Saturday, January 14, 2006

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."

We'll never know if Perry did indeed give toll foes 'the finger'


Jaime Castillo | Politics
San Antonio Express-News
Copright 2006

Unless you're a talk-radio or political-blog junkie, you might not have heard the latest controversy about Gov. Rick Perry's recent visit to San Antonio.

And I use the word "controversy" loosely because this he-said, she-said tale is destined to be an unsolved political dust-up.

Two members of an anti-toll-road group that has been highly critical of the governor claimed that Perry gave them the middle-finger salute on his way into a campaign appearance at Reyes Industries on Wednesday.

"As he pulled up, he just told me that I was No. 1 with his middle finger," Byron Juen told listeners on Christian conservative talk-radio station KSLR-AM within hours after the rally.

The declaration drew gasps from Adam McManus, host of the afternoon "Take a Stand" show, who said Perry "should apologize and he should repent," if the allegations prove true.

That's the tricky part — proving it.

Asked about the allegations later that day, Perry discounted the story, saying the group of about a dozen protesters from San Antonio Toll Party couldn't have seen inside his vehicle because the windows are tinted and they were closed.

"Let me see the picture," he said.

But the next day, as more questions were being asked about the alleged incident, Perry and his camp were more pointed.

"It's not even worth responding to, other than to say that if that's the type of rhetoric that we can expect out of the toll people, they're pretty hard up. That's nonsense," Perry said.

His campaign explained that Perry and his wife, Anita, were riding in the back of a black Crown Victoria with two members of the security detail sitting in front.

"Not only did he not do that, he didn't even look at the protesters," Anita Perry said.

Robert Black, Perry's spokesman, went to the trouble of explaining that the cars in the governor's protective detail have an exemption from state law allowing for the use of darker than normal window tinting. And there is an "eyebrow" of tint across the front windshield, making it difficult to see inside the vehicle from just about any angle.

"You know what? It didn't happen," Perry told reporters, including the Express-News' Austin Bureau Chief Peggy Fikac. "It didn't happen, period, and as I told you, tell them to come up with some proof other than dreamin' up stuff."

Dave Ramos, the other San Antonio Toll Party member who said he witnessed the incident, was resolute about what he saw during a phone interview a day after his appearance on the radio show.

"Since it was a sunny day, tinted windows aren't as dark if you're at the right angle," Ramos said. "I was there. I was 10 feet way. I know what I saw."

Ramos, who said he would prefer the focus center on how Perry has "ignored his constituents" on the toll road issue, noted Perry is the one with a history of impolitic moments.

Last year, Perry was picked up by a live microphone saying, "Adios mofo," following a television interview. He later apologized.

"He and his campaign have set a precedent," Ramos said. "I have no doubt about what I saw."

Political Editor Jaime Castillo's column appears on Saturdays. E-mail him at

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


TxDOT looks at tolling Interstate 10

Toll plans still on roadmap


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

Just as state transportation officials were handed a setback this week over plans to build toll lanes along U.S. 281, the federal government forked over money to explore the possibility of tolling Texas interstates.

The Federal Highway Administration — the same agency that pulled environmental clearances on U.S. 281 toll plans Wednesday — gave Texas $570,000 to study whether to put toll booths on new lanes on Interstate 10 from San Antonio to Boerne and Seguin and on Interstate 35 from Georgetown to Hillsboro.

An additional $480,000 was awarded to consider toll-carpool lanes on Loop 1 in Austin and to look at ways to encourage truckers to use the Texas 130 bypass that's under construction.

Though federal law allows existing interstate lanes to be tolled in a limited pilot project, that's not the aim in Texas, said Gabriela Garcia, spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Transportation.

"It's for added lanes and not existing lanes," she said.

But there are skeptics.

"Show me," said Alan Patty, who's clocked 90,000 miles in his Suburban over the three years he's lived in Boerne, much of it driving on I-10 to San Antonio.

"It's that simple," he said. "Show me the plan."

The plan right now is to add almost five miles of two non-tolled lanes on I-10, from North Loop 1604 to FM 3351. But the needed $46 million isn't there yet, and construction is more than 10 years away.

Long before any concrete is poured for the I-10 lanes, TxDOT officials could decide to toll them. A 2-year-old state policy calls for tolling any new highway lanes when feasible.

"Nothing's been decided," said Clay Smith, a TxDOT engineer in San Antonio. "Nothing's locked in stone."

Using $130,000 of the federal money and $32,000 in state funds, TxDOT will look at the potential of tolling new lanes, including gauging driver attitudes, on 49 miles of I-10 from North Loop 1604 to Texas 46 and from East Loop 1604 to Seguin.

TxDOT already is planning a 47-mile network of toll roads on Loop 1604 across the North Side and on U.S. 281 from the loop to Comal County. Two private consortiums are competing to build and operate that system.

State officials were set to start construction Monday on a three-mile segment of U.S. 281 that would anchor the toll network. But the federal highway administration pulled the plug, saying environmental assessments need to be redone.

A lawsuit filed in federal court last month by environmental activists and toll-road critics demanded a thorough impact study. A chief concern is that the roadway sits on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Meanwhile, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority will soon study proposed toll projects on Interstate 35 from downtown to Schertz, on Bandera Road between loops 410 and 1604, and at the junction of Wurzbach Parkway and U.S. 281.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


"I am concerned that the public doesn't understand it."

Regional toll road authority on hold

January 14, 2006

David Crowder
El Paso Times
Copyright 2006

After hearing comments Friday in favor of and opposed to the establishment of a regional mobility authority, a City Council committee decided that it wanted at least two public hearings on the issue before making a recommendation to the full council.

"I am concerned that the public doesn't understand it," said Northeast city Rep. Melina Castro, chairwoman of the council's Transportation Legislative Review Committee. "We'll try to set up a hearing in the next two weeks."

Castro also asked Veronica Callaghan, chairwoman of the mayor's Transportation Cabinet, to try arranging the second public hearing on the creation of an authority, which would have the power to initiate major transportation projects that would be partly paid for by road tolls. No schedule was set for those meetings.

Texas Department of Transportation representative Eduardo Caldo said El Paso has a list of expensive transportation projects that the state will not get to for years without local tolls.

He offered assurances that if the city creates a mobility authority that decides to raise money for projects through road tolls, then tollbooths would go up only on newly built roads or new lanes.

"Nobody is forced to use these lanes," he said. "You will always have a non-tolled option."

For example, one proposal calls for adding two toll lanes to the Border Highway in what is now the median. The new lanes would allow people in a hurry to use a toll lane, which would reduce traffic in the free lanes.

Overall, he said, El Paso has about $426 million worth of big projects in the planning stages that could be hurried up if additional money were available.

But more than once, Castro questioned whether the tolls collected would raise enough money to pay the required portion of a big project's cost.

