Saturday, September 16, 2006

CorridorWatch's David Stall speaks to group in the path of TTC-35

‘Watch’ keeping eye on TTC

September 16, 2006

Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2006

ENNIS - Corridor Watch, a nonprofit organization designed to inform the public about aspects of the Trans-Texas Corridor, presented its perceptions about the highway project to an Ellis County audience Thursday evening.

The event was sponsored by Independent Texans and held at the Ennis Sixth Grade Center.

Corridor Watch, which was founded by Linda and David Stall of Fayetteville, is “first and foremost an educational entity,” said David Stall, who added that the group’s “biggest concern is stopping the Trans-Texas Corridor.”

Stall, speaking for the anti-TTC Corridor Watch, raised several questions about the TTC, ranging from its origins to its scheduled return to the state of Texas by Cintra-Zachry LP after 50 years of operation. These questions include the impact of the loss of tax revenues by local governments, perceived procedural improprieties, the wisdom of selecting Cintra Concesiones Infraestructuras SA of Madrid, Spain, as the primary contractor for the project and the dissemination of information about the agreements between Cintra and the state. He also discussed the group’s beliefs about the proposed eminent domain takings by the state and questioned the design and intentions of the project.

Tax Revenue Impact

Stall said any decrease in sales tax revenues would likely result in a corresponding increase in property taxes.

Using the finances of the city of Columbus as a basis for his statements, Stall said that if sales tax revenues were to decrease 25 percent due to a redirecting of traffic away from towns and their businesses, it is likely property tax revenues would have to increase 50 percent to make up the difference.

During the last fiscal year, Stall said Columbus had property tax revenues of about $250,000 and sales tax revenues of about $500,000, providing a 2:1 ratio. If the tax revenue ratio for another town were different, the resulting increase in property taxes may be less than 50 percent, but it could also be greater, he said.

Stall also said if businesses see their profits decrease, have to reduce staff and then go out of business due to the bypassing of towns by the TTC, the elimination of these businesses and their employees from the tax base would also negatively affect school district budgets.

Procedural Improprieties

The law approving the TTC was passed in June 2003 and was adopted the following September, with the Texas Department of Transportation holding a public meeting in each of Texas’ 254 counties in February 2004.

Stall said that as many as 32 meetings were held in a single day during the 28-day month.

He said the first meeting - at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday - was held in Fayette County’s county seat of La Grange.

According to Stall, Fayette County is predominately Catholic and Lutheran, and the evening was Ash Wednesday.

However, due to the efforts of his wife Linda, Stall reported that about 80 people attended the meeting, including County Judge Edward F. Janecka.

Janecka said the facility for the meeting was too small and that the crowd overflowed into the hallway. He said he informed TxDOT officials that it could not be considered a public meeting due to the facility inadequacy.

Stall said he also was told by the officials that his group would be allowed only three minutes of speaking time. After asserting that all present were there on their own accord, he said all were given time.

The second meeting for the county, held at the local Knights of Columbus Hall, was convened by TxDOT executive Director John Johnson and was attended by more than 800 people, Stall said.

Across the state, Stall said about 14,000 people attended the subsequent meetings, with about 97 percent of people going on the record in opposition to the TTC.

Additionally, Stall said TxDOT has rejected the input of regional mobility authorities, which normally play a role in approving new transportation projects.

Questions about Cintra

According to Stall’s report, the Comprehensive Development Agreement of March 11, 2005, between Cintra-Zachry and Texas was initially created and kept secret.

“For the first time,” Stall said, “a state agency has negotiated in secret and then announced after a deal was struck.”

After the Houston Chronicle filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the document, the terms of the agreement were released after a ruling by state Attorney General Greg Abbott. However, the Conceptual Development Plan and Conceptual Finance Plan portions of the agreement have remained secret, with Cintra filing against the attorney general’s office, saying the two plans contain proprietary information.

TxDOT has joined in the lawsuit, which remains pending in court.

Stall found a similar occurrence of Cintra’s desire to maintain secrecy in the company’s handling of Electronic Toll Road 407 in Canada.

ETR 407 runs outside of Toronto and is operated by Cintra. However, in the first two years of its existence, Cintra would not disclose the agreement that gave it control of the road and was repeatedly sued by the government to release the terms. When the terms were released, Stall said the government found a document that effectively stripped it of its toll-setting abilities.

Stall said another question about the selection of Cintra to build 8,000 miles of toll road (the first four roadways to be built - TTC 35, TTC 69, TTC 10 and TTC 45 - will total about 4,000 miles) in Texas is its record. While Cintra does operate tollways in many countries, Stall said the company has only constructed 22 miles of roadway.

Cintra has formed a limited partnership with Zachry Construction Corporation, but this is a partnership in which Cintra controls 85 percent of the equity, with only 15 percent with the construction firm, Stall said.

Stall also discussed the actions of Cintra in Indiana, saying that ITR Concession Co., a subsidiary of Macquarie-Cintra (Macquarie is an Australian company), purchased tolling rights to the Indiana Toll Road in January. The company then placed barrels blocking the emergency crossings on the roadway. These barrels, each weighing about 100 pounds, have impeded the efforts of police, fire and emergency medical personnel, all of whom have requested that the barrels be moved, Stall said. While Cintra’s subsidiary has pledged to put into place a new system that will allow emergency vehicles access while denying access to the general public, Stall said the barrels are still in place.

Excessive takings

According to TxDOT’s plans, the TTC will utilize a swath of land 1,200 feet wide. However, Corridor Watch asserts that engineers at the University of Texas in Austin examined the plan, which includes six lanes of car traffic, four lanes of truck traffic, six rail lines and utility easements, and discovered that of this 1,200 feet, 435 feet will not be used for the corridor itself. The extraneous land, which adds up to 146 acres per lane mile, “is being left over for property development,” Stall said, adding that once the 8,000-mile corridor is completed, the 435 extra feet will result in the taking of an extra 1.2 million acres or 1,875 square miles.

This is an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, which is 1,545 square miles, and the state of Delaware, which is 1,954 square miles, Stall said.

According to research done by the group, the path proposed by Plan No. 5, which would run between Waxahachie and Ennis, as many as 8,400 acres of land could be taken for the TTC.

“It’d be one thing to take 300 feet to build a corridor of roads,” Stall said. “It’d be one thing to take 400 feet. But they’re going to take 1,200 feet.”

Design and Intentions

“It’s not about transportation,” Stall said, saying, “It’s about generating revenue,” and adding, “It’s about generating revenue for transportation, I’ll give them that, but it is about money.”

Stall points out that the six-car lanes (three going each direction) are in the center of the proposed corridor, and that the only way to allow these cars to enter or exit would be via “flyover bridges.” However, Stall asserts that “in the entire plan, there is not a single dollar for a single on-ramp or off-ramp.”

Since the toll road would charge travelers a rate per mile for their axle-class, fewer exits mean that people may end up traveling farther on the tollway, thus increasing their tolls.

Stall also claims that in TxDOT literature, the reasoning behind beginning construction in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is due to the area’s “toll-generating potential.”

Noting that the agreement transfers the rights to the tollways after 50 years, Stall notes that the average lifespan of a highway is 45 years.

Stall said the law passed by the state Legislature does not prohibit the implementing of tolls on overpasses crossing the corridor. While the law does not say that a toll will be put into place, it does not say it will not be, he said.

According to Stall’s report, the cost of a paved county road bridge in 2002 was $2,661,750; for a two-lane highway overpass, the cost was $4,709,250. It is important to note, Stall said, that each of these bridges would “probably have to have 24 feet of clearance” since the double-stacking of trucks up to 22 feet would be acceptable on the corridor. Additionally, each overpass would have to span the quarter-mile width of the corridor.

History of Corridor Watch

Corridor Watch was begun in 2002 when Linda Stall first heard about the corridor project and requested materials from the Texas Department of Transportation and then began to investigate further.

