Toll Party to RMA: A year later, still negotiating secret deal and kissing TxDOT's feet

NOTE: Bill Thornton went on a tirade against me dismissing my comments as coming from someone who “doesn’t even live in this community”…these are STATE highways we ALL drive, there’s no statute of limitation at county lines! As an ordinary citizen redressing my government for grievances in the few 3 minute spurts given to us in these government meetings, he accused me of misleading people with “old news.” He seemed to think that because they signed some meaningless “Memorandum of Understanding” with TxDOT that all the public’s objections to government operating in SECRECY and taking our land and handing it over to foreign companies in 50 year sweetheart deals (that, WE, the taxpayers, have to pay for) should suddenly be erased.

He also, almost unintelligibly (the reasoning of this tirade was hard to follow, we obviously hit a nerve), tried to somehow say that SECRET contracts are somehow OK because TxDOT gave them $7.5 million and the rights to toll Bandera, Wurzbach, and I-35. Well, yippee, but what does that have to do with the price of potatoes? TxDOT financing the RMA only makes them a child of TxDOT all the more…hardly “independent” or “local control.” Sorry, Mr. Thornton, but ordinary citizens’ moral compass isn’t influenced by MONEY….it’s influenced by what’s right and what’s wrong. And negotiating and signing SECRET agreements and suing the taxpayers to keep them secret even after the Attorney General and a Judge ORDERED them to be made public, violates open and transparent government that this Nation was founded upon! The RMA is a party to negotiating the 281/1604 CDA (see for yourself here near bottom of story) and the Bandera Rd. Feasibility Study clearly states TxDOT plans to use a CDA for it, through the RMA (see for yourself here). So this RMA is up to its eyeballs in the dirty corruption of TxDOT’s SECRET agreements (public-private partnerships) known as CDAs.

RMA Statement that sparked such venom from public officials:
What a difference a year makes…from last summer, I’d like to read the comments from some of our City Council members and even Mr. Thornton regarding the use of CDAs.

From the Express-News last June:

“State officials have promised to let local leaders have input on a recent proposal by Spain-based Cintra and locally owned Zachry American Infrastructure to take over planned toll roads in San Antonio. But to protect trade secrets, state law prohibits public discussion of details.

‘It’s absolutely out of the question,’ said Councilman Chip Haass, who says private sector dollars to solve traffic problems is otherwise tempting, ‘You could not convince the constituents of San Antonio that this is a good deal.’

Officials can’t even see the Cintra-Zachry proposal without signing confidentiality agreements, which would prevent them from talking to anyone who hasn’t signed an agreement. Local leaders might end up taking shots in the dark at what is sure to be a moving target.

‘This whole deal scares the hell out of me, quite frankly,’ Councilman Roland Gutierrez said. ‘There’s so many details that we can’t even begin to contemplate.’”

Then from the Houston Chronicle last June 27:

“On Friday Cintra Zachry, the only developer under contract with the state for a leg of the project, asked a court in Austin to block release of its development and financing plans, which Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has said are public record.

The Houston Chronicle sought Abbott’s opinion after the Texas Department of Transportation refused to reveal its plans for the project, called TTC-35…

…Abbott’s opinion had rejected similar arguments (made by Cintra). Attorney Joe Larsen, who represents the Chronicle on open records matters, called the lawsuit “a waste of taxpayer money” and “simply a further effort to conceal the terms of a contract that the Texas taxpaying public will have to live with for the next 50 years.”

Cintra Zachry also took heat last week for inquiring about a low-interest loan of $320 million from the Federal Highway Administration.

The corridor idea was sold to the public as costing nothing to taxpayers.

Although a loan is very different from a taxpayer-funded grant, this type of loan carries interest rates well below market levels.”

Then in the Express-News July 1 last year:

San Antonio officials were left out of Thursday’s decision, said Bill Thornton, chairman of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority. He said he wasn’t even notified that it would be on the agenda.

‘So I’m a little uneasy to know where my place is at the table,’ he told commissioners….

…Richard Monroe, general counsel to the state transportation department, said he did (have a problem with giving local control). The state can’t just turn over its legal responsibilities to a local entity, Monroe advised.

“That’s turning the state constitution on its head,” he told commissioners.

So there you have it, you were left out, stomped on by TxDOT no less, but by simply signing some memorandum of understanding on a piece of paper that’s worthless since we know TxDOT doesn’t honor what it puts in writing, and now suddenly every objection is miraculously overcome?

Let’s not forget what Collin County officials said of CDAs and the illusion of local control you’re fond of touting:

“’They (TxDOT) are so sold on this CDA process. I don’t think they are going to let anybody do a toll road on their own,’ Hatchell said.

’It’s a money-grab,’ said County Judge Ron Harris.

…Harris said that other counties who have used CDAs have reported problems with them. ‘The problem is I can’t look at anyone here and tell them I’ve seen the documentation and that it’ll work because it’s all done in secret,’ he said.

Hoagland said he would not support allowing a private company to build and operate S.H. 121 through a CDA, and called it ‘another Robin Hood.’

‘When the state sells out to the highest bidder, that automatically translates into the highest tolls for our citizens,’ he said. ‘I think that the Legislature ought to go in and change the focus of TxDOT. That’s what’s going to have to happen. We’re going to have to pass a law saying that’s not the way we finance roads.’”

And that’s just what we’ll do. It’ll take a change of administration and it’s coming, very soon!

The public who has to foot the bill for this nightmare still has no say since this Board refuses to listen to the public or stand up to TxDOT’s intimidation and threats to withhold money, and this Board seems bent on kissing the feet of TxDOT. So much for local control. Say what you want, think what you want, but until this Board starts to look at other ways than tolls and secret agreements to accelerate projects, you will face untold fury from the public and witness a total revolution at the ballot box in November that will clean house and put power back in the hands of the PEOPLE.