Trans Texas Corruption, eminent domain abuse, and the Texas Toll Road Rebellion (1999-2011)
Saturday, October 22, 2011
"No assurance that the investigation will be limited to the matters described above or that the NTTA will not become a target at a later date."
Tollway authority says its officials questioned by FBI
By Barry Shlachter Fort Worth Star-Telegram Copyright 2011
The North Texas Tollway Authority, on the eve of a $674 million bond offering to help fund the Chisholm Trail Parkway, disclosed Friday to potential investors that the FBI has questioned several of its officials over possible conflicts of interest by past and present board members.
The disclosure, made in the lengthy preliminary bond offering statement, stressed that the authority had "no reason to believe" that it was under investigation.
The brief statement did not indicate which current and former board members might be under scrutiny. The authority said it was cooperating fully with the FBI and stressed that the inquiry should not materially affect the authority or its bond offerings.
But it cautioned bond buyers, "There can be no assurance that the investigation will be limited to the matters described above or that the authority will not become a target at a later date." The authority did not detail what sort of possible conflicts of interest were being looked into.
Asked whether the inquiry might affect the Chisholm bond sale, scheduled for Nov. 2, authority Chief Financial Officer Janice Davis replied, "I don't believe it will and if it does, it will be very little."
JPMorgan Chase, the bond's lead underwriter, discussed the FBI inquiry with the authority and did not seem particularly concerned because, Davis said, "the authority itself is not under investigation."
A fraction of a point of added interest could mean millions in extra costs for the tollway project.
A person close to the board, who spoke only in exchange for anonymity, dismissed the inquiry as a "fishing trip" by the FBI.
Davis said she was surprised by the FBI move but rejected the notion that the inquiry might have been prompted by a whistle-blower in the authority.
Board Chairman Kenneth Barr, a former Fort Worth mayor, said the authority's council advised him not to comment beyond the disclosure statement. Asked whether the FBI had questioned him, he replied, "No."
The federal move follows the Oct. 14 resignation of Allen Clemson as the authority's executive director. Clemson publicly complained that he was thwarted in efforts to change the way the authority awarded contracts to engineering and legal firms.
The authority has faced some criticism for overreliance on firms that have been under contract for years. Some board members cautioned against severing such ties while work is about to begin on the long-planned Chisholm Trail Parkway.
FBI investigates conduct of North Texas Tollway Authority board members
NTTA: FBI investigating board members' conduct, possible conflicts of interest
By Michael Lindenberger The Dallas Morning News Copyright 2011
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the conduct of some North Texas Tollway Authority board members, including possible conflicts of interest, the authority disclosed Friday.
NTTA disclosed the existence of the investigation in two paragraphs on page 59 and 60 of a 596-page statement issued Friday to investors concerning its nearly $700 million bond offering expected to close next month. It said the FBI is concerned about "conduct" of board members, including possible conflicts of interest pertaining to NTTA business.
A spokeswoman for the authority confirmed to a reporter late Friday that the NTTA was cooperating with the FBI and federal prosecutors.
"The NTTA has been made aware of an investigation involving one or more individuals and is cooperating with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office in connection with that investigation," communications director Kimberly Jackson said in an emailed statement to the News. "We do not have any additional information."
It's not clear what the FBI is asking about, and the disclosure in the bond documents offers a broad range of potential sources of its concern.
"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently interviewed several officials of the Authority regarding any knowledge the officials may have concerning the conduct of certain current and former Board members, including possible conflicts of interests pertaining to Authority business," the statement reads.
NTTA does not believe that its staff or the entity itself is involved in any of the conduct under investigation, or that the investigation's outcome will significantly impact its finances. Nevertheless, the investigation could subsequently broaden, the disclosure notes.
"The Authority is cooperating fully with the FBI," it says. "There can be no assurance that the investigation will be limited to the matters described above or that the Authority will not become a target at a later date."
