Saturday, October 15, 2011

North Texas Tollway Authority's no bid contracts with a select group of legal and engineering firms come under scrutiny

Tollway authority's way of doing business comes under scrutiny


By Gordon Dickson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2011

PLANO -- This year, before being appointed chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority, former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr disclosed that his brother worked for the Locke Lord law firm, which provides much of the authority's legal services.

Other board members wondered if there was a conflict of interest. Barr explained that he had already sought an opinion from the authority's legal counsel -- who also works for Locke Lord -- and together they had determined it was ethically safe for him to vote on issues involving the firm.

"My brother has never done anything related to NTTA and not benefited in any way," Barr said later in an interview. Barr explained that his brother, Andrew Barr, has a background in a entirely different area of business and criminal law.

But as the tollway authority, once a niche agency that managed a handful of toll projects in the Dallas area, has evolved into a major player throughout North Texas, the manner in which it conducts its business is being placed under a microscope.

An audit-style report scheduled to be made public Tuesday is expected to offer a scathing review of how the tollway authority handles its financial and organizational affairs.

It will likely look into what some area officials say is the authority's far too cozy relationship with a handful of legal, engineering and other firms that are paid tens of millions of dollars per year for their services without putting the work up for bid.

The authority's inability to hold onto a chief executive will also likely be explored in the report, commissioned by county judges in Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin counties. NTTA Executive Director Allen Clemson, hired in mid-2009, sought to move swiftly to bring in new blood for engineering, legal and other contracts. But last week, Clemson abruptly resigned on the eve of the report being issued, saying he was doing so because the board was so unhappy with his performance that he expected to be fired.

The report also may talk about how board members should report conflicts of interest. County commissions in those four counties appoint eight NTTA tollway board members -- two each -- and a ninth member is appointed by the governor.

Barr's brother, Andrew Barr, stressed in an e-mail last week that he is "of counsel" with Locke Lord, meaning he isn't a partner and doesn't participate in the firm's profits. "Nor can any single client somehow indirectly influence what I'm paid," Andrew Barr said, noting that he is just one of about 660 attorneys with Locke Lord.

Kenneth Barr also has prior relationships with the Fort Worth lawyers hired to handle the right of way acquisitions for the Chisholm Trail Parkway, another NTTA project. Another board member, David Denison, has acknowledged having a financial stake in a firm with land in the parkway's path.

Many critics, including elected leaders, say the agency ought to be subject to a periodic state audit known as a sunset review to ensure that the motoring public's dollars and trust have not been compromised. During the next year, tollway authority officials estimate that their revenue will increase to $480 million and their debt to $9 billion.

"Too often, the public's business becomes private business," said state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. "Sunset is a way for citizens to hold their agencies accountable."

Other state lawmakers say such a review could flag issues leading to the constant turnover in upper management.

"I'm looking for an analysis of their governance that helps explain why they've had five CEOs in five years," said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who serves on the Sunset Advisory Commission. "That speaks to a government entity with an institutional problem."

Cozy relationships

Officials who know what is included in the county judges' report, which is being paid for by the NTTA, are tight-lipped about its contents. The study, which includes one-on-one interviews with tollway board members and executive staff, is being prepared by Alvarez and Marsal, a corporate problem-solving firm.Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley declined to discuss the report, saying he hadn't seen the final version, though he said the consultants had done a good job.

This month, Barr told fellow board members to be prepared to discuss the report at the authority's Plano headquarters Tuesday.

One of the areas the report may examine is how the tollway authority could save money -- perhaps millions of dollars a year -- by hiring its own engineers, lawyers and other professional staff, rather than relying on the handful of firms with which it has close ties.

For example, one of the relationships likely to be examined is with the HNTB engineering firm.

The firm shares a campus with the authority in Plano, and employees of either organization who want to confer about a project need only walk across the parking lot. HNTB is being paid about $15 million this year under the firm's contract with the tollway authority.

Another association likely to come under review is the authority's link to Locke Lord, which is being paid about $6.9 million this year for providing the agency with legal advice, according to tollway records.

