Sobering Silence of Transportation Commission

Friday's front page of Metro section
Friday’s front page of Metro section

It was dead silent. You could hear a pin drop when I approached the podium until I left it at the conclusion of my remarks. A small cabal of supporters, who had made the sacrifice and who had flexible enough schedules to attend a Texas Transportation Commission meeting Thursday, Feb. 23, 06, up in Austin during the work day, also attended and said, “You’ve got more guts than anyone else in that room.” Why? Because that room was filled with highway lobbyists, more than 100 industry people, Mayor Hardberger, Judge Wolff, Senator Wentworth, Rep. Ruth McClendon-Jones, half the City Council, Joe Krier of SAMCO and the Greater Chamber, Bill Thornton of the tolling authority, among others, engaging in a lovefest filled with genuflecting at the feet of one another for more than an hour. Then silence filled the room as the lone speaker for the grassroots, the taxpayer, stood to challenge them.

On behalf of Texas taxpayers, the San Antonio Toll Party presented compelling data challenging the toll plans of the Governor-appointed Texas Transportation Commission that ought to sober even the most hardened politician or bureaucrat (See the presentation for yourself here.). Between the lack of justification for making us pay tolls on freeways already built and paid for to challenging the secret 50 year toll agreements with foreign companies, there’s plenty of ammo to call for pause. We suggested reforms, very specific ones, that would go a long way to restore the public trust in the process.
1) Top to bottom review of the city’s poor planning of roads (outlined in detail in article by former city planner Dave Pasley here, which cites a lack of surface streets especially east-west arterials; can’t get out of Stone Oak without getting on 281/1604)
2) Cease pushing and insisting local communities use these public-private secret contracts called CDAs
3) Cease all toll projects until their economic impact on San Antonio is fully determined. You may think the economic impacts have already been studied prior to the wholesale shift to toll every major highway in San Antonio (and throughout Texas), but it hasn’t.

What’s driving this train is greed, corruption, and new tax revenue generation.

What’s needed is a study of the genuine impact of such a steep driver’s tax on the family budget and on toll viability in such an unstable energy market. Also the impact of an employee’s ability to get to work, the ability of businesses to retain employees, effects of sharply increasing the cost of doing of business, effects on home values and how tolls will effect population growth projections. I’ve heard from business owners in the 281/1604 corridor, and they’re very concerned about these issues since employees have already stated they will no longer head north to work if they have to pay a toll to travel efficiently. They’ve already lost substantial income to high gas prices.

Also, the personal savings rate has now dropped into the negative (See article here). For the first time since the Depression, Americans are dipping into their savings just to live day to day. When TxDOT’s own study from UT Austin shows over 70% of Texans are against the tolling of existing highways, and 51% of Texans don’t want tolls even on NEW roads, it begs the question, why does our Governor and his Transportation Commission stubbornly continue their tunnel vision and push tolls?

In fact, Chair Ric Williamson actually said, “We are loyal to Rick Perry’s vision (referring to tolls).” So anyone who still has doubts about why the Governor is tied to this, look no further. Williamson said it himself. In fact, on February 6, Governor Perry directly promoted his toll plans and his statements were on WOAI radio all day saying “tolls are the only option for San Antonio.” This is in direct contradiction to requests from two State Senators (Wentworth and Madla) and two County Commissioners (Adkisson and Larson) to install overpasses and implement TxDOT’s original already funded, non-toll plan for 281, a contradiction of TxDOT’s own documents, and a contradiction to the December 1 Express-News article (Read it here.) that proves the overpasses at the stop lights on 281 north are already paid for with gas taxes, but they’re choosing to toll you for an existing freeway instead.

Williamson who is characterized by his verbal jousting with anyone who dares to disagree on tolls, was remarkably quiet. He claimed it was because his attorney muzzled him since we are plaintiffs to pending lawsuits against them, but it seemed almost as if he and the Commissioners were in a state of shock and perhaps sobered into silence by such damning evidence. To some, you’d have to believe in miracles to believe that, but this ol’ gal’s usually a pretty good read, and I read a whole lot of embarrassment, shame, and worry (because our arguments have merit and might just prevail) on their faces.

Read the Express-News’ version of the Commission Meeting here.