NTTA board member Kent Cagle said he had officially been told of the investigation only this past week, but had heard about it informally prior to that. He said he has not been interviewed by the FBI, but said he understands the focus is on two current and at least one former board member.
A spokesman for the FBI would not comment on the investigation or say whether it was related to the ongoing investigation of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
"You've probably heard this before, but I can neither conform nor deny the existence of an investigation," said Mark White, the FBI's Dallas spokesman.
Earlier this week, NTTA was urged to strengthen its conflict of interest policies in the wake of a months-long audit of its governance model, a recommendation chairman Ken Barr said would be considered carefully.
Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins, a frequent critic of NTTA's board, said the investigation only reinforces the audit's conclusions.
"Any time there is an investigation there is concern," he said. "But I am confident NTTA will cooperate fully."
"Perry slams Obama for selling America to foreign creditors--He’s doing the exact same thing...selling off our infrastructure to foreign creditors."
Opponents Celebrate Trans-Texas Corridor Downfall
Opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor have claimed victory over Governor Rick Perry
By JOHN JULITZ KTRH.com Copyright 2011
Groups who've battled Governor Rick Perry on the corridor for years gathered over the weekend in Austin for what was called a victory party celebrating the complete repeal of the project from state statute.
“It was a 4,000 mile network of toll roads that were going to crisscross our state and take over 580,000 acres of private property and it was going to displace over 1 million Texans for just the first corridor alone,” says Hall.” So this was not like any other highway we’ve ever seen in our country really in the history of the United States.”
Hall adds that Perry’s hypocrisy is what ultimately helped kill the Corridor.
“Here you’ve got Rick Perry off gallivanting around the country as he’s running for president slamming Obama for selling America to foreign creditors. Well what’s Rick Perry doing here in Texas? He’s doing the exact same thing by selling off our infrastructure to foreign creditors,” Hall says. “It’s the same thing.”
The repeal was signed into law in June of this year.
"Some board members have family or business ties that involve NTTA consultants or right-of-way transactions."
Problems with transparency, perception of conflicts of interest at North Texas Tollway Authority: Report
By Steve Miller Texas Watchdog Copyright 2011
An assessment of the North Texas Tollway Authority has found the taxpayer-funded operation needs to be more transparent and has issues with “governance and operational practices that cause frustration, poor morale, and distrust."
The appearance of conflicts of interest at the agency have created "public and internal distrust," and the agency should develop a conflict-of-interest policy, the reportcommissioned by area county judgessays. "Some board members have family or business ties that involve NTTA consultants or right-of-way transactions."
The review found the agency has failed in a number of instances to take action, even as the frequency of board meetings has more than doubled in the past two years. For example, it took seven months for the board to approve a change in administrative fees that are tacked onto fines for failure to pay a toll.
The authority also relied heavily on consultants rather than its employee base for most endeavors, although two areas were exclusively handled by tollway employees: business diversity and audits.
The review notes that a policy for use of consultants, which would broaden the use of in-house employees, was proposed in April by then-Executive Director Allen Clemson but never adopted by the board. Clemson was the fifth executive director in five years.
The revolving door that is the NTTA’s executive director's office may be the result of a number of policy flaws, including the fact that there were no formal goals for the director nor was there any evaluation period other than an annual review, the report says.
The evaluation of the agency was commissioned by the county judges in Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin counties. Those judges also select board members for the tollway authority.
And despite the headlines at the time, the issue didn’t get the attention Perry’s campaign believes it could have when it surfaced in Romney’s first run for president four years ago, and gives Perry a new opening into coming at Romney as a flip-flopper.
“This is the start of Romney vs. Romney. We’ll have him debating himself before this is over,” said one senior Perry adviser, explaining the strategy.
Perry’s campaign was prepared for the attack, emailing reporters a 2007 Boston Globe that first revealed the presence of undocumented workers at Romney’s Belmont, Mass., home. The campaign also sent a release headlined “Romney is a fraud on immigration.”