William Hart, a former New Yorker who periodically lectures the City Council on the evils of toll roads, urged the committee not to open the door to toll roads.

"It's a bad idea," Hart said, referring to toll road advocates as "colossal liars."

Speaking for the Transportation Cabinet and the Paso del Norte Group, Gilberto Moreno said El Paso is the last major metropolitan area in Texas that has yet to establish an authority and will risk the lose of millions of dollars in state money if it fails to do so.

David Crowder may be reached at; 546-6194.

© 2006 El Paso Times


Friday, January 13, 2006

"It's not just about stopping roads, it's about demanding that good planning be done."

281 toll road hits snag


Patrick Driscoll
Sanb Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

A band of environmental advocates and toll road critics, armed with a lawsuit, has stopped the Texas Department of Transportation from building toll lanes along U.S. 281 — for now.

Federal Highway Administration officials pulled their previous environmental clearances on U.S. 281 toll road projects that stretch from Loop 1604 to Comal County, freezing construction until another assessment can be done.

The new environmental assessment could take a year or more. Then federal officials will decide whether there are no significant impacts or if a more thorough impact study should follow as called for in the lawsuit filed Dec. 2 in federal court.

Opponents celebrated Thursday, some popping a bottle of bubbly, but remained cautious.

"We continue to believe that a full environmental impact statement is required," said Annalisa Peace of Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, which joined People for Efficient Transportation Inc. in the suit.

TxDOT officials, who for two years have said they'll build toll roads in San Antonio whether local leaders want them or not, confirmed Thursday that work has stopped on $104 million worth of U.S. 281 projects, including three miles of toll lanes just north of Loop 1604 and an underpass at Borgfeld Road.

"We regret any inconvenience to U.S. 281 travelers," TxDOT engineer Frank Holzmannan said in a statement, which noted that traffic north of Loop 1604 has grown from 8,600 vehicles a day in 1980 to more than 91,000 in recent years.

In late November, crews began clearing trees and putting up silt fences along U.S. 281 to prepare for construction of an $83 million segment of frontage roads and toll lanes — 16 lanes at the widest points — over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Construction was supposed to start Monday but didn't.

The lawsuit says TxDOT should have done a better job evaluating effects on the aquifer, wildlife, air pollution, businesses, motorists who will pay tolls or fight increased traffic congestion, and residents facing unhealthy noise levels.

"Essentially, TxDOT got a ticket for bad planning," said local transportation consultant Bill Barker, who's helping with the suit. "It's not just about stopping roads, it's about demanding that good planning be done."

TxDOT should have offered alternatives other than building a toll road or doing nothing, Barker said. For example, by dropping the toll idea, they could drop the frontage roads, which otherwise are needed under state law to ensure the same number of nontolled lanes as there are today.

The Highway Administration sent a letter dated Jan. 11 to TxDOT Director Michael Behrens that says new environmental evaluations need to be done for the three-mile segment of U.S. 281 plus nine more miles.

Nothing was wrong with the two previous assessments, said the letter, signed by Texas Division Assistant Administrator Achille Alonzi. However, it acknowledges, "We can see that a portion of the public may not agree with our decision."

The letter indicates TxDOT agreed to redo the assessments. But now just one will be done for the whole 12-mile stretch of U.S. 281.

Thursday, lawyers on both sides haggled over details of a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It could be filed today.

"We're in basic agreement," said Bill Bunch of the Save Our Springs Alliance, who's handling the suit for plaintiffs. "It's just not signed yet."

Meanwhile, planning continues for other toll roads in San Antonio.

TxDOT officials say suspension of work on U.S. 281 shouldn't stall efforts to evaluate proposals from private companies to build and operate toll lanes on more than 40 miles of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604.

And Wednesday, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority agreed to spend $6.5 million to study proposed toll projects on Interstate 35 from downtown to Schertz, on Bandera Road between loops 410 and 1604, and at the junction of Wurzbach Parkway and U.S. 281.

But one board member warned that trying to get by with less-intensive environmental assessments rather than full impact studies would duck the issues and invite criticism.

"We need to do an environmental impact statement," said Bob Thompson, a lawyer who teaches environmental law at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

"It'll be very therapeutic," he promised.

ARMA Chairman Bill Thornton later said laws should be followed and drinking water protected, but traffic congestion also must be addressed.

"Whatever's required is what will be done," he said. "But at the same time we need to consider that congestion out there is bad and it's worsening on a daily basis."

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


"TxDOT is saying, 'We're going to cut your funds if you don't create a regional mobility authority.' "

Council committee studies toll road plan

Friday, January 13, 2006

David Crowder
El Paso Times
Copyright 2006

A City Council committee today will consider a recommendation to establish a road-tolling regional mobility authority in El Paso.

Some say an authority is the city's only hope of getting big transportation projects done, but others call it a new way to shift taxes from the state to local communities.

At a 9 a.m. meeting today in City Council chambers on City Hall's second floor, the council's Transportation Legislative Review Committee will hear and possibly act on the recommendation from the mayor's Transportation Cabinet to initiate the establishment of the authority.

"We're saying it's time for community to take control of its destiny and be able to accelerate projects that have been needed for years," said Veronica Callaghan, chairwoman of the mayor's Transportation Cabinet. "By having the city form a regional mobility authority, it then has ability to go get financing from bond market, to construct and to operate and maintain projects it chooses to build."

Callaghan is a member of the Paso del Norte Group, a private business organization working on a Downtown development plan, that has recommended establishing an authority.

But state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, said financing various big-ticket transportation projects with new road tolls would be as regressive as raising sales taxes to pay for state services.

Once a strong ally of the the Texas Department of Transportation, Pickett now contends that the department is walking away from its responsibility to build and maintain new roads in highways.

"TxDOT is saying it's no roads or toll roads. That's their mantra," he said. "And they're saying, 'We're going to cut your funds if you don't create a regional mobility authority.' "

The City Council's Transportation Legislative Review Committee is led by Northeast city Rep. Melina Castro and includes West Side city Rep. Ann Lilly, South-West city Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Eastridge/Mid-Valley city Rep. Steve Ortega.

David Crowder may be reached at; 546-6194

For more information online, go to:

© 2006 El Paso Times


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Texas Eminent Domain Bill: "Passing incomplete legislation removes the pressure of an issue and stymies a reform."

Political class gathers for 2006 policy debate


by James A. Bernsen, William Lutz and Christine DeLoma

Volume 10, Issue 20
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2006

Legislators, staff, and the lobby got a scattershot picture of the legislative landscape going into the new year this week at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual legislative orientation.

The conservative confab has become the must-attend event for the Texas wonk class, with roundtable discussions of the biggest issues facing the Legislature.

