Analysis of Governor Rick Perry’s interview with the Dallas Morning News about transportation below is provided by Susan Ridgway Garry of ACRE, a grassroots group of farmers opposed to the Trans Texas Corridor.
January 26, 2009
By Susan Ridgway Garry of ACRE
Beginning with Perry’s “vision” of the Trans-Texas Corridor criss-crossing our state’s valuable farming and ranching land with 4,500 miles of quarter-mile swaths of concrete and rail, Gov. 39% has expressed his disdain toward us rural residents and our property. During a small meeting at the very beginning of the Corridor process, Perry’s TxDOT officials referred to the Corridor as a totally “green fields” project, the kind that the big road contractors like. Left out of the equation was the fact that the green fields in question already belonged to Texas farmers and ranchers. This has never bothered Perry, as he introduced the “quick take” process to condemn land for the Corridor and vetoed HB 2006 eminent domain protection.
In a recent interview with Dallas Morning News Transportation Writer Michael A. Lindenberger, it is obvious that Perry still doesn’t get it! The entire transcript is here
Much of the interview concerns North Texas and the North Texas rail plan, but some of the comments reveal Perry’s general philosophy, if you can call it that.
Perry’s vision is misunderstood by stupid constituents
First, he implies that his constituents are stupid. About transportation, he says, “This is an issue that too many people don’t understand.” He claims he wants “a relatively unbiased intellectual discussion about transportation infrastructure…” Try to think “Perry” and “intellectual” at the same time; it’s impossible.
As the people who have been studying and fighting Perry’s plans for the last few years know, more and more Texans do understand the issue and disagree with Perry’s approach. Also, Perry and his TxDOT have been doing everything they can to quash any discussion about transportation.
Perry says, “I don’t have an entrenched opposition to allowing people at the local level deciding how they are going to build their transportation infrastructure . . . there is no fairy that comes in the night and build these big projects.”
This tells us that Perry’s approach to local level decisions and regionalism is that the decision has already come down from on high that there will be a “big project,” and that he will pretend to listen to what the local people think about it.
To Perry, local people controlling their own destiny means listening to what Perry tells them is going to happen
He repeats that one of his three principles on transportation is “regionalism. . . . The folks at the regional level will decide what the appropriate user fee is to build that infrastructure.” He says that he supports local people “controlling their own destiny.”
This is just the opposite of what his TxDOT has done all the way through the Corridor project. Perry and TxDOT have withheld information from local areas and from citizens who have filed open record requests. They were required to hold certain meetings. They tried to get through this process without very many people finding out about it and submitting comments.
It was due to local groups along the Corridor routes and their local media that so many citizens knew about hearings, attended, and commented. True local organizations are the 391 commissions that have been formed by local governments along the routes of the Corridor. Perry and TxDOT have been trying to confuse the public by forming TxDOT groups with similar names but that do not have the actual power that the 391 commissions have. The last thing that Perry wants is local people controlling their own destiny.
Perry says rural people shouldn’t be penalized to help urban areas, but that is exactly what he intends with the Corridor, even though the Corridor wouldn’t actually be the help that urban areas need.
In regards to the gas tax, Perry says, “Does the guy in Van Horn need to be paying for the roads in Dallas? No. But I do have a problem with forcing someone whose transportation needs are being met to pay for somebody’s transportation needs that are not being met.”
Taking a farm in Williamson County for the Corridor IS forcing someone to pay, big time, for somebody else’s transportation needs.
Perry and his TxDOT have tried to take away the choice to drive or not to drive on a toll road. Perry tells Lindenberger, “This is the beauty of (the reliance on toll roads). My dad says, ‘I ain’t never going to drive on a toll road.’ You know what? He doesn’t have to. That’s the beauty of what we have created here. For those who for philosophical or any other reason don’t want to drive on a toll road, they don’t have to. It’s the beauty of choice.”
With Perry’s non-compete clause in toll road contracts prohibiting building or maintaining roads a certain distance from a toll road, this DOES mean that drivers don’t have a choice. They have to drive on a toll road, or NO road, or a dangerous crumbling road. TxDOT’s violation of the legislative intent that free lanes not be converted to toll lanes also takes away choice. There is no “choice.” Perry thinks that his constituents are so uninformed that they don’t know this.
