4-cent gas tax goes into a Highway Trust Fund, which pays for roads, bridges, subways, etc. So there's a legitimate policy question here: If you suspend that tax, what are you doing to an already-deteriorating infrastructure system?"

TxDOT Spends $20 Million Tax Dollars to Build Park

TxDOT says they are broke, but they just gave $20,000,000.00 to the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation for a recreational park in Dallas. This is NOT a transportation project, it's a park with a Cafe, Dog Park and Botanical gardens, but NO road.

Toller road profiteers JP Morgan and Carter & Burgess have seats on the board and the steering committee of the foundation the taxpayer money was given to. And, Carter & Burgess is one of the major contractors getting paid for this park project.

TxDOT's commitment grew from $10 million to $20 million in the past year.

I'm all for parks, but why is money from our transportation budget paying for a park? And why would TxDOT give $20 million to a foundation full of special interests instead of the city to do the job?

UPDATE: Also read, the Newspaper.com's "Texas: Gas Tax Dollars Spent to Build Park"


Gov. Perry eats Dinner with Investment Bank Special Interests

As you know, Gov. Rick Perry is trying to sell everything that's not nailed down in Texas, including your land and our freeways. From the Statesman:

"With the heads of four big investment banks in town this week, Gov. Rick Perry figured he might as well get a little schmoozing in. Perry and Secretary of State Phil Wilson had dinner at Fleming’s steakhouse Wednesday night with a murderer’s row of Wall Street: Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase; Lawrence Fink of BlackRock; Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers; and John Mack of Morgan Stanley."

The E-ZTax Scam

E-Pass, TxTAG (TaxTag), electronic toll, whatever you want to call it — we all know it's a scam. Right?

Well, a new report from MIT, written by Economist Amy Finkelstein called, "E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates" (http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/2098) tells exactly how our government makes the toll tax con work:

"...evidence from two separate surveys that individuals are substantially less aware of tolls that they pay electronically than those that they pay with cash."
A new Boston Globe article about the report boils it down further:
"hidden taxes go up more than visible taxes."
And, the real heart of the con:
"Once 60 percent of drivers have bought a transponder, tolls rise 20 to 40 percent more than they would have otherwise."


Father and Son Tollers Accused of Molesting Children

J.D. Abrams, the founder of J.D. Abrams LP, 183A toll road builder, along with his son Jon Abrams, the current CEO, have been accused by two sisters for sexually abused them as children. There is video evidence of the abuse, according to the lawsuit.

As reported by the Statesman:

Two sisters have sued the founder of a Travis County highway construction company, saying that he sexually abused them as children, promised to pay them if they didn't file criminal or civil charges, and then stopped the payments after the legal time limit for pressing the charges expired.

Jackie Fowler, 35, and Jeni Vejil Abrams, 31, sued J.D. Abrams, the 79-year-old founder of J.D. Abrams LP on April 3. They also sued his son, Jon F. Abrams, 56, alleging that he sexually assaulted Fowler in her childhood. There is videotaped evidence of the abuse, according to the lawsuit.

The sisters are being represented by attorneys Robert Kizer and Roy Minton.

"Something needs to stop people like this, that have so much money and so much power, from doing this to children,"
Kizer said.

The lawsuit says there is a videotape of J.D. Abrams assaulting the sisters when they were children.
J.D. Abrams LP, contributers to Gov. Rick Perry and other tollers, signed a secret deal (Comprehensive Development Agreement - CDA) with the CTRMA to build 183A, along with their partners California-based Granite Construction Co under the consortium name Hill Country Constructors in 2004. 183A opened on March 3, 2007 with a cost of about $238 million for 4.5 miles of toll road.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: The original story included two more sentences with a quote about toll roads from a Bill Burnett that works for J.D. Abrams. A different person than the Hays County Commissioner Bill Burnett who voted for Austin toll roads.


TxDOT Executive Director, With Ties to Indicted, To Resign Within the Year, Says Source.

(l-r) TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz,
and Chano Falcon, one of three TxDOT employees being
investigated by the FBI for bribery charges.