The large attendance highlights the growing influence of conservative, free-market proponents in the Texas political process. In the past, a lobby raised on the milk of Democratic one-party rule might have tried to ignore such an occasion, but after four years of Republican control of the Legislature, and with no Democratic revival in sight, the conservative revolution is a reality the lobby has come to accept.

Nonetheless, the intractability of school finance has transformed the state’s part-time legislature into a de facto permanent one. Although this was supposed to be a session-free year, the Supreme Court ensured that elected officials would have to come back to push the ball over the line, rather than punt to next year.

Speaker Tom Craddick told the gathering that the coming session would provide a historic chance to fix school finance.

“I do think that you and I have a chance as a legislature - a chance that I’ve never seen in my legislative career - and that’s to fix the system,” he said. “It’s not just to dump more money into it, but actually fix the system.”

School finance and tax issues are discussed in a separate article in this week’s LSR.

Health care

The growth in spending in state-run health care programs threatens to overtake education as the largest expense in the budget. Rep. Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown) hosted a panel to debate health care reform and policy.

Gattis said one of the cost drivers has been the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP, as it’s called, “has become not merely for the needy, but for everyone,” he said.

Panel members discussed several reforms, including electronic prescriptions. As Jim Frogue with the Center for Health Transformation put it, evacuees from Hurricane Katrina could go to a Jiffy Lube in Houston and download their car’s oil change history, but their medical records, which only exist in hard copies, were probably lost forever in the flood waters.

Gattis, on the other hand, noted a recent case in which a man was hospitalized after a pharmacist had misread a prescription. The emergency room and other costs, he said, were totally avoidable.

One of the leaders in reform of Medicaid is the State of Florida, which requested and received a waiver to get out from under several federal mandates so as to innovate. Alan Lavine of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, said Texas could follow that state’s example.

“Now that we’ve done that, I think any proposal that comes behind ours will have a better chance,” he said. The key, he added, was having a governor who was personally engaged on the issue, as Florida Governor Jeb Bush was.

In another health care forum, Rep. Dianne White Delisi (R-Temple), the chair of the House Public Health Committee, said that one of the problems making health care costs so intractable is the legislature’s scattershot approach to the issue.

“We tend to legislate body part by body part, disease by disease, subgroup by subgroup. A patchwork quilt that in my opinion, doesn’t cover the bed,” she said.

The single biggest problem facing the state, she said, is the aging of our society, which she compared to a Tsunami about to hit the health care system.

“We can see this wave of baby boomers moving inexorably toward us,” she told the attendees. “This baby boomer has 78 million members.”

With a forecast that the number of senior citizens in America could double in the next 20 years, Delisi said getting health care costs in control now is not just good public policy, it’s an imperative.

“Literally, not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars are at stake,” Delisi said. Projecting Medicare costs of $609 billion for the U.S. in 2013, Delisi said that was “unsustainable.”

Delisi recommended several solutions:

* The promotion on all levels of government for the need to plan one’s own retirement.

* Partnerships with non-profits and faith-based groups to develop home-based care for the elderly.

* Allow Medicaid to buy long-term care insurance for enrollees.

Criminal justice

In the 1990s, Texas dramatically increased prison capacity to eliminate a space shortfall and allow for tougher mandatory sentence guidelines. That growth spurt, however, bought the state only a little time. Legislators are already facing another looming shortage of space, which by 2010 could result in a 14,000-bed shortfall.

One reason is the massive costs. A 1,000-bed minimum security prison costs $70 million, a 2,250-bed maximum security prison $250 million.

“This is one of the many reasons we need to look at alternatives to prison,” said Rep. Jerry Madden, chairman of the House Corrections Committee.

Madden and others want to look at alternatives for less violent offenders to allow the lockups to focus on the more violent ones. Key ideas in the debate are:

* Progressive sanctions, which tie probation revocation to the severity and frequency of violations, rather than to technical violations such as missing meetings.

* Drug courts. Dallas County has taken the lead on these specialized courts and has seen significant results. By getting minor drug offenders in court quickly and addressing their problem with specialized probation, the courts are designed to keep those offenders from learning to be better criminals through the prison system. Dallas Dist. Judge John Creuzot said the court has reduced the recidivism rate by 68 percent, saving $9 in prison costs for every $1 spent on the courts.

* Evidence-based practices. Geraldine Nagee, with the Travis County Probation Department, said the state needs to explore research-based best practices to modernize the probation system.

Eminent domain

Sometimes, passing incomplete legislation removes the pressure of an issue and stymies a reform. On eminent domain, proponents of tougher laws to protect private property hope to avoid that.

During the second special session of 2005, legislators passed a measure to shore up the state’s eminent domain laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London ruling, which allowed eminent domain for certain economic development purposes.

Sen. Kyle Janek (R-Houston), sponsor of the legislation, said the urgency of the issue required a fix. Nonetheless, the issue turned out to be trickier than expected because of differing definitions of economic development. Thus the Legislature passed a statute banning such uses, but not a constitutional amendment.

Those definitions, however, are at the heart of an issue confronting the City of Dallas. Larry Casto, the city’s legislative director, said Dallas has been in an ongoing fight with some foreign owners of a downtown high-rise. The abandoned building, which is full of asbestos, has been appraised at anywhere from zero to $3 million. The city offered to purchase it for the higher value, but the owners demanded $9 million. Casto said that the Kelo decision actually did very little to change existing Texas law, but the fix to Kelo could end up hampering the city’s efforts at downtown redevelopment. Nonetheless, Scott Bullock with the Institute of Justice, which argued for the homeowner targeted in the Kelo case, said the new Texas law was a big step in the right direction.

The future of Telecom

Issues dealt with at the conference include:

* Universal Service Fund. Co-author of SB 5, the Telecommunications Reform bill, Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) predicted that the Legislature would take a look at the Universal Service Fund (USF), which was established to ensure affordable phone service for all areas. Local phone companies receive millions in subsidies from USF to service low-income and rural areas. Consumers pay for the subsidy on their phone bills.

With the arrival of technological advancements capable of bringing affordable voice service to the masses, King questioned the need for USF in its current state. Currently, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reviewing USF. Chairman Paul Hudson said the PUC will present the results of their findings to the Legislature in 2007.

* Video services market. According to Hudson, 16 state franchises for video service have been issued by the PUC or are pending with the commission. State franchise holders are now offering video service to 109 communities.

* Phone deregulation. Additional areas of the state are on schedule to be deregulated. Currently, 70 percent of the state is deregulated.


Toll roads have few friends in the legislature, but few alternatives have been proposed. The lack of funds for highway projects, noted Texas Department of Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson, is largely a factor of diversions from Fund 6, the transportation fund.