Stall got her husband, David, then city manager of Columbus and now a city administrator in Shore Acres, involved in her investigation. He built the first of two Web sites he would design, In 2004, the Web site became

The mission of Corridor Watch, the Stalls said, is to educate the public about what they believe to be a negative development for the state of Texas.

Corridor Watch is a non-partisan organization and, according to David Stall, does not endorse political candidates. While Linda Stall works for the independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn campaign, she said her actions in supporting Strayhorn represent a personal endorsement, not an endorsement by Corridor Watch. It was acknowledged that Linda still plays a role in Corridor Watch’s activities.

Corridor Watch began with members in two Texas counties; it now has members in 186, David Stall said, noting that the Blackland Coalition has pledged its support for the group.

Of the five Texas gubernatorial candidates, Strayhorn, independent Kinky Friedman, Libertarian James Werner and Democrat Chris Bell have stated their opposition to the construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Incumbent Rick Perry, a Republican, initiated the project and has maintained his support for it.

On the Internet

Corridor Watch:

Chris Bell campaign site:

Kinky Friedman campaign site:

Rick Perry campaign site:

Carole Keeton Strayhorn campaign site:

James Werner campaign site:

Trans-Texas Corridor:

© 2006 The Daily Light:


"The Gov. is pushing the collection of tolls just past the November election because he knows it's going to cost him votes and probably the election."

Toll roads to open Nov. 1

Perry aide denies that earlier debut before election is politically motivated

September 16, 2006

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Central Texas will join Dallas and Houston in the Texas toll road fraternity on Nov. 1, when all or parts of the area's first three turnpikes will open to traffic, state officials confirmed this week. With no tolls, temporarily.

To meet that earlier date — officials in June had predicted a December opening of about 40 miles of tollways — the Texas Department of Transportation will initially bring down the barricades on just 26.3 miles of Texas 130, Texas 45 North and an extension of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). The other 13.8 miles of Texas 130 previously announced as part of this tollway premiere, from near Hutto to Interstate 35 north of Georgetown (and perhaps more of Texas 45 North, west of Loop 1), likely will open in early December.

Starting Nov. 1, cars will pass through the toll booths on 26.3 miles of MoPac Boulevard along with Texas 130 and Texas 45 North. For two months, the toll roads will be free.

Even in its incomplete form, what the state calls the Central Texas Turnpike Project will offer an alternative expressway to I-35 via Texas 45 North and Loop 1 for people going to and from Round Rock, as well as a partial eastern bypass of Northeast Austin on Texas 130. The speed limit on all three roads will be 70 mph.

All the roads will be free for the first two months. This is a common promotional practice for toll roads, allowing drivers to sample the road at no cost and, toll agencies hope, engendering some good will for the paying days to come.

In early January, cash customers will begin paying tolls of about 15 cents a mile. But people with an electronic toll tag (called a TxTag by the agency) on their windshields and an account on file with the Transportation Department will get yet another month of free service. And in February, TxTag users will pay only half price. In March, the promotions end.

Those extra financial breaks for people with TxTags are an effort to get more people to sign up and use them, turnpike director Phillip Russell said this week. Toll transactions with tags (an overhead reader detects the passing tag and triggers a debit to the tag owner's transportation account) cost the agency much less than dealing with cash and having to hire people to staff toll booths, officials say. Having fewer people swerving and jerking to a stop for toll booths causes less congestion and fewer accidents, they say.

And toll tags, like credit cards, have the additional advantage — from the seller's point of view — of making toll payments an invisible and seemingly painless purchase.

Officials expect to cut the ribbon after rush hour on that Wednesday morning of Nov. 1 where the new Texas 45 North tollway meets the new Texas 130 turnpike in a tangle of flyover bridges. The early opening — and free service — will come just six days before toll road advocate Gov. Rick Perry stands for re-election, timing that at least one of Perry's opposing campaigns found more than suspect.

"Clearly this is being directed by the governor's campaign," said Mark Sanders, spokesman for Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, running as an independent for governor. "What the governor is doing is pushing the collection of tolls just past the November election because he knows it's going to cost him votes and probably the election."

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt, asked about the opening switch, said she hadn't even heard it was occurring in November rather than December. Perry, at least as of Thursday, didn't have the ribbon-cutting on his schedule, she said.

"He did not ask them to open it early," Walt said. "Obviously the governor's been interested in making sure that TxDOT moves projects along as quickly as possible to address traffic congestion. But TxDOT makes the decisions when segments of roads are opened all the time."

Transportation Department officials, meanwhile, said the change in plans has nothing to do with politics. Instead, they said, money — specifically the $2.3 billion the agency acquired through a 2002 bond sale and is using (along with $1.2 billion of local and state tax dollars) to build the three roads — offers plenty of incentive to open the road and begin bringing in revenue as soon as possible. Since 2003, the agency, using some of the money it borrowed, has been paying between $74 million and $86 million a year in debt payments.

Revenue isn't predicted to top the $86 million figure until 2011, when operating and maintenance expenses will have kicked in as well Unless traffic and revenue exceed projections, the system won't operate in the black for many years.

Debt payments will increase over the next 36 years to almost $500 million a year, according to documents from the 2002 bond sale.

"You've borrowed money, and that interest clock is ticking," Russell said. "You want a toll road to open as soon as possible. It may not be perfect, but it will be safe."

Safe, perhaps, but far from complete.

Russell said landscaping and other finishing touches will continue for months on the sections opening in November and December. But more important, Texas 130 will open without completion of a flyover bridge that will allow unobstructed left turns for people traveling from U.S. 290 eastbound to Texas 130 northbound. Drivers, until that bridge is complete early next year, will make those turns using a more traditional ground-bound interchange of frontage roads and stop lights.

And the incomplete sections of Texas 130 south of U.S. 290 (it will extend another 20 miles to Mustang Ridge by the end of 2007) and, at least briefly, north of U.S. 79 mean continuing construction and obstruction in those areas. Aside from the ongoing work on Texas 130 by contractor Lone Star Infrastructure, the state has other companies at work on Texas 45 North from west of Loop 1 to U.S. 183 at Lakeline Mall.

And the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has yet another contractor building a fourth toll road, U.S. 183-A, that will run north for more than four miles from Texas 45 North to Cedar Park. The mobility authority is also building seven more miles of free frontage roads, extending north from the end of the U.S. 183-A toll road and running beyond Leander. Years from now, when traffic merits it, toll express lanes will be built in the middle of those frontage roads to extend the turnpike.

In all, there should be about 70 miles of operating toll roads in Central Texas by the end of next year.

All of them will have both electronic toll gantries and cash toll booths. Customers with toll tags will be able to drive at full highway speed under those gantries and go through toll stations on entrance and exit ramps without pausing. Cash customers will give money to toll collectors or, in some cases, toss correct change into a basket.

Drivers using cash will pay 75 cents at the single mainlane plaza on Loop 1 and another 75 cents on Texas 45 North, and on many ramps will pay another 50 cents to enter or exit the tollway. On Texas 130, the single main lane toll plaza in the section opening Nov. 1 will carry a cash charge of $1.50, and the charge on certain ramps will likewise be 50 cents.

In all cases, customers with toll tags will pay 10 percent less.; 445-3698

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Friday, September 15, 2006

"We’ve got an election coming up, and if the current Governor loses, then this can be changed.”

Texas Toll Roads Causing Political Showdown

Sep 15, 2006

Jack Fink Reporting
CBS 11 News (Dallas)
Copyright 2006

Toll roads are causing a political showdown between Governor Rick Perry and Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield. The two leaders are butting heads over the Governor’s plan to build new toll roads to relieve traffic congestion.

“This Governor and his administration, including TxDOT, has a policy which is raping people who use tolls,” said Mayfield. He feels that Perry wants to build too many toll roads instead of looking for alternatives.

