Saturday, October 07, 2006

Republican candidate for Texas Supreme Court: "He's never tried a case. He’s never written a judicial opinion or an appeal."

High court hopeful walks into town

October 7, 2006

By Ron Maloney
The Herald-Zeitung
Copyright 2006

There are nine justices on the Texas Supreme Court. And they’re all Republicans.

In fact, a Democrat hasn’t served on the body that is this state’s highest arbiter of civil disputes in more than a decade.

But Thursday, a district judge, former El Paso district attorney and Democrat walked into New Braunfels to tell local voters, Republican and Democrat alike, why they should vote for him.

His name is Bill Moody, and he’s running against Republican Don Willett, who has come under fire in the media and some political circles because he lacks judicial experience.

He’s hitting the campaign trail on foot and already has logged more than 600 miles in his quest for the open seat on the state supreme court.

He’s been sunburned, endured sore feet and almost been bitten by a rattlesnake.

But he said he’s learning things about Texas and its people he couldn’t learn by flying over the state or by driving down Interstate 10 at 70 mph.

“It’s given me the opportunity to see a whole lot of Texas and a whole lot of the people in Texas,” Moody said.

“Judges spend most of their time talking to lawyers. I’ve spent 90 percent of my time talking to non-lawyers.”

Moody, 56, became an assistant district attorney after completing law school and was appointed to the 34th district court bench in 1986.

In 11 years as a prosecutor, he tried more than 100 felony cases — including 30 homicides. In two decades as a district judge, he has heard more than 400 felony and civil jury trials and conducted thousands of judicial hearings.

One thing he’s learned, he said, is that Texans want their children to receive good educations — but at the same time they don’t want to lose their homes trying to pay for it.

Another issue is the Trans-Texas Corridor, which in one fashion or another likely will go before the supreme court.

“I don’t think anybody quarrels with the government having the authority to build an interstate highway or a rail road line,” Moody said.

“Where the rub could come is the government will not own this road. It’ll belong to a private company. Will the supreme court become involved? It’s very possible it could.”

A third issue — always important in Texas — will be water and the rights of capture.

“Some of these are very complex issues, and they have a very big impact on the people of Texas,” Moody said.

“That’s why we need someone with judicial experience on the supreme court.

“My opponent is a very good man. But he’s never tried a case. He’s never written a judicial opinion or an appeal.

“I think it’s really difficult for someone who has never tried a case and hasn’t spent much time in a courtroom to say, ‘OK, you’re doing it right’ or ‘No, you’re doing it wrong.’”

© 2006 The Herald-Zeitung :


In the debate Perry claims voters had the opportunity to vote on the TTC.

Texas governor candidates take part in crowded debate

Oct. 06, 2006

Associated Press
Copyright 2006

DALLAS - Republican Gov. Rick Perry defended a school property tax cut passed in a recent special legislative session as substantial, but independent challenger Carole Keeton Strayhorn called it "paltry" in their televised debate Friday.

The showdown came early in the candidates' one and only scheduled debate and during questioning by a panel of journalists.

Perry and Strayhorn, along with Democrat Chris Bell and independent Kinky Friedman, also responded to assorted questions about the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road plan, immigration and ethics in office.

"It is indisputable that there is a $15.5 billion property tax reduction over the next three years," Perry said, noting that he reached out to Democrats and helped pass a plan that also raised teacher pay.

Strayhorn, the state comptroller, blasted the governor while answering a subsequent question. She said teachers still aren't paid enough and that the governor is misleading the public in television commercials that claim Texans will get an average $2,000 cut.

"We need to tell Texans the truth - it's a paltry tax cut," she said repeating her assertion that the reduction amounts to only about $52 per year for most Texans.

Strayhorn later faced questions about campaign contributions she accepted from people who bring major tax cases before her agency. It's an ethics complaint she has endured repeatedly from opponents this year.

"I have abided absolutely to the letter of the law, and I am proud of what I have done. Anyone who contributes to me, who supports me, does it for one reason: good government," Strayhorn said.

Bell, trying to make a mark on the voting public after struggling to raise his profile all season, said both Perry and Strayhorn have failed in office.

"Texas is in desperate need of new leadership. It's time for Democrats and independents and angry Republicans to wake up and realize this is our best opportunity in years to take back Texas for the people," Bell said.

Friedman, a mystery writer and comedian who was dressed in his trademark black outfit and black cowboy hat, got off some of his usual humor lines, including his definition of politics.

" 'Poli' means more than one. 'Ticks' are bloodsucking parasites," Friedman said, holding a cigar, as usual.

Perry got criticism from opponents over the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive toll road project he proposed in 2002. He said voters had the opportunity to vote on parts of the project in a constitutional amendment election and that the Legislature debated the matter.

Land owners in the toll road path are furious that the road will take farmland and other property that has been in families for generations.

Strayhorn, the challenger most critical of the project, repeated her recurring line, "I'm going to blast the Trans Texas Catstrophe right off the bureaucratic books."

In a rapid-fire questioning of candidates, Strayhorn stumbled when she couldn't name the newly elected president of Mexico.

Perry said he knew the utility bill of the Gov.'s Mansion in August was $4,000 or $5,000. But he fell a bit short when asked if he knew the average interest for a 30-year mortgage, saying it was about 5.9 percent rather than the actual rate of 6.3 percent.

Friedman didn't give an exact amount for public university tuition, but said, "I know it's too high."

And Bell gave a big grin when he paused for a moment, then correctly answered the year of the Battle of the Alamo: 1836.

All candidates were asked about immigration and border security at the start of the debate. Perry repeated his position that he has been pressing ahead with border security by sending National Guard troops to the border, even ahead of the federal government. He said he'll ask the Legislature for $100 million next year to keep border security programs going.

Strayhorn said she wants to get the Texas Rangers involved in border security. "Then we can implement a fair, legal immigration program," she said.

Friedman repeated his call to send 10,000 National Guardsmen to the border. Bell said he wants to battle illegal immigration by cracking down on employers who hire illegal workers. He said trying to deport illegal immigrants who are already here would be a difficult endeavor.

"Does anyone seriously believe we can deport 12 million people when we couldn't even evacuate the city of New Orleans?" he said.

The debate among the four major candidates took place in the Dallas studios of Texas Cable News Inc. and was shown in television markets across the state. Libertarian James Werner was not invited to participate.

Some of Perry's opponents had criticized him for only agreeing to debate on a Friday night, when Texans would be occupied with high school football or other activities. It also was the evening before the big Texas-Oklahoma football game in Dallas.

The challengers were looking to use the debate to gain ground on Perry, who leads in polls and had the most at risk entering the one-hour debate.

Perry took over as governor in 2000 when George W. Bush resigned to become president then was elected to a four-year term in 2002. If he wins the Nov. 7 election and serves his full term he will become Texas' longest-serving governor.


Associated Press writer Jeff Carlton contributed to this report. Kelley Shannon has covered Texas politics and government based in Austin since 2000.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Friday, October 06, 2006

“I think TxDOT had to release the document and do damage control before elections.”

TTC-35 master plan crosses county

October 6, 2006

By Daneil K. Lai
Taylor Daily Press
Copyright 2006

The Texas Department of Transportation said allegations its has kept the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 secret are unfounded.

The allegations from rural farmers arose after TxDOT released its Trans-Texas Corridor Master Development Plan in its entirety Sept. 29.

“This is not the plan on where the corridor will go,” TxDOT spokesman Gabby Garcia said. “It is merely a guide on where it could go. Environmental studies we are required to conduct will shape where it (goes).”

The department released the 256-page developing and finance section as part of the overall 400-page Comprehensive Development Agreement signed between TxDOT and Concesiones de Infraestructures de Transporte, S.A. (Cintra) and Zachry Construction Corporation a year ago.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had previously ruled those sections were not protected under Open Records laws and had to be released. However, in a legal effort to block the release from public disclosure, Cintra-Zachry and TxDOT filed a lawsuit against the AG's office in June 2005. The lawsuit has since been dropped.

“On Thursday the department approved the conceptual development and conceptual financial plans submitted by Cintra-Zachry which were used to update the Master Development Plan,” Garcia said. “Before that we had not accepted the final development plan for Trans-Texas Corridor 35 (TTC-35). Those pages were not released previously because we had not decided whether we were going to accept Cintra-Zachry's proposal.”