Some recent changes at NTTA have created new layers of controversy. For example, tollway board members talked about the need to hire more minority-owned contractors, and took a step in that direction this year in hiring the law firm Newby Davis to provide legal services for right of way purchase on the Chisholm Trail Parkway project.

Newby Davis is a partnership between Brian Newby, an African-American lawyer who is Gov. Rick Perry's former chief of staff, and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Newby and Davis are both lawyers with Fort Worth's Cantey Hanger firm.

Kenneth Barr keeps an office in Cantey Hanger's building on the west side of downtown Fort Worth.

In 2009, Barr, Newby and Cantey Hanger attorney David Chappell formed a partnership named Barr Newby Chappell Consulting, according to records at the secretary of state's office. Nearly two years later, when the tollway board voted unanimously to hire Newby Davis, Barr said it was an oversight that he didn't ask the tollway authority's legal counsel whether he should abstain because of his past relationship with Newby and Chappell.

He said he had forgotten about the 2009 partnership, which had been for a business opportunity that never materialized and was dissolved.

Davis, for her part, said she sees no conflict in doing legal work for the tollway authority, even though as a state senator she may be called upon to vote on matters where a connection -- however loose -- could be perceived. For example, the Legislature approves the budget for the Texas Department of Transportation, which is partnering with the tollway authority on the Chisholm Trail Parkway project and has committed $147 million to the project for connections to Interstate 30 in southwest Fort Worth and U.S. 67 in Cleburne.

"So long as the work is not related to any decisions I make in the Senate, there is no conflict," Davis said. "Together with the NTTA's goal of spreading work around Dallas-Fort Worth, and using minority-owned firms, Brian and I created a minority-owned law firm. There's absolutely no conflict whatsoever."

Land purchase

Another tollway board member, David Denison of Lewisville, came forward with a potential conflict issue in February. After the Star-Telegram reported the sale of a 625-acre tract of land straddling the planned Chisholm Trail Parkway right of way, the retired real estate investor disclosed that he had worked as an independent consultant and investor with one of the partners in the purchase, Stratford Land.

Stratford and Legacy Capital Partners bought the McPherson Ranch property, about five miles south of Hulen Mall, near where McPherson Boulevard is expected to intersect with the new toll road. Part of the property will be set aside for single-family homes, although retailers will likely also be drawn to the area once the toll road provides easy access, a Stratford official has said.

But, Denison wrote in a Feb. 11 memorandum to fellow board members and tollway staff: "There is no scenario under which that acquisition can result in any economic benefit to me."

Denison went on to explain that Stratford has several funds, each of which is managed independently, and that although he was an investor in three such funds, he had no involvement in the fund near Chisholm Trail Parkway.

Frank Stevenson, a Locke Lord attorney who has served as the tollway authority's chief legal counsel for many years, said the Denison situation proves that the tollway authority's internal conflict-of-interest rules can work.

"I'm at a loss as to what we should have done differently," he said, noting that Denison quickly brought the issue to the board and executive staff's attention and got a ruling before a potential conflict could arise. "It seems clear to me that, legally, this was the right answer."

Several other officials noted that other state commissions handle ethics differently by requiring officials to fill out annual financial disclosure forms so that staff members can help flag potential conflicts for appointees.

"I am by law and rule required to disclose a great deal," said Bill Meadows of Fort Worth, a Texas Transportation Commission member who also previously served on the tollway authority board. "This is a much more open agency than NTTA, in terms of what officials are required to disclose. We have an annual financial disclosure that covers real estate, relationships, employment and equity."

Barr cautioned board members not to expect the report to bring closure to the issues. Instead, he said it will be a starting point for the board members, who must figure out themselves how to rebuild the authority's management.

"This is not a road map. It's not so much telling us how to run NTTA as much as they'll be giving us suggestions," he said. "We will take those recommendations very seriously. We will not focus on the finger-pointing, but how to look forward to the future."

© 2011 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Wall Street 'to the rescue' with toll road infrastructure bank

US House Committee Blasts National Toll Road Bank Proposal

Presidential toll road bank hits roadblock in US House committee of jurisdiction.