“Despite tough talk directed at employers hiring illegal aliens, it was discovered in the last campaign that Romney went a decade without checking the citizenship status of those who tended to his 2½ acre lawn,” the campaign wrote.
Perry’s senior political adviser Dave Carney said in the post-debate spin room that Romney’s vulnerability on the issue is clear.
“When you make a holier-than-thou argument about it and you know about hiring illegals … it seems kind of hypocritical,” Carney said.
For the last few weeks, Perry was under attack for his own position on immigration — opposing a border fence and providing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at Texas colleges — but an offensive defense personal attack is a Perry campaign staple. He did it in his 2010 re-election race, for example, when he turned to calling his primary opponent Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison a tool of Washington to rebut his own $300,000 in travel expenses for his own D.C. campaign events.
“Rick Perry frequently attacks opponents for something he himself is guilty of,” wrote the researchers at Des Moines-based Link Strategies in the introduction to their book of opposition research for Perry’s 2010 Democratic opponent, Bill White.
“Throughout the remainder of this campaign, we should expect Perry to continue his hypocritical attacks — this is big part of his communications strategy. Their goal is to take Perry’s biggest weaknesses (rampant cronyism, getting rich while in office, poor fiscal management, and support for big-government programs like the Trans-Texas Corridor and mandatory HPV shots) and find ways to make it appear that White has a worse record on similar issues.”
Giuliani brought it up during the November 2007 CNN/YouTube debate.
“There were six sanctuary cities, he did nothing about them,” Giuliani said. “There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed, not being turned in to anybody or by anyone, and then when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never seemed to even catch the illegal immigrants who were working at his mansion. So I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.”
But Giuliani, as the former mayor of a sanctuary city himself, couldn’t make the line of attack stick.
Wilson said he saw Perry’s attack on the issue as damaging not just because it brought back the policy, but personalized the charge in a way that seems set to shake Romney’s inevitability argument.
“He laid a mitt on Mitt after Mitt has owned this issue for two debates and really damaged him,” Wilson said. “He brought it back into the discussion that a lot of base voters are going to think, oh shoot, what the hell was that about?”
In the four weeks until the next debate, Perry will now have to bring that argument to appearances in the early states. In Iowa, where Perry two weekends ago failed to convince voters who attended his town hall meetings that the Texas in-state tuition bill was anything less than a subsidy to undocumented immigrants, Tuesday’s gambit isn’t likely to so quickly erase Perry’s problems, said Steve Scheffler, one of Iowa’s two Republican National Committee delegates.
“I don’t know if it will work,” Scheffler said. “It’s hard to tell what’s going to trip the trigger to get candidates. Whether those kind of things take traction or not, I don’t know.”
And in New Hampshire, former GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said Republican voters are immune to attacks on Romney that are recycled from the 2008 campaign.
“One of the reasons why Romney’s numbers are so solid is that voters know good and bad about him,” Cullen said. “The reasons why attacks on RomneyCare are not hurting him is it’s already been factored in. Issues that came up four years ago about Mitt Romney don’t seem to be having the same effect that they did then.”
Ed Rollins, who managed Mike Huckabee’s campaign, said the issue was “not a killer issue” in 2008 and, because it will be old news to many GOP voters, may have less impact now.
“The key thing here is not lying about it,” Rollins said. “I don’t know what the facts are anymore on this, but he better be able to produce the documents.”
NTTA appoints another HNTB employee after scathing external audit criticizes NTTA for its cozy relationship with HNTB
North Texas Tollway Authority appoints interim director
By Gordon Dickson Fort Worth Star-Telegram Copyright 2011
The North Texas Tollway Authority formally accepted last week's resignation of Executive Director Allen Clemson on Wednesday and appointed former HNTB employee Gerry Carrigan to take over on an interim basis.
Carrigan arrived at the Plano-based tollway authority about three years ago and served as assistant executive director of project delivery. In that role, he oversaw several big-dollar projects -- including the President George Bush Turnpike's eastern and western extensions and the Sam Rayburn Tollway/Central Expressway interchange -- and dealt with contractors and vendors.