The Governor would have none of it. “If Mr. Mayfield does not want to drive on a toll road, there will still be alternates that are free for him and people who want to travel that way,” said Perry.

Last month, critics protested the opening of State Highway 121, which will begin operating as a toll road after November’s elections.

Mayfield said that he supports the toll roads planned by the North Texas Tollway Commission because the agency will ensure that the tolls stay as low as possible. He said that the Governor’s policy of having private firms build and operate the new toll roads, including State Highway 121, Highway 161 and the new Loop 9 in Dallas County, means drivers will face higher tolls to help the company earn a profit.

The Governor says that the state doesn’t have enough money to build new roads and maintain the existing ones. “The bottom line is, we need to have infrastructure in this state, built today if we’re going to see the continued economic growth in the state of Texas,” Perry said. “I think we’re doing it thoughtfully. I think we’re doing it the right way.”

Mayfield, a Republican who is supporting independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s bid for governor, disagrees.

“We’ve got an election coming up, and if the current Governor loses, and I sure dab-gum hope he does, then this can be changed,” Matfield said.

For now, Commissioner John Wiley Price says that the State is in the driver’s seat, and that there is little Dallas County can do to stop toll roads. Both Mayfield and County Judge Margaret Keliher disagree, saying there is still time to fight.

© 2006 CBS Stations Group of Texas:


"The grassroots is tired of no action on immigration, pork-laden appropriations bills, and a lack of attention to ethics."

Can the GOP coalition survive immigration issue?


by William Lutz
Vol. 11 Issue 6
Lone Star Report
Copyright 2006

Since the 1980s, Republicans have won elections by bringing together business, social, and fiscal conservatives. Their interests differ, but are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Most grassroots Republican voters feel strongly about the immigration issue and want to see better enforcement and an end to government goodies for those who come here illegally. They resent paying taxes to fund services for those who have broken the law, support laws to make English America’s official language, object to the depression of wages that can result from unlimited immigration, and oppose granting legal status to those who broke the law.

The business community, by contrast, makes money from available, inexpensive labor. While big business does not control directly many votes, it does provide the bulk of the party’s campaign funds. A recent column in the Dallas Morning News supporting expanded legal immigration was signed by a Who’s Who of major Texas GOP donors.

The business community is taking the exact opposite position to that strongly held by most Republican voters. In the past, Republican leaders have massaged this issue by trying to avoid the topic altogether.

But the voters have made it clear this is a priority. So now the leadership of the Republican Party must decide: Whose side are they on?

Some of the party’s core leadership, from Karl Rove on down, want the party to return to the Eisenhower-Rockefeller days, where the party was the political arm of corporate America, and grass-roots conservatives who support smaller government and traditional values were thrown a few crumbs and expected to keep quiet.

They think GOP voters will show up to the polls and vote Republican because they have nowhere else to go. Any bumps along the road can be smoothed with a dose of campaign cash, poll-tested rhetoric, and slick campaign mailers, often sent by shady, anonymous front groups with names like “Americans for Job Security.”

There is a growing disconnect between the financial base and the electoral base of the party. The grassroots is tired of no action on immigration, pork-laden appropriations bills, and a lack of attention to ethics. In the 2006 GOP primaries, more incumbents than usual lost. More and moreRepublicans are talking about staying home in November or casting protest votes for Libertarians orindependent candidates.

The party has only itself to blame for this phenomenon, which has grown over time. Since taking total control of state government in 2003, for example, the party’s Texas leadership has given top billing to bills favored by its donors and key trade associations. Meanwhile, tuition at state universities has skyrocketed, local property taxes are still escalating out of control, large companies can get tax abatements and subsidies, toll roads are popping up everywhere, state spending continues to rise, and lawmakers created a new state agency whose primary function is making it more difficult for suburban homeowners to hold builders accountable in construction defect cases.

To make matters worse, real household income in Texas is down 10 percent since 1999, according to the Austin American-Statesman. No wonder Texans object to government policies, such as not enforcing immigration laws and providing free health care at hospitals, which encourage companies to bring in low-wage labor from abroad.

There are many good, honest Republican members of the Texas Legislature who really do understand that the party represents middle class families. They have worked hard to control college tuition and university bureaucrat spending, cap growth in property taxes, fight for pro-life bills, put a lid on pork in state government, and ensure that homeowners have some rights in disputes with builders. But they often have to make changes in these areas in spite of or with the reluctant acquiescence of the party’s leadership.

These brave Republican holdouts are trying to prevent the party from making the same mistakes that the Democratic leadership made in the 1960s and early 1970s. Democrats took for granted the conservative, rural base of their party and let the liberals call the shots. They ignored ethics. They assumed Democrats would always run Texas. Now we know differently.

Two factors created the dominance of the Republican Party in Texas: the switch in alliances of rural voters from Democrat to Republican and the growth of the suburbs.

Suburban voters want good public schools, low taxes, affordable higher education, traditional values, and tough-on-crime policies. Just because they can’t afford to hire lobbyists to represent them at the Capitol doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns.

The established business interests in the Republican Party hope the immigration issue will just go away. Some of the party’s elected officials have tried to change the subject — whether the state should reward illegal behavior with government goodies such as free health care and in-state tuition at universities — to border security.

But the frustration vented in the 2006 primaries is really the product of years of benign neglect of the party’s base.

No one in politics is bullet-proof. Sure, major realignments in politics develop over several election cycles, but realignments do happen.

The signatories of that Dallas Morning News column are trying to send a message to the GOP brass – ignore the concerns of the people who elected you. Stick with us. Our money will bail you out of any trouble you get in.

That’s the same philosophy the Texas Democratic leadership bought into back in the 1960s. And look where Texas Democrats are now.

Distributed by

© 2005 The Lone Star Report:


Taking It to the Bank

Watson Wheeling and Dealing


Amy Smith
Austin Chronicle
Copyright 2006

Former Mayor Kirk Watson, the likely successor to state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, can now add "banker" to his lengthy résumé. The Democratic nominee, Austin lawyer, and ex-Chamber of Commerce chair has teamed with another opportunistic sort – LCRA general manager Joe Beal – among others, to form Bastrop County Holdings Inc.

The Elgin-based bank will operate under the name of Frontier Bank of Texas on recently acquired land currently occupied by an old car dealership. Another leading founder of the holdings company, former comptroller John Sharp, has left the fledgling outfit, Watson said, adding that it was Sharp who recruited him to join the venture.

Other key investors include former LCRA board chair Steve Rivers and Elgin veterinarian Charles Graham.

Since filing its initial papers with the secretary of state's office in 2005, the company has recruited additional Bastrop-area investors, Watson said. "Our goal is to create a community-owned bank, where Central Texans get to directly invest in their bank."
Watson shrugged off any potential criticism that could grow out of his business relationship with the LCRA chief, particularly given the agency's penchant for pursuing controversial water/wastewater projects.

"This is not about politics," Watson said. "This is about creating a successful business in an underserved area."

© 2006 Austin Chronicle:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"It seems like the only ones coming out ahead are the collection company and the insurance companies."

Who'll pay?

September 15, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

People who like toll roads are going to love this idea: Some Bedford City Council members want people who cause traffic accidents to pay extra fees for the firetrucks and emergency personnel who rush to the scene.

The idea is to charge $300 per tool used, another $25 per gallon of foam and $50 for a fire extinguisher, all for the purpose of helping the city recover its costs.

Sure, people pay taxes to support basic public services, but that doesn't seem to be enough these days. Bedford officials say that their Fire Department might be able to raise an extra $100,000 a year this way.


Think about it: Once this ball really gets rolling, there's no end to the possible revenue opportunities. People who check out books at the Bedford Public Library could pay an extra fee for every page they read. Kids who go to Bedford parks could pay for every minute that they spend on the playground. And why not make every street in Bedford a toll road?