Wal Street

Copyright 2011

A top congressional leader on Wednesday made clear his opposition to President Obama's idea of spending $10 billion to create a national infrastructure bank (view details). The bank, part of the White House jobs bill, would offer public subsidy for the financing of "public private partnerships" -- which most often would take the form of a toll road. The chairman of the US House Transportation Committee said at a hearing the president's plan would not advance.

"A national infrastructure bank is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives," Chairman John Mica (R-Florida) said. "If you want a recipe to put off job creation, adopt that national infrastructure bank proposal."

Opponents called the proposal a "distraction" from the issue of a long-term highway program reauthorization bill which would include funding for state-level toll road banks. Already, thirty-two states have their own infrastructure banks which have financed $6.3 billion in loan agreements along the same lines as the proposed federal bank.

"Many people are skeptical that bureaucrats in Washington would have any idea which transportation projects are most deserving of receiving a federal loan," Highways and Transit subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan, Jr (R-Tennessee) said. "This skepticism is why Congress has already established the state infrastructure bank program in SAFETEA-LU."

In addition, the US Department of Transportation already provides federal credit for transportation projects under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which has offered $8.4 billion in project finance. Dozens of other financing mechanisms are offered by the Federal Highway Administration.

"Why build one when you could build two for twice the price?" Representative Howard Coble (R-North Carolina) said sarcastically.

Democrats offered the only backing for the bank idea.

"Before Wall Street destroyed the economy, I had said, 'Well, I really don't see the need for an infrastructure bank -- most of the states have good credit and they can go out and borrow on their own at very good rates," said subcommittee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon). "But that isn't the case any more. The states need guarantees, they need help, many are against their borrowing limits, and most of the banks generously bailed out by Congress -- not by me, I didn't vote for it -- aren't lending. Credit and bond markets are tight."

DeFazio only supports the use of the bank only for water, sewer and energy projects. He does not support tolls on existing interstates.

© 2011

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Rick Perry's Texas: State of Denial and Kremlin-style censorship

Rick Perry officials spark revolt after doctoring environment report

Scientists ask for names to be removed after mentions of climate change and sea-level rise taken out by Texas officials

Perry's Red State


Suzanne Goldenberg
The Guardian
Copyright 2011

Officials in Rick Perry's home state of Texas have set off a scientists' revolt after purging mentions of climate change and sea-level rise from what was supposed to be a landmark environmental report. The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state's environmental agency.

By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document. "None of us can be party to scientific censorship so we would all have our names removed," said Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Centre.

"To me it is simply a question of maintaining scientific credibility. This is simply antithetical to what a scientist does," Lester said. "We can't be censored." Scientists see Texas as at high risk because of climate change, from the increased exposure to hurricanes and extreme weather on its long coastline to this summer's season of wildfires and drought.

However, Perry, in his run for the Republican nomination, has elevated denial of science, from climate change to evolution, to an art form. He opposes any regulation of industry, and has repeatedly challenged the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Texas is the only state to refuse to sign on to the federal government's new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. "I like to tell people we live in a state of denial in the state of Texas," said John Anderson, an oceanography at Rice University, and author of the chapter targeted by the government censors.

That state of denial percolated down to the leadership of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The agency chief, who was appointed by Perry, is known to doubt the science of climate change. "The current chair of the commission, Bryan Shaw, commonly talks about how human-induced climate change is a hoax," said Anderson.

But scientists said they still hoped to avoid a clash by simply avoiding direct reference to human causes of climate change and by sticking to materials from peer-reviewed journals. However, that plan began to unravel when officials from the agency made numerous unauthorised changes to Anderson's chapter, deleting references to climate change, sea-level rise and wetlands destruction.

"It is basically saying that the state of Texas doesn't accept science results published in Science magazine," Anderson said. "That's going pretty far."

Officials even deleted a reference to the sea level at Galveston Bay rising five times faster than the long-term average – 3mm a year compared to .5mm a year – which Anderson noted was a scientific fact. "They just simply went through and summarily struck out any reference to climate change, any reference to sea level rise, any reference to human influence – it was edited or eliminated," said Anderson. "That's not scientific review that's just straight forward censorship."

Mother Jones has tracked the changes. The agency has defended its actions. "It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it," Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. "Information was included in a report that we disagree with."