Dan Byfield, one of the 175 Texas landowners who had previously filed an open records request to view the document, said he is not convinced.

“I think TxDOT had to get their ducks in a row, get it out there and release the document and do damage control before elections,” he said. “They claim the proposed corridor route is contingent on the final decisions that come out of the environmental impact study; that's a farce. They've had these maps, they've had these routes already decided. Someone needs to admit they knew about the location all along.”

But Garcia said TxDOT is required by law to utilize information gained from the environmental impact studies.

“The environmental study fueled by public input is a federally-dictated process we are required to follow. That will not change. It is the same process required with any road we build,” she said. “To suggest otherwise is nothing more than a group or groups putting out false information to the public that is not true.

“Cintra-Zachry will not dictate where the corridor will go.”

However, Granger resident Joyce White, who owns 75 acres of land in Eastern Williamson County, said there hasn't been enough public input sought.

“These meetings were held not before proposals were made and not before contracts were given,” she said. “It's a land grab, it's ridiculous and I feel it was all done without notification to the people.”

White said she is concerned TTC-35 will cut off access in the county.

“If it stays where it is, it cuts the county in half,” she said. “I work in Temple and I would have to drive a long way to get to work.”

Garcia said the corridor will have crossroads to accommodate commuters.

“Our goal is not to cut off access in a county. TTC-35 will not cut Williamson County in half,” Garcia said. “That's the silliest thing we've ever heard. There will be crossroads and ways for people to get around that are all part of the plan.”

White said regardless of where the final route of the corridor ends up it will take over valuable farmland from farmers who have owned it for generations.

“A lot of people don't want to lose their homes,” she said.

Representative Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, said the TTC-35 will not go through Williamson County.

“SH 130 will be the Trans-Texas Corridor for Williamson County,” he said. “The simple fact is it is not financially possible to have two toll roads in the same area ... If you build a second toll road further east from SH 130 no one will use it.”

“It is a shame this issue is being used as a fear-mongering tool by candidates in an election year,” he said.

The TxDOT Master Development Plan can be viewed at

© 2006 Taylor Daily Press:


"Costs of TTC-35 will be higher than what has been officially estimated."

TTC-35 could 'T-bone' near Valley View

October 06, 2006

Gainesville Daily Register
Copyright 2006

Does the meeting of the two ends of the “super loop” mean double trouble for Cooke County.

Local activists opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 route say a “T-bone” proposal in Valley View would negatively impact the county.

“Under this proposal Cooke County gets hit twice,” said Sheila Cox, a vocal opponent to the project, which proposes a multi-lane, “multi-modal” toll road through parts of the county connecting Laredo to Gainesville.

According to a map used by Cintra Zachry (the consolidation of a Spanish holdings company and a San Antonio construction outfit), Rodriguez Transportation Group (RTG, the consulting engineers), and EarthTech (a mapping company owned by Tyco) the TTC’s “super loop” around the Dallas-Fort Worth area merges west of Valley View at FM 2848 and at the northernmost point of the city near Spring Creek Road and Interstate 35. A route roughly parallel to I-35 would span the area from Valley View to the Red River.

The super loop or “doughnut” was proposed by the North Central Texas Council of Governments over the summer and was accepted by Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials as a viable alliterative. The previous “preferred route” featured a single line bypassing Dallas on the east and cutting through eastern Cooke County and western Grayson county to merge with I-35 near the Red River.

The map featured a large disclaimer, saying it is not official, and is only used for cost-estimation purposes (See Web link below for the full version of the map).

Larry Tegtmeyer, Wichita Falls district engineer for TxDOT, verified the map as legitimate but stressed that is merely a rough draft of what Cintra Zachry would prefer — not what TxDOT is proposing.

“That is Cintra Zachry’s assumption to help with putting together their plan,” Tegtmeyer said in an interview this morning. “It’s a work in progress.”

He said TxDOT retains the right to place the road where it chooses.

“The actual location of TTC-35 will be determined by TxDOT,” he said. “TxDOT is still evaluating the comments from the rounds of public hearings. And TxDOT has not made a decision to where the corridor routes are going to be.”

Tegtmeyer said Cintra Zachry’s preliminary map shows the portion of TTC-35 going from Valley View to the Red River to be half a mile west of I-35 on a separate corridor.

Tracking the corridor

Keeping up with the changes and proposals has been a challenge for those following the issue closely.

Cox’s dining room was strewn with maps Thursday night, in what she said has become “TTC Central.”

According to her understanding of the Cintra Zachry map, the Fort Worth side of the TTC-35 super loop will pass southeast of Era to just west of Valley View, and continue northward passing North Central Texas College’s Cooke County Campus on the west and Gainesville Municipal Airport on the east near FM 1201.

The Dallas side of the super loop will cut through the area just south of Collinsville from U.S. Highway 75 and head west in a “straight line” to just south of Spring Creek Road at I-35. She said that portion of the route would run about a half mile from the Lake Kiowa Dam.

Cox said the map did not show the 21-mile-wide “amber circle” which was proposed as an area for “inland ports,” railroad connector stations and warehouse districts.

Cox said some connector roads would create a “grid” around the Gainesville area.

“This has always involved the entire county, because there are two other corridors that will be built through here if everything goes according to plan.”

At the meeting at the State Theater Sept. 26, Cox said a conversation with an anonymous TxDOT worker revealed that a 16-foot-high barricade would block each side of TTC-35, “essentially creating a wall.” (The claim could not be verified.) She listed concerns regarding emergency evacuations if that were the case.

“We’re going to be in a ‘people pod’ — and that’s my word,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of people pods throughout Texas where people do not have proper egress from one point to another.”

Cox said Cintra Zachry’s map does feature small “blue lines” on the map where overpasses could be built over major routes such as farm roads, major streets and highways. She said if Cintra Zachry or TxDOT does not shoulder the cost, the county would be left to build them. The estimated cost for an overpass is $2.9 million, according to previous reports.

According to TxDOT press releases, it could take up to four years before the Federal Highway Administration approves the “environmental impact” study of how such a toll road network would affect the area. Tegtmeyer said TxDOT is still in the process of preparing an environmental study report to submit to the Federal Highway Administration, as there were many comments and much information submitted at a series of hearings hosted throughout Texas.

How much would it cost and when would it be built?

Individual drivers, at first, would shoulder the cost of repaying Cintra Zachry for the estimated $8.8 billion toll road.

(That figure does not include the 49-mile portion of State Highway 130 near Austin already being built at an estimated cost of $3.7 million, down from a 1998 estimated cost of $1 billion for right-of-way acquisition, according to the TxDOT Web site.)

According to TxDOT estimates, the cost per mile for commuter vehicles is 15.2 cents per mile and freight trucks would pay 48.5 cents per mile. The cost to take the 370-mile trip from Gainesville to Laredo would be $56.24 for cars and trucks and $216.45 for freight trucks.

The Trans-Texas Corridor was said by many to be a long time coming just a few years ago, but according to TxDOT construction of the north Texas portion may be underway before 2020.

The portion of TTC-35 from Central Expressway in Dallas to the Red River is expected to be the last stretch of the toll road to open — in August 2017.

That is, if the environmental impact study is not rejected and the government does not alter its policy after the November election, according to speakers from at the Sept. 26 Gainesville rally.

The Hillsboro to north of Austin route is scheduled to be completed and opened by 2013. Central Expressway to Interstate 30 is anticipated to be open by 2014. The I-30 to I-35-E stretch is expected to open by August 2015, with the San Antonio area opening that year as well.

Jack Ware, a Woodbine area resident and opponent to TTC-35, said the costs of the toll road will be higher than what has been officially estimated.

“No one, and I do mean no one, is talking about the big picture,” he said. “Look at the map and you’ll see it is 120 miles or so from completion. You only get 370 miles for $8.8 Billion. (The) additional 49 miles costs $3.6 billion at Austin so now we’re up to $12 Billion. That leaves about 75 miles or so from Laredo to San Antonio with nothing but the original I-35.

Everyone thinks you can go from Laredo to Gainesville on brand new toll road for $8.8 Billion! Not even close. It’s $12 billion for 420 miles and it ends 75 miles or so from the Mexican border. That 75 miles will probably run at least $2 billion to $5 billion which pushes TTC-35 — complete — to $15 Billion or more.

