Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

City Councilmen on MPO Sold Out to Highway Interests

Voted Against Accountability, Against the People!

First things first, thank you to EVERYONE who turned out for the MPO Special Meeting today. Your presence was vital and what you witnessed was unparalleled, unabashed malfeasance on the part of both un-elected & elected city officials! The majority of the MPO are paid city staffers and they along with the 3 city councilmembers on the MPO clearly marched in lockstep to the beat of highway special interests at today's MPO special meeting to address the need for an independent review. New MPO Chair Councilman Richard Perez didn't disappoint and continued to hem, haw, tap dance, and stonewall around holding TxDOT accountable for the $48 million FUNDED original VIABLE ALTERNATIVE plan for US 281. His behavior along with that of Hall, Haass, and paid city staff is an egregious and gross abuse of power!

Every member of the Board who showed up, voted against accountability and against the people by voting against an independent review with the exception of two unfailing advocates for the people, Commissioners Lyle Larson and Tommy Adkisson. TxDOT who clearly has a conflict of interest voting to allocate money for their own projects, did NOT recuse themselves from the vote and voted against the PEOPLE! The battle lines have been drawn and we now know without a doubt who is representing the people and who is representing special highway interests. Those who voted against a review are doing the bidding of Governor Perry and the TxDOT intimidators who threatened to pull our highway funding if these guys supported a review.

Here's who voted against the PEOPLE:
Chairman Richard Perez - Councilman-District 4 City of San Antonio 210-207-7281 or district4@sanantonio.gov
Vice Chair Amy Madison - Director of Community Development Randolph Region 210-658-7477 or amadison@ci.schertz.tx.us
Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez - Commissioner Bexar County 210-335-2611 or chico@bexar.org
Christopher “Chip” Haass - Councilman-District 10 City of San Antonio 210-207-7276 or district10@sanantonio.gov
Art Hall - Councilman District 8 City of San Antonio 210-207-7086 or district8@sanantonio.gov
Emil R. Moncivais, AICP - Director of Planning City of San Antonio 210-207-7952 or emoncivais@sanantonio.gov
Thomas G. Wendorf, P.E. - Director of Public Works City of San Antonio 210-207-8022 or try twendorf@sanantonio.gov
Jack Leonhardt - Mayor GBCCC 210-655-0022 or mayor@ci.windcrest.tx.us
David Casteel, P.E. - District Engineer TxDOT 210-615-5801
Clay R. Smith, P.E. - Planning Engineer TxDOT 210-615-5920

Voted For (an independent review)
Tommy Adkisson - Commissioner Bexar County 210-335-2614 or tadkisson@bexar.org
Lyle Larson - Commissioner Bexar County 210-335-2613 or lylelarson@bexar.org

Abstained
Al Notzon - Executive Director AACOG 210-362-5281 or anotzon@aacog.com
(Deferred to elected officials)

No Shows
Hon. Leticia Van de Putte - State Senator District 26 210-733-6604 or dist26 Mail Form
Les Locke, P.E. - Bexar County 210-335-6700 or try leslocke@bexar.org
Oliver Hill - VIA Board Member VIA 210-648-3398
Hank Brummett - VIA Board Member VIA 210-648-3398

From here on out, DO NOT distribute ANY "Highway Robbery" fliers with Chip Haass' quote on it. He is now officially on the de-elect list. When the chips were down, he didn't come through. He actually told an ally that his district is FOR TOLLS. If you live in Chip Haass' district, YOU NEED TO TAKE ISSUE WITH HIS PERCEPTION THAT YOU WELCOME TOLLS ON HIGHWAYS YOU'VE ALREADY PAID FOR!

BATTLE PLAN
This war is not over. The voters ultimately have the final say even though the Governor and the Legislature have made it extremely difficult for the taxpayers to beat this back. Today demonstrates our urgent need to take our government back. This is not government of the people, by the people, for the people. We need to continue to focus our efforts on our state legislators, especially Rep. Frank Corte whose district is most affected by the first round of freeway tolls. Our elected officials are so entrenched with the special interests that they refuse to represent the best interest of and the clearly articulated will of the people they serve.


TODAY'S SHOT IN THE ARM

State Rep. David Leibowitz gave a strong show of support for an independent review today. Read his press release below. Call to thank him and ask for continued support for accountability for this toll plan (512-463-0269). We need allies such as Rep. Leibowitz to put Transportation Chair Ric Williamson and his TxDOT thugs in their place. This toll mandate is top-down without a vote of the people being asked to anti-up thousands of dollars a year in tolls throughout Texas.