Those diversions, he said, are partly a result of a philosophy of centralized decisionmaking and a process-oriented approach to finance instead of a results-oriented approach. That, he said, is the legacy of the Democratic control of the legislature. TxDOT, he said, was looking instead for market-based solutions. Toll roads, he said, are one option, and lacking any additional revenue, a necessary component of any future road plan.

© 2005 The Lone Star Report:


FHA orders TxDOT to halt 281 Toll Road construction

Toll Road Construction Halted


Jim Forsyth
San Antonio, Texas

The Federal Highway Administration today agreed with state transportation officials and ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to immediately stop work on construction of new toll lanes of US HIghway 281 outside 1604, in a major victory for toll road opponents, 1200 WOAI news has learned.

TxDOT had requested federal intervention in the face of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups seeking a permanent halt to the construction.

A letter from assistant FHA Administrator Achille Alonzi to TxDOT Executive Director Michael Behrens says 'our prior environmental clearances on the two US 281 projects are hereby withdrawn in recognition of the issues raised by the public,' most significantly, whether the construction projects violate federal and state environmental laws.

Alonzi said a 'full Environmental Impact Statement' may be required, a process that could delay the toll road plan by several years. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration will require a less involved Environmental Assessment and then will determine how to proceeed. Alonzi said previous approval was granted based on the fact that the new toll lanes will follow an existing highway, and will not cut across undeveloped land.

The Texas Toll Party and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, an anti toll and an environmental group, filed suit late last month demanding a full Environmental Impact Statement by completed.

"A project of this scale, in an extremely vulnerable water supply area and with major ramifications for transportation, public safety, and development, demands the most thorough analysis of all costs, benefits, and consideration of alternatives that better serve the public, said attorney Bill Bunch, who filed the lawsuit.

TxDOT had begun early brush clearing and grading work for the new lanes of 281 and immediately ran into trouble, breaking into a sewage line and spilling raw sewage over the entire area.

Bill Barker, a transportation consultant associated with the Texas Toll Party, applauded today's decision.

'We need road improvements, but there is a difference between just building roads and really solving transportation problems," he said. "With a fresh start on the planning of this corridor, I am optimistic that a long term solution will emerge."

Today's ruling affects only the construction plans on Highway 281. The San Antonio Regional Mobility Authority has envisioned a wide ranging program of toll road construction, including new lanes of Loop 1604, Bandera Road, and Interstate 35. But the 281 project, the so called 'starter system,' was the centerpiece of the RMA's construction plans.

© 2006 Clear Channel Communications


Bottled water anyone?

Sewer leak over aquifer

01/12/2006 12:00

Amy Dorsett, Staff Writer
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Bureaucratic bungling let raw sewage intermittently seep into Edwards Aquifer recharge zone land for almost a month, environmental activists said Wednesday.

The leak finally was treated Tuesday.

But what hasn't been determined is how reports of a problem as far back as Dec. 14 weren't addressed until this week.

The mishap apparently was caused by contract workers for the Texas Department of Transportation clearing brush to make way for a toll road on U.S. 281 just north of Evans Road.

One of the workers, from the Zachry Construction Corp., reported to San Antonio Water System that a water main was believed to have been hit.

However, SAWS determined that area on the far North Side has water service from the Bexar Metropolitan Water District, and apparently assumed that agency was dealing with the issue.

After getting no response, a Zachry worker again called SAWS to report the problem Jan. 6, and asked a SAWS employee to go to the site for an inspection.

By the time a SAWS worker arrived at the site, construction workers had left for the day and the water agency employee checked out where he thought the problem was and found nothing, SAWS spokeswoman Anne Hayden said.

Finally on Tuesday, TxDOT representatives asked someone from SAWS to meet them at the site. When they discovered raw sewage, they treated the area with a type of chlorine-based disinfectant in an effort to treat the spill.

SAWS is responsible for sewage even where BexarMet handles water mains.

"It's pretty creepy," said Annalisa Peace, vice president for Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas. "I think SAWS is really negligent. It is absolutely disgusting."

While Hayden admitted the problem took a long time to correct, she noted SAWS workers worked to remedy the situation as soon as they discovered it.

She said the ground was saturated with sewage, but because the problem had existed for so long, she couldn't guess how much of the effluent had flowed through the pipe since Dec. 14.

"I can't even estimate it," she said.

Robert Potts, general manager for the Edwards Aquifer Authority, said his agency also learned of the issue this week.

"It's enough of a concern that we're going to be checking some wells to see if we can detect the effects from the sewage," he said. "It's not the type of thing we'd like to have happen over the recharge zone, and it needs to be dealt with quickly."

Hayden said SAWS workers determined there wasn't enough sewage on top of the ground to be pumped out and instead decided chemical and water treatment was most appropriate.

She also explained that in that area of town, sewage is collected in an underground wet well. When it reaches a certain level, it pumps waste into a forced sewer main.

While the problem came from a 6-inch pipe, it was two 2-inch valves on the pipe that were sheared off by the Zachry crew — not the pipe itself.

"It doesn't flow continuously," she said. "It would only be obvious when it was flowing."

Crews began clearing trees and putting up fences to catch silt in late November to prepare for construction of three miles of frontage roads and toll lanes — 16 lanes at the widest points — on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone just north of Loop 1604.

Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas and People for Efficient Transportation Inc. sued Dec. 2 in federal court to demand that a thorough impact study be done. A hearing on the group's request for an injunction is set for Jan. 27.

TxDOT officials said they're sending an environmental specialist to the area to check out the situation.

Peace said she hopes the incident will result in more education for workers in the area.

"Apparently (TxDOT) hasn't instructed contractors on how to work on this environmentally sensitive land," she said.
Staff Writer Patrick Driscoll contributed to this report.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Zachry toll road construction crew causes sewage spill over the Edwards Aquifer

Toll Road Opponents Cite Environmental Concerns


Jim Forsyth
WOAI TV San Antonio
Copyright 2006

Anti toll road activists say a sewage spill over the Edwards Aquifer apparently caused by a Zachry Corporation crew doing sitework for the new Highway 281 toll road, 1200 WOAI news reported today.

Environmental activist Annalisa Peace says the damage occurred when the crews were clearing brush in mid December, but was not officially reported until this week due to bureaucratic snags.

"It looks like the road crew that is clearing for TxDOT was responsible for shearing off the top of the sewer line," Peace told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board.

Sudie Sartor with the anti toll Texas Toll Party says the incident will give a judge the smelly evidence he needs to rule that the toll project should be halted because the builders are ignoring environmental laws.

"There are some scary things going on," she said. "We need to protect our environment. We need to protect our water source."

Environmental and anti toll groups filed suit in Federal Court last month, seeking to stop the toll road construction until a complete environmental assessment of the project is completed, a project which could take years.

Toll road supporters say tolls are the fastest and easiest way to relieve the city's growing problem of traffic congestion and make sure the users of the highways pay the costs of the new construction. There is widespread speculation among people on both sides of the issue that the Texas Department of Transportation will order a halt to the construction preparations before the case goes to trial.

