Kolkhorst: "This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a Texas issue…We’re going to take our roads, our state and our nation back.”
March 03, 2007
By WAYNE STEWART
The Palestine Herald
AUSTIN — With the shout, “Texas is not for sale,” thousands of people from across the state made their way up Congress Avenue to the Texas Capitol to tell lawmakers to stop the Trans Texas Corridor and the National Animal Identification System.
The rally was set up by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a grass roots organization dedicated to fighting the implementation of NAIS. For Texas Independence Day, the group joined forces with Texans fighting the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) which carries the possibility of losing thousands of farm and ranch acres to eminent domain for the construction of the 1,200-foot wide corridor.
Harris County Republican Precinct Chairman Stuart Maypers, who spoke at a Senate Transportation Committee meeting on Thursday, was at Friday’s rally to reinforce his opposition to the corridor.
The corridor, Maypers said, will not only confiscate a large amount of property from private individuals, but he also believes it will end up costing Texas’ taxpayers millions, maybe billions, of dollars.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that there has already been a private road constructed in Texas,” Maypers said. “The Camino-Colombia Toll Road was a private road constructed for $75 million and was opened in 2000 in Laredo.”
Laredo, Maypers noted, is the largest inland port in the United States. Forty percent of the goods that enter the United States from Mexico come through Laredo.
Even with that high concentration of traffic, Maypers said the road was not a success.
“After three years the 22-mile road was sold at auction for $12.1 million at the Webb County Courthouse,” Maypers said. “The bond failed and then the bondholders foreclosed on the $75 million road.”
In the end, taxpayers were left having to pay for the road nobody traveled, which caused Maypers to ask, “If a private road fails in a high-density traffic area then how will a larger one work going through mostly rural areas?”
Along with the problems presented to rural land owners by the TTC, NAIS, which originally was scheduled to become mandatory in 2007 but because of public backlash has become a voluntary project, would have forced ranchers to register their property or premises; assign individual identification numbers to their livestock; and eventually report all animal movements. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the information would be held in private databases and only available to government entities in the event of a disease outbreak.
While the program is currently voluntary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance organizer Judith McGeary said the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) was given the power by the state legislature to make the program mandatory at the TAHC’s discretion.
Rallies, such as the one held at the capital on Friday, are what it takes to make legislators take action.
“Officials say (NAIS) protects us from terrorism,” McGeary said. “Does al-Qaeda really care about grandma’s chickens?”
When pressed for the real reason behind NAIS, McGeary said officials said it is needed for the country’s export markets. In the end, McGeary said it came back to money.
Currently, there are two pieces of legislation in the Texas House that would take away TAHC’s authority to make NAIS mandatory. The bills are HB 461 and 637. They are not perfect, McGeary said, but they will help.
“This is more than about food,” McGeary said. “It’s about our way of life.”
As Charlie Tomlin, an ag teacher and rancher from George West, sees it, both the proposed corridor and NAIS will have drastic effects on the state’s agriculture industry.
“None of this is set up (to help) agriculture,” Tomlin said. “With the corridor there’s only going to be stuff coming in and nothing going out.
“NAIS is also going to hurt a lot of people with livestock,” Tomlin continued. “Who’s going to regulate it, who’s going to do it (manage information databases), and what kind of security we as landowners are going to have?”
When looking at both measures, Tomlin said he can’t see anything good for Texas producers.
“Right now there is a lot of Mexican traffic going out (into the U.S.),” Tomlin explained. “Their trucks don’t have good brakes, no safety inspections, they don’t have to abide by our safety laws. That road with Mexico is a one-way street.
“They (politicians) are just trying to put a job on us. There’s a lot going on under the sheets here,” Tomlin added.
State Rep. Garnett Coleman, D-Houston, said every Texas taxpayer is going to have to pay for the corridor when the bond paying for it has been defaulted.
“Then, Cintra (the company from Spain contracted to build the transportation corridor) will go back to Spain with all of our money,” Coleman said, who added the project has to be stopped.
One state lawmaker said she recognized the significance of Friday, and said she is working through her position as a legislator to look to the future of the state and its people.
“(Trans Texas Corridor) is one of many things that threaten our freedom,” State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst said. “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a Texas issue…We’re going to take our roads, our state and our nation back.”
To help do that, Kolkhorst has introduced legislation that will stop the corridor. To go along with that, Coleman has filed HB 998 that will put a moratorium on any toll road in Texas that hasn’t been built.
The first corridor to be built would start in the Rio Grande valley, run parallel to Interstate 35 and Interstate 37 north to Denison. There also are three more priority corridors that, if all were built, would span approximately 4,000 miles across Texas and use about a half-million acres of land.
If built, the TTC, according to the Trans Texas Corridor Web site, would feature separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks; freight railways; high-speed commuter railways; and infrastructure for utilities including broadband and telecommunications services.
For more on the Trans Texas Corridor visit www.keeptexasmoving.com or visit these other Web sites concerning the massive transportation plan at www.corridorwatch.com; www.satollparty.com; www.truthbetolled.com; or www.texastollparty.com.
For more on NAIS, visit the Texas Animal Health Commission’s Web site at www.tahc.state.tx.us or visit the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Web site at www.farmandranchfreedom.org
Wayne Stewart may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com
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