Ware said federal loans of about $3 billion to Cintra Zachry has not received much press coverage, either.

Vocal support for TTC-35 has been sparse in Cooke County, and no proponents could be reached for comment by press time.

Rita McCreary, Gainesville resident, said she was recently informed of the project by reading a newsletter from the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative political action group.

“The thing that bothers me is the free trade with Mexico and the possible drug trade,” McCreary said. “Think about how many drug drop-offs there would be before they get to a Kansas City security check.”

An extensvie “inland port” is planned for Kansas City, Mo., in the North American Super Corridor plan, of which TTC-35 is expected to be a part.

On the Net:

Cintra Zachry’s cost estimate map of TTC-35 connections in Cooke County may be viewed at:

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]
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© 2006, CNHI:


Ag Commissioner Candidates on the TTC: Todd Staples is FOR it. Hank Gilbert is AGAINST it.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner


By: Staff
News 8 Austin
Copyright 2006

Democrat Hank Gilbert and Republican Todd Staples are running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner. Incumbent Susan Combs is leaving the post to run for comptroller.

Q: Ranchers and farmers all across this state say they are mad at Rick Perry for his proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, which would take or divide much of their land for mile wide swaps of rail and concrete. Do you support the governor’s vision for the Trans-Texas Corridor?

Gilbert: No, I don’t support it. I made 20 of the 55 meetings down 35, voicing my opposition to this corridor. Not only in the fact that it’s going to ruin rural Texas as we know it and destroy it, it’s going to take homes and land away from people, over a million acres statewide of some of the most productive farmland we have in the country; big economic impact to the State in both economy and job. You know, my opponent help create it. We need to stop it.

Staples: I have actually passed legislation protecting landowners’ rights and that’s why the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association have endorsed me to serve as Commissioner of Agriculture. I will continue to be an advocate for landowner rights, regardless of what highway project is build, whether it’s a corridor or some other concept. We must ensure that property owners’ rights are protected as we address the significant and severe mobility crisis in this State.

Q: NAFTA, what’s your take on how NAFTA has impacted Texas fruit and vegetable market, as our farmers are forced to compete with their brethren south of the border?

Staples: We know that global competition and global markets are upon us and I will back Texas producers against any producers anywhere in the world. Some of the bigger threats that we are dealing with in this area are with agro-terrorism and bioterrorism and disease spread. There are diseases south of the border. There are diseases in the citrus industry in other states that Texas producers are fearful of and as Ag Commissioner, I want to provide the leadership to work with the Legislature to make certain the tools are in place to protect Texas farmers and ranchers.

Gilbert: It’s basically shoved Texas out of the fruit and vegetable industry. Trans-Texas Corridor is just going to facilitate NAFTA to take agriculture away from the Midwestern states in this country. We need to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor. We need to work out the problems with NAFTA.

Q: The new National Animal Identification System. Good idea or bad idea?

Gilbert: Terrible idea. We already have a law on the books called the Permanent Identification Law or, as we in agriculture know, the brand law, which gives permanent trace back. After talking with the head of NAIS and Animal Health Commission, this system is no more effective for disease trace back than what we currently have. It’s going to put small producers out of business, so big corporate agriculture can take its place. I’m definitely opposed to it and will file an injunction against it to permanently rid it once I become Commissioner.

Staples: I oppose a mandatory animal ID system, but do support a voluntary program that will allow producers to participate, to be done in a common sense way. I support strict inspect in our processing facilities, but we must use common sense in dealing with the issues that impact our livelihoods today.

Q: As Texas moves into a much more urban and service economy future, what is the Agriculture Commissioner’s role in protecting the rural way of life while maintaining a healthy agribusiness?

Staples: We know suburban, urban and rural Texas must be partners if we’re going to address the challenge that address us as the population doubles by the year 2050 or 2060. The Commissioner of Agriculture must be someone who is a strong advocate and can articulate our needs on such issues as water availability and water quality, must be someone who promotes renewable and alternative fuels, someone that address strongly the agro-terrorism and bioterrorism that threatens our food safety today, and I will be a strong advocate, someone that institutes common sense policies, that works with suburban, urban and rural Texas.

Gilbert: The Ag Commissioner’s office was granted by the Legislature several years ago a seat on rural economic development boards. We’ve failed to occupy that through our current commissioner. We’re going to work closely with rural counties and rural areas to try to help in aiding agri-business while protecting the agricultural interest in the area also. The two need to work together and can work together very well.

© 2006 TWEAN News Channel of Austin:


"If you want a land-stealing, road-taxing leader who can't get it together on school finance, border security or balancing the budget, vote Perry."

Letters from Carrollton, Colleyville

Tollway is deal-breaker

October 6, 2006

Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

Re: "Corridor toll road may cost $8.8B – New Trans-Texas plan unveiled; first sections could open in 2013," Friday news story.

Freeways – not tollways – will get my vote this year. I am tired of being taxed by local, county, state and federal governments for roads and then being taxed again with tolls just to drive on those roads we've already paid for.

Yes, we need improvements, and, yes, Interstate 35 is congested at times, but we need public solutions, not continued privatization.

Gov. Rick Perry's supporters need to look at who's funding this job and how much they're funding Mr. Perry's re-election. If you want a land-stealing, road-taxing leader who can't get it together on school finance, border security or balancing the budget, then vote Rick Perry.

Bob McCranie, Carrollton

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co


'Notes from Conspiracy HQ': Gov. Perry's panicked campaign cries "Swiftboat!"

Strayhorn camp lends support to Perry-bashing groups

Comptroller says she's proud to have groups' support.

October 06, 2006

By Jason Embry
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Carole Keeton Strayhorn's campaign sent $25,000 in the last year to two groups that are no friends of Gov. Rick Perry, including an anti-toll-road committee that weighs in on Austin-area races, the governor's campaign said Thursday.

Guilty as charged, Strayhorn responded.

Sal Costello Anti-toll activist's group got funds from Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

"Carole Keeton Strayhorn is proud to have the support of organizations fighting this governor's tolls across Texas, and she is proud to lend support to those organizations," said Mark Sanders, a spokesman for the independent gubernatorial candidate.

Strayhorn's campaign gave the People for Efficient Transportation committee $5,000 in February and another $5,000 in April. The committee, founded by anti-toll activist Sal Costello, runs a Web site that takes aim at, among other toll projects, the Trans-Texas Corridor. The corridor is Perry's vision for a wide swath of rights of way for toll roads, rail lines and pipelines running parallel to the state's major highways.

Strayhorn "is trying to wash her fingerprints off these negative attacks by moving campaign money through third-party front groups," said Perry spokesman Robert Black.

But Strayhorn hardly needs a front. While Costello's group takes some colorful shots at Perry, any Strayhorn speech drips with attacks on his record on taxes, education and transportation.

Costello said he is not paid by his political committee, and Strayhorn does not direct its operations. The group has spent much of its money this year to oust Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner and former West Lake Hills Mayor Dwight Thompson.

Little is out of bounds for Costello's Web site, which not only accuses public officials of corruption and fraud in their business ties but sometimes divulges their cell phone numbers and attacks their personal lives.

Strayhorn's campaign also gave Independent Texans $15,000 in the last year. The group promoted protests of Perry's transportation plans in counties around the state last weekend and touts a new documentary highlighting opposition to the corridor.

Black noted that the newsletter Capitol Inside reported last month that the Strayhorn campaign denied rumors it wanted to launch a third-party attack against Perry. But that story came months after Strayhorn's contributions to the two anti-toll groups and amid rumors that she was looking to form a group on the scale of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.; 445-3654

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


"One day we're going to look back at this and say, how did this happen."

Filmmaker captures toll road opposition


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

The more William Molina heard about toll road plans, the more outraged he got, until finally he picked up his camera and did what he does best.

Molina spent the past several months shooting more than 40 hours of footage at public meetings in San Antonio and nearby towns, talked to activists, tried to talk to toll road advocates and spliced together a film documenting what he says is a nexus of tremendous change.

"I just wanted to capture history," the veteran filmmaker said. "One day we're going to look back at this and say, how did this happen."