Carrigan has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Southern Illinois University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida.
The board's choice of an interim executive director with a background at HNTB comes a day after the release of a scathing external audit that criticized the tollway authority for its close relationship with the engineering and consulting firm.
But, board Chairman Kenneth Barr of Fort Worth said, "Gerry is the right person to be steady at the helm and keep the NTTA doing what it does best during this time of transition. Getting him into position will help us begin to implement changes recommended by the just-completed county review."
Carrigan's interim promotion was approved unanimously, although board member Victor Vandergriff of Arlington was absent because of a business commitment. After the meeting, Vandergriff said he supports Carrigan's hiring.
"Gerry has worked for us for several years and done a good job," Vandergriff said, adding that he expects external candidates to be considered for the permanent role.
"Hopefully, we'll do a strong national search and look for a good person," he said.
But for all of the colorful terms that follow, more than four in 10 adults do not offer any single-word descriptions of Cain or Perry. And despite Romney being well into his second run for president, more than a third do not have a word for him.
Herman Cain: “9-9-9,” referring to his tax plan, tops the list of descriptors for the businessman who has catapulted in the GOP campaign. Next up is a combination of “business,” “businessman,” “pizza” and “entrepreneur.” The top positive description for Cain is “interesting,” followed by “good,” “intelligent,” “likable” and “honest.” The top negative descriptions are “inexperience,” “no” and “liar.”
Rick Perry:The Texas governor is most commonly associated exactly that way, as “Texas,” with others adding “governor“ and some “Bush” or “cowboy.”Negative words come up high for Perry compared to the others, with “no” the most often mentioned on its own. Others highlight “idiot,” “stupid,” “dumb,” or “not smart.” All told, a total of 28 people questioned Perry’s intelligence.
Mitt Romney: “Mormon” is by far the most commonly associated word with Romney, with others saying “religion.” A distant second are references to health care with variants such as “health program,” “Massachusetts health care” or “RomneyCare.” Top positives are “good,” “intelligent,” “competent” and “presidential.” Top negative references for Romney are “flip-flop” and “no,” followed by “old” and “boring.”
Audit: NTTA "must quickly change its cozy relationship with engineering firm HNTB"
Audit recommends more transparency at North Texas Tollway Authority
By Gordon Dickson Fort Worth Star-Telegram Copyright 2011 The North Texas Tollway Authority should adopt a "clear and transparent" policy within six months to prevent conflicts of interest and must quickly change its cozy relationship with engineering firm HNTB, an outside audit unveiled Tuesday recommended.
"The perception of conflicts of interest is widely held, and while our review did not find proven malfeasance or impropriety, the appearance of conflicts creates public and internal distrust," John Cox, a senior director with Alvarez & Marsal, told tollway board members during a two-hour briefing on the report Tuesday.
The report by New York-based Alvarez & Marsal was commissioned by the county judges of Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin counties, who appoint most of the authority board members. It was based on a review of documents, an employee survey, and interviews with 50 current and former tollway officials -- and it comes as state lawmakers are calling for the tollway authority to be subject to sunset review, like most state agencies.The judges oppose having the tollway authority placed under sunset reviewand have vowed to police it better. They will watch as board members try to implement many of the recommendations in phases during the next year.