She said Anderson's report had been "inconsistent with current agency policy", and that he had refused to change it. She refused to answer any questions. Campaigners said the censorship by the Texas state authorities was a throwback to the George Bush era when White House officials also interfered with scientific reports on climate change.

In the last few years, however, such politicisation of science has spread to the states. In the most notorious case, Virginia's attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, who is a professed doubter of climate science, has spent a year investigating grants made to a prominent climate scientist Michael Mann, when he was at a state university in Virginia.

Several courts have rejected Cuccinelli's demands for a subpoena for the emails. In Utah, meanwhile, Mike Noel, a Republican member of the Utah state legislature called on the state university to sack a physicist who had criticised climate science doubters.

The university rejected Noel's demand, but the physicist, Robert Davies said such actions had had a chilling effect on the state of climate science. "We do have very accomplished scientists in this state who are quite fearful of retribution from lawmakers, and who consequently refuse to speak up on this very important topic. And the loser is the public," Davies said in an email.

"By employing these intimidation tactics, these policymakers are, in fact, successful in censoring the message coming from the very institutions whose expertise we need."

© 2011 The Guardian:

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Full of ego, light on the facts. That’s a good summation of Perry’s campaign."

Is letting Perry be Perry such a good idea?

Rick Perry


By Jennifer Rubin
The Washington Post
Copyright 2011

The virtual unanimous opinion of media, Republican operatives and donors of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s performance in the last debate was that he looked alternatively annoyed, uncomfortable and tired. His confession that debates aren’t his “strong suit” suggested a sense of grim recognition has set in: Perry can’t win the voters over on policy or presentation.

Self-pity seems to have overtaken the Perry camp. Anita Perry complains, “We are being brutalized by our opponents and our own party.” Are these folks ready for the onslaught from President Obama? Plainly not, especially since almost all of her husband’s problems have been self-inflicted. But the thin-skinnedness is perhaps explainable if you think God has tapped you on the shoulder.

She adds, “So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative — well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them, too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

Those poor benighted fools don’t know God selected him, not them! Does she really believe that Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) are attacking him because of his faith?

And don’t think I’m picking on Mrs. Perry. Perry himself has repeatedly explained that he’s been tapped as well. Maybe he should have listened to his own counsel. At one point he explained to Neil Cavuto, “A prophet is generally not loved in their [sic] hometown.” Perhaps his prophesy doesn’t go down elsewhere either.

It is ironic Perry’s wife should be whining about religious prejudice, given her husband's refusal to denounce the overt bigotry of Pastor Robert Jeffress.

Self-pity soon degenerates into anger. Perry is reportedly mounting a negative ad campaign against Mitt Romney. This, of course, misses the point that Herman Cain (who also thinks he’s been called to run) would be the beneficiary. Romney senior adviser Stuart Stevens replied matter-of-factly when I asked about the expected onslaught. “Rick Perry has a Rick Perry problem, not a Mitt Romney or Herman Cain problem,” he said.

Stevens is happy to point out that a ultra-negative ad campaign has its drawbacks. “At some point, donors and others need to start asking Governor Perry’s campaign if they are more interested in defeating Obama or going down a destructive path cheered by the White House.” More to the point, Perry has never launched a positive message; voters may come away with the impression that he is simply a bitter, panicky pol.

All of this must certainly be a shock to Perry. His record was never scrutinized to this extent in Texas. He never faced debate after debate against skilled opponents. Governors are in many states the king of the mountain. People grovel and flatter them. They go speak to friendly crowds day after day. And they get all the trappings of power — limos, helicopters, security entourages.

On that score, a staffer from an opposing camp after the debate told me: “He had seven Texas Rangers in the hallway of the Hanover Inn in Dartmouth. He took four with him in the walk-through. He had a motorcade of five SUVs to go to a frat house, where he declared the War of Independence was in the 16th century.” Full of ego, light on the facts. Come to think of it, that’s a good summation of Perry’s campaign.

© 2011 Washington Post:

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NTTA chief bails after ruffling the crony connections of HNTB, Locke Lord and other 'legacy' firms with 'no bid' contracts

Under fire, Tollway chief resigns today


By Gordon Dickson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2011

Under fire for trying to reform agency operations too quickly, North Texas Tollway Authority Executive Director Allen Clemson resigned today.