Well, it turns out that the AP missed the fact that Amadeo Saenz, TxDOT Executive Director, not only knows the three TxDOT employees who were indicted, but they are all “best friends”, according to an inside reelable source.

Expect “Saenz to resign” after Chano Falcon flips on him for his bribes, says source.

The quote Amadeo Saenz gave the AP would give the impression that he doesn't even know the three, who are now accused of bribery in an FBI case:
"Any allegation of wrong-doing by a member of the TxDOT family is saddening, but this incident renews my commitment to transparency and integrity in all that we do. I will continue to monitor this investigation and if necessary, will take the appropriate disciplinary action," said Amadeo Saenz, TxDOT executive director.
This latest investigation by the FBI and the Texas Rangers is just scratching the surface of the real corruption in TxDOT.

One of the three indicted, Cresenciano "Chano" Falcon, maintenance administrator of Pharr District, “will do just about anything”, including bribes, back door deals and even flipping on his pal Amadeo Saenz, who is at the heart of the TxDOT corruption — just to get a better deal with the FBI, says my source. Chano Falcon, Amadeo Saenz, and Ray Llanes hang out and go to bar-b-ques and other parties together says source.

As I’ve been saying for years, the TxDOT culture is poisoned with insider deals and bribes, and the folks at the top like Amadeo Saenz are the worst. This culture of fraud and waste is one of the reasons TxDOT wants a whole new source of revenue, they get directly — the toll tax for driving on tax funded freeways.

UPDATE: Saenz joined TxDOT in the Pharr District in 1978. He was the Pharr district engineer from 1993 to 2001. From 2001 to 2007, Saenz was TxDOT's assistant executive director, until he became the executive director on October 1, 2007.

Toll Roads are MORE Dangerous than Freeways...

...but, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kirk Watson don't care.

National Transportation Safety Board:
"The most dangerous place on the highway is the toll plaza."
Associated Press

The real cost of toll roads:
"Legislators are selling off their responsibility
to provide for public safety."

USA Today

Accident statistics:
Toll roads vs. Free roads in NJ

3 TxDOT Employees Indicted For Bribery

Associated Press

Three Texas Department of Transportation employees have been arrested on accusations of accepting bribes for contracts, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Cresenciano "Chano" Falcon, 56, of Edinburg; Ray Llanes, 50, of San Benito; and Noe Beltran, 42, of San Juan, were indicted on a count each of accepting bribes for programs funded with federal money.

Llanes, a highway inspector, was expected to make a court initial appearance Friday. Beltran, also a highway inspector, and Falcon, a district maintenance administrator, appeared in court Thursday and were released on bond, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

The three were indicted April 2 in Houston, but the indictment remained sealed until Thursday when they were arrested. The FBI and the Texas Rangers investigated the case, prosecutors said.

Falcon and Llanes are accused of soliciting and accepting more than $2,000 in cash each from a contractor in November 2007. The bribes were in exchange for contracts valued at more than $5,000, prosecutors said.

Beltran is accused of soliciting and accepting $200 in January 2008 from a contractor for contracts valued at $5,000.

"Any allegation of wrong-doing by a member of the TxDOT family is saddening, but this incident renews my commitment to transparency and integrity in all that we do. I will continue to monitor this investigation and if necessary, will take the appropriate disciplinary action," said Amadeo Saenz, TxDOT executive director.

The three men face up to 10 years in prison each if convicted.

My Letter to Editor in Response to Oak Hill Gazette Article

Dear Oak Hill Gazette,

In last weeks Gazettee article, "Highway 71 will get safety improvements", Sen. Kirk Watson blamed the Ledge (of which he is a part of - including the vice chair of the powerful Senate transportation committee) for diverting $6 Billion dollars away from the transportation budget.

When in fact, Sen. Watson himself, as chair of CAMPO last October, led the vote to divert nearly $1 Billion tax dollars (which was intended for freeways), into a plan to shift Austin freeways into toll roads (portions of 71W, 71E, 183, 290W, and 290E - including Oak Hill at the Y).