We aren't going to lay down and lick our wounds and let these guys silence our voice! Are you angry at the arrogance of these elected officials? Are you fed-up with our public servants being more concerned with their own self-interest than the public's best interest? Are you going to let a no tax pledge Governor Perry get away with the largest tax increase in Texas history? Channel that energy into our...

NEXT STEPS
"Hit the Toll Road, Perry" Rally and Press Conference
Wednesday, Sept. 7 @ 6 PM
Henry B Gonzales Convention Center (Market Street side)
Contact: Sudie Sartor at (210) 496-2997 or sudiesartor@yahoo.com
or Bob and Barb Meshanko at (830) 438-3449 or meshanko@gvtc.com

Well, Governor-appointed Chair of the Transportation Commission Ric Williamson is coming to town Sept 7-8 for the Transportation Leadership Forum, a cheerleading convention for highway interests and those who stand to profit from tolls being placed on freeways we've already paid for!

Make sure you and every neighbor, co-worker, family member, and friend attend our rally on Sept. 7 at 6 PM. Our supportive public officials will be there and most importantly, YOU will be there to express your OUTRAGE over this misuse of taxpayer money and the DOUBLE TAXATION of freeways we've already paid for! Bring signs with choice sayings like "Stop the Double Tax," "No New Toll Tax" and any other clean and creative sayings you like.

For event information contact: Sudie Sartor at (210) 496-2997 or sudiesartor@yahoo.com
or Bob and Barb Meshanko at (830) 438-3449 or meshanko@gvtc.com

UPCOMING TxDOT PUBLIC HEARINGS
Thursday, September 8, 2005 to be held in Specht Elementary, 25815 Overlook Parkway.

This one is for US 281 from Evans Road to the Bexar County Line. The open house will begin at 6:30 PM and the actual meeting will begin at 7:00 PM. As you come in, you will be asked to sign in and, at that time, you will be able to mark (on the sign-in sheet) whether you will be making an oral statement or not. Speakers will generally be called in the order that they signed in.

The PUBLIC HEARING that was scheduled for Sept. 15 is the Public Hearing for LP 1604. This meeting is now tentatively scheduled for November 2005.

 

State Rep. Leibowitz Urges MPO to Approve Independent Review!


Representative DAVID Leibowitz CALLS FOR Metropolitan Planning organization to approve an INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF the BEXAR COUNTY TOLL ROAD PLAN

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

SAN ANTONIO - State Representative David McQuade Leibowitz sent the following letter to the Transportation Policy Board of the San Antonio - Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization which will discuss today authorizing an independent review of the Bexar County toll road plan:

I am writing to express my strong support for an independent review of the Bexar County toll plan. It is the right thing to do for the taxpayers of Bexar County.

I have grave concerns about the way the state has shifted its policy for constructing new highways to only allowing the construction of toll roads. This process is turning free roads already budgeted for expansion, like Highway 281 north of Loop 1604, into toll roads. This is double-taxation and an outrage. These tolls will be infinite and never end. In other states, toll roads paid for 50 years ago are still collecting tolls as a cash cow for government.

To make matters worse, local officials are largely shut out of the process and are having local decisions made by bureaucrats and state leaders in Austin. In June, the Texas Transportation Commission decided to pursue a private bid to build and operate toll roads in Bexar County. San Antonio and Bexar County officials were not allowed to participate or even comment on this decision. The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which is supposed to be our local toll road entity, did not even know that this decision was on the Texas Transportation Commission's agenda.

The secrecy surrounding the Bexar County plan is very disturbing. Local leaders may see the private toll road proposal by Spain-based Cintra and Zachry American Infrastructure, but are prohibited from disclosing any information about the plan to the public. It is unreasonable for the public to be expected to fund a multi-billion dollar toll road system in Bexar County without knowing what they are going to be paying for.

It is time to apply the brakes on this train and allow a little sunshine into this process. That is why I strongly support an independent review of the planned Bexar County toll road system. The City of Austin approved an independent review earlier this year after their toll road authority revealed that the cost per mile for tolls would probably be 44 cents to 64 cents per mile instead of the 12 cents to 15 cents per mile that was initially disclosed to the public. Interestingly enough, Bexar County residents are being told that their toll roads will "only" cost 15 cents per mile to use. It has also come out in Austin that some roads are having their construction delayed because they are waiting to build them as toll roads instead of using existing, available funding to build or expand already planned free highways. Bexar County residents deserve an independent, outside look at what to this date has been a secretive, Austin-driven plan.

