high·way·men – Men who hold up and rob travelers on a road

From all over the state, citizens opposed to TxDOT’s freeway tolls united under the banner of the Texas Toll Party for a rally outside what they dubbed “a good ol’ boy convention–a bona fide highwaymen kumbaya lovefest” at the annual Transportation Leadership Forum hosted by SAMCo (San Antonio Mobility Coalition).

It’s a perfect occasion for a grassroots protest. This convention symbolizes everything that’s wrong with our political system today. It’s been hijacked by corporate insiders who yield more influence over our government than the governed. Just look at the sponsor list: Zachry Construction who stands to profit from this toll plan, Loeffler Tuggey, LLP (Tim Tuggey sits on the Via Board and the two Via votes on the MPO were no-shows for the review vote), engineering firms, banks, you name it, all the highway interests are represented in this forum except the most important one: the public interest.

We had a small but fierce group of allies on hand to work the crowd: Bob Martin, President of the Homeowners Taxpayer Association, attorney and candidate for Attorney General David Van Os, Texas’ number one tax watchdog C.A. Stubbs, and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson.

“I’m sick and tired of self-dealing, insider cliques stealing self-government from the people for their private enrichment. That’s the only thing this toll wreck plan represents,” says David Van Os, whose campaign is built on being the people’s advocate, not another arm of corporate cronyism.

Grassroots allies like Commissioner Tommy Adkisson renewed the call for an unbiased third party to scrutinize TxDOT’s toll plans, “Recognizing the need to act, an independent review of TXDOT’s Bexar County toll plans sensibly asks basic questions every thinking resident would want to have answered before it’s too late.”

C.A. Stubbs, agrees a thorough review is in order, “It is time to draw a line in the sand to stop the TxDOT Toll Road Campaign in its tracks, until a comprehensive Independent Review has been completed. Thereafter, open and compelling evidence must be presented in a revised plan that would be acceptable to all parties concerned.”

Comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn sent her support to the grassroots and she expressed her interest in investigating TxDOT’s financial dealings. But the Governor has stripped the performance review capabilities from the Comptroller and handed them over to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB). Texas Toll Party.com, with the Comptroller’s support, is calling for the LBB to get the ball rolling. We also call on State Auditor John Keel to investigate TxDOT’s misuse of funds, particularly on US 281 when TxDOT trashed their own viable and fully FUNDED improvement plan to turn around and charge a toll forever to drive on a road already paid for with taxpayer money! From top to bottom this toll scheme violates the principles of open government. Texans deserve genuine accountability and full disclosure.

There’s clearly a disconnect between the grassroots and the political elites of both parties. When the Governor sends out his Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson saying things like, “In your lifetime most existing roads will have tolls,” it’s no wonder there’s wholesale, widespread opposition to Perry’s statewide toll mandate. When something as fundamental as our freedom of mobility is at stake, the taxpayers have a right to vote on their own self-determination. Not only are we being denied a vote, our limited public assets, like freeways, are being sold to private interests to control for profit. This is a dangerous trend that goes beyond tolls, it’s time to take our government back!