And, after our freeways are shifted to revenue generating toll roads, Watson approved wants the corrupt Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) to set the toll rates and collect our families money.

The Comptroller's Report from 2005 showed how CTRMA board members gave out NO BID contracts to themselves and their friends, and found “Double Taxation Without Accountability”.

And, Watson approved all this while he was paid undisclosed sums to lobby on behalf of developers who seek new roads. Shame on you Senator, for ignoring the overwhelming public opposition to these new Austin double tax tolls. You are supposed to work for us, not your special interest pals.

Watson, we won't forget you come election time,
Sal Costello


Toronto to Create $500 Red Light Camera Fine

Read about it HERE.

GAO: Millions Wasted on Gov't Credit Cards

"Federal employees charged millions of dollars for Internet dating, tailor-made suits, lingerie, lavish dinners and other questionable expenses to their government credit cards over a 15-month period, congressional auditors say."
– AP Washington

Among the expenditures cited in the report:

• $14,000 spent on Internet dating services and dozens of dinners at $160 a pop.
• Four employees purchased $77,700 in clothes.
• $642,000 went directly to a live-in boyfriend of a government employee.
• $11,000 at a Ritz Carlton hotel for coffee and "light" refreshments
• $360 worth of women's lingerie.

Read the whole story HERE.


Houston to Double The Toll Tax?

Houston politicos are considering a Katy Freeway toll tax of $1.25 during nonpeak hours and doubling the cost on the during peak hours to reduce traffic congestion, according to the Houston Chronicle.

How would doubling the cost (congestion pricing) reduce traffic congestion you ask? By pricing people out of their cars, there is less traffic on the toll road. This congestion pricing on the toll roads INCREASES congestion on the free lanes!

True bureaucrats love accountable toll taxes.

New Google Street View Helps Us Spy on Sen. Kirk Watson's Home

Sen. Kirk "Big Brother" Watson wants everyone in YOUR home to get tracked, traced and toll taxed. Now, thanks to Google, we can spy on his $2 million dollar home.

Google debuted Street View in Google Maps last May, but it just arrived in Austin. Click here to look at Watson’s home at 2301 Woodlawn Blvd., Austin Texas, 78703, from just about every angle.

Sen. Kirk Watson led the charge on CAMPO to ignore the public and divert $910 million tax dollars to shift our Central Texas freeways to toll roads in October of 2007. Thanks to Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Watson, you and your family will have to pay a toll tax to drive portions of Austin public highways 71W, 71E, 183, 290E and 290W.

This double tax, of tolling drivers to use public expressways to drive to work, school and shop, benefits Watson and his special interest pals.

Roads and development go hand in hand, and Kirk Watson has placed himself as the chair of the most powerful organization in Central Texas.

Soon after Sen. Kirk Watson became Chair of CAMPO, an organization that directs billions of road dollars in Central Texas, records show Sen. Kirk Watson was put on the payroll of developers who profit from important transportation decisions. Watson was paid an undisclosed amount of money to lobby for these developers.

Developers see the double tax tolls as an eternal slush fund to pay for more roads to their cheap land. Developers buy cheap land, away from city cores, and pay off our representatives to make the public foot the bill - for roads to their property.

Records from a FOIA request show Sen. Kirk Watson, as partner of law firm Hughes & Luce, bills the City of Austin at a rate of $450 per hour for representation on land deals with developers. Over $420,000 has been paid to Watson’s law firm, by the City of Austin in the last two years.

How can Watson fairly represent the people while having so many conflicts?

The 2006 Austin Chamber of Commerce annual report, reveals that Sen. Kirk Watson individually, and his law firm both contributed money to the pro toll Chamber. (see page 23 - www.austinchamber.com/WhatsNew/2006OAAnnualReport.pdf)

Watson, a multimillionaire with a $2 million dollar home who profits off his many positions, can afford to pay exorbitant toll rates set by the CTRMA, an unelected, unaccountable toll authority. But can most families?