No, no, no, Bedford officials would say. These fees would just be for those negligent people who cause traffic accidents.

An Austin-based company that promotes the emergency services fees (and offers to collect them, for a fee) says that insurance companies typically would pay. A spokesman for the also Austin-based Insurance Council of Texas says that insurance companies probably would pass along the costs to all of their customers in the form of higher rates.

So let's get this straight. In the end we all pay, just like with taxes. But this way, the money gets routed through the insurance companies and the fee collection company. Because every business intends to make a profit or at least cover its own costs, they keep some of that money for themselves.

And how is that better for Bedford? It seems like the only ones coming out ahead are the collection company and the insurance companies.

Copyright © 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, All Rights Reserved.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


'You Can't Take It' attorney: "I think Greg Abbott is playing dirty."

You Can't Take It' agrees to AG's terms

September 15, 2006

By Robert Nathan
Killeen Daily Herald
Copyright 2006

The Killeen-based company that promised to protect landowners – for a fee – from potential eminent domain proceedings in connection with the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor project agreed to the terms set in a temporary injunction Thursday during a hearing before the 345th District Court in Austin.

Attorney General Greg Abbott sought the temporary injunction to stop the business "You Can't Take It" from continuing activity on grounds that the defendants may have violated parts of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

By agreeing to the entry of the temporary injunction, the defendants agreed to cease all business activity, including advertising. The court also ordered the defendants to advise any financial or brokerage institution controlling any of its assets.

The company suspended its operations on Wednesday after the Texas Attorney General's Office notified it of the court hearing Tuesday evening.

"They agreed to everything we put in the temporary injunction, which will bind them over until trial," Tom Kelley, spokesman for the Texas attorney general, said Thursday afternoon.

Hale Stewart, a Houston attorney representing the company, said his clients have shut the company down and "are moving to the immediate settlement with the Texas attorney general."

"Basically, my clients' company doesn't have the money to fight this," he said.

The company claimed to have found a loophole in eminent domain procedures using the legal precedent established through the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo vs. city of New London, to justify its business plan.

The company and Killeen residents Douglas Lee Thayer, Lou Ann Reed and her daughter Nykee Jolene Murray of Austin are defendants in the lawsuit.

"I'm not exactly to thrilled with all of the statements that have been made and everything that has been put out," Thayer said. "Everything they said is mistaken."

Stewart said the company has only been in business for a month and hasn't purchased any properties or done any other business.

"I frankly think it's a smear campaign from Abbott," he said. "I think Greg Abbott is playing dirty."

Based on the number of companies that open every day in Texas, he said he did not understand why his clients' company was singled out.

"Why is it that this one company that hasn't done any business," he said. "The Texas attorney general has shown a remarkably strong interest in this company. I find that really fascinating."

Based on the Kelo decision, Thayer claimed a company could block the state from taking any land through eminent domain.

The decision says that if an economic development project would provide an economic benefit in the form of higher tax revenues to a city, then that eminent domain could not override that project, Stewart said.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is intended to relieve congestion on Interstate 35. It will parallel I-35 and extend from Oklahoma to Mexico, with possible connections to the Gulf Coast. It would not only separate car and truck lanes, but it would also include railroads and underground utilities, such as telephone, water and gas pipelines.

"I don't think it is appropriate that the attorney general's office is used to protect the Trans-Texas Corridor," Thayer said on Thursday.

Contact Robert Nathan at

© 2006 Killeen Daily Herald.:


Attorney General ignores issue of eminent domain abuse in Texas

Attorney General Greg Abbott stumps in Midland


Colin Guy
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has made protecting children from sexual predators one of the chief focuses of his administration and during a meeting with the Reporter-Telegram editorial board Thursday he vowed to continue aggressively pursuing measures to shield Texas' youth from those who wish to do them harm.

Abbott highlighted two new programs established during his tenure in office he said have proven immensely successful. He said the Attorney General's Cyber Crime Unit, in which officers pose as juvenile targets, has arrested around 88 suspects who engaged in sexually explicit conversations online then arranged to meet in person. A Fugitive Unit, which focuses on convicted sex offenders who fail to register with local law enforcement after their release from prison, has netted 300 offenders over the past six years, Abbott said.

"(If re-elected) I will work with the lieutenant governor to better protect children of Texas," Abbott said. "There's an underlying issue here we've seen across the United States, which I call a national nightmare."

Abbott said over the course of a second four-year term he would like to pursue the adoption of stricter laws that will place child predators behind bars for a longer period of time and "maybe not let them out." Abbott said he would support a version of "Jessica's Law" which requires registered sex offenders to serve a minimum 25-year sentence and wear electronic tracking devices after their release. This law was drafted by Florida legislators following the sexual assault and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a previously convicted sex offender who did not comply with the registration requirements.

Abbott also indicated under his administration the Attorney General's Office has broken child support collection records to the tune of $5 billion. However, he said the federal government, which provides two-thirds of the funding for these efforts, will reduce its allocations to the state, effectively cutting the budget for child support enforcement in half. Abbott said he plans to testify before the Senate Finance Committee Monday to attempt to convince legislators to restore funding.

Abbott faces opposition from Democratic nominee David Van Os, who Abbott said previously challenged him for a position on the Texas Supreme Court in 1998.

According to the Web site, Van Os is running on a platform that includes going after major oil companies for violations of Texas antitrust statutes and opposing the development of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Van Os is quoted on the Web site as saying this project will be "one of the biggest single exercises of forcible eminent domain in the history of the entire United States" which will "destroy the proper balance between the individual and government with respect to the individual's ability to control his or her own property."

© 2006

© 2006 Midland Reporter-Telegram:


Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Show me the money!"

Texas gold

Woman to get $2.75 million for Cowboys stadium land

September 14, 2006

The Associated Press
Copyright 2006

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- In the largest payout for residential property acquired for the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, the Arlington City Council has agreed to give a 72-year-old woman $2.75 million for her house and 4 acres.

"I can buy something and stop living in my car," Evelyn Wray said with a chuckle. "I've been basically living out of suitcases from here to there."

Since moving out of her home in March, Wray said she's been staying with family and friends because she didn't want to make a decision on a new house until she knew how much the city would pay.

Jay Doegey, Arlington's city attorney, said he was glad to get that and two other properties settled at Tuesday's meeting. The other properties, commercial tracts, were settled for sale prices of $1.15 million and $1.2 million.

Wray's fight to get what she thought was a fair price from the city generated considerable attention, with a talk radio station in attendance when she held a garage sale.

Wray's attorney, Glenn Sodd, argued that the land -- on a major thoroughfare and across the street from a new Wal-Mart Supercenter -- should be valued at commercial prices.

The original offer was $351,000, but a court-appointed panel set the value at $1.2 million. She continued her fight in the county courts, and the city finally settled for more than twice that amount.

Although most of the land has been acquired for the $650 million stadium and excavation work is nearly completed, dozens of lawsuits are still pending, Doegey said.

The stadium is scheduled to open in time for the 2009 season.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


"I think the speed which the Texas Attorney General went after them is interesting."

'You Can't Take It' told 'you can't do it'

September 14, 2006

By Robert Nathan
Killeen Daily Herald
Copyright 2006

A Killeen-based company that promised to protect landowners – for a fee – from potential eminent domain proceedings in connection with the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor project has suspended operations in the wake of a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Texas Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Greg Abbott filed the suit against three individuals and their Killeen-based company, "You Can't Take It," which claimed it had found a loophole in eminent domain procedures.

The company and Killeen residents Douglas Lee Thayer, Lou Ann Reed and her daughter Nykee Jolene Murray of Austin are defendants in the lawsuit.

"They are calling it fraud and fraud would be a conclusion," Lou Ann Reed said Wednesday afternoon. "All they have is speculative. It's not fraud; there was nothing fraudulent about it. We haven't even done any business."