"Where the rubber meets the road is in the implementation," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. "Without implementation, it's just another book on the shelf." Potential conflicts The recommendations come after several potential conflicts involving individual board members surfaced, as well as the tollway authority's institutional relationship with a few firms that are paid tens of millions of dollars per year for engineering, legal and other services. Board Chairman Kenneth Barr of Fort Worth disclosed that his brother is a lawyer with Locke Lord, a firm that does about $6.9 million of work a year for the authority. Barr said he consulted with the tollway authority's legal counsel, also a Locke Lord attorney, before accepting a board position in 2008 to ensure that there was no ethical conflict. Barr also had prior business relationships with lawyers who were hired this year to provide legal counsel for buying rights of way for Chisholm Trail Parkway, a 28-mile toll road that will run from Fort Worth to Cleburne. Another board member, David Denison of Lewisville, disclosed that he is a former consultant and investor with a real estate firm that bought 625 acres for development near the Chisholm Trail Parkway project, although he had no direct connection to that specific investment. He was also cleared by the tollway authority's legal counsel. But the perception that the tollway authority is tainted by conflicts of interest is "held widely," Cox said, calling a policy on conflicts of interest and ethics "simply good government." The report said the authority has "perceived and potentially real conflicts of interest" with HNTB, an engineering firm under contract for about $15 million a year in tollway work. When asked later what that meant, Alvarez & Marsal Managing Director Ron Orsini said the audit has uncovered a situation in which one HNTB consultant was approved to pay an invoice for another HNTB consultant -- all with the tollway authority's blessing. The report didn't try to catalog how often the arrangement existed or how long the practice had been in place, Orsini said.
Although the tollway authority should keep its "lean" business model and continue to rely on outside firms for most professional services, steps must be taken to ensure that invoices are properly overseen, the report concluded. Diversification
The tollway authority also should seek to diversify its nine-member board, the report concludes. The county judges appoint eight members and the governor appoints the ninth. Jane Willard of Celina, who was appointed by Collin County this year, is the lone woman on the board, and there are no African-Americans.
Ethnicity has become an issue in recent months, when tollway staff disclosed that most of its contracts are awarded to firms governed by white men -- although the report points out that the agency is making progress in diversifying its contractors. But the report also found that tollway staff publicly discussed winners of procurement contracts before the board had voted to approve them. "Some board members did not trust the staff's procurement process. It's not clear when a procurement officially ends," said Eric Noack, Alvarez & Marsal vice president. The report has good news, too. The authority has a terrific record of building and maintaining roads in a timely manner, and it gets high satisfaction marks for programs such as cashless tolling and customer service.
But its many accomplishments have been overshadowed by a litany of organizational problems that have "contributed to frustration, poor morale and distrust," the report concludes.
Some staff and board members don't understand or agree with the tollway authority's priorities, and communication among board members and executive staff is weak, the report said. Last week, Executive Director Allen Clemson resigned in anticipation that he would be fired after the report was released.
When Clemson was hired in 2009, he was the fifth chief executive in five years.
"There is nothing wrong with the NTTA that can't be fixed," Orsini told the board. But he added: "Entities like the NTTA need the public to believe they are operating in an honest, ethical, efficient and effective manner."
Tollway board members offered few comments after the presentation Tuesday, saying they needed time to digest it.
But Barr, who has been chairman for about a month, said he believes that the board can make the necessary changes.
"I find it reassuring and challenging at the same time," he said. "I think we'll find some of these things are easy to implement, some will take some time and, in some cases, we may find there's a different strategy."
"The Trans Texas Corridor is 'mostly dead'....We put the proponents in serious retreat, yet we will remain vigilant."
Texans celebrate repeal of Trans Texas Corridor
Terri Hall Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom Copyright 2011
AUSTIN, TEXAS - For the first time since the 80th legislative session in 2007, all the grassroots groups that took on Texas Governor Rick Perry to stop the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) and place a moratorium on public private partnerships (or P3s) gathered at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, Saturday, October 15, to celebrate their collective victory in finally achieving the complete repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor from state statute (Kolkhorst's HB 1201 was signed into law June 17, 2011).
Several current and former state representatives gave emotional acceptance speeches saying they were "honored" to received awards at TURF's 'Stars of Texas' award luncheon. The event recognized and celebrated the work of Texas State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and former State Rep. David Leibowitz to repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), former State Rep. Jim Dunnam and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson's efforts to keep tolls off existing roadways and stop the sale of Texas roads to private corporations, and Rep. David Simpson's work to rein-in invasive searches by the TSA that impede freedom to travel.