A truly chilling account from Perry on the origins of the Trans-Texas Corridor idea
I can’t do better than to just quote Perry:
“An analogy would be, I had laid out in my mind’s eye, and even made it public, that this is the big mansion that I want to build. Here are the house plans for this really magnificent place I want to build for my family and the people I love.
“Well, you start the process and there are a lot of changes that occur, for whatever reason. Your wife didn’t like that bedroom being there, she wanted … way too big a game room and not big enough utility room . . . whatever. All these things that go on in people’s real lives, that’s what went on with this.”
Brilliant! Comparing what the landowners in the path of the Corridor have gone through the last several years to a couple building a house is a stupid analogy! And if anyone should not be mentioning mansions, it is Perry, since it was on his watch with the decreased security at the Governor’s mansion, that the people’s beautiful historic mansion was almost destroyed.
Perry implies that we owners of farms are stupid
Perry said, “I laid out a very broad-based, 50-year plan—and a lot of times people missed the 50-year part of it, they thought, ‘They are going to build 4,500 miles in 10 years and, oh my God, my farm is gone.’”
So, first, according to Perry, us stupid farm owners misunderstood the 50-year part. It should be perfectly fine with us if the state and a foreign corporation take the family farm away from our children and grandchildren in 50 years.
Second, it is not necessary for him to take the Lord’s name in vain.
And, thirdly, for those of us who saw our farms fall within the Master Plan from Cintra, the Spanish corporation, it was indeed, “My farm is gone.”
Perry implies that people are not going to be paying attention to this issue anymore without the Trans-Texas Corridor name, and that we don’t remember and don’t care that he tried his hardest to take our land away.
He says, “Is the name still around? Are the same people that were mad two years ago still mad today? I would suggest to you no.” I would suggest to him not only yes, but heck yes!
Perry denigrates grass-roots volunteer efforts—if we weren’t having an impact, he wouldn’t lower himself to talk about us.
Lindenberger raises two important points related to the impact of grass-roots efforts against Perry and the Corridor. First, he says to Perry, “It seems clear that something fell apart politically for you in 2006, when you faced strong opposition in your re-election campaign [thus resulting in Gov. 39%], and then in 2007 when lawmakers rebelled at the idea of bringing foreign companies to Texas to build and operate toll roads—for a profit.”
Then, Lindenberger also points out, “Among the most persistent complaints among the grass-roots opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor has been your relentless push for not just toll roads, but for privatization, too. Among the criticism has been the observation that you have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the same companies that went on to win contracts to build some of these roads. Is that a fair criticism?
Perry totally reverses the order of what happened, as pointed out in the question. The sequence is that Perry received hundreds of thousands of dollars and then the companies won road contracts.
Perry turns the question around and responds, “People contribute to my campaign because they like my philosophy and they like what I implement.”
Then he once more insults some of his constituents, knocking down the straw man of not building any roads at all. “If the grass-roots toll groups . . . had substantial influence, we wouldn’t be building any roads at all.” And Perry is so vindictive and petty, he has to make an uncalled-for attack on former Austinite Sal Costello, who worked tirelessly against toll roads and the Corridor on a volunteer basis: “Sal Costello had to move out of the state, it got to be such a poor way to make a living.”
Sal did not make a living out of it; he put his own money and time into the fight and had a lot of success. He was the David against the Goliath of Perry and his contributors. Lindenberger points out in a note:
Costello, founder of a group called Austin Toll Party, is credited with helping stop some taxpayer-funded roads in Austin from being converted to toll roads. His blistering attacks made him a prolific anti-toll road gadfly. He announced earlier this month he had moved to a small town in Illinois and given up what he called his costly “obsession” with campaigning against toll roads.
Attacking volunteers—giving big contracts to big contributors—Is this any way to run the state? If Perry thinks that it is an attractive trait to publicly attack citizens volunteering to make the state a better place and rural residents who are simply trying to save their farms and ranches, he is sadly mistaken. It is Perry and his big contributors who are “making a living” out of this—a rather large living, when private corporations get in the position, through their influence on the Governor, to wield the power of the government against private citizens.