"They have stopped for now," Sartor said.

The sewage spill is being cleaned up by environmental officials today.

© 2006 Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Former executive director of of Alamo RMA hired by Pape-Dawson Engineers Inc.

Pape-Dawson appoints Griebel to lead business growth in Austin

Pape-Dawson Engineers Inc. hired Tom Griebel, the former head of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, to lead the firm's business development initiatives in Austin.

Griebel will work at the Pape-Dawson Huffcut Engineers office in Austin, a company San Antonio-based Pape-Dawson formed by merging with Huffcut & Associates last February. He is the company's new vice president of corporate development.

"We expanded into Austin to better serve the projected needs for engineering services along the (Interstate 35) corridor and also provide new growth opportunities for our outstanding employees," Pape-Dawson CEO Sam Dawson says. "We are thrilled to have Tom join our team during this exciting period in our company's history, and we believe he will play a key role in our future in Austin."

Prior to working as the executive director of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority -- the organization spearheading the effort to bring toll-roads to San Antonio -- Griebel served as the executive director of the nonprofit San Antonio Mobility Coalition (SAMCo). SAMCo lobbies for increased federal, state and local funding for San Antonio's growing transportation needs.

He also has held various leadership positions within the Texas Department of Transportation.

Pape-Dawson is San Antonio's largest engineering firm ranked by the number of licensed local engineers, according to Business Journal research.

© 2006 American City Business Journals Inc.


"Employees were required to be there."

Perry's re-election tour stops in S.A.


Peggy Fikac
Chief, Austin Bureau
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

Targeted by critics over his use of a state economic development fund, Gov. Rick Perry emphasized job creation as he brought his re-election tour to the Alamo City today with a rally at a textile company.

Perry cited successful efforts to lure Toyota and the Washington Mutual expansion, telling a crowd topping 200 at Reyes Industries that they came to San Antonio "because they saw the type of leadership that would work with the state to create those jobs" and because Texas "went out and aggressively fought for those jobs we brought home to San Antonio with incentives."

"I happen to think that that's working pretty well. Somebody wants to complain about the Texas enterprise fund, I tell em you go to San Antonio and complain first," Perry said.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Republican officeholder and independent hopeful for governor, has criticized the fund as a slush fund and suggested the money could better be used elsewhere. Democratic candidate Chris Bell also has lobbed criticism at its use by Perry.

The crowd was the largest Perry has drawn on the second day of his three day tour of Texas. Two employees of the company said employees were required to be there, with one adding they took lunch early to be able to make the event. Other Perry supporters also came to the facility, which had a line of protestors outside, mostly campaigning against creating toll roads.

The tour will continue today to Corpus Christi, Brownsville and El Paso

San Antonio Express-News:


"It seems like if we're driving on the Dallas toll road it probably should go towards Dallas roads, shouldn't it?"

Dallas looks into pulling out of Tollway Authority

January 11, 2006

Dallas County has started to study what it could do to legally pull out of the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) after increasingly higher tolls to pay for new projects.

Some of the decision to look into pulling out started because of the debate whether Dallas residents should pay for Tarrant County's tolls. However, competition is another reason Dallas has started their study.

Many Dallas and Collin County drivers have said they don't like the idea of paying higher tolls for a road in Tarrant County they won't frequently use.

"It seems like if we're driving on the Dallas toll road it probably should go towards Dallas roads, shouldn't it?" said one Dallas driver.

"I'd rather my money go in Dallas where I live," said another Dallas driver.

The NTTA is raising tolls on all roads for the George Bush Tollway extension in northeast Dallas County and to heavily subsidize construction of the Southwest Parkway in Fort Worth.
"Well, I don't think you want users of one toll road to have to continue to subsidize a project that is not a feasible project no matter where it is," said Margaret Keliher, Dallas County judge.

With the legislature allowing private companies and TxDOT to build toll roads, Dallas County officials said they fear they will get the profitable projects and NTTA will get stuck building roads that require big money from Dallas drivers.

But Tarrant County officials said transportation problems are regional.

"And we expected that our partners would feel the same way when it came to Tarrant County," said Roy Brooks, Tarrant County commissioner.

What may not be clear by the possibility of Dallas pulling out is if Dallas drivers would be affected and what impact it would have on the planned NTTA toll road along the Trinity River near downtown Dallas.


© 2006 WFAA-TV


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In the UK: "Local people whose properties may be blighted by the road have not been invited."

Anger at 'invite-only' previews of new toll road schemes

Jan 10 2006

By Campbell Docherty, Transport Correspondent

Birmingham Post (United Kingdom)
Copyright 2006

Local organisations today will have the first chance to look at the latest proposals for a new toll road to run alongside the M6 in Staffordshire.

However, objectors to the M6 Expressway - which is one of three options for increasing capacity on the Birmingham-to-Manchester stretch of the motorway - are angry that
local people whose properties may be blighted by the road have not been invited.

At the invite-only seminar in Penkridge, the HA is to show stakeholders an "indicative" route for the toll road, which would be directly joined to the existing M6 Toll.

However, it admits the final route could see the dual carriageway on either the east or west side of the M6.

Environmentalists are angry this creates "twice the blight" for local people waiting to see how the proposals affect them.

The other options are two forms of widening the existing road - either by adding an extra lane at either side, which would be the most disruptive option to existing traffic, or by building new carriageways on one side and shifting the central reservation over to create the four lanes in each direction.

Stephen Ladyman, Roads Minister, said: "At this stage no decision has been made.

"But it is important that local stakeholders have the chance to see more information on what the M6 Expressway could look like so the Highways Agency gets more feedback and can deal with any concerns that arise."

He added he hopes to be able to make a final decision in the summer on whether to widen the M6 between junction 11A (Cannock) and junction 19 (Knutsford) or introduce the privately-built and run tolled Expressway.

It is envisaged all three schemes can be opened to traffic by 2017.

Chris Crean, from West Midlands Friends of the Earth, said: "These seminars have a highly selective invitation list but the people who will be most affected by the final plan will not be there."

Gerald Kells, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said an initial consultation held by the HA in 2004 where only one per cent of respondents supported widening the M6 should be honoured.

When the Department for Transport published the results last summer, it decided to continue looking into both schemes.

Mr Kells said: "The Government have already had a clear steer from the first consultation where the overwhelming majority did not want the M6 widened and it should listen to that."

A HA statement said: "Comments from these seminars will inform the debate on which concept would best serve the strategic need and could be developed further.

"There will be future and wider opportunities for people to put their views."

© Trinity Mirror Plc 2006


Committee members were asked to consider dropping toll roads and "developer" projects.