Hale Stewart, a Houston attorney representing the company, said they would love to fight the suit, but cited insufficient funds to contest it.

"It is a temporary injunction and we have basically folded the company as a result of this, because we don't have the funds to fight the AG (attorney general)," Stewart said.

"The company does not have the funds to fight the litigation is what it comes down to," he said, "and there is no point in funding litigation if you can't pay for it and if it is going to prevent you from doing any business."

Stewart said the company is "voluntarily shutting down."

Abbott is seeking a temporary injunction that will go before the 345th District Court in Austin today.

"Residential property owners are being taken for a ride by these so-called transportation experts," Abbott said in a news release. "They have no standing whatsoever to insert themselves into such legal proceedings, and homeowners, who are already protected by the constitution, will find they have paid a lot of money for a service that is null and void."

The company was using the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo vs. city of New London, to justify its business plan, claiming a company can block the state from taking any land through eminent domain. The decision says that if an economic development project would provide an economic benefit in the form of higher tax revenues to a city, then eminent domain could not override that project, Stewart said.

The company's chief executive officer, Douglas Lee Thayer, said Wednesday, "It (the Kelo decision) allowed us to file a development project ahead of theirs (the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Thayer has been doing business under the name of Douglas Lee.

"What we had planned to do was go in there and plan development projects ahead of the Trans-Texas Corridor," Thayer said.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is intended to relieve congestion on Interstate 35. It will parallel I-35 and extend from Oklahoma to Mexico, with possible connections to the Gulf Coast. It would not only separate car and truck lanes, but it would also include railroads and underground utilities, such as telephone, water and gas pipelines.

Thayer said he thinks the state's actions are the result of his negative comments about TxDOT's reputation.

"We have been addressing the fact that they're taking these homeowners' properties," Thayer said.

He said a major construction company had been lined up to where "we could have gone in and scheduled all of these development projects."

"When these projects were completed," he added, "it would have increased the local tax revenues to satisfy the Kelo decision requirement to stop them from using eminent domain to take the properties."

During a series of TxDOT public hearings this summer, TxDOT officials said all land for the multi-use highway project would be purchased and property owners would be paid full market value and their property would not be taken through eminent domain.

"As we indicated previously, we don't know where the corridor is going to go," TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts said in a July interview. "That is going to determine what exits are going to be constructed for what towns and cities along the way."

Stewart said the company has only been in business for a month and hasn't purchased any properties or done any other business.

"I think the speed which the Texas Attorney General went after them is interesting, shall we say," Stewart said. "I'd love to fight this thing, but what the attorney general will do is just put up as many roadblocks as possible."

The Attorney General's Office released its statement early Wednesday afternoon.

"We have been internally debating here about this matter," said Tom Kelly, spokesman for the Texas Attorney General, before the statement was released.

The statement said the lawsuit had been filed to stop the company from falsely claiming it can protect property owners from potential eminent domain proceedings linked to the Trans-Texas Corridor project.

The company was planning a business meeting on Sept. 16 at Temple High School. However, Thayer was notified Tuesday the city of Temple would not allow such a meeting at the high school.

"They gave us the runaround to keep the meeting from taking place," Thayer said.

He said it is not fair that the city can hold TxDOT meetings to bring in the highway, but "someone in opposition, who offers a remedy to the matter, can't get the same courtesy or treatment."

The attorney general seeks both temporary and permanent injunctions halting any deceptive claims or advertising, requiring the defendants to fully disclose all of the facts associated with eminent domain proceedings.

The suit also requests penalties of $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a penalty of $250,000 if a harmed consumer is 65 years of age or older, and payment of attorney's fees.

Contact Robert Nathan at

© 2006 Killeen Daily Herald:


"Killeen-based firm claimed it could protect property owners from having their land seized for the Trans-Texas Corridor."

State sues Killeen firm offering protection from eminent domain


Associated Press
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN - The Texas Attorney General's Office has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop a Killeen-based firm from claiming it can protect property owners from having their land seized for the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The business, You Can't Take It, planned to charge customers to develop commercial projects on their land that would increase property values, said Hale Stewart, a Houston lawyer representing the business.

The property owner could then fight eminent domain by claiming that the commercial use of the land would create more tax revenue than if the land was seized for public use. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made tax revenue from a new project a factor in whether it was viable to condemn land for eminent domain, Stewart said.

The business offered its services for $600 to start followed by $100 monthly payments, according to the lawsuit filed Monday.

"Nothing the group is doing is legal," said Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, which seeks both temporary and permanent injunctions against the business.

Stewart said You Can't Take It wants to fight the lawsuit but can't afford to do so.

Lou Ann Fuller, an owner of the business, said the business and its Web site have been shut down. The business hasn't taken any money from customers or held any meetings with potential customers, she said.

"We don't have the money to fight back," she said.

The state is in the early stages of the Trans Texas Corridor highway system that Gov. Rick Perry first proposed in 2002. The overall plan calls for 4,000-plus miles of tollways and railways across the state with the first stretch running roughly parallel to Interstate 35.

The plan has sparked fear among some rural landowners who are concerned they'll be forced to sell their land to the state to make way for the project.

"What we had planned to do was go in there and plan development projects ahead of the Trans-Texas Corridor," said Douglas Lee Thayer, the company's chief executive officer.

According to the lawsuit, the business claimed the state would offer property owners 75 percent of the appraised value of their land during eminent domain proceedings.

The attorney general's office said the commercial lease agreement the business was proposing can't be done.

"They have no standing whatsoever to insert themselves into such legal proceedings, and homeowners, who are already protected by the Constitution, will find they have paid a lot of money for a service that is null and void," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Chris Bishop, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said right-of-way acquisition for the corridor project is still several years away. He said law requires that offers for property are based on 100 percent of its appraised value.


Information from:

Austin American-Statesman,

Killeen Daily Herald,

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Federal grand jury investigates PBS&J for illegal campaign contributions

Florida Firm Being Probed Over Contributions Gave Money To Commissioners

Sep 13, 2006

by Bob Dunn
Copyright 2006

A major Florida engineering consultant, under government scrutiny for alleged illegal campaign contribution practices across the country, has contributed to campaigns of several Fort Bend County officials through its Texas political action committee.

A federal grand jury is investigating whether PBS&J of Miami illegally reimbursed its employees for campaign contributions, according to a Miami Herald report.

In connection with a separate investigation, PBS&J also was recently banned from seeking new contracts with the Texas Department of Transportation, until it paid a multimillion-dollar settlement stemming from overcharges in state projects.

It’s illegal for a company or other entity to use individuals as faux political donors in order to exceed individual campaign contribution limits, and the Miami Herald reported that such contributions, if determined to be illegal, might have to be returned by candidates.

Newspaper reporters for the Herald found campaign finance records showing PBS&J employees and political action committees contributed more than $500,000 since 2003, to federal and state political candidates across the country.

A check of campaign contribution records on file with the Texas Ethics Commission shows PBS&J made political contributions to every member of Fort Bend County Commissioners Court over the past four years. The contributions came from PBS&U PAC, the company’s Texas political action committee.

The PBS&J payments include $6,500 in contributions over the past three years to County Judge Bob Hebert; $4,000 since 2003 to Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers; $3,000 since 2002 to Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage; $1,300 since 2004 to Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha; and $250 to Precinct 4 Commissioner James Patterson.

Stavinoha, Prestage and Meyers all said Wednesday they were somewhat familiar with the Florida company, but didn’t have extensive dealings with the firm. Hebert and Patterson could not be reached for comment.

In its most recent local activity, PBS&J PAC made political contributions of $800, $2,000 and $2,500, respectively, to Stavinoha, Meyers and Hebert, all on March 6, 2006.

A week before the contributions were made, Hebert, Meyers and Stavinoha joined Prestage and Patterson in unanimously voting to extend an engineering services contract for PBS&J.

