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Slow the Mo Joe: Forget Kay, for now.

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R to L Donna Hoffman (Sierra Club), Linda Stall (CorridorWatch.org), Morris Priest, Linda Curtis (Independent Texans) and Mary Anderson (Texans Against Tolls)-Message to VP Joe Biden
R to L Donna Hoffman (Sierra Club), Linda Stall (CorridorWatch.org), Morris Priest, Linda Curtis (Independent Texans) and Mary Anderson (Texans Against Tolls)-Message to VP Joe Biden

If unemployment hadn’t jumped again yesterday, I would be laughing. Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Haughton, who is, so far as I know, a white guy, called Hank Gilbert of Texas TURF — for sure, another white guy — a bigot. Now, maybe Gilbert could have been a little more politically correct in his reference to “foreign investors” who are buying up American debt as TxDOT is getting set to use stimulus funds for risky “triple taxation” toll roads. Maybe Haughton should take a look into TxDOT’s mirror.

TxDOT was caught earlier this week with its pants down by State Rep. Dunnam of Waco, who chairs the Texas House committee overseeing the stimulus, on apparently ignoring one important stimulus fund requirement that the funds be used in economically distressed areas. Not surprisingly, TxDOT covered its rear-end yesterday, showing up with 10 new projects in economically distressed areas. Then, of course, they proceeded to ram through a financially risky plan to fund toll roads to no where.
Linda Stall of CorridorWatch.org, gave testimony backed up by her and David Stall’s research outline BELOW this piece — be sure to read this! It gives chilling testimony as to the financial risks TxDOT is taking, alongside mounting evidence that the public-private partnership toll facilities are another financial crisis in the waiting for the American people. Texas is the test ground.

The Mayor of Waco, Virginia DuPuy, spoke to the Commission, and was nice a she could be, asking why TxDOT had left out what could arguably be the most important project in this state — widening IH-35 in McClennan County. Lest we forget that the justification for the Governor’s attempts to ram the still very much alive Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-35 segment) on rural residents in the blackland prairie adjacent to TTC-35, was the bottleneck on IH-35. TxDOT Chair Deidre Delisi (Rick Perry’s controversial appointee) told the good mayor that “if the legislature passes” a package to fund this segment, then TxDOT will do it. Now, isn’t that charitable of Delisi. The problem is that TxDOT can’t promise what the legislature gives. But let’s not quibble.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Here’s the bottom line. As it currently stands, TxDOT will use 70% of the transportation stimulus funds approved yesterday for tollways. One of them, the Grand Parkway (aka porkway) is being heavily criticized by the all volunteer Citizen’s Transportation Coalition, as a developer/road lobby dream for many years. This road project has never been done by the local toll authority because it couldn’t be economically justified since no one lives out there yet, except a flock of birds in one of the country’s best waterfowl sanctuaries.
Another controversial project is over the Edwards Aquifer (281 and 1604 in San Antonio). It was recently promised — a promise quickly then broken — to be a free road if stimulus funds were used. And, not to be outdone is the Austin area’s risky and expensive flyover road project from 183 to 290E in Travis County. It doesn’t seem to bother TxDOT that the funding to complete this project — for 290E — is questionable and traffic figures have been flat for years.
Unless federal officials step in, TxDOT may just get away with it because the funds for transportation stimulus are not coming through traditional mechanisms which safeguard against using federal money for toll roads. Someone please tell us this omission by Congress wasn’t intentional.

Tom Johnson, TxDOT's Mysterious Witness
Tom Johnson, TxDOT's Mysterious Witness


Why would TxDOT push controversial projects when there are more — way more — than enough non-controversial projects that could be done? The answer was perhaps unintentionally given by the second speaker giving “expert” testimony at yesterday’s hearing. TxDOT chair Delisi failed to introduce the man, until a request came from the audience. Then she only gave his name — Tom Johnson. Thanks to a trusty PDA carried by Linda Stall of CorridorWatch.org who was in touch with husband, David, watching the spectacle on the internet, we got Tom Johnson’s affiliation. Mr. Johnson is a registered lobbyist for the Association of General Contractors. One could easily surmise that the road lobby is in cahoots with TxDOT to get taxpayers on the hook for projects they start, that we will all be paying to finish to help developers and road contractors reap profits for roads to no where (read: risky developments).

Some are now entreating Kay Bailey Hutchison to jump in as the Texas Governor’s race heats up. Some of us have already tried that dance and, so far, Kay is dancing with other partners. My bet is on Vice President Joe Biden. Remember when President Obama said in his recent speech to Congress that, “No one messes with Joe”, appointing him to oversee the stimulus funds? You can contact the Vice President at Recovery.gov in the “share your story” section. And, of course, don’t leave your local state rep and Senator and your Congressman. Tell them you want real TxDOT reform in this session and they should contact the Vice President along with you. Slow the Mo Joe — and come quick to Texas!