In private meetings this week with an unidentified board member, it was made clear to Clemson that the board had enough votes to fire him Wednesday. So, instead, he resigned effective Friday.

Clemson must still negotiate a severance and, although his contract only calls for 90 days of pay, it is believed that he will receive his salary through the end of his contract term in May.

Reached by telephone Thursday afternoon, Clemson did not want to elaborate on his job status until after talking with tollway board members. But Clemson did say that he expected to be fired during a tollway board meeting Wednesday.

"I don't have any indication that a majority of the board's opinion has changed," he said.

Clemson was nearly fired during the summer after most of the tollway board's nine members said they didn't like the manner in which he was trying to bring in new firms to handle the agency's legal, engineering and other professional services. But under then-Chairman Victor Vandergriff of Arlington, a Clemson supporter, the tollway board opted to instead begin a 90-day review of Clemson's job performance.

The source with knowledge of Clemson's termination asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to discuss the situation but said Clemson was preparing to leave today.

Clemson came to the Plano-based tollway authority in June 2009 after a lengthy stint as the Dallas County administrator. He stepped into a position known as a hot seat -- the agency had had five executive directors in five years. Not long after he arrived, Clemson sought to change the tollway authority's culture of relying on engineering firm HNTB, legal firm Locke Lord and a handful of other companies for tens of millions of dollars per year in tollway work.

But beginning last year, he came under fire for seeking change too swiftly, as some board members sought to ensure that the quality of work of several ongoing big-dollar projects wasn't hurt during the transition. That spat let to the ouster of Vandergriff as chairman. He was replaced by former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr, who became tollway board chairman last month.

"I think a lot of things he could have done differently, and it probably would have prevented some of the angst out there, but I certainly appreciate the job he has done," Vandergriff said of Clemson. Vandergriff, who was reached by phone Thursday afternoon, said he had not been told of Clemson's departure.

© 2011 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rick Perry's pipe dreams: More land grabs for Big Oil & Gas campaign donors

Perry banking on pro-drilling energy plan

Image credit: Richard Saunders


By Christy Hoppe and Elizabeth Souder
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2011

DALLAS — Rick Perry, looking to take the offensive on job creation and revive his struggling campaign, is poised to advance a “drill here, drill now” initiative with a heavy reliance on environmental deregulation and new pipelines.

Perry has been under pressure to release an economic blueprint and his campaign will fully unveil the energy plan Friday in Pennsylvania. He touted it in Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, without many details, as a way to create 1.2 million jobs and free the country from its foreign oil dependence.

Critics are already dismissing the underpinnings of the plan, saying that any president would lack the authority to implement it, that Perry underestimates the country’s affinity for environmental protections and that he will face the kind of fierce resistance to oil pipelines that dismantled his Trans Texas Corridor.

The plan, as previewed in a column Perry wrote this week in the New Hampshire Union Leader, would ostensibly require no congressional action and would include boosts for renewable energy. The emphasis is on opening oil and gas shale formations to drilling in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, offshore and throughout the continental U.S.

At the same time, Perry would shut off any new federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” or on drilling and toxic emissions, which he calls “job-killers.”

Jim Marston, director of the state’s Environmental Defense Fund, said most voters won’t want to replicate Perry’s Texas record.

“I don’t think Texans want us to be this dirty, and I’m very comfortable that the rest of the nation does not want to surpass us,” Marston said.

The Perry campaign declined to provide any further details of the plan, but many of the jobs Perry cited presumably would come from projected boosts in manufacturing and purchased goods from reduced energy costs.

“Economic growth and security should not be pit against environmental stewardship,” Perry wrote, saying he would create high-paying jobs at the same time continuing to protect the environment.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, who helped the governor craft the new energy policies, told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday that new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on endangered species and drilling techniques create uncertainty for the industry and slow production.

He called for a “moratorium on new EPA regulations in traditional drilling areas.”

The drilling component doesn’t differ much from President Barack Obama’s decisions in office, said University of Texas professor Michael Webber.