According to information from the Fort Bend County Engineer’s office, the contract involves preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition services for a Texas Department of Transportation project to widen F.M. 359 near Richmond.

However, no information obtained in preparing this report suggests the timing of the contribution is more than coincidence.

Meyers said procedures are in place that limit the ability of commissioners court members in influencing what firms receive contracts for professional services such as engineering and architecture.

In Fort Bend County the county engineer’s office requests qualifications and project proposals from interested firms, then makes a recommendation that is up to the commissioners court to approve or deny, before county money can be spent. Meyers said if two firms are recommended for a particular job and the commissioners have to vote on which one, he tends to vote for the one that’s done the least business with the county in the past.

Meyers said engineering firms wanting to do business with the county all have been told the same thing by commissioners – “at some point…it will be your turn.”

In PBS&J’s case, according to information provided by the Fort Bend County Attorney’s office, it has made more than $420,000 between 2003 and the end of August 2006 from Fort Bend County. The government contractor also has at least one contract worth $48,000 with the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority.

Meyers said the Miami company has done engineering work on the Westpark Toll Road and was a subcontractor for lead engineering firm Brown & Gay. Prestage said the firm also has done environmental-related work on the Fort Bend Toll Road project. Stavinoha said PBS&J has done some work related to a Bernard River project and on the Grand Parkway.

Prestage said to his knowledge PBS&J is well-qualified and well-regarded. He said its not a major contributor to his campaign, and he was unaware of the investigation into its campaign contribution practices until contacted by this reporter.

“I’ve got several of their business cards around here,” Stavinoha said. “There’s a Glenn Graham from there I remember meeting with.”

He said he recalled receiving the $800 contribution during an $800-per-table fundraiser he held, adding “that’s the only time I normally accept a contribution.”

Glenn D. Graham is one of 19 names that appear as contributors to PBS&J PAC, on Texas Ethics Commission reports from 2003 to 2006. Each of the individuals reported numerous contributions ranging from $25 to $75.

PBS&J officials in Florida couldn’t be reached for comment, but the company issued a prepared statement saying it encourages employees to support political candidates of their choice, adding ‘’Good people who commit their time and energy to public service and effective policymaking should receive appropriate financial support.’’

PBS&J had more than a half-billion dollars in revenue in 2005 and has about 3,900 employees in 75 offices including four offices in the Houston area.

Meyers said he was unaware of the campaign contribution probe, but knew that a PBS&J official had been under investigation for embezzlement.

According to the Miami Herald, PBS&J’s chief financial officer and two other former employees have been under investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office for the past year, in the embezzlement of about $36 million.

PBS&J said in July the money was embezzled in a complicated scheme that resulted in several state transportation agencies being overcharged for engineering work.

Among those was the Texas Department of Transportation.

According to an 8-K report PBS&J filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 6, “Due to the potential misappropriation of assets, the company’s overhead rate for the Texas Department of Transportation was incorrectly stated.”

PBS&J notified TxDOT, and TxDOT then suspended the Florida company on May 25 from contracting for new services. (In 2005 alone, PBS&J made about $43 million from TxDOT projects – or about 8% of its total revenue.)

According to an Aug. 23 SEC filing, PBS&J and TxDOT entered into a settlement agreement on July 24, through which the state highway department released all its claims against PBS&J, and the company made a one-time payment of $5.3 million. As a result, the company is again allowed to compete for new state contracts.

“In the course of the company’s investigation of the accounting irregularities and misappropriation, it was determined that there were possible irregularities relating to past political contributions by certain employees and the company,” PBS&J said in the August SEC filing.

© 2006 FortBendNow Inc.:


“You Can’t Take It” takes vulnerable property owners for a ride

State Sues Over Web Site’s Promise To Protect Property From Condemnation

September 13, 2006

KWTX Channel 10
Copyright 2006

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping a Central Texas-based organization that claims it can protect property owners from potential eminent domain proceedings linked to the multi-billion dollar Trans Texas Corridor project.

Two of the three individuals named in the suit are Central Texas residents.

The lawsuit led to the cancellation of a meeting sponsored by the group “You Can’t Take It” Saturday at Temple High School.

The suit alleges the promoters of the Web site attempt to scare property owners “into believing their properties may be affected by future highway projects,” according to a release issued Wednesday afternoon by Texas Department of Transportation.

“The scare tactics then lead to offers to rescue them from speculative eminent domain proceedings for a fee of $600, which will increase to $1,000 by November. The organization also would assess homeowners a $100 yearly ‘maintenance fee,’” the release said.

The group’s Web site was offline Wednesday evening, but an ad that appears on e-Bay says the organization “can literally save your home and property.”

The ad says the organization has “attorneys working with us” and that “if we all stand together we can accomplish our mission to benefit all.”

The group claims it can halt eminent domain proceedings “by filing commercial lease agreements or otherwise encumbering the property, using the organization’s so-called ‘Property Protection Scheme,’” the state says.

“To the contrary, the organization’s attempts to encumber these properties with commercial lease agreements for the purpose of ‘economic development’ to block state condemnation could place homeowners in jeopardy of losing these properties,” the state’s press release said.

“Residential property owners are being taken for a ride by these so-called transportation experts,” Abbott said.

“They have no standing whatsoever to insert themselves into such legal proceedings, and homeowners, who are already protected by the Constitution, will find they have paid a lot of money for a service that is null and void,” he said.

The suit names Douglas Lee Thayer (aka Morgan) and Lou Ann Reed (aka Fuller) of Killeen and Nykee Jolene Murray (aka Keen) of Austin, as well as YouCan’tTakeIt, LLC, the release said.

The suit seeks both temporary and permanent injunctions and penalties of $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a penalty of $250,000 if a harmed consumers is 65 years of age or older, and reasonable attorneys’ fees, the state said.

© 2006 Gray Television Group, Inc. :


"You Can't Take It" rapped by AG for making false claims about TTC eminent domain protection

Texas Attorney General's office shuts down a Killeen business

Sep 13, 2006

KCEN-TV Channel 6
Copyright 2006

The Texas Attorney General's office shut down a Killeen business that claimed it could protect property owners from the state taking their land for the proposed Trans Texas Corridor project.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said the organization known as "You Can't Take It" falsely claimed it could stop eminent domain proceedings for an initial fee of $600, and then a $100 yearly maintenance fee.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses employees, two from Killeen, of going door to door and using an online website to use scare tactics to dupe property owners.

If you believe you've been mislead by this organization you can call the Attorney General's office to file a complaint.

© 2006 KCEN-TV Channel 6:


"Excessive amount of highway tolls will have a negative impact on the local economy. "

Too Many Toll Roads Bad For DFW, Commissioners Say

September 13, 2006

NBC Channel 5
Dallas/Fort Worth
Copyright 2006

DALLAS -- Dallas County commissioners are looking at ways to cut down on the need for several new toll roads in the future and said they don't think it's good for residents or the local economy to be overtolled.

Drivers currently only have to pay to drive on two roads, but that will soon increase to several roads.

"I pay about $40 a month just to go back and forth to work. I use the toll roads just to go shopping. What will it be like when we start encompassing all these other roads?" motorist Sherry Blake said.

Dallas County commissioners said residents wouldn't have to fund as many future roads with tolls if the Texas Department of Transportation didn't have to share 66 percent of the gas tax with other programs including education.

“There’s a policy of raping people who use tolls to pay for projects that could have been paid had the funds not been diverted,” Dallas County commissioner Kenneth Mayfield said.

“What's more important than education? That doesn't bother me,” resident Nancy Marlow said.

County commissioners asked staff to provide other options besides tolls for funding major Dallas County roads in the future.

Judge Margaret Keliher said she believes an excessive amount of highway tolls will have a negative impact on the local economy.

© 2006 by


"I’m very concerned about the pre-trial confiscation of land by the TTC authority."

