Monday, November 15, 2004

Rep. Keel: "Lawmakers who voted for House Bill HB 3588 were given a misleading summary ."

Talkin' about anti-toll road revolution


Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2004

No one would confuse the Clarion Inn & Suites on South Interstate 35 with Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

But someday, if the scattered anti-tollway skirmishes grow into a full-fledged toll revolution, Saturday's meeting at the Clarion ballroom may take on a July 1776 aura in the retelling.

A disparate group of tollophobes, most of them everyday wage-earners transformed into activists and obsessives by the state's move toward toll roads, was called together by a Fayette County couple to learn from one another's experiences and plot future moves.

Just a partial list of the founding fathers and mothers gathered at the Clarion for what organizers David and Linda Stall called the Toll & Corridor Summit:

* The Stalls, a former Columbia city manager and a legal secretary who months ago formed CorridorWatch .Org to take down Gov. Rick Perry's 4,000-mile dream of toll roads, railroads and utility lines called the Trans -Texas Corridor .

* Mark Quackenbush, a geophysical engineer from Houston, who formed Citizens Against State Highway to Toll Road Abuse and Proliferation (CASHTRAP) in reaction to the state's proposal to convert Texas 249 to Tomball into a toll road without making improvements.

* Randy Jennings, a software engineer from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, who created to stop a toll conversion on Texas 121 near Grapevine.

* Sal Costello, a Circle C Ranch marketing consultant who has waged an abrasive but seemingly effective campaign against the toll road expansion plan in Austin. Costello has a Web site with the appropriately colonial name of AustinToll

In all, about 45 people passed up the Texas -Kansas football game to watch PowerPoint presentations and hear talks on toll roads, including one from state Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin. The former sheriff was among seven members of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board who voted on the losing side in July when that board approved the Austin plan.

Aside from knocking down or curbing specific toll road plans -- the conversion of Texas 121 and Texas 249 have been shelved, at least for now, and one road probably will be taken out of the Austin plan -- Stall and the others who met Saturday want to overturn or significantly defang House Bill 3588.

Keel, along with the overwhelming majority of both houses in the 2003 Texas Legislature, voted for that huge bill, which made the turn to tolls possible. He had advice for the crowd of mostly amateur lobbyists Saturday.

Don't condemn lawmakers who voted for HB 3588, Keel said, because most were given what he said was a misleading summary of the bill. Make constituents, not folks from another district, call their legislators. And convince their contributors -- folks who Keel said can reach lawmakers where it matters -- that tolls are a bad idea. Votes, in this case, he said, will follow the money.

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