Panel to reduce number of mobility projects

January 10, 2006

By Stephen Palkot
Fort Bend Herald
Copyright 2006

It will likely be a year before Fort Bend County holds a vote on the next mobility bond, and the process of whittling down projects continued on Monday.

The Fort Bend County Mobility Bond committee includes the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court and appointed representatives from area developers and cities.

County Judge Bob Hebert said he would like to wait until the final $26 million in bonds from 2000's mobility bond election are sold and dedicated to road projects before taking a new proposal to voters. That will not be until late December or early January of 2007, he said.

The committee will be whittling down a large list of proposed road improvements costing more than $450 million.

Within two to three weeks, the county's financial department will have an analysis to show how many bonds could be levied by not increasing the property tax rate, as well as the number for 1- to 5-cent increases in taxes.

Hebert at the meeting asked members to consider roads to be dropped from the proposed mobility bond, in particular those that will be considered as toll roads and those deemed "developer" projects.

"We have several projects on there that are really developer projects. They just serve developments, and they don't tie into anything now. They're coming off," he said.

At the meeting, members discussed the process for eliminating projects. Economic development will be a factor, but only after the committee looks at mobility, agreed committee members.

The committee will meet again on Feb. 13. Currently, 48 projects are on the list of requested roads for the mobility bond.

© 2006 Fort Bend Herald www.herald-coaster


River of pork is set to flow to public-private consortiums

DOT sets new plan in motion

Private road builders could use bonds

By Humbarto Sanchez
The Bond Buyer
Copyright 2006

The U.S. Department of Transportation has set the wheels in motion for private firms to start applying for authority to use up to $15 billion in tax-exempt private-activity bonds under a new program enacted into law last year that is designed to help finance the construction of highway and certain freight transportation projects.

“Parties who wish to take advantage of the tax exempt financing….are invited to apply to DOT for an allocation of this authority,” the department said in a notice published in the Federal Register. “Upon receipt, the Department will consider the application in light of applicable statutory requirements and the availability of tax-exempt authority for the type and location of the project for which the allocation is requested.”

The notice, which was published January 5, also seeks comments from those interested in using the new bond program, which was treated as part of the massive surface transportation law signed into law by President Bush last summer. The Comments -- which can be submitted throughout the program’s 10-year life -- will be used by the DOT to fine tune the bond program if the agency decides it is necessary.

The notice is intended to provide guidance to the bond program, in lieu of going through the lengthy process of developing official regulations, and to officially open the door for applications to be submitted, according to the DOT official.

In October, another agency official told the Bond Buyer that the DOT planned to issue a notice to guide the program’s operation. He also said that the agency did not intend to issue official regulations in order to avoid a slow, cumbersome and bureaucratic process and get the program started as soon as possible..

A separate Treasury Department release – which is expected to refer the DOT notice – is also likely to be issued, according to a source familiar with the program. But it was not clear when it would be published.

Private activity bonds are debt instruments issued by state and local governments where the bond proceeds are used to benefit a non-public issuer, such as a private company. Before the transportation law was enacted, private-activity bonds could be issued to finance 13 different types of projects, but not highways.

The new law allows private companies to benefit from up to $15 billion in private activity bonds that are also exempt from the state-by-state private-activity bond volume cap to finance the construction of highway projects and rail- to- truck freight transfer facilities.

Under the private-activity bond curbs, enacted in 1986, the issuance of private-activity bonds are limited this year to $80 per resident, or 246.6 million, whichever is greater. But the new bonds authorized in the highway law are subject to a nation-wide limit of $15 billion. The transportation law also stipulates that bonding authority would be allocated by the DOT and would expire at the end of 2015.

In its notice, the DOT included a list of 14 items that an applicant may wish to include in its application, but stressed that it “is not specifying any form for an application, nor is it requiring all or any of the information listed below to be included in the initial application.”

In addition to basic information, such as a description of the project, the amount of allocation requested, details of the financial structure, project schedule and readiness, the DOT also listed proposed date of bond issuance, a draft bond counsel opinion letter, a project schedule and a declaration that the information is accurate.

But the notice doe not put any limit on the amount of bonds that may be used for any one project and does not place a time limit on applications.

The notice, however, does stress that project schedules and pond issuance must take place as planned.

“The department is particularly concerned that once it makes an allocation, tax-exempt facility bonds are issued in a timely fashion,” the notice said. Hence, if the schedules agreed upon in the final allocation action are not met, the allocation may be withdrawn.”

Public-private consortiums that are planning to build roads or truck-to-rail freight transfer facilities are expected to apply for bond allocation under the program, possibly including pending toll road projects in Georgia and Texas, an observer said yesterday.

© 2006 The Bond Buyer


Monday, January 09, 2006

The message to lawmakers at all levels: "Fix this problem now.”

FB Survey: Americans Oppose Eminent Domain

American Farm Bureau
Copyright 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 9, 2006 – Americans remain strongly committed to protecting private property from the possibility of unjust seizure, according to the results of a nationwide survey released today by the American Farm Bureau Federation during the organization’s annual convention.

The poll shows, regardless of geographical, partisan and other demographic differences, Americans are unified nearly 2-to-1 against government use of eminent domain to take private property, except in limited circumstances such as when the public at large would clearly benefit from a new road, electric utility or similar project.

Likewise, 83 percent of Americans oppose the use of eminent domain to further private development initiatives. Seizure for private development was the issue at the heart of the Kelo v. New London, Conn., case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. That case made national headlines when the high court ruled that property could be taken from one landowner to advance the economic development efforts of another private entity.

“The Kelo case sent shockwaves through American agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “If there is any land type on the outskirts of urban areas that is attractive to developers and vulnerable to government-sponsored seizure, it is our disappearing farmland. This case really sounded a justified alarm in farm country.”

In the survey, when respondents were asked about the Kelo ruling, an overwhelming 95 percent expressed disapproval; of those respondents, 87 percent said they disagreed strongly with the ruling.

“That kind of near unanimity on this key property protection issue is heartening,” Stallman said. “The protection of private property is a key thread in the fabric that makes up bedrock American values and to have agreement on this issue that cuts across all demographic boundaries should send a clear message to lawmakers at all levels – fix this problem now.”

Farming, in particular, received solid support when respondents were asked to prioritize entities that should be off-limits to eminent domain proceedings. For example, 14 percent said farms with a portion of land set aside for conservation or environmental preservation should be protected from condemnation. This is directly in line with the level of support respondents said should be given to historical monuments, churches, schools and hospitals.

Likewise, 12 percent of those surveyed said family farmers should be exempt from eminent domain laws, compared with 9 percent who support exempting private businesses and 8 percent who support exempting all landowners.

“America’s farm and ranch families are unique in that they literally rely on their land for economic survival,” Stallman said. “It is encouraging that when Americans are given a list of possible exemptions from eminent domain seizures that farm families came out on top.”