Then came damage control by the powerful elites. Joe Krier, Chairman and CEO of the San Antonio Mobility Coalition and Greater Chamber, King of misinformation on SA toll roads, and plenty of others, tried to discount our facts. But you can see for yourself, they’re all substantiated (See presentation here.). Check them on TxDOT’s own web site, click on the many PDF documents on our web site collected from various public information requests and public records, comb the Comptroller’s web site and news reports. Either every government web site with transportation statistics is wrong, or Mr. Krier and his highway lobbyist friends are the ones full of bologne. What gets these guys’ goats is that THEIR numbers can’t hold up to scrutiny and the fact that ordinary citizens have figured out their shell game.

Though the article makes it appear like it was Williamson v. Hall; it’s really taxpayer vs. government. We’re the majority; they’re the minority. They’re the power brokers selling the public good for the private gain of the few, but we have the power of the ballot box and we had better use it March 7 & November 7 (See how here.). Submit a letter to the editor here in response to how the article portrays the MAJORITY’S position.

0 Replies to “Sobering Silence of Transportation Commission”

  1. Linda Ramos

    So, Joe Krier believes he has never heard so much baloney when talking about Terri Hall’s comments to the Texas Transportation Commission? Well, frankly, Mr. Krier, I’m incensed that someone who purportedly is our Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have the courage to take the time and demonstrate where Ms. Hall’s facts are wrong regarding toll roads. I suspect her facts are right on the money (yes, pun intended) and that you can’t refute them.

    It’s truly unfortunate that we merely hear rhetoric when our supposed community leaders and politicians (i.e. Joe Krier) choose to discuss toll roads. I have more respect for Ms. Hall who is making an effort to educate the public on the true facts regarding toll roads rather than just yelling rhetorical lines at toll road proponents.
    How about taking the time to point out where Ms. Hall’s facts are wrong Mr. Krier? If you can’t, then I may just have to revise Oscar Mayer’s song….”My bologna has a second name, it’s called “K R I E R”.

    Linda Ramos

  2. Cheryl Hallonquist

    Thank you so much for fighting this battle. We really do appreciate your hard work and courage. I will forward this meeting info to all on my email list. You can count on us in the voting booth.

  3. denise burse

    Thank you ,Terri Hall, for representing us and taking it to the powers that be!! Maybe
    after the election they will be the powers that were.
    Everyone that cares about the toll road issue -Please get out and vote these politicians
    that are NOTworking for the benefit of the community, DOWN AND OUT!!! Linda Ramos’ lyrics to the Oscar Mayer songs said it all! Those of you in office need to wake
    up and pay attention, because we ,the people, are PAYING ATTENTION to you.

  4. Robert White

    Please advise readers that voting in a primary will prevent them from signing a petition to put an Independent candidate on the ballot next fall. (The Governor’s race is of particular interest to me.) Also it would be helpful to explain to readers how one can find and sign a petition when they become available.

    Independent candidates have to wait until the primary elections are over to begin actually collecting the signatures on the petitions. Two important points need to be remembered in regard to a voter signing a petition:

    You must be a registered voter in order to sign the petitions.
    You cannot vote in any primary election this year.

  5. Berta Rodriguez

    Terri, wonderful job on a very professional presentation of the facts! I am keeping you in my prayers for continued wisdom and guidance.

    I would like to just make a comment about the Toll Party web site, blogs as well as emails from other supporters; all of which are a great resource for those of us learning about the issue.

    Having spent some time in Austin and D.C. (yes as a registered lobbyist, and yes there are some of us good guys working to create systemic changes for the good of those least served in the political process) – I learned that personal opinions are only taken serious when they do not insult or make public figures look bad in the publics eye (despite what the opposition might be saying about you or your cause, never stoop to their level, IT MAKES YOU LESS CREDIBLE)

    Sticking to the facts is always the best course especially if comments are put in print (emails, blogs, presentations, etc).

    I also learned early on that “compromise” is not always a “bad” word it is simply a part of the process. Remember that this in the end unfortuantaly is a political process. Learning to work within that system does not mean that you sell out. It simply means you learn to use your resources wisely and manage your opposition effectively.

    Also remember that when you are victorious in your cause your opposition will still be there working on the details with you. You want to be able to sit across the table from each other with mutual respect.

    I hope to meet many of you at the MPO meeting tomorrow. I will be bringing two little girls with me. I am a stay at home mom by day so any meetings I attend usually involve bringing them with me. I use this time to teach them how to be effective advocates.

    KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

    Berta
    281/Encino Rio resident

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