I hope the board approves this independent review of the proposed toll road system. Bexar County taxpayers deserve nothing less.

Rob Borja
Chief of Staff
Rep. David Leibowitz
District 117
(p) 512/463-0269
(f) 512/320-0555

Monday, August 22, 2005

 

MPO Stonewalling: All Paths Lead to Councilman Richard Perez

We knew we were in for a bumpy ride when we discovered at the 11th hour last Thursday that a vote on an independent review wasn't on the posted agenda. The MPO is subject to open meetings requirements and must have their agenda posted 72 hours before the meetings; they cannot vote on unlisted items. Commissioner Tommy Adkisson tried to single-handedly take on TxDOT and highway interest money that flows all around the courthouse and city hall by simply asking to have the item on the agenda. Adkisson can't remember a time when a Board Member's request for an agenda item was EVER turned down, much less one this crucial after loads of calls and emails asking him to include it. Wow, losing our one BIG ally as the Chair of the MPO is already proving devastating to our cause. We miss you as Chair Lyle!

It's clear someone is wining and dining Richard Perez! One guess as to who? Our friendly neighborhood highway interests in town, perhaps, Zachry? Word on the street is that he has higher aspirations and is eyeing a State Rep job, instead of serving his current district 4 in San Antonio! Perez was the ONLY vote with TxDOT on the MPO Board today against having a meeting to discuss an independent review. He essentially wouldn't even vote for a discussion of it when we have a boatload of evidence that TxDOT has disappearing cash for funded highway improvements on 281, constantly shifting cost estimates, they're violating the existing highway conversion statute and that's just for starters! That's more than enough fodder for an independent review. Plus, it's the only way to get a true comparison of the costs for our highway improvements in a side by side toll vs. no toll format.

Commissioner Adkisson was at least able to get a special meeting scheduled to discuss the parameters of the review and to rescind a key item from last month's agenda. The special meeting where they WILL FINALLY VOTE for an INDEPENDENT REVIEW is set for Wed., Aug 31 at 3 PM at the Via Metro Center at 1021 San Pedro. Councilmembers Chip Haass whose district is going to be tolled, didn't even SHOW UP at today's MPO meeting and Senator Leticia Van De Putte conveniently left before a vote took place. Art Hall wasn't present because his wife was delivering their new baby girl!

Here's how the vote for a special meeting to discuss a review came down:

Yeas -
Adkisson
Larson
Rodriguez
Notzon
Locke
Moncivias
Wendorf
Madison

Nays -
Casteel - TxDOT
Smith - TxDOT
PEREZ

Amy Madison thinks TxDOT's fast track plan was "already" reviewed sufficiently when they considered the issue in July 2004 (Was that before or after TxDOT "misplaced" $48 million, Amy? Also over half the board members from July '04 aren't even on the board today), Perez claims he can't "understand" what we're reviewing (even though we made the parameters clear), Rodriguez said he wasn't inclined to vote for a review though he voted for the meeting. The other appointees came through so now you know who needs some "encouragement" to vote for an independent review. See above for reasons it's justified and important to do one before opening the floodgates to tolls forever!

We need a full court press in preparation for the Aug. 31 meeting, with constituents in elected MPO Board members districts rallying votes for an independent review as well as emails or calls to appointees. Be sure to profusely thank Commissioners Tommy Adkisson and Lyle Larson for sticking their necks out there FOR the people!