(left to right) Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, Rep. David Leibowitz, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, Rep. Jim Dunnam, Rep. David Simpson
Rep. Kolkhorst has introduced legislation to repeal the TTC for the last three sessions. This year, it finally passed. The pie-in-the-sky, 4,000-mile, 1,200 foot wide network of toll roads, rail, utilities, telecommunications, etc. that would confiscate 580,000 acres and displace 1 million Texans on TTC-35 alone is DEAD. However, in SB 1420, 14 Texas road projects remain eligible for P3s that will cost urban commuters dearly, 75 cents per mile, and still pose sovereignty, eminent domain, and monopoly concerns.
Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) noted, "So taking a line from the movie Princess Bride, the Trans Texas Corridor is 'mostly dead.' Regardless of the final status, the TTC has been officially repealed, which is cause for our celebration today. We put the proponents in serious retreat, yet we will remain vigilant."
Hall pointed out that by its own admission, the highway department (TxDOT) plans to break-up the TTC in smaller pieces and do the project using the original road or loop name like, SH 130, and Loop 9 around DFW. However, the size and scale will be greatly diminished, which Hall thinks is a tremendous victory for property rights and Texas landowners.
Kolkhorst teared up as she listened to Hall recount the stories that lead up to the repeal of the TTC. As she accepted her award she remarked, "How could we even think of selling off our infrastructure to foreign companies? Shame on us, shame on us for thinking about it. I will fight any Republican, any Democrat, anyone who wants to take our state from us."
"I don't know how you did it. The deck was so stacked against you...You inspire me, you will inspire other generations. God bless Texas and may it always stand as a free and sovereign nation," Kolkhorst concluded at the end of her emotional speech.
Simpson in typical form, brought a hush over the room as he spoke, "Civil government has destroyed many lives. What is fundamental to property or to working is the movement of our bodies, in a sense, transportation. I'm encouraged by the people who are waking up and listening who are holding coffees, holding town hall meetings, looking at voting records."
Simpson described the proper role of government, which should be limited to just two things: enforcing the rules between individuals and punishing the wrongdoer who harms his neighbor and beyond that, government should "get out of the way," a statement which drew hearty applause. "The role of force should be very limited. The role of force has not made Texas great, it has not made America great, freedom has made Texas great."
Leibowitz praised the grassroots who worked together toward a common goal to slay the TTC, "This really is a very special group you have put together. Many different political philosophies, different walks of life, urban, rural, people that have come together for a common cause. People that come forward and work together to get something accomplished, they do end up, in fact, literally moving mountains."
Then he noted that he was unusual in the legislature in that he didn't have a lot of photos of himself alongside notable figures hanging in his office, like the many dignitaries and celebrities that visit the Texas Legislature while its in session, but "I will in fact cherish this" (referring to his 'Star of Texas' Award).
Attendees roared after viewing a video clip of Dunnam's exchange with TxDOT's Phil Russell over private toll roads that could best be described as a body slam that left Russell reeling and ultimately killed the P3 re-authorization in the special session of July 2009 that lead to the expiration of P3s a month later.
Dunnam said the "danger we have today in all levels of our government is that certain people 'own' it...the people stood up and stopped these toll roads in my district. It was all about the money, all about money for private interests making money off the government."
He went on to assert that elected officials are afraid to stand up to the money, "but, fortunately, they're also afraid of y'all" (pointing to Hall).
In his usual style, Adkisson recounted the history of Bexar County from the Battle of Alazan to the Battle of the Alamo to express that they've never been a bunch to back away from a fight. Adkisson has been in a battle royale trying to stop tolls on existing roads in San Antonio for 6 years.
"We ran the king out of town in 1776 and established our freedom as Americans and then we proceeded to establish big, private money as a modern monarchy. They're at work on a regular basis, and your elected officials are constantly tugged at by these people and they're trying to figure out if they're going to agree with you or the big money boys. I salute you because the dream of American democracy and American freedom is one that's made possible by your daily efforts."