"Truth Be Tolled," which debuted last week and is available for free showings, offers Molina's take on why this is happening, but mostly it's a series of people from all walks of life, shown up close to reveal every twitch of emotion as they voice fear, anger and confusion.

"The most powerful thing about the film were the individual voices," said Char Miller, director of urban studies at Trinity University, who sponsored a screening there Thursday.

The documentary, about and hour and 45 minutes long, treads quickly through massive state tolling laws passed in recent years, the new policies to toll every new highway lane possible with the help of private companies that would reap profits in return.

Now toll roads are planned in cities around Texas, including more than 70 miles in San Antonio. And work is under way to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor, a 4,000-mile network of toll lanes, railways and utility lines in swaths up to a quarter-mile wide through rural areas.

State officials say that to solve traffic congestion it's better to use tolls rather than raise gas taxes to build more roads and complete them faster.

In the film, activists and elected officials bucking the shift to tolling said government has simply figured out a way to squeeze lots of money out of motorists, and they point out that traffic congestion is needed on free roads to make tollways profitable.

In public meetings throughout the state this summer, most speakers opposed toll plans.

"These are real people dealing with real issues, and the film just carries out their voices," Molina said.

Molina, a Trinity University graduate who spent 15 years shooting movies and television shows in Hollywood and has done films for the Discovery and History channels, said he tried to interview officials with several agencies as well as elected leaders who favor tolls.

None agreed, he said.

"From what he was giving me, he already had his answers," Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Gaby Garcia explained. "He wasn't going to have a fair discussion or a balanced discussion on the issues."

Trinity students Fletcher Rhoads and Emily Bower said the film tweaked their interest.

"It was more emotionally driven," Bower said.

"Which is fine," Rhoads said.

"But," Bower added, "I feel like I need to do research on my own to form my own opinion."

To find out more about the documentary and where it's being shown, go to the Web at

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


"The shell game Perry is playing with debates is just making the people more angry."

Candidates for governor to face off in only debate

Tonight's event fails to stir much interest

October 06, 2006

Sonny Long
The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2006

If there is an opposite of "much ado about nothing" - something like "little interest in something important" - then that perfectly describes the general consensus of the amount of attention being paid locally to tonight's Texas gubernatorial debate.

The debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be seen only on Belo Corp.-owned television stations, including KENS Channel 5 in San Antonio and KHOU Channel 11 in Houston. It will also be carried by the Texas Cable News Network. The debate is also being made available for broadcast on Texas State Network radio stations. Russell Fowler of local TSN affiliate KVNN-AM 1340, said it would be airing the debate.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, Democratic candidate Chris Bell, and Independent candidates Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn are scheduled to take part in the only debate of the campaign, which culminates in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

A partial check of local and area county party chairs revealed no formal plans for any kind of debate watching events or even much interest in the debate at all. One party chair even asked "What debate?"

Some Kinky Friedman supporters in DeWitt County are planning a small gathering at a private home to cheer on their candidate.

Part of the reason for the apathy may lie in the scheduling, after all Friday night in Texas means high school football. And, oh yeah, there's a little football game on Saturday, too, in Dallas that some folks may begin their reveling for on Friday night ... Texas vs. Oklahoma.

"I don't know whose decision it was to have it on a Friday night," said Mary Anne Wyatt, Victoria County Republican Party chair. "It couldn't come at a worse time. It's Memorial High's homecoming; it's Texas-OU weekend."

The county's Democratic Party Chair Stephen Jabbour said there were no plans for a formal gathering to watch the debate, though he planned to watch it with friends.

"People tend to get fired up two weeks before an election, not a month before," Jabbour said. "Our candidate has a good message and his speeches are equally as important as the debate, if not more so."

A spokesperson for Jabbour's candidate's campaign blasted the debate scheduling.

"I think it is unfortunate that Rick Perry is going to such lengths to avoid letting the voters of Texas get a real good look at the candidates and compare them on the issues and leadership," said Heather Guntert of the Bell campaign." I understand his concern about standing up next to the other candidates and trying to defend his dismal record and lack of ideas for the future. The people of Texas are sick and tired of Perry, and the shell game he's playing with debates is just making them more angry. Agreeing to only one debate and having that debate fall on a historically low ratings night, and having access to the one debate so controlled shows unbelievable arrogance on the part of Rick Perry. It is a complete dismissal of the voters' right to compare and contrast the candidates."

According to the Associated Press, a Perry campaign spokesman said the governor has time for just one debate and had a scheduling conflict with an originally proposed Thursday night debate. The Thursday debate was being organized by KERA-TV, a public television station in Dallas, as it had done in 2002.

"The governor's schedule is pretty much locked in for the last 60 days of the campaign, and this is what fit our schedule best - simple as that," Perry spokesman Robert Black told the AP.

Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans, and Strayhorn supporter, also blasted the governor for the timing of the debate at a recent Trans Texas Corridor protest.

"The governor agreed to only one debate and made sure it was on a Friday night. Friday night football is important, but so is paving over our land," said Curtis, urging protesters to submit a question to be asked during the debate.

Other complaints about the debate have also arisen.

Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report said, "It's not surprising that there is only one gubernatorial debate and it is scheduled to conflict with high school football and the Friday night celebrations before the Texas-OU game. That's not unusual when the incumbent is favored to win and gets to set the rules or refuses to play."

The Quorum Report bills itself as a non-partisan newsletter, founded in 1983, focusing on Texas politics and government.

The "rules," according to the Associated Press, include not allowing competing television stations in Belo markets (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin) to show the debate live. Spanish-language and public broadcast stations may show the debate only on tape delay and only within four days of the debate. Stations outside Belo markets may air the debate live via satellite feed.

Historically, political debates for statewide office have been produced by the Texas Debates Consortium to assure access to all Texans through all media outlets.

Not this time, but it may be that no one notices.

Sonny Long is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-275-6319 or, or comment on this story at

© 2006 The Victoria Advocate:


Thursday, October 05, 2006

"The Dallas Morning News, like city officials, is afraid that the voters might not vote for more money for the Trinity. So why not just trick them?"

Check the Bill

Fine print on bond package includes $120 million more for Trinity project


By Jim Schutze
The Dallas Observer
Copyright 2007

On the evening of Friday, September 29, an eight-page, single-spaced memo went out from the office of the Dallas city manager to all members of the city council warning them about inquiries into the Trinity River project being made by "members of the media, mainly print reporters who have closely followed the project from its inception and continue to focus attention on it in weekly publications."

The next Monday morning The Dallas Morning News op-ed page carried a column under a bold headline, "Dismiss the doubts," in which the author began: "Whoa to the critics!" He identified the critics as "a few local politicians and alternative media types."

You can't see me at this moment, because this is a newspaper, but I want you to picture me out in the middle of my office standing pitched forward at the waist in a kind of crouch with my palms pressed between my knees, my elbows out and head bent low, just blushing like a little Christmas tree bulb.

They're talking about meeee!

And it makes me feel so special. If I had any sense at all, I would tell them they're right. I would tell them that I have invented the entire opposition to the Trinity River project out of my very own brain; I have the power to cast hexes on persons who displease me; and by the way, I am in need of a big loan, pronto.

What stops me is that I know exactly where this kind of thinking comes from, having been around this town way too long, and I find it so profoundly irritating that I just can't keep my mouth shut.

In the 10 years since the inception of the Trinity River Project, a substantial body of compelling empirical criticism of the project has developed, for which I deserve no credit. The findings that have wounded this project--mortally, we will find--have come from an army of committed, brilliant community volunteers and activists.

This latest go-round is a good example. Last week I learned that critics of the project had been grilling city officials on whether City Hall was sneaking new money for the project into the 2006 bond program. At first, some highly placed officials denied there was any money for the Trinity River project in the bond program. But the critics pressed and found Trinity River project items with a total value of $120 million, close to 50 percent of the original bond issue passed by voters in 1998.

When I called Rebecca Dugger, director of the project for the city, she conceded to me there are Trinity River project items in the bond program. She put their value at about $50 million.

Fifty million or more than $100 million. What's the point? The point is that nowhere on the ballot for the bond election in November are voters informed they are being asked to pump up the budget of the Trinity River project by another 20 to 50 percent.