Furthermore, Americans are much more likely to disagree than agree (67 percent to 24 percent) that the government is justified in using eminent domain laws against a small number of individuals who refuse to sell property when most of their neighbors agree to sell so a development project may proceed.

In addition, the survey illustrates the extent to which there is agreement among Republicans and Democrats on this issue. Although a higher percentage of Republicans said they were strongly opposed to eminent domain – 45 percent compared with 40 percent of Democrats – the overall level of opposition among Republicans or Democrats was similar, with 66 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats expressing opposition to eminent domain.

Women expressed stronger opposition than men to the use of eminent domain. For example, when women were asked to state their level of support or opposition to the right of the government to take private property for public purposes, while paying the owner fair market value, 65 percent of women expressed opposition, compared with 59 percent of men.

The results also show that Americans share the same general views about eminent domain, regardless of where they live. When asked to state their level of support or opposition to the right of the government to take private property for public purposes, close to two-thirds of Americans expressed opposition: 65 percent in the East, 58 percent in the South, 59 percent in the West and 65 percent in the Great Lakes region.

The telephone survey of 1,076 adults was conducted by Zogby International. The nationwide survey, conducted Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, 2005, contains a margin of error of +/- 3 points.

The survey is one component of the grassroots “Stop Taking Our Property” (STOP) campaign initiated by the American Farm Bureau Federation following the Kelo ruling.

© 2006 American Farm Bureau


Sunday, January 08, 2006

"It's not a given that Perry will be re-elected. He's alienated a lot of Republicans."

Governor's race is shaping up as much more than Democrat vs. Republican

Jan. 8, 2006,

By R.G. RATCLIFFE, Austin Bureau
Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2006

THE Texas governor's race has turned into a potentially wild, winner-take-all battle from which the victor is likely to emerge with less than half the vote.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn dramatically changed the dynamics of the contest last week when she dropped her Republican primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry to run as an independent.

She joined satirist Kinky Friedman in the quest for the independents, the disgusted and the disinterested voters of Texas. To get on the ballot, both will have to gather valid signatures from 45,450 registered voters during a 60-day window this spring, a feat most political experts expect them to achieve.

If they make it, the November general election will consist of Perry, Strayhorn, Friedman, the Democratic nominee and a Libertarian nominee.

"If you're a political junkie, you're in heaven right now," said Dean Barkley, the campaign manager for Friedman. "Everyone will be watching this race. I guarantee you this will be the race in the country to watch."

Normally, about 36 percent of the state's registered voters turn out in a governor's contest. But this one could push turnout to the levels of 1990, when half the state's voters cast ballots in an election that put Democrat Ann Richards in the Governor's Mansion in an upset over Republican Clayton Williams.

All told, 15 candidates filed for governor this year with one of the parties or as an independent.

Of that group, political experts think there will be four viable candidates: Perry, Strayhorn, Friedman and the Democratic nominee — a designation currently sought by two front-running candidates, former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage.

That the winner is likely to have less than half the vote will not be unusual. Richards in 1990 and Democrat Dolph Briscoe in 1972 won the governor's race with less than a majority. Strayhorn won the comptroller's office in 1998 with 49.5 percent of the vote.

What would be unusual would be for an independent or third-party candidate to win.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party ran the strongest national third-party campaign in U.S. history in 1912, taking 27 percent of the national vote in his losing bid.

Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot contributed to the 1992 defeat of President George H.W. Bush by taking 19 percent of the vote.

Perot was the strongest independent candidate in modern Texas history, taking 22 percent of the state vote. But Bush still carried Texas by winning 40.5 percent of the popular vote. Democrat Bill Clinton received 37 percent.

Jesse "The Body" Ventura, a former professional wrestler and actor, surprised the nation by winning the Minnesota governor's race in 1998. But the last independent to win the Texas governor's office was Sam Houston in 1859.

To handicap the race, the Houston Chronicle asked for input from the campaigns as well as several knowledgeable political observers.

Mike Baselice: Pollster for Perry
Baselice said he thinks Strayhorn's decision to run as an independent increases Perry's chances of re-election.

"I don't know how this works. It's a Republican-leaning state," Baselice said. "There's only so many disenchanted party loyalists who are willing to take a stab at an independent candidacy."

Baselice said Texas has a base Republican vote of 50 percent and a base Democratic vote of 35 percent. He said if each party loses 5 percent of its vote and it is added to the independent, the swing vote just reaches 25 percent.

" If you gave it all to Strayhorn and none to Kinky, she's still woefully short," Baselice said.

He predicted Friedman's campaign will be meaningless by Election Day because he will not have the money to mount a statewide television-advertising campaign.

"It cost $1.6 million to run a week of TV properly in Texas," Baselice said.

Tom Pauken: Former Texas GOP chairman
Pauken said there is enough dissatisfaction with Republican voters about Perry's administration and inability to pass a public school finance plan than either Strayhorn or the Democratic nominee can defeat Perry in a multicandidate race.

"It's not a given that Perry will be re-elected," Pauken said. "He's alienated a lot of Republicans."

Pauken said gathering the signatures to get on the ballot may be a problem for Strayhorn.

"She doesn't have a strong organization, and Friedman has been preparing for the past year for what you have to do to run as an independent," Pauken said.

"Assuming she gets on the ballot, she can be a tough candidate in the fall. She hurts Perry, and she hurts him quite badly."

Pauken said Strayhorn's candidacy will be a big boost for the Democratic nominee because it increases the impact of the Democratic base vote in a divided turnout.

But he said Strayhorn has a shot at winning because voters have become disenchanted with both Republicans and Democrats.

"They're angrier at the Republicans at the moment than the Democrats, but there's a little bit of pox on both your houses," Pauken said.

He said Strayhorn's independent candidacy will take the wind out of Friedman's sails.

" I see him more as a protest vote or a joke. Now, with Strayhorn in the race, his hopes will fade dramatically," Pauken said.

Brad McClellan: Stayhorn's son and campaign manager
McClellan said Strayhorn knows it will be tough to win as an independent.

"It has been 147 years since this has been done, and Sam Houston probably needed fewer votes to win than we need signatures (to get on the ballot)," McClellan said.

Houston won his 1859 race with 33,375 votes, according to Richard Rice, historical interpreter at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville. That's 12,075 fewer voter signatures than Strayhorn and Friedman each need to get on the ballot.

McClellan said no one should discount the fact Strayhorn will be the only woman in a field of male candidates running for governor.

"It's just another perspective. It's that tough grandma. There are more females that vote in the general election than, say, in the Republican primary," he said.

McClellan said his mother will take a large portion of the Democratic and independent vote as well as the Republican base because voters are "fed up" with both parties, particularly on issues such as educating children.