Voting Members
Chairman Richard Perez - Councilman-District 4 City of San Antonio 210-207-7281 or district4@sanantonio.gov
Vice Chair Amy Madison - Director of Community Development Randolph Region 210-658-7477 or amadison@ci.schertz.tx.us
Hon. Leticia Van de Putte - State Senator District 26 210-733-6604 or dist26 Mail Form
Al Notzon - Executive Director AACOG 210-362-5281 or anotzon@aacog.com
Tommy Adkisson - Commissioner Bexar County 210-335-2614 or tadkisson@bexar.org
Lyle Larson - Commissioner Bexar County 210-335-2613 or lylelarson@bexar.org
Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez - Commissioner Bexar County 210-335-2611 or chico@bexar.org
Les Locke, P.E. - Bexar County 210-335-6700 or try leslocke@bexar.org
Christopher “Chip” Haass - Councilman-District 10 City of San Antonio 210-207-7276 or district10@sanantonio.gov
Art Hall - Councilman District 8 City of San Antonio 210-207-7086 or district8@sanantonio.gov
Emil R. Moncivais, AICP - Director of Planning City of San Antonio 210-207-7952 or emoncivais@sanantonio.gov
Thomas G. Wendorf, P.E. - Director of Public Works City of San Antonio 210-207-8022 or try twendorf@sanantonio.gov
Jack Leonhardt - Mayor GBCCC 210-655-0022 or mayor@ci.windcrest.tx.us
David Casteel, P.E. - District Engineer TxDOT 210-615-5801
Clay R. Smith, P.E. - Planning Engineer TxDOT 210-615-5920
Oliver Hill - VIA Board Member VIA 210-648-3398
Hank Brummett - VIA Board Member VIA 210-648-3398

"Hit the Toll Road, Perry" Rally
Wed., Sept 7 @ 5 PM


This event is scheduled on the first day of the annual Transportation Leadership Forum sponsored by the San Antonio Mobility Coalition where all of the highway interests who stand to profit off of the freeways we've already paid for will be under one roof in downtown San Antonio at the Henry B Gonzales Convention Center. Gov. Perry WAS the key note speaker on Wednesday evening, but he caught wind of our rally and apparently has ducked out. He's really the master behind the tolling of Texans, but he'll be sending his buddy, Transportation Commission Chair Ric Williamson and his Transportation Policy guy Kris Heckman.

Save the date and please contact our event planners to RSVP and see how you can help at: meshanko@gvtc.com

 

Who's gonna own our roads?

If the conversion of existing roads into tollways and the unbridled toll tax on highways we've already paid for doesn't get your goat, how 'bout the international takeover of our public roadways? Sounds too outlandish to be true, but it's happening right here in San Antonio and around Texas. Maybe you've heard about the Trans Texas Corridor (http://www.corridorwatch.org), a 4,000 mile toll road from the Mexico to Oklahoma borders. Well, the contract to build the first leg of that behemoth (which parallels I-35) that will take 580,000 acres of the richest privately-owned farmland in Texas, was granted to a Spanish company (also being called a foreign consortium) named Cintra. They've teamed-up with locally owned Zachry American Infrastructure to submit a bid to takeover our toll starter system.

Just a cursory read of the articles in the Express-News (Some on council wary about toll road secrecy, S.A. left out of toll road decision) in the past few months will tell you, Cintra will actually OWN our public highways for up to 50 years. That agreement would outlive most of us! Even worse, the Texas Transportation Commission mandated our local tolling authority build the toll starter system using one of these public-private partnerships (CDA agreements).

Our local leaders were promised local control if they opened an RMA, and it's clear that was an empty promise. So not only would this toll plan fail to give us local control, it gives ownership and control of our roadways to a FOREIGN company to ration and profit from. Through the non-compete agreements these guys are negotiating, they'll likely get control of the frontage roads and streets neighboring toll roads to ensure enough people pay the toll (Local panel works to redefine toll role). But we don't know for sure since TxDOT is using our tax money to sue US (our own Attorney General) to keep these documents sealed from the public.

See for yourself in this article by Phyllis Spivey who notes the trend to internationalize our roads using the Trans Texas Corridor as her example:
Phyllis Spivey - INTERNATIONALIZING U.S. ROADS

Monday, August 15, 2005

 

logo


Saturday, August 13, 2005

 

Welcome!

Welcome fellow San Antonians! No doubt you're searching for more information on the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) toll plans for San Antonio (SA). You've come to the right place and I'm glad you're here. I'm a concerned citizen just like you who found out that TxDOT was planning to convert US 281, our main artery into SA, into an ALL tollway without so much as a vote from the people! The more I investigated TxDOT's toll plans, the more disturbed I became. Here are TxDOT's plans unhinged...



This slide from the Alamo RMA's web site (SA's tolling authority) only shows 50 miles, but more than 60 miles have already been identified by TxDOT to be tolled. Rest assured, tolls are coming to a freeway near you if we don't STOP this! Most of the hub-bub has been centered around the 22 mile toll starter system involving US 281 (from Loop 1604 north to the Bexar County line) and Loop 1604 (between I-10 and I-35), but as you can see, that's just the beginning! More truth about tolls...


Click for larger view.

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