HOW GRASSROOTS IS BEATING SPECIAL INTERESTS
By Sal Costello
Friday, March 10, 2006 at 07:47PM
Scott Bennett in Sal Costello
Gov. Perry knows who I am. And, he doesn’t like me.
I’ve been called the nemesis of many Texas elected officials.
I’ve been told by legislators that my grassroots group has begun to affect change in that special interest marble hell hole that we call our capital.
This story starts out discussing the freeways in Austin, but you’ll want to read on because it will affect you and your family’s pocketbooks as your freeways are also shifting to tollways. It’s happening throughout Texas. In Dallas, Freeway Toll 121 is the first of many thefts planned.
In 2004, 93% of the public feedback opposed the Gov. Perry toll plan that would shift most freeways in Austin to tollways. Austin’s Mayor Will Wynn, and other local elected representatives ignored the 93% of the public feedback and voted to toll roads already fully funded with gas tax dollars.
Since then, I’ve been leading a big-fit across Texas.
Tens of thousands throughout Texas have joined our cross-partisan grassroots group called TexasTollParty.com (it’s kind of like the Boston Tea Party, but replace the tea with special interest politicians (looters) and add some lawsuits we’ve filed and been successful with).
WE DON’T OPPOSE TRADITIONAL TOLL ROADS
To be clear, we don’t oppose traditional toll roads, where toll revenues on Turnpike A are tied to the investor financed Turnpike A, and where Turnpike A is designed and built as an ALTERNATIVE to our public expressways.
In contrast, Gov. Perry’s “Freeway Tolls” permanently take public expressways from drivers; double tax drivers since the freeway toll roads are funded with gas tax dollars (they don’t tell you that part); cost much more for construction, right of way, utility relocation, maintenance and service than nontolled roads; create corporate welfare as privately owned corporations profit off publicly owned assets; and add new layers of wasted bureaucracy.
State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn did an investigation in 2005 that showed one of the new, bureaucratic freeway tolling authorities had board members giving out NO BID contracts to themselves and their friends. (http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ctrma05/)
Gov. Perry calls his plan to toll all future Texas freeway projects “innovative financing”. I guess it’s innovative to fund a project with gas tax dollars and then charge folks to use the road – daily – forever. I like to call it “highway robbery.”
Here’s how Gov. Perry’s plan works: They use our gas tax dollars and our right of way that we’ve already paid for to build the expressways on our public highways. Then they place toll booths on them to collect a daily drivers tax.
FAST FORWARD TO THE PRIMARY ELECTION THIS WEEK:
We Won the first Toller vs. NonToller race in Travis County. Our endorsed candidate, Sarah Eckhardt, beat entrenched, eleven year incumbent and County Commissioner, Karen “Toll Road Queen” Sonleitner—57% to 43%! To prove that we gave the victory to our viable candidate, our election analysis matched our members to those who voted. (http://salcostello.blogspot.com/2006/03/congrats-to-all-our-endorsed.html)
And, we tipped the scale of the big upset and first Toller vs. NonToller House District 73 race in San Antonio as Nathan Macias beat toller incumbent, Carter Casteel by 45 votes. In House District 101 our endorsed Tom Latham beat toller incumbent, Elvira Reyna. And, we’ve had other candidates we’ve endorsed – win and get to the coming runoff.
In November of 2005, we took the lead and opposed Props 1 & 9. We saw the corporate welfare and extended freeway tolling authority terms that Gov. Perry was trying to sell us, and we fought hard. We helped stop Prop 9—Prop 9 would have allowed unelected people six year terms on the mobility authorities. And we also came close to stopping the blank check of Prop 1. More importantly, analysis of the counties we are strongest in, showed we made a 20% difference for Props 1 & 9.
We aren’t afraid to fight in the courtroom either. In December of 2005, we filed a lawsuit to stop San Antonio’s 281 freeway toll. By January 2006 we stopped the project.
As we continue to grow and educate others throughout Texas, we plan on firing more representatives–both Democrats and Republicans–that think that they can ignore us. We must vote for the person and not the party. Independent thinking Democrats and Independent thinking Republicans that will represent us is the answer.
Help stop Gov. Perry’s new tax scheme.
Go to TexasTollParty.com today and in just 1 minute, automatically send an email to Gov. Perry and over 200 other looters and let your voice be heard by telling them you don’t want to pay a toll for roads that you’ve already paid for.
Sal Costello is founder of TexasTollParty.com and People for Efficient Transportation Inc.