Let's say we vote yes for Proposition 3, described on the ballot as "the issuance of $343,230,000 general obligation bonds for park and recreation facilities." OK, we just voted for $2 million to build a trail along part of the river, $1.2 million for an entrance to the river park in the Joppa area, $1.2 million for another entrance downtown, $1.8 million for another entrance in West Dallas, $4 million to buy land for a nature center near the river, $14 million to help some people set up a private horse park near the river, $1 million for a wave machine in the river, $11.2 million for a soccer park.

Vote for Proposition 1, "Street and Transportation Improvements," and we're voting to approve more than $9 million worth of expansion to Industrial Boulevard and Continental Street as part of the Trinity toll road project, a basic element in the Trinity River project.

And that's just some of the chump change.

David Gray of Save the Trinity River Coalition pointed out to me that Proposition 2, "Flood protection and storm drainage facilities," contains $70 million for new pumps and sewers to carry storm water underneath the proposed Trinity River toll road and proposed lake or lakes to the river. That's the bond item that takes the cost of the Trinity project up from a 20 percent increase to a 50 percent hike.

If we look at almost all the other propositions--to improve the library system, improve cultural facilities, fix City Hall, provide low-income housing, spur economic development--that's all identified honestly on the ballot, so we know what we're voting for.

Not the Trinity River project. Nothing on the ballot tells you that you are being asked to provide an additional $120 million for it.

But the Trinity River project is far more controversial. The money for it is all over the map, a mess, and all kinds of very weird things have been happening lately. I reported a little more than a month ago ("Eye Candy for Suckers," August 31) that an obscure regional body came within a whisker of sucking $48 million out of the single most important highway project in Dallas--fixing the "mixmaster" freeway interchange downtown--and sticking it into those crazy suspension bridges on the river that are so wildly over budget. That little item got yanked from a meeting agenda shortly after I started making calls to inquire about it.

Just last week, a Trinity River item got yanked at the last minute at the Dallas City Council meeting. The council was being asked to vote on a $9.6 million contract for the design of the lakes that are supposed to be built as part of the Trinity project. The full council had never been briefed on the contract. It was pulled at the last minute, council member Ed Oakley told me, because the actual contract itself--the legal papers--wasn't even completed yet.

So...they were voting on it in a real big hurry why?

Standard contracting guidelines--both Oakley and Dugger agreed with me on this--call for design fees to be about 6 percent of total project cost. Hang on with me for a minute. I have a point.

Here: If $9.6 million is 6 percent of the total cost, then the total cost for the chain of lakes must be $160 million. In the 1998 bond program, the "chain of lakes" was described to voters as costing $31.5 million.

What all of that means is that the voters--not I, not the Dallas Observer--the voters of the city of Dallas have a right, a need and a desire to know what's going on with the money for the Trinity project.

It's really hard to get bond lawyers to talk on the record about bond law, because their clients are all governments, and they don't want to make them mad. I did talk to Steve Bickerstaff, who is retired from a law firm in Austin that is well known for its public finance practice. He teaches now as adjunct faculty at the University of Texas Law School. I wanted to know what the law says about going back to the voters for additional money for an existing project.

"My initial reaction is that the voters can do darn near anything," he said. "If the voters understand that it is additional money for a project that should have been funded entirely by a previous bond issue, they can do it.

"If this is money that is being approved for project B, but they are planning to shift the money back to project A to finish it, then that's a problem."

He said the issue is "...whether the ballot language provides notice to the voters that they are providing additional money for a previous project."

I know the answer to that one. Nowhere on the ballot that you and I will see when we go to vote in November is there any language to tell us we're being asked to provide another $120 million for the Trinity River project.

Several city officials told me at the end of last week that they saw no need to inform voters there was money in the bond package that would pay for elements of the Trinity project. City Manager Mary Suhm said, "While [those items] relate to the Trinity, I don't know that I would call them a Trinity project."

When I objected that some were items specifically described in early versions of the Trinity project, such as trails in the Trinity Forest, she said, "The Trinity Forest, we could be doing that without the Trinity project."

The memo to the city council last Friday night, from Assistant City Manager Jill A. Jordan, argued it might not be legal for the city to tell voters the Trinity items were related to the Trinity project. If the council eats that, the council will eat anything.

Mayor Laura Miller told me late Friday that the city staff decided how the bond issue ballot should be divided up and worded, and the council never even thought about putting Trinity River items under their own ballot proposition called "Trinity River Project."

The Dallas Morning News editorial page has been beating the drum for the 2006 bond program, listing every proposition and its virtues. Never once did the Morning News editorial page see fit to mention to the paper's readers that they were being asked to make another very substantial contribution to the Trinity project.

Why? Because the News, like the city officials, is afraid that the voters might not vote for more money for the Trinity. So why not just trick them?

We're a one-trick pony at this newspaper. We know you want to know this stuff before you vote. We know if we tell you, you'll read our paper. Man. I'm still a little red in the face, but I wouldn't call it a blush anymore.

© 2006 The Dallas Observer:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Poll: Strayhorn going up, Perry going down.

Strayhorn gains ground in new poll

Oct. 05, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN -- Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn has gained ground over the past month, while Republican Gov. Rick Perry has lost steam, a poll of 603 likely voters released Wednesday shows.

The poll, conducted by the Texas Trial Lawyers Association by Austin-based Opinion Analysts Inc., also shows that Democrat Chris Bell remains unknown to more than one-third of the respondents and independent Kinky Friedman is viewed unfavorably by 4 in 10 Texans surveyed.

"It would appear that Chris Bell and Kinky Friedman are really hurting by not being up on TV statewide," said Houston political consultant Dan McClung, who was hired by the trial lawyers to analyze the polling data.

The campaign of Strayhorn, the two-term state comptroller who in January broke with the GOP to run as an independent, immediately seized on the results, saying it was clear that she is the only candidate capable of taking down Perry in the Nov. 7 election.

"This is the first poll that really shows movement, and that movement is Carole going up and Perry going down," said Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders.

According to the poll, Perry was favored by 33 percent to Strayhorn's 20 percent. Friedman polled 14 percent, half a percentage point above Bell. Libertarian candidate James Werner was not included in the poll, which has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

A poll conducted by the trial lawyers group in September showed Perry 9 percentage points higher and Strayhorn 6 points lower. The other two candidates were roughly the same.

McClung said that the trial lawyers group has not taken sides in the governor's race but conceded that its membership has typically "not been happy with Perry."

The governor's camp seized on that observation to cast doubt on the group's numbers.

"This is a setup deal by the trial lawyers," said Perry spokesman Robert Black.

Laura Stromberg, a spokesman for Friedman, said the singer and writer's campaign targets Texans that traditional polls overlook: unlikely voters.

"If likely voters, and by that I mean the 29 percent that turned out in 2002, decide this race, then Kinky loses," Stromberg said. "Kinky's whole strategy is to go after those who are disillusioned or fed up with politics. So if we see turnout reach 35 or 40 percent, those people are not going to be coming out to re-elect Rick Perry."

Heather Guntert, spokeswoman for Bell, said the former congressman from Houston was late entering the fray with TV advertising. She predicted an uptick as more viewers see his two 30-second ads, which are largely running on cable stations.

Guntert also said Bell stands to gain the most from Friday evening's televised debate among the four leading candidates, which will be shown in Dallas-Fort Worth on WFAA/Channel 8.

"Chris Bell looks forward to being compared side by side with Rick Perry and the others," she said. "He will be seen as a sane and sensible alternative to Rick Perry."





John Moritz, 512-476-4294

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


"Who's on Second?"

Unsure voters might hold key to race

Oct. 05, 2006

By Aman Batheja
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Lindsay Weems' vote for governor is going down to the wire.

She still doesn't know what she's going to do at the polls, but she knows she wants a change at the top.

"Anything's better than Rick Perry," said Weems, 23, of Burleson.

Republican Scott Ahlgrimm supported Perry in the last election, but now he's weighing his options. For him, the lines are blurred more than usual this election season.

"I like the Christian values and some of the ideas of Republicans, but there are some things I like about the Democrats, too," said Ahlgrimm, 37, of Arlington. "[Perry's] still a possibility. I'm just not decided yet."

With five candidates vying to be Texas governor for the next four years, some voters are struggling even more than usual to settle on a candidate before the Nov. 7 election.

Polls show Perry, who is seeking a second full term, consistently leading the pack, with support of 33 percent to 35 percent. Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman all have staked a claim to second place, citing different polls. Libertarian James Werner is also on the ballot.

