Sunday, October 14, 2007

Surveillance 'survey' was about gathering information for the $9 million tax-funded propaganda campaign to sell the Trans-Texas Corridor

Surveying need for corporate welfare

October 14, 2007

Paul D. Perry
Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2007

Well, it appears that we scooped Belo’s flagship daily paper, as well as DFW’s TV news media when it came to Nosygate, the Texas Department of Transportation’s hidden camera surveillance and targeted mail survey of Texas drivers in our column last Sunday.

According to the tardy Thursday Dallas Morning News article, TxDOT’s abuse of your privacy cost nearly $781,000 of your money. To paraphrase the late U.S. Senator Everitt Dirksen, three quarters of a million here and there pretty soon ends up being real money. As I mentioned in the Waxahachie Daily Light last Sunday, the state has counted traffic flow for years, but this is the first time of which I am aware that they have found it necessary to record your license plate and send a nosy multi-question marketing survey to photographed car owners in order to know and record the details about your travel.

Readers and those who were surveyed probably remember that Alliance Transportation Group, Inc. was the name of the organization that was the front for TxDOT in the survey. A reader informed me via e-mail that Alliance Transportation Group, Inc. is registered as an assumed name of Alliance-Texas Engineering Co. as reported by the Secretary of State. Now, that sounds like the name of a company that might have a vested interest in TxDOT directing a little business its way.

It seems even more evident that this survey was not really about determining need but more about gathering information that will serve to drive the $9 million propaganda campaign that is being funded by your tax dollars to convince you of the need for Trans-Texas toll road construction. Engineering firms, after all, are more concerned with engineering than determining a “need” for their services.

Make no mistake about it, the study was centered on what state officials call the I-35 corridor.

Interestingly enough, the “packed” I-35 corridor is often cited as the reason that we need, through TxDOT, to grant the governmental power of eminent domain to a Spanish company in order to turn over a million or so acres of Texas land into a foreign-owned toll road - with much of the construction at your expense, dear taxpayer. The eminent domain powers granted by the state on behalf of this project have been enhanced to the benefit of Cintra-Zachery, the Spanish company that will control the “Trans-Texas Corridor.”

Texas land and homeowners beware; no one is looking after your rights in this land grab which is worthy of a railroad/homesteader dispute in an old cinematic Western. Many of us boomers may remember the (1974) Mel Brooks spoof, “Blazing Saddles.” Where are John Wayne, Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott when you need them — or at least Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder?

Never mind that the Trans-Texas Corridor, or TTC 35, will be a limited access super highway primarily designed to move goods from Mexico and Mexican ports into the United States and Canada and will most likely have only a marginal affect on local or even regional traffic problems. Remember the “limited access” part; entrances and exits will be few and far between and tolls will be the highest of anything we have seen yet. This “road” is designed to be a taxpayer-funded trade subsidy, not a North Texas traffic mover. Corporate welfare, anyone?

There will be some effort to force you to use the toll road when possible, as the enabling legislation contains provisions to keep the state of Texas from improving any competitive road or highway. No doubt that will all be interpreted to the benefit of the conquistadors at Cintra-Zachery.

Oh and by the way, it appears that the average Mexican is about as much to blame for this boondoggle as the average Texan. While attending a meeting in Mexico recently, I was informed that the Chinese are “very much behind” the expansion of ports on the west coast of Mexico that will tie in to the TTC. It looks more and more like this entire network of toll roads is merely a tool for large corporations in the United States, China, Canada and Mexico to have their trade infrastructure needs subsidized by U.S., Canadian and Mexican taxpayers and property owners.

The greatest burden (measured in dollars) will, of course, fall on the citizens of the good old U.S.A., with a large measure of that falling on your fellow Texans. This is not to diminish the human cost of the dislocations of families and businesses that will occur in the United States, or the financial cost to Mexicans who must relocate due to the companion project in Mexico.

I am not one who is against trade. I am all for it. I just think the direct beneficiaries should pay their own freight, pardon the pun. We need reasonable road construction as well, but if we are really concerned about our own commuter traffic and intra-state trucking issues, why don’t we expand and increase lanes on the roadbed and right-of-way the state already controls?

The companies that will gain the greatest benefit from an expansion in shipping and trade infrastructure should pay for it. They should not be granted monopolies such as state-subsidized toll roads or vicariously, state powers, such as eminent domain. They should pay market price from voluntary sellers just like other businesses.

Paul D. Perry is a contributing Sunday columnist for the Daily Light. He is a local businessman and mediator.

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