County discusses TTC legislation

September 13, 2006

Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2006

While the Texas Department of Transportation has announced its plans to consider a re-route of the Trans-Texas Corridor from eastern Ellis County to the west side of the county, Commissioner Heath Sims, Pct. 3, encouraged the county’s commissioners court Monday morning to examine wording in legislation passed by the state Legislature.

“Over the last couple months there’s been lots of discussion about the TTC and people have come up to me with their concerns,” Sims said. “If you’ve had a chance to read through the legislation then good for you - if not I understand why.”

The total legislation numbers 219 pages.

“People have concerns about the taking of land and concerns about going out for bids on the job,” Sims said.

Sims invited former Ellis County Justice of the Peace Paul Perry and Ellis County Republican precinct chairman David Huckabee to address the court and update them on their concerns.

“I realize there will probably be a reroute in this area but that doesn’t change the bills in legislation that I think should be of concern for all Texans,” Perry said. “After your first notice about eminent domain, this legislation will allow the TTC authority to have a bulldozer in your kitchen on the 91st day after notice. That puts a lot of stress upon home owner, business owner and farm owner. Folks, this is Texas. We have fought wars over property rights. Certainly we can do better than that.”

Perry encouraged the commissioners to join 32 other Texas counties that have come out in opposition of the massive toll road plan.

“Judge, you have expressed concern that you would like to know what is going on in public hearings,” Perry said. “If you will take the time to review this, you will see you do not want to be associated with this bill. As it is currently worded I have serious concerns. I’m not opposed to infrastructure improvements or eminent domain if it’s done properly but these bills put a clock on eminent domain and mandate it.”

Adams asked Perry if his issue dwelled around the toll roads or property rights.

“I oppose the taking clauses and the entry on the land without notice in the legislation,” Perry said.

David Honeycutt told the commissioners that he had read the legislation in its entirety five times and has hired attorneys to look over it.

“Anytime a legislative document is written as vaguely as this, you realize it’s written to be left up to interpretation,” Honeycutt said. “And I’m very concerned about the pre-trail confiscation of land by the TTC authority.”

“In order for us to compete as a state we have to develop infrastructure,” Adams said. “We have a $38 billion shortfall in the Metroplex when it comes to transportation and currently our funding comes from the gas tax. I’m circling around to the fact that the transportation needs must be addressed. Are you also concerned about it being a toll road?”

“I’m not concerned about it being a toll road,” Honeycutt said. “A toll road owned by the state serves as a type of tax but the TTC is a private endeavor - it goes to the TTC authority - the TTC corridor and the private ownership of the TTC. I’m not in opposition to the roads. It is not the ends that alarm me - it is the means.”

Both Honeycutt and Perry mentioned the commissioners’ 3-2 vote on a resolution supporting the North Central Texas Council of Government’s request for TxDOT to study the Highway 360 and Loop 9 corridors for realignment of the TTC.

Both Adams and Commissioner Dennis Robinson, Pct. 1, expressed the reasoning behind their vote against the resolution.

“At the time we voted on the resolution, we had a community in Ellis County that was for the TTC,” Adams said. “We went over the resolution very carefully and made sure it didn’t support or oppose the TTC.”

“The intention of the vote was not in support of the corridor,” Robinson said. “Our intention was to hear the voice of the people before we expressed our opinion.”

Copyright © 2006 The Waxahachie Daily Light :


"Support for Republican Governor Rick Perry continues to droop."

Texas Governor: In Crowded Campaign, Perry at 33%

September 13, 2006

Rasmussen Reports
Copyright 2006

As support for Republican Governor Rick Perry continues to droop, Independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn has again captured second place in the unusual four-way race for Texas Governor.

The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll in Texas finds that Likely Voters now allocate their support as follows: Governor Rick Perry 33%, Chris Bell (D) 18%, Carole Keeton Strayhorn (I) 22%, Kinky Friedman (I) 16% (see crosstabs).

For most of the year, Perry led the pack with about support in the 40% range. But he slid from 40% in July to 35% last month, and hasn't recovered in the current poll.

With not one but two support-seizing Independent candidacies in this Texas tussle, the Governor has been unable to tackle just his Democratic opponent, Chris Bell. And Bell, who joined a three-way tie for second place in August, now scratches out only two points more than the fourth-place finisher.

It doesn't look as if voters are much inclined to migrate to the major-party candidates as Election Day draws near; Strayhorn, for one, is obviously benefiting from voters' continued willingness to credit her own maverick bid. And like the Governor's, her campaign is relatively well-financed.

Perry and Strayhorn both recently launched television ad campaigns.

The incumbent is still best-positioned to win, given the lack of any runoff requirements in Texas. However, Governor Perry's favorables have weakened since August. He is now viewed favorably by only 48% of Likely Voters, a six-point drop. Last month, 18% viewed him "very favorably," an equal number "very unfavorably." Only 15% now view him very favorably, 22% very unfavorably.

Strayhorn, who among the four is most often seen as a moderate by voters, is now viewed favorably by 53%, up from 45%. Favorables for both Bell and Friedman are weaker.

© 2006 Rasmussen Reports:


"I thought it was best to tell the story with a little bit of humor, but sadly, it's all true."

Online Cartoon Attacks Perry's Transportation Plans

Sep 12, 2006
Copyright 2006

Gov. Rick Perry's campaign opponents are hoping his Trans-Texas Corridor becomes a central campaign issue, and it is now the focus of a new online campaign attack.

It's an animation, like the Jib-Jab cartoons that took aim at President Bush during the last election. But the creators say their message is anything but funny.

It's the latest shot in the Texas governor's race, and it takes aim at Gov. Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor.

An online animated video calls Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor a land grab that will use eminent domain to kick Texans out of their homes, farms and ranches.

"Eminent domain is something that has to used very cautiously, very judiciously, and if you're going to have to build roads in the state of Texas, remember, every road in the state of Texas was once somebody's land," said Robert Black with Perry for Governor.

The creator of the video is Sal Costello. He is the founder of the political action committee People For Efficient Transportation.

"I thought it was best to tell the story with a little bit of humor, but sadly, it's all true," Costello said.

Costello says eminent domain is one issue. Contracting with a foreign company to run the corridor is another.

The following is in the online ad:

"Governor Perry signed a secret deal with a Spanish Corporation to control the infastructure for the next 50 years.

Perry's plan will take over a half-million acres of private land and foreign companies will profit.

Texas will always own the road, Texans will always control the roads."

Perry's campaign says if you look closely, you'll see the truth. This online video is a cleverly disguised ad for Perry's opponent, Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

"This particular group is funded by Carole Strayhorn," Black said. "Thousands of dollars are flowing to them from Carole Strayhorn's campaign."

One Tough Grandma's camp says they welcome the help.

"Sal Costello is standing with the people of Texas," said Brad McClellan with Strayhorn for Governor. "We're standing with the people of Texas. We're happy Sal Costello is on our side."

Democrat Chris Bell and Independent Kinky Friedman are also opposed to Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hypothetical "lost profits" without toll roads used in TxDOT numbers game

State: No tolls would mean 17-cent gas tax

Potential alternative to toll roads not yet legal under state law.

September 12, 2006

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

It would take a local gasoline tax of about 17 cents a gallon to replace the money brought in by a controversial second round of toll roads, the Texas Department of Transportation says in an analysis released Monday.

That estimate dwarfs an earlier figure of 2.4 cents a gallon produced by the staff of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. But that 2005 estimate came in answer to a different question: What would it take to replace about $500 million in lost state funding and borrowed money if the five Phase II toll roads were to be built as free roads instead?

This latest calculation takes into account the lost profits from the toll roads over the next four decades, as well as a (hypothetical) $2 billion bond sale in 2048 to build more roads or rail projects, a borrowing that would be supported by the tollway profits still further in the future. That amounts to about $4.4 billion in revenue that would have to be matched by a gas tax, according to the analysis.