In Texas, a candidate needs to earn only a plurality of votes -- not a majority -- to be elected.

"There are undecideds who can still make a difference," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

One poll shows the number of undecided voters as high as 11 percent, up from 7 percent earlier this year.

In the last three races for governor, polling done two months before Election Day by the now-defunct Texas Poll had the number of undecided voters ranging from 10 percent in 1994 to 15 percent in 2002.

Perry's most recent approval ratings of around 45 percent are near the 44 percent that he scored before being elected to his first full term in 2002. Ann Richards had a Texas Poll approval rating of 51 percent when she was defeated by George W. Bush in 1994.

Who's on second?

The crowded ballot has left voters scrambling for information about the candidates in the weeks leading up to the election.

Ahlgrimm said he will closely follow Friday's gubernatorial debate in Dallas -- the only debate to feature the four leading candidates -- to help him decide.

Weems, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington, is watching political polls and following news coverage of the campaigns. And she recently attended a candidate forum on healthcare at UTA that included Bell, Friedman and Strayhorn.

On Wednesday, the Texas chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business announced its endorsement of 70 candidates in Texas races based on surveys filled out by its 34,000 members in the state. For the first time in at least a decade, the group did not endorse a candidate for governor because no candidate earned 50 percent of the members' support, said group spokesman Will Newton.

During the 2004 presidential election season, undecided voters were mocked by pundits and on late-night television for being unable to pick between two starkly different candidates. During this year's race for governor, many local voters say they're just trying to assess all the candidates.

Just getting your name known as a candidate is as challenging as ever.

After following the campaigns in recent months, Gay Rose, 68, of Arlington thought he had finally settled on Strayhorn. Then, last week, he learned that Bell was a candidate.

"I didn't even know there was a Democrat in the race," Rose said, exasperated.

Polls have shown an ongoing shift of voter support from candidate to candidate, week to week, back and forth.

Two polls show Bell or Strayhorn in second place. A third poll recently had Friedman and Bell tied for second.

Voter movement could increase as Election Day nears because of what some strategists are calling "Anyone But Perry" voters, who are dead-set against the incumbent.

Phillip Scoggins of Arlington, who declined to give his age but said he is in his 40s, turned out for the recent healthcare forum sporting a dark brown "Kinky for Governor" T-shirt. When questioned, however, he admitted that he would consider switching to Bell if it doesn't appear that Friedman can win.

Another voter, Aileen Curtin, 44, of Hurst said hearing the candidates at the forum had persuaded her to support Strayhorn. But she, too, said she would switch if another candidate had a stronger showing in the polls.

In the voting booth

Whether voters will ultimately let political calculus trump their actual feelings for the candidates remains to be seen.

"In a four- or five-person race like we have now, people do tend to watch the polls and watch the candidates and remain a little more flexible than they would in a two-party race," said Jillson, the SMU professor.

Jennifer Duffy, editor of Cook Political Report, a Washington-based political newsletter that describes itself as nonpartisan, said most voters won't cast ballots based on the candidate's likelihood of winning. "Generally voters aren't that strategic," Duffy said.

With early voting beginning Oct. 23, Perry and his opponents are making a last-minute push for the undecided, including the "Anyone But Perry" voters.

"There are enough anti-Perry votes out there that a lot of people are going to go to the voting booth thinking about who's in second place," said Laura Stromberg, spokeswoman for Friedman. "They won't vote for the person they're really backing. They're voting for whoever has the best chance to beat Perry."

Bell is also making a point of touting his second-place rankings in the latest polls.

"I think the 'Anyone But Perry' vote will end up consolidating, and being the Democratic nominee, I think I have the best chance to gain as a result of the consolidation," Bell said recently when speaking with the Star-Telegram Editorial Board.

Repeated calls to the Strayhorn campaign were not returned Wednesday.

Perry, meanwhile, is working to solidify his base.

"The governor is not going to take any vote for granted, and he is not going to take any challenge unanswered," Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black said. "The other candidates can try and strategize how they can prove to people how they hate Rick Perry more than anyone else, but Rick Perry is going to focus on a positive campaign."


Getting campaign facts

Still sitting on the fence in the governor's race? Here's how to learn more about the candidates:

Watch the hourlong debate Friday featuring all the candidates except Libertarian James Werner. The debate will air live on WFAA/Channel 8 at 7 p.m. C-SPAN plans to run a taped version of the debate at 10 p.m. Friday. There will also be live coverage on the Star-Telegram Web site,

Visit the candidates' Web sites to learn more about them and their take on the issues:

Visit the League of Women Voters Web site for candidate responses to questions at

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


"Elected Officials demonstrate that the concerns and input of the public, taxpayers and property owners carry little weight."

Send a message that will be heard


Letters to the Editor
The Cameron Herald
Copyright 2006

The Governor and TXDoT held meetings to discuss and gather input from residents of Mialm County on the Texas Corridor.

The County Commissioners Court discussed and listened to concerned citizens on the proposed and recently approved ten cent County hike in property taxes.

There is no question they listened to the voters and residents. Through the actions of these Elected Officials, they have demonstrated that the concerns and input of the public, taxpayers and property owners carry little weight.

The highly criticized and unwanted corridor continues. The continually justified and unwarranted tax increase was approved and enacted.

Now is the time to send a message that WILL BE HEARD. The Governor as well as the County Commissioners and the County Judge were elected. Let them hear your message loud and clear at the polls on the Second Tuesday in November. If they are removed from office for failure to do their job, it is justified. Possibly the next office holder will not lose sight of who they are accountable to.

Would the Commissioners Court have proposed, let alone approved, the tax increase if they were facing re-election or not running virtually unopposed?

The voters of Texas did not elect nor approve the massive undertaking of toll roads or the Texas Corridor. These projects are transforming much needed fertile rural properties into concrete mega structures. There is little doubt that the Governor would like to make these road projects his legacy.

Likewise, the legacy of the sitting County Administration is the Milam County Justice System.

A system that may have come in on budget, but one that has presented numerous challenges in the form of additional staffing levels that were not accurately identified nor planned for by the court. Staffing and retention of personnel at the Justice System is reported as also being a portion of the tax rate hike. Another justification is increased fuel costs incurred.

Who does the property owner pass along their fuel costs to?? Will the approved salary hike for the governing body off set their personal fuel costs?

If memory serves correctly, the Law Enforcement Center was not presented to the residents of Milam County in the form of a bond issue for fear that it would have been defeated.

Call it what you may, a vote, job performance evaluation or just plain housecleaning of the officials that are no longer willing to work for or listen to the people that put them in office. It is time to be heard. It is time that those who are elected to represent the residents of the state and county are reminded of who they work for.

If the proper message is sent during this election and those affected HEAR as well as listen, possibly the next increase in taxes will be to provide country roads that are drivable.

When mediocrity becomes acceptable or the norm, expect nothing greater in the future.

James A. Blain


© 2006 The Cameron Herald:


"The only thing scarier than these toll road schemes is the apathy of many Texans."

Hands Across the Corridor rallies attract hundreds


Letters to the Editor
The Cameron Herald
Copyright 2006

The Milam County portion of the “Hands Across the Corridor” Statewide Rallies was held Saturday, Sept. 30, on the Milam County Courthouse lawn. We had a great assembly of concerned Texans, Democrats, Republicans, Strayhorn Independents and even a couple of really “Kinky” folks.

Everyone in attendance agreed that our current Governor and many of our senators and representatives have forgotten the constituents that they are supposed to represent. They seem to be representing only ‘big money contributors and companies' whose interests are not what is best for Texas, but how much money the ‘projects' (toll roads and corridor) can make for their stockholders.

On this same morning, in over 40 counties, hundreds of Texans were gathered to express this same concern before our state becomes ‘one giant toll road interchange' for the growing idea of a North American Union. We are told that such a union will help Central and South American economies (you know, NAFTA and CAFTA) not really sure how this will help US. Has NAFTA helped us average Texas taxpayers? I do see many more Mexican trucks bringing in more cheap products to compete with Texas goods.