"We're the one that's going to win this race because we cut into that conservative base. And there's a big base out there. There are people out there who say they're tired of the labels, and they want to see stuff get done," he said.

Jason Stanford: Bell's chief consultant
Stanford said the complexity of building a voting bloc from Republicans, Democrats and independents will make it difficult for Strayhorn to win.

"There are too many cross- purposes. Before, it was simple: She needed to create a general election in a primary," Stanford said. "Chris Bell's challenge is to get Democrats to vote for the Democratic nominee."

Stanford said Democratic nominee Tony Sanchez got 40 percent of the vote against Perry in 2002. He said that vote will be enough for the Democratic nominee to win in a multicandidate race against Perry.

"Everyone in this race is making a persuasive case to fire Rick Perry," he said.

Stanford said the cost of a Democratic campaign will be less because it can target Democratic voters. He said the multicandidate race also will make it difficult for Perry to attack any one opponent with negative television commercials.

"If he puts up $5 million on TV against Chris Bell, none of those votes are going to go to him. They're going to go to Carole Strayhorn or Kinky Friedman. His return on that dollar is marginal at best," Stanford said.

The other candidates can go after Perry, though.

"This isn't a circular firing squad. We're all pointed at Rick Perry, and he's got to spend the entire time on defense."

Dean Rindy: Gammage adviser
Rindy said he thinks the Democratic nominee will benefit from Perry and Strayhorn viciously attacking each other in the first half of the year as Perry tries to "crush" Strayhorn's ability to build momentum.

"While the two dinosaurs thrash about in the jungle, we can remain relatively unscathed for the midpart of the campaign year," Rindy said in a memo to Gammage supporters. "We will hammer home our message to hold our base, while looking far cleaner than our two Republican rivals."

Rindy said Strayhorn's independent campaign will finish off Friedman.

"She simply sucks the air out of Kinky's message, hogs the media spotlight, steps on his story line and makes it very difficult for him to attract significant numbers of Perot-type conservatives," he said.

Rindy said the Texas governor's race is developing into a contest like the 1992 presidential contest when Bush barely carried Texas despite Perot's insurgent campaign.

"Bush Sr. barely scraped by in that election, and Rick Perry is not George Bush," Rindy said. "Her image as an independent is much weaker than Perot's, and it will be extremely easy to discredit her with Democratic voters."

Dean Barkley: Friedman's campaign manager
Barkley ran Ventura's surprise independent victory in Minnesota. He said Friedman can replicate it in Texas.

"It's real simple. What an independent candidate has to do to win is they have to motivate the traditional nonvoting public, or disgruntled voters who have stopped voting, to return to the polls to vote," Barkley said.

"If Carole could pull off the illusion that she is really an independent, it could make it more difficult for us. The jury is out on whether Carole has the qualities to motivate nonvoting people to vote. I know Kinky can."

Barkley said he thinks that in a three-way race the winner will need 40 percent of the vote. In a four-way race, he said the victor could take it with as little as 30 percent.

"There's a lot of dissatisfaction with Perry among conservatives," Barkley said. "Now that will be a battle between Carole and Kinky as to which one they are going to go for."

He said Friedman also will be able to appeal to Democrats on environmental issues and social libertarian stands such as supporting gay marriage.

Barkley said Texas voters also will see a difference in the contest in March and April during the 60 days when Strayhorn and Friedman are gathering signatures to get on the ballot. Both will need to collect about twice as many signatures as they need to guarantee they have enough valid signatures.

Valid signatures come from registered voters who cast no ballots in either party's primary or runoffs. They also cannot sign both the Strayhorn and Friedman petition.

"A lot of people are going to be bugged to put their signature on a petition. Make sure it's the Kinky petition you sign, not the Strayhorn," Barkley said.
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© 2006 The Houston Chronicle


"It's a good idea to have the region come together. But some issues are still raw in the region and were not addressed today."

Transit leaders try not to get detoured by tolls issue

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Tony Hartzel
Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2005

Last month, a heated toll road debate exposed a rift between leaders on the region's east and west sides.

Last week, many of those leaders sat down to talk about critical transportation issues facing the region.

And in North Texas' own version of a transportation family meeting, the topic of toll roads was hardly discussed.

It was still on many minds, but leaders chose to look for common ground on the many other topics that face the region.

Air quality issues, a proposed regional transit network and the state gas tax all took center stage at the meeting, which brought together the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition and the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition for only the second time.

Things have not gone well recently, but that shouldn't stop the discussions, said North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino, who is chairman of the Tarrant County group.
"If we can't discuss things we can agree on, how can we discuss things we can't agree on?" he asked.

Regional tensions rose last month when the North Texas Tollway Authority board of directors voted 4-3 on a new toll rate measure that could result in setting the lowest possible toll rates for Fort Worth's Southwest Parkway and the Bush Turnpike's eastern extension in Rowlett, Sachse and Garland.

The measure, which was endorsed by four board members from Tarrant, Denton and Johnson counties, would require toll revenue from roads in Dallas and Collin counties to fund a large portion of those projects.

Three board members from Collin and Dallas counties voted for other proposals that would have required higher initial toll rates and larger regular toll rate increases on the two projects. They argued that higher toll rates are required because the roads will not raise enough revenue on their own to meet their costs.

"It's a good idea to have the region come together. But some issues are still raw in the region and were not addressed today," said Paul Wageman, the Collin County representative on the tollway authority's board of directors.

While Collin County residents are concerned that the measure could amount to a "Robin Hood" plan, regional leaders must keep talking because of the monumental challenges facing the area, said Collin County Judge Ron Harris, who is co-chairman of the Dallas coalition.
"We have to stick together. North Texas' strength is in our togetherness and partnerships," he said.

North Texas must and will present a united front to state lawmakers on issues including the creation of a regional commuter rail network, Mr. Trevino said. Local officials are meeting regularly with lawmakers to push for help in creating a revenue source for a 260-mile, $2.2 billion system.

Air quality could pose an even greater challenge to the region in the next few years. A consultant warned policymakers that North Texas must dramatically cut certain emissions by 2010 or face the potential loss of federal highway construction money.

Decisions about how to cut emissions – which could include lowering speed limits for heavy trucks and enforcing stricter standards on locomotives and construction equipment – will require a united front from regional leaders.

• All aboard for the Fort Worth stock show and rodeo. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority has two bus routes that connect the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail line to the Southwest Exposition and Livestock Show, which runs from Jan. 14 through Feb. 5. Routes 2 and 7 run from the TRE's Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fort Worth to the Will Rogers Center, giving Dallas-area rail passengers a way to ride the rails to Fort Worth and also get to the stock show on weekdays and Saturdays. The bus rides are free with a premium TRE day pass. For more information, call 817-215-8600 or visit
Tony Hartzel can be reached at and at P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265.

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co