CORRIDOR WATCH ON P3 TOLL – a crisis in the waiting…

For years we have read about citizen complaints regarding Cintra-operated ETR 407, located in Ontario, Canada. The citizen complaints were significant enough that in 2004 the Minister of Transportation appointed a task force to look into the issue. One of the task force recommendations was that an Ombudsman be appointed to mediate between ETR 407 and the road users. The common complaints included invoices for toll road use for vehicles owned by deceased individuals, invoices based on old license plates not currently on the owner’s car, invoices mailed to the wrong address with late fees and admin charges mounting up, etc. In these cases it is incumbent on the driver to present evidence that the car was stolen or the plates invalid to Cintra/ETR 407’s satisfaction. Drivers licenses and license plates will not be renewed until these matters are sorted out. One complaint stated that monies owed to ETR407 are exempt from bankruptcy.

We are on the leading of edge of creating the same problems for drivers here in Texas. News 8 Austin reported last week that a recently unemployed administrative assistant received a bill from TxDOT for $358.00 in unpaid electronic tolls. Well beyond the reasonableness of the accumulated tolls is the alarming amount of the administrative fees which total $11,142.00.

In 2003 when Texas HB3588 passed, it dramatically changed Texas transportation planning, financing and law. No longer were open bids required. The bids and the decision weighting are now kept secret (proprietary). Not surprisingly, the contracts themselves are also confidential until signed. What the private partner looks to the State of Texas for is three-fold: the effective power of eminent domain; non-compete or compete-penalty clauses that create a lucrative monopoly; and, the use of State authority to enforce the collection of their private debt. To assist in collecting that private toll, and fees, the State will refuse vehicle registration or drivers license renewal. The State of Texas will force motorists to pay their outstanding toll fees even if that toll is being disputed. Their ability to drive a vehicle will be held hostage. And since this is a contractual term that is considered a civil action citizens are afforded limited rights absent most of the traditional protection of rights. Only after a PPP contract is executed will the citizens of Texas find out what rights they have lost. Currently these contracts are not subject to review or approval by an elected official.

With the passage of HB3588 in 2003, Texas was on the forefront of public private partnerships for transportation infrastructure development. Texas was heralded by the Federal Highway Administration as leading the way with this innovative funding tool, where all the risk is borne by the private partner. As the “test-case” for public private partnerships, will we also be the test case for loss of due process and other violations? Will contracts signed in Texas exempt the private partner from bankruptcies? What else will be hidden from view? $11,000.00 in administrative fees on a $348.00 bill would be considered usurious in other industries and such fees would be regulated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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39 thoughts on “Slow the Mo Joe: Forget Kay, for now.

  1. I must admire Hank Gilbert. Mr. Houghton would not even repeat what he had called Hank-I suppose hoping beyond hope that the conversation “talk-over” had hidden that he had called Hank Gilbert a bigot. I say Houghton is LUCKY-maybe not so smart, but very very LUCKY.

    My letter to the Vice President was addressed to:

    Vice President “Don’t Mess With” Joe Biden.
    And I’m being very serious about that.

  2. You think TXDOT could maybe give some thought, and throw some stimulus dollars, at closing the six-inch gaps in the bridge over the intracoastal canal to Quintana?

  3. Here is a link to KXAN; their video shows Houghton calling Hank Gilbert a bigot.
    http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/txdot_makes_plans_for_stimulus_money

    The flyovers at 290 East and 183 are intended to be the west end of tolling 290 East, the “Manor Expressway.” This project will be the beginning of further oppression of an economically disadvantaged community in Eastern Travis County that cannot afford the additional burden of paying tolls to commute to work.

    It seems to me that the “bigots” are the Transportation Commissioners who use our taxpayer stimulus funds to cause even further economic distress to the Manor-area commuters.

    I’ll bet this wouldn’t happen if the Commissioners (or as one proposal has it, a single Transportation Commissioner) were elected by the people. An elected official wouldn’t personally insult a constituent in a public hearing.

  4. Today TxDOT is trying to spend the massive “stimulus money” for highways on toll roads, which have not been approved by the people. In his recent speech to Congress, President Obama, referring to Vice President Joe Biden, said, “No one messes with Joe,’ and he appointed him to oversee the stimulus funds. A web site, http://www.recovery.gov/?q=content/share-your-experience has been set up so you can share your sad experiences during this “worst” economy since the Great Depression. Below is my submission to “Joe.” I encourage you to click on the above site protest what is being done here in Texas with the stimulus money. These toll roads that TxDOT is trying to build will not be completed with the stimulus money. They are going to cost travelers probably at least triple a normal road. We will keep paying for them while private companies like CINTRA (from Spain) make billions in profits. To learn more about this, go to http://www.indytexans.org/itblog/?p=159.

    My comments to “Joe:”
    My Constitutional rights are being trampled on. The economic system that made the United States of America the strongest and greatest nation on earth is being substituted for national and international socialism. Our retirement plans and investments are being decimated because investors understand that the policies being adopted by this administration and this Congres are the opposite of what is needed to stimulate the economy. As a Texan, I am greatly concerned by the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) that are being crammed down our throats along with the Trans-Texas Corridor. Yes, I know, we have been told that the TTC is dead, but look what TxDOT is cramming down our throats today with the “stimulus money.” These toll roads are triple taxation and the people have not been allowed to vote to approve them. Let’s return to our Constitution and return to the people the right of self-determination.

  5. I attended the State Trans Commission Hearing yesterday, Thursday March 5. What an outrageous and unprofessional slur by Trans Commissoner Ted Haughton, directed towards Hank Gilbert Board Member of Texas TURF. It seems Haughton, is a NAU supporter. Here is an interesting link that was ran across to a previous story where Commissioner Haughton is quoted as saying, ‘TxDOT broke the law.’

  6. This sickens me… How dare Perry/TxDOT act like the snakes from Washington. Oversight, transparency my @ss…

  7. Wow, more waste of our money. Just like the “stimulus” bill that won’t create the jobs they say it will.

    I don’t think telling Biden will do anything. This was about popularity and repaying the lobbyists that got the Democrats elected. Then TxDOT was about repaying other lobbyists.

    This is why we will be speaking Chinese in 10-15 years, maybe sooner.

  8. I called The Speaker of the House, Joe Straus. I asked why this Resolution had been WITHDRAWN.
    I was told “they” felt the “language was too strong and would offend some”.
    http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/81R/billtext/doc/HR00708I.doc

    You be the judge.
    Was this Resolution withdrawn because of strong language or that it might have offended some?

    Skipping straight to nitty-gritty, HR708 says:

    Be it RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 81st Texas Legislature:
    (1) urges that the Texas Transportation Commission, the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, and all department employees take no steps to irrevocably obligate any Recovery Act funds until the commission and the department can articulate a rational basis for the priorities used to select the projects for the initial $500 million funding by Recovery Act funds.

    (2) requests the commission and the department provide the House with a complete explanation of the project selection criteria and its practical application, including how the commission and the department considered the purpose and criteria of the Recovery Act, and specifically including the Act’s provisions directing that funding priority be given to certain projects, and the data concerning which projects most maximize job creation and long-term economic stimulus.

    (3) insists that the commission and department act prudently in obligating Recovery Act money and in discharging its fiduciary responsibilities to the people of Texas with particular attention to transparency and accountability in all aspects of the selection of projects and the obligation and expenditure of Recovery Act funds.

    (4) calls on the commission and the department to allow time for meaningful input from elected officials at all levels of State government.

    (5) asserts that nothing in this resolution shall be construed to authorize the commission or the department to take any immediate action obligating Recovery Act funds.

    (6) declares that the failure of the commission and the department to conduct the people’s business in a fair, open, and accountable manner has lost them the confidence of the House and of the people of Texas.

  9. I agree with you 100% – things happen for a reason. I found this by accident and noticed that we have some things in common. Thats what I love about the Internet, every blog is like a box of chocolates 🙂 Thanks – Great blog.

  10. I agree with you 99% but wonder if you have really looked at the whole picture. DOn’t mean to be critical just food for thought.

  11. Surely not everyone would take such actions, but for those who do, the rewards are great. Thanks for your continued excellence.

  12. Ha!

    You would think that they world have OK’d it at the beginning instead of allowing it to go so long without saying a thing and then bringing it back up when it was too late. I don’t understand it at all.

  13. Ha!

    You would think that they world have OK’d it at the beginning instead of allowing it to go so long without saying a thing and then bringing it back up when it was too late. I don’t understand it at all.

  14. Hi. This is all about taste. I completely agree with you regarding \”Slow the Mo Joe: Forget Kay, for now.\”, but I think you are in the thin line of thinling. Don\’t you?

  15. I love this site. This is a very intersting article. It is so informative I might come back again to read more if there are any new news. I really enjoy reading this

  16. Awesome info! I was honestly just thinking about something similar to this the other day so, it was almost “weird” when I ran across this. You would be surprised how many people simply have no idea when it comes to this kind of stuff. Anyway, thanks for getting this info out there and I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates you taking the time to post this for the masses.

  17. I love this site. This is a very intersting article. It is so informative I might come back again to read more if there are any new news. I really enjoy reading this

  18. I think you really pointed out a great thing here with this post, if only we could get more people talking about these issues, we would have some action being taken for a change instead of none at all.

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