Independent Carole Strayhorn attended several of these rallies supporting Texans in our concern and opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor and the increasing plans to toll new (and many existing roads). A statement from Candidate Strayhorn was read by Agnes Vogus, secretary of Blackland Coalition. Don Schuerman, Milam Democratic county chairman, spoke about candidate Chris Bell's opposition to the TTC also.

I guess our present elected officials think a big, new toll road will help get these foreign products into and through Texas more quickly. We won't need the blackland farmland that the road will ruin, since we can ship all our food up from below the border. Who cares that they can, and do, fertilize using human wastes (e-coli) and that they will be using our Milam County water to grow much of our future food and produce. (That 90” water line planned for the corridor will easily transport lots of water away from Milam and down South.)

The only thing scarier than these toll road schemes is probably the apathy of many Texans, and the media, and the lack of interest in joining, supporting or covering such events and rallies as these before it is too late.

Margaret Green,


© 2006 The Cameron Herald:


The system of political favors for big companies is so obvious that Texas is being called the “Pay to Play State.”

Republican ‘boondoggles' abound in state, nation


Letters to the Editor
The Cameron Herald
Copyright 2006

The local Republican Party filed a lawsuit to replace one candidate with another. There is a simple, common method for accomplishing this without filing a lawsuit. There is no need for a lawsuit, with all its related costs to the County and its taxpayers. The Election Code prescribes the step-by-step process that a Party should follow.

Milam County is not the only local example of Republicans not following the Election Code.

The Courts had to intervene to stop Republicans in Fort Bend County from replacing Tom Delay, the now disgraced former Party strongman, with someone who is not under felony indictment. That Republican attempt at ballot manipulation failed because (you guessed it) the Republicans didn't follow the Election Code.

At the State level, the Texas Republican Party is giving a no-bid contract to a company from Spain to build a giant toll road across our blacklands. The system of political favors for big companies is so open and obvious that Texas is being called the “Pay to Play State.” Folks who want to play the game have to pay the Republicans. One example is the $300,000,000 slush fund Rick Perry has labeled the “Texas Enterprise Fund.”

At the Federal level, Republican star Jack Abramoff is headed off to six years in prison for fraud and conspiracy to bribe public officials. The occupation of Iraq is a boondoggle that is profitable for a few, but a disaster for the rest of us. The Clinton-era budget surplus has been squandered on corporate welfare and no-bid contracts for Halliburton. What ever happened to Osama Bin Laden? The Republicans have been too busy illegally tapping your phone and getting your calling records to find the mother of all mass-murderers.

Just the facts, Mr. Strelsky; the Republicans seem to have difficulty following the law no matter where they govern, whether in Milam County, Austin or Washington, D.C. As Sgt. Friday would say, “Just the facts.”

Richard Dodd,


© 2006 The Cameron Herald:


The TxDOT Cutoff

Drivers rerouted by 121

The Colony: City upset by plans to close part of major thoroughfare

October 5, 2006

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

THE COLONY – For years, commuters who live on The Colony's east side have relied on Morning Star Drive to get them to State Highway 121 and out of town.

But in about two weeks, the hundreds of motorists who daily use the intersection to get them to Frisco and the Dallas North Tollway will have to find indirect routes when they leave the lakeside suburb.

The Texas Department of Transportation is expected to permanently close the small portion of roadway that connects northbound Highway 121 to Morning Star sometime between Oct. 18 and 20.

Morning Star, which runs to North Colony Boulevard, will dead-end at the southbound Highway 121 service road. The closure will allow construction crews to build the main lanes of Highway 121, which will be a tollway when it opens in 2008.

It's a move that's already disappointed some officials in The Colony, who lobbied the state transportation agency to build a bridge so Highway 121's main lanes would run above Morning Star.

"It's not going to be convenient in any way," said Allen Harris, one of two council members who voted against tolls on Highway 121 in 2004.

Officials from The Colony and the Transportation Department said that as plans were drawn for Highway 121 several years ago, Morning Star was never expected to be anything more than a minor side street. Instead, it's grown into a major thoroughfare.

"In their initial plans, it was not a major cross street," said Angela Loston, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Department.

Also, since 121 was originally intended to be a free highway, officials thought there would be more time to finalize plans. But when area cities agreed to make Highway 121 a toll road, its construction was put on the fast track.

"When everything was being firmed up in 1999 to 2000, no one recognized this as a problem," said Steve Eubanks, The Colony's public works director. "I think the logic worked great until the construction along 121 got accelerated."

Though city officials begged the state agency to figure out a way to maintain Morning Star and Highway 121's full interchange, transportation officials said it was too late because designs were done and there were too many other factors – a railroad track overpass and nearby entrance and exit ramps – to go back to the drawing board.

Ms. Loston said the Transportation Department sympathizes with residents and kept the intersection open as long as possible.

"If we keep it open any longer, it will impact our progress with the main lanes along 121," she said.

In anticipation of traffic problems, the Transportation Department will open U-turn lanes at the Paige Road interchange with Highway 121, west of Morning Star. This will allow people who use Morning Star to turn right onto service roads, make a U-turn and head north on the highway.

They can also turn left at Paige, which turns into Plano Parkway to the south and hooks up with the Dallas North Tollway in Plano.

But city officials are still less than pleased. Mr. Harris isn't happy that the U-turn lanes at Spring Creek Parkway aren't open yet. That means people traveling northbound on Highway 121 can't get to Morning Star unless they turn left sooner, such as at Paige, or go through two lights at Spring Creek before turning around and coming back down the southbound service lanes.

"Our residents are going to have quite a bit of adjustments to make," Mr. Harris said.

City officials are also looking into the possible expansion of Memorial Drive, which runs parallel to Highway 121. Their idea is to connect that street with Spring Creek so that there would still be a fairly convenient connection to 121 on the city's east side.

Officials have begun talks with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to secure funding and with Frisco officials because the connection would have to go through that city. It could take up to four years to complete if it happens, though officials are also searching for ways to make it a reality sooner.

"Our No. 1 project for the next couple of years is going to be Memorial, to make everything smoother," Mr. Eubanks said. "We can't get it built quick enough."

But even as those plans move through the pipeline, disdain for the loss of Morning Star's full intersection lingers. The traffic light on northbound Highway 121 will go away when the intersection does. But it's still not clear whether a light will remain on southbound lanes at Morning Star when the main lanes open in more than a year.

Mr. Harris also takes issue with the fact that the Transportation Department wants only one right-turn lane from Morning Star onto southbound 121. That means the two current lanes will have to be funneled into one lane, possibly causing more traffic woes.

Council member Joel Marks, who also voted against tolling Highway 121, expressed his frustration at a council meeting Monday. When Mr. Eubanks informed the council of plans to place signs throughout the area to warn motorists of the pending change, Mr. Marks suggested that the state should also incur the cost of putting signs up since "it's their highway."

"On ours [sign], tell them we're disappointed we don't have a bridge," Mr. Marks said.


© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"The American people will not tolerate backroom deals that threaten our sovereignty."

Congressman Paul Opposes NAFTA Superhighway

October 4, 2006

Press Release
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (TX)
Copyright 2006

Washington: Congressman Ron Paul joined several of his congressional colleagues in expressing outrage at the planned “NAFTA superhighway” that will require eminent domain actions on an enormous scale in Texas and beyond. H.Con.Res 487, introduced by Virginia Representative Virgil Goode and cosponsored by Paul, expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should not engage in the construction of a NAFTA superhighway or enter into any plans to create a North American Union between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

Plans for such a superhighway are part of the so-called “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), which is neither a treaty nor a formal agreement. Rather, the SPP is a "dialogue" launched by the heads of state of Canada, Mexico, and the United States at a summit in Waco, Texas in March 2005.

According to the SPP website, this dialogue will create new supra-national organizations to coordinate border security, health policy, economic and trade policy, and energy policy between the three governments. As such, it is but an extension of the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements-- government trade schemes that bypass the express constitutional authority of Congress to regulate trade.

“This is a matter of national sovereignty,” Paul stated. “Any movement toward a North American Union diminishes the ability of average Americans to influence the laws under which they must live. The SPP agreement, which includes plans for a major transnational superhighway through Texas, is moving forward without congressional oversight-- and that is an outrage. The administration needs a strong message from Congress that the American people will not tolerate backroom deals that threaten our sovereignty.”

© 2006 U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (TX) Press Release:


Governor's debate or 'Friday Night Sound Bites?'