The estimate of forgone profits in the early years, through 2030, is a much more modest $293 million. A cent of gas tax applied to Travis, Hays and Williamson counties, according to the analysis, raises about $4.5 million a year (after removing the 25 percent that under the Texas Constitution would have to go to public schools).

State Rep. Mark Strama, a Austin Democrat who asked for this latest analysis, has not said whether he opposes or supports those five proposed roads in the Phase II tollway plan. Monday, after seeing the Transportation Department's report for the first time, Strama said that it was lot to absorb on short notice.

"I think they're giving their best effort to get answers to questions we've had for along time," Strama said. "But these are complex questions, and it's going to take me some time to fully analyze it."

At this point, the discussion among local transportation policymakers is completely theoretical because Texas law does not allow a city or county or region to enact its own local gas tax. The only legal levy is the statewide gas tax of 20 cents a gallon (along with an 18.4 cents a gallon federal gas tax).

The state House in 2005 tacked a local gas tax authorization onto another bill and passed it. That gas tax provision would have allowed regions to have an additional gas tax of up to 10 cents a gallon.

In the case of Central Texas, the bill would have required separate elections in Travis, Hays and Williamson counties. All three would have had to say yes — although the proposed tax rate for each could vary — and the tax would have been the lowest passed by any one of the counties.

The local gas tax, however, went nowhere in the Senate, and Gov. Rick Perry has said he does not support allowing one.

But what the debate lacks in legal substance it makes up in political import. The 23 members of the CAMPO board, all but two of them elected officials, have been under pressure for more than two years to reverse a July 2004 vote in favor of the Phase II toll road plan, which now includes one completely new road (an extension of Texas 45 Southwest) and expansions of four other roads where travel is now free. Under the plan, the new express lanes would have tolls and the frontage roads would be free.

Critics call that double taxation, given that much of the ground under the expanded roads was bought years ago with tax dollars. Some board members have latched onto the idea that a local gas tax, if one could somehow be made legal, could obviate the need for the second wave of toll roads to follow the four Phase I tollways scheduled to open in Central Texas this year and next.

The 2.4-cent-a-gallon estimate, small enough that it might actually pass muster with voters, made the gas tax option particularly tantalizing. The new estimate, to the extent that it is accepted as legitimate by policymakers and the public, may or may not fall withinCAMPO board members' political comfort zone.; 445-3698

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Highway 6 Toll Roads Coming

College Station, TxDOT consider Hwy 6 toll roads


By: Diana Burbules
The Battallion
Copyright 2006

Because of construction and subsequent traffic, Highway 6 is being used as a north and south route for local traffic, instead of regional traffic, said Kevin Fogle, transportation planner for the city of College Station.

As a solution, there have been talks about adding toll roads to Highway 6, said Bob Colwell, public information officer of the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).

"Making toll roads will help us to do projects faster," he said.

Colwell said adding toll roads could happen in the near future, if the public supports the issue.

"We want to do what the public wants," he said.

When it comes to completing construction projects in a timely manner, money is a big problem, Colwell said. Toll roads would help get more money and contribute to the solution, he said.

"The estimated cost of maintaining and constructing road improvement over the next 25 years is $1 billion," Colwell said.

Fogle said money has been an imperative issue in completing construction throughout town.

"We are struggling to find money for road improvement," Fogle said. "We need $40 million just to get caught up."

Not only are city officials looking to add toll roads to Highway 6, but there is also serious consideration of expanding it to six lanes, Fogle said.

"Highway 6 is supposed to be used for regional traffic, but because there is so much traffic inward in town, people use Highway 6 locally as an alternate north and south route," he said.

The city of College Station and TXDOT are working together to find a solution to this problem, Fogle said.

"There are only three north and south routes throughout the city," he said.

In order to complete these alternate routes and fix the current north and south routes, money has to be acquired, Fogle said.

"The Texas Avenue project alone is costing an estimated $17 million," he said.

Fogle said when there is an increased capacity on one road, there is usually a balance, because people will take alternate routes, but with the current problem of lack of alternate routes, traffic flow has stayed congested.

"If we create alternate routes it will improve traffic flow," he said. "If we sit back and not do anything, it will continue to get worse, it is just a waiting game to find the money."

Jason Jarrell, a senior civil engineering major, said money is a factor, but if toll roads are created, then traffic will just be pushed inward into town, because no one would want to use the toll roads.

"Any city you go to, there will be construction and traffic, it's just a fact of life," he said. "But I don't think toll roads are necessarily a good solution to the problem."

Ric Williamson, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, said, in his letter regarding the strategic plan for 2007-2011, there will have to be options explored throughout the state of Texas.

"The Texas transportation system does not meet the needs of our rapidly increasing population," Williamson said. "We believe reducing congestion, improving air quality, enhancing safety, encouraging economic opportunity and preserving the value of our transportation system are goals shared by all Texans - we intend to reach these goals by using every financial option granted to us."

© 2006 The Battalion:


The heat is on Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the escalating battle over the Trans-Texas Corridor

Citizen Group Adds to Eminent Domain Debate in Texas Governor Race with Online Video

(Click on the PLAY button in the image)


David M. Bresnahan
American Chronicle
Copyright 2006

Austin, Texas -- The Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) project championed by Gov. Rick Perry will bring about mass evictions of Texans from their homes, farms, and ranches, according to an online video released by a citizen group.

An official web site promoting the TTC project confirms plans for use of eminent domain to evict families from their homes in record numbers.

"This is the largest land-grab in Texas history. Perry plans to force Texas families from their homes, kicking and screaming, so a foreign company can profit for the next 50 years. And, the details of the land grab are still being withheld from the public, for more than a year." said Sal Costello, founder of People for Efficient Transportation PAC.

A new video has been created by the group to help inform more Texans of the more than half a million acre Perry TTC plan, and it is easily available for viewing online at

The video was also created to shine a light on the secret deal made between Gov. Perry and Cintra behind closed doors that will result in the start of the massive evictions in order to begin construction the TTC, according to Costello.

In an effort to help the public visualize the impact of the TTC, the video shows a cartoon of Perry literally kicking families out of their homes and off their farms and ranches all across Texas.

"Texas families getting kicked out of their homes to benefit foreign construction companies is a horrific lottery with scary odds," said Costello. "They are forcing the TTC on Texans, and depending where they draw the line on the map will determine who gets booted from their homes."

The Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) has confirmed the plans in the "Myth vs. Reality" section of a web site created to promote the TTC plans (see

"The video also focuses on the TTC contract that has been kept a secret for over a year. A lawsuit was filed in June of 2005 to keep the details from being made public. The attorney general ruled the contract must be made public over a year ago. Why is the deal still a secret after a whole year?" asked Costello.

(Cintra Zachry, LP and the TxDOT vs Greg Abbott, District Court of Travis County, GN502207.)

The site does not deny the concerns expressed by the opposition of thousands of angry Texans who have appeared at recent hearings. Instead it provides excuses and justifications for the actions that are planned, and actually confirms those plans.

"Their own web site clearly states that property will be taken through eminent domain, and that they plan to use ‘Quick Take' authorized by HB 3588 to force homeowners out in just 91 days. They even state that they plan to do this just as soon as the environmental process and public hearings are completed," explained Costello.

"They admit that large amounts of farm land will be divided by the TTC, but they excuse it away by saying they will build cross over roads and places for livestock to cross under. They also admit that hundreds of thousands of acres of properties will be taken off the tax roles, costing local governments in lost taxes," he added.

The TTC site responds to concerns that the right of "quick-take" will be used to take private property for the TTC project by explaining how quick-take works. It does not, however, deny that quick-take will be used.

"The state has attempted to create an illusion that there is nothing to worry about and the fears that have been expressed at hearings all over the state are unfounded. In reality a careful reading of their own web site reveals that the state has confirmed all those fears," said Costello.

Sal Costello

© 2006 American Chronicle :