"Never ever believe there are just Republicans or Democrats in this process, there's a marbling of commonality that runs throughout our democracy. We are Americans today and we are Americans forever," Adkisson concluded and received a standing ovation. In fact, every elected official honored received rousing standing ovations throughout the awards ceremony.
David & Linda Stahl with Terri Hall (center)
David and Linda Stall, founders of Corridor Watch and the couple that ignited the firestorm of opposition to the TTC, gave impassioned speeches about what motivated them to continue on in the face of great odds against them. "We could move somewhere else and do our jobs, but the neighbors I could see out of every window made their living off the land and this corridor would have not only taken their land, it would have destroyed their livelihoods," Linda Stall acknowledged.
In addition to paying tribute to a roomful of honorees, Hall was sure to give credit to Austin Toll Party and Texas Toll Party Founder Sal Costello for the movement's success.
Hall said Costello had a knack for marketing, he was edgy, and one of the most effective advocates against the toll roads and TTC in the state. He used the online petition to gather his email list that not only riled politicians but grew his army to over 50,000. Costello mastered how to use alternative media, like blogging, before blogging gained legitimacy.
"I stand on his shoulders. The information and techniques I learned from him were absolutely invaluable, though he moved on and lives in Illinois, I know he's here in spirit today," Hall remarked.
TURF Founder Terri Hall with Truth Be Tolled filmmaker William Molina
Award-winning filmmaker William Molina, also an honoree, condensed footage from his four films in the Truth Be Tolled series to share with those gathered as a finale -- bringing attendees through the full gamut of emotions, anger, tears, and even laughter as the film montage ended to the tune Trans Texas Corridor Blues.
Complete list of honorees below.
The 'Stars of Texas' Honorees:
The Honorable Texas State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, Brenham The Honorable Former Texas State Representative David Leibowitz, San Antonio The Honorable Former Texas State Representative Jim Dunnam, Waco The Honorable Texas State Representative David Simpson, Longview The Honorable Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, San Antonio
Hank Gilbert, Co-founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom David & Linda Stall, Founders, Corridor Watch William Molina, Filmmaker, Storm Pictures Ralph & Marcia Snyder, Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC) (Also accepting awards on behalf of the Honorable Mae Smith, Mayor of Holland, TX, President of ECTSRPC & Dan & Margaret Byfield, American Stewards of Liberty) David Van Os, Attorney, Advocate Melissa Cubria, Texas Public Interest Research Group Agnes Voges, Blacklands Coalition (Also, accepting an award on behalf of Chris Hammel, Blacklands Coalition) Trey & Jennifer Duhon, Citizens for a Better Waller County Linda Curtis, Independent Texans Martha Estes, Working for Accountable Government Judith McGeary, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance Don Dixon, Citizen Advocate Gina Parker Ford, TURF Board Member, Eagle Forum, Advocate
He's stating the obvious, but is anyone paying attention?
The context is the tollway authority and its heretofore ability to escape public scrutiny of its cozy relationships with vendors and consultants.
There have been issues raised for a while. For starters, as pointed out in the Star-Telegram:
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.
Board member David Denison has a financial interest in a company that owns land in the path of tollway growth. But it’s OK, he said.
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."
In the next year, tollway authority revenue is expected to hit $480 million with debt of $9 billion. That’s plenty of authority.
A report commissioned by county judges in Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin counties, set to be released Tuesday, may shine some light on this operation (which has at times displayed transparency). The report could even bring some reform of a board that has grown in both scope and taxpayer spending, although it's important to understand that the judges requesting the audit are the same ones who select board members for the tollway authority.
Other reform efforts have gone nowhere.
The state legislature in this past session considered a bill that would subject the tollway authority to a sunset review. It failed, as did another bill that would have required tollway authorities to undergo an annual financial audit by the state auditor.
On Friday, the authority’s fifth CEO in five years resigned, claiming he couldn’t get along with the board. Allen Clemson has a deal under which he gets 90 days of severance, but he could request to be paid through the end of his contract, which is May.
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