Cary Clack: Candidates will talk, but who will listen?


Cary Clack
San Antonio Express-News
Copytright 2006

You silly Texas voters, thinking that your opinions don't matter and that your votes are taken for granted. How ridiculous of you to think that certain powers-that-be in the state don't want you to be fully informed and engaged in this year's gubernatorial race.

Tomorrow night, just in time to dispel your feelings of insignificance, a real live candidate debate will take place. OK, maybe it's not a "real" debate, but at least it's live, in a sterilized kind of way.

And so what, if all of the candidates have not been invited to participate?

With Republican incumbent Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman having all of the answers to the state's problems, what could the Libertarian Party candidate, James Werner, possibly have to offer?

So, with important issues such as school finance, a teacher shortage, health insurance for children, property taxes, water and the Trans-Texas Corridor to be discussed, tomorrow night's three-hour debate in Dallas will be the first of several gubernatorial debates, right?

Well, tomorrow's debate will last for one hour and it will be the ONLY debate. There will be no studio audience and it will be held in an undisclosed bunker in Pakistan.

But it's an important debate and the Perry campaign and Belo Corp., the sponsor with exclusive rights to THE debate, really, really, honestly and truly, dear voters, want you to see it.

And that's why they scheduled it for a Friday night. A Friday night, when the state of Texas is consumed with high school football. A Friday night, before the UT-OU game. A Friday night, before a big NFL weekend featuring the Cowboys in Philadelphia. A Friday night, so that radio talk shows won't be able to discuss and dissect the debate the next day.

What else? Oh yeah, only Belo affiliates in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin and television stations in smaller towns can carry the debate live. Everyone else must carry it tape-delayed within four days.

Again, they really, honestly, truly, desperately want you to see this debate.

Those Texans at football games Friday night who want to follow the debate live can do so by bringing a radio to the game and listening, over the din, to KTSA, 550 AM.

In a Perry television ad touting his commitment to education, there's a scene of the governor greeting children as they board a school bus. Now we know he was shipping them to a high school football game because he didn't want them to see him debate.

The Perry camp, citing a scheduling conflict, declined an invitation for a debate that would have been held tonight and carried on public stations across the state. It will be interesting to learn what's on the governor's schedule for tonight.

In any election, it's the challengers for an office who want to debate and the incumbents, regardless of party affiliation, who avoid them.

Bell, Friedman, Keeton Strayhorn and Werner deserve multiple opportunities to showcase their ideas and critique the performance of the man who has been governor for six years. They deserve more debates but, most important, the people of Texas deserve more. The governor's seat belongs to them and not to Perry or Belo.

Why doesn't Perry relish the opportunity to defend his record in a debate format? Why doesn't he want the eyes of Texas to see him make a case for himself that may, just may, force him to venture from the safety of a prepared script?

Either you have a record you want to trumpet across the state or one you want to be drowned out by the jubilance of high school bands that have something to celebrate.

Cary Clack's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call him at (210) 250-3546 or e-mail at

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Zachry gives campaign to contributions Supreme Court Justices to win favor in eminent domain cases

Texas court nominee challenges possible TTC builder's campaign contributions

October 03, 2006

By Dan Genz
The Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2006

Democratic Texas Supreme Court nominee Bill Moody said Monday that a construction firm may be using political contributions to win favor from the state’s highest civil court in a potential eminent domain lawsuit about the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“My opponent and other members of the Supreme Court have taken sizable contributions from the Zachry group, well-knowing there is going to be an eminent domain case,” Moody said during a Waco campaign visit with the Tribune-Herald editorial board.

Moody cited contributions from Zachry Construction Corporation’s political action committee and executives to his opponent, Republican Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, and four other sitting justices.

The San Antonio firm is expected to collaborate on the $8.8 billion toll road, railroad and utility network project with the Spanish firm Cintra.

Willett, the only Baylor University graduate on the state’s highest civil court, said his contributors know he will not consider their support while weighing cases.

“Every contributor understands my commitment to decide each and every case on its legal merits, without fear or favor,” Willett said. “My commitment to evenhandedness is unshakable, and I’ll never put a finger on the scale or a finger in the wind.”

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Willett, a former U.S. and Texas assistant attorney general, in August of 2005 to the seat formerly held by U.S. 5th Circuit Court Justice Priscilla Owen.

Running a statewide campaign requires “tremendous resources,” Willett said, choosing not to address the Zachry contributions separately.

“I’m honored by the tremendous breadth and intensity of the border-to-border support I’ve earned from across Texas,” he said.

Zachry executives and the company’s political action committee have donated at least $8,350 to Willett and also have contributed to the campaign funds of Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Justices Nathan Hecht, Phil Johnson and David Medina. The contributions represent just a small portion of their overall campaigns.

Zachry public affairs director Vicky Waddy said the company is backing Willett based on his sharp legal mind, not on any future cases. She also said Zachry would not be party to an eminent domain case because the Texas Department of Transportation would oversee all land acquisition by eminent domain.

But Moody said any eminent domain decision would influence the Trans-Texas Corridor’s success, thus affecting Zachry.

“I know they have a very strong interest in how the Supreme Court will rule,” he said.

He said that if Zachry had given him money, he would be uncomfortable accepting because, “Maybe you would think I was bought.”

Trans-Texas Corridor critic Rick Wegwerth called the contributions “politics as usual,” and said most people would not give thousands of dollars to candidates if they did not expect something in return.


© 2006 The Waco Tribune-Herald:


"How about an ad showing the overtaxed Austin driver pulverizing Dash with a ballpeen hammer?"

Dash the Bobblehead?

Hey, toll road ad icon should be a little plastic panhandler

October 03, 2006

John Kelso
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

The folks at Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing here in Austin missed an opportunity when they created a computer-enhanced bobblehead doll named Dash to bother people into getting toll tags.

The Dash character the agency came up with to push the toll tag program in a TV ad campaign isn't bad. But the Matthews people could have bumped it up a notch if they'd invented the Pud the Pestering Panhandler chatting bobblehead doll for the same campaign.

Because toll roads will be hitting us up for our spare change by the side of the road, what would be more fitting? Pud the Pestering Panhandler dashboard doll would have become the Texas Department of Transportation's toll road plastic Jesus. Oh well. Another missed opportunity.

Dash the talking bobblehead really will be the star of a $1.8 million advertising campaign designed to get drivers to sign up for toll tags. In fact, the transportation department has ordered 25,000 of these bobbleheads for new toll tag customers. But they won't be ready for four or five months. So maybe you should wait to sign up.

I don't know about you, but I'd be some kind of ticked off if I got a toll tag and I got hosed out of my bobblehead. I can envision it now: toll tag customers left without bobbleheads start riot in front of TxDOT headquarters.

In a way, I'm a big toll road fan. For one thing, they dispel the notion that all Texans have oil wells in their yards. For another, when people move to Austin from New Jersey, it makes them feel at home by giving the area a Sopranos feel. And, if you live in Round Rock, Texas 130 will provide you with a great way to get to Mustang Ridge, a major trade route for people on the garage sale circuit.

Why all this push to get you out of your chair to get a toll tag? Because like tainted spinich, toll roads are the wave of the present. Next month, parts of Texas 130, Texas 45 North, and MoPac Boulevard will be open to the public for free, for the first two months.

The bad news is that it's like heroin. The first hit's free, but they'll be charging for the next one. And one of the ways they charge you is the toll tag, which you should obtain ostensibily to keep from being forced to sit in long lines of traffic.

So here comes Dash the Bobblehead in the TV ads, shown sitting on the dash of the car of some driver who is stuck in traffic because he didn't get a toll tag.

"Are we there yet? Seriously, are we there yet?" Dash asks.

Instead of Dash the Bobblehead, how about Smash the Bobblehead, an ad showing the overtaxed Austin driver pulverizing Dash with a ballpeen hammer?

Toll roads. Well, it dismisses the old tourism slogan that Texas is "a whole 'nother country." Which makes you wonder: what's next? Pay toilets to raise money for public schools? Hey, that's a good idea. How about a Tommy the Talking Toilet Seat action figure who hassles you for money?

It never ends, does it? I expect one day that the government will just install bar codes on our behinds so we can pay as we go and they can just send us a bill at the end of the month.

John Kelso's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 445-3606 or

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: