"If this huge thing goes through, no eminent domain project will be off limits. It will be a big green light."
August 11, 2006
YORKTOWN - You would be hard pressed to find anyone who attended Thursday's public hearing in Yorktown in favor of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor 35.
The hearing was the final one of 54 held across the state during the last month.
Jack Heiss of the Texas Department of Transportation said that as of Tuesday night, about 12,500 Texas citizens had attended the meetings. About 80 showed up in Yorktown, including Carole Keeton Strayhorn, state comptroller and independent candidate for governor, and David Van Os, Democratic candidate for attorney general.
After introductory background on the project was presented by TxDOT personnel, several of those opposed to the Oklahoma to Mexico transportation network spoke their mind during the public comments portion of the hearing.
Yorktown Mayor Patricia Nelson was the first to speak. She first thanked the TxDOT for making Yorktown one of its stops for its "little dog and pony show."
"I am not sure this is the best thing for Texas to do," said Nelson. "It's something that should have died a long time ago. It's a bad idea that has gotten nothing but worse."
Nelson also expressed concern about the land and the animals that will be affected.
"We're looking at taking land that has been in families for generations and generations and generations. We're cutting a swath through the middle of the state that contains some endangered species of animals, like the golden cheeked warbler and the horned toad."
Strayhorn, who said she has attended 13 of the public hearings, also expressed her displeasure with the plan.
"I am proud to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Texans who are saying no to the largest land grab in Texas history, no to destroying crop land and necessary farm and food production, no to double taxation, no to replacing freeways with tollways and no to a secret foreign contract, and no to taking land that has been in family for generations," began Strayhorn.
"We once had a freeway system that was the envy of the nation, and we can do that again. I salute the good folks of DeWitt County and all the surrounding counties who are speaking up and speaking out. I am adamantly opposed to this massive toll plan. Rick Perry calls it Trans-Texas Corridor, I call it Trans-Texas catastrophe, and as governor I am going to blast it off the bureaucratic books," said Strayhorn.
"Texas property belongs to Texans. Texas freeways belong to Texans, not foreign companies," Strayhorn added. "The attorney general said more than a year ago that the contract for this project should be made public. Release that contract. Make it public tonight. Texans have a right to know. Texans want the Texas Department of Transportation, not the European department of transportation."
The comptroller said that Texas voters should have the right to decide the fate of the corridor by voting on a referendum.
Local resident Rhonda Kutschur also spoke during the hearing.
"I am one of those Texans that lives on property that has been in the family for five generations. Our great-great grandfather is buried there. His log cabin is there. And you want to come right through the middle of it," said Kutschur. "I do not have a problem with progress, and I do not have a problem with spending my tax dollars as long as I know what it's being spent on. TxDOT works for me, so why don't you tell me what you're spending my money on. I want to know. If I had the power to, I'd fire every one of you. I don't want to spend my tax dollars to build something, have someone else run it and reap all the benefits. I am an American Indian. You stole from me once. Please don't steal from me again."
Van Os then took his turn.
The candidate for attorney general commended the TxDOT staff for the professional and courteous way they handled their responsibilities during the meeting knowing they are dealing with something very unpopular with the public.
Then he blasted the project itself.
"This project, if followed through and completed as planned, will be one of the biggest single exercises of forcible eminent domain in the history of the entire United States," said Van Os. "We are talking about 1/2 million acres of private property, mostly good farm and ranch land. If this huge thing goes through, no eminent domain project will be off limits. It will be a big green light. Private property will lose its sovereignty. This forcible eminent domain will destroy the proper balance between the individual and government with respect to the individual's ability to control his or her own property." Van Os urged those in attendance to fight against the proposal, which he called the "first leg of a NAFTA highway."
"There is no legislation that can't be repealed, and no politician that can't be fired at election time," said Van Os. "This thing has got to be stopped. It will destroy many things that are precious to us. We're going to stop this. I know we're going to stop it. I urge you my fellow citizens to fight this dad gum thing till hell freezes over if you have to. Fight it and beat it."
Van Os' wife, Rachel, gave perhaps the most dramatic display of the possible affect of the proposed corridor as she ripped a Texas map along the proposed route.
"I urge y'all to stand and fight for your rights and save beautiful Texas," she said.
Additional speakers took to the microphone expressing concerns for everything from water availability to a possible "American Union" of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, based on the European Union model.
Sonny Long is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-275-6319 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this story at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.
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