“Perry wants to do the same thing Obama did, only he wants to do it dirtier,” said Webber, associate director for the university’s Center for International Energy&Environmental Policy. He pointed out that U.S. oil production has grown under Obama after decades of contraction.

Smitherman said new pipelines are key to Perry’s energy plan.

“It’s not just drill, drill, drill, because we’re drilling a lot now,” Smitherman said.

He pointed out that consumers are buying high-cost international oil because the country lacks the pipelines to bring U.S. oil to major refineries.

New lines almost always spark protests. Already, more than 800 have been arrested around the country over the massive 1,700-mile Canada-to-Texas proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The high-pressure, underground pipeline, a $7 billion project that could produce thousands of jobs, is fraught with environmental risk, from extracting tar sand oil — one of the dirtiest sources of energy — to the pipeline crossing private property, aquifers and large populations.

The same private-property right groups that helped upend Perry’s signature transportation idea, the Trans Texas Corridor, have joined with environmentalists in Texas to fight the proposal.

Dave Carney, Perry’s chief political consultant, cast the governor’s plan as a bold one that he could act on immediately as president.

“His energy plan/jobs plan — this sort of a Declaration of Independence — is not just about foreign oil; it’s not just about American production,” said Dave Carney, Perry’s chief political consultant. “It’s things that the president can do in dealing with regulation.”

Marston, the Texas environmentalist, disagreed, noting that the federal lands in Alaska are protected by an act of Congress and can only be changed by Congress. Some of the mandates on lowering emissions have come from recent court orders, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says carbon dioxide regulation falls under the Clean Air Act.

“I’m sorry but we’re a country of laws, not one man,” Marston said.

Polls also show there is little public sentiment for rolling back environmental regulations.

And other experts challenge one of the underlying premises of Perry’s plan: the contention that pollution controls cost American jobs.

Bruce Bartlett, a former senior official with the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, has noted that according to federal statistics, just 2,971 jobs were lost in 2010 because of government regulations. Overall, the country lost 1.3 million jobs that year.

“Regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community,” Bartlett wrote this month in The New York Times.


(Staff writer Todd J. Gillman in Hanover, N.H., contributed to this report.)

© 2011 The Dallas Morning News:

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"With a Perry crony now on the commission, it created an opportunity for the crony currently chairing the commission to resign."

Crony in, crony out at TxDOT


Eye on Williamson
Copyrigh 2011

Not even two weeks ago energy company lobbyist and former aide to Gov. Rick Perry was chosen as the new Executive Director of the Texas Transportation Commission, Tolls, tolls, tolls – former Perry aide/lobbyist appointed to head Texas Transportation Commission. With a Perry crony now on the commission, it created an opportunity for the crony currently chairing the commission to resign. Late last week we learned that Deirdre Delisi, was resigning as chair of the commission to go to work of the Governor’s presidential campaign.

Delisi is being replaced by Ted Houghton who is currently a member of the commission.

“I’d like to thank Governor Perry for his trust in me to continue TxDOT down a path of responsiveness, change and modernization. I look forward to leading the department as it becomes a better TxDOT, living up to the expectations of the Governor, the Legislature and our stakeholders.

“Texas is a national leader in infrastructure and transportation system development, and I intend to reaffirm our place among the best, strongest and most innovative states as TxDOT delivers the projects the Legislature, our local partners and Texas motorists expect.”

Houghton was first appointed to the Texas Transportation Commission in 2003 by Governor Rick Perry, and was reappointed in 2009. A native of El Paso, Houghton is self-employed in the financial services industry. He is the first resident of El Paso to serve on the Commission.

I’m sure his “unique” experience in the financial services industry will come in handy building roads. Terri Hall has more, Houghton will continue Williamson era at TxDOT.

News coverage of Houghton’s appointment affirms that he sees his primary mission as handing Texas public roads over to private toll operators in sweetheart P3 contracts, despite the years of public opposition [...]. Status quo for sure, a thumb in the public’s eye most certainly, and it affirms Perry’s determination to continue the Williamson era of division, controversy, and strife in the midst of his struggling presidential campaign with charges of crony capitalism flying. Makes one shake one’s head in stunned amazement.

Nothing will change regarding transportation in Texas, until we change our state government.

© 2011 Eye on Williamson:

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