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Protest at the Capitol
By JOANN LIVINGSTON
Daily Light Managing Editor
March 3, 200
AUSTIN – Protestors of the Trans-Texas Corridor capped two days at the state’s Capitol with a march up Congress Avenue and rally on the south steps Friday afternoon.
The event was a combined protest against not only Gov. Rick Perry’s massive transportation plan but also against a proposed mandate that would require animal identification and tracking.
“I stand here today with one message for our governor,” Peyton Gilbert said. “Help us with our education and health care, but don’t tag Texas.”
Gilbert is the teen-aged son of one of the rally’s organizers, former ag commissioner candidate Hank Gilbert of Troup.
At the conclusion of the three-hour rally, Gilbert said he was pleased with the turnout, estimating it at several thousand, and not including about 1,000 people he said had attended the previous day’s public hearing with the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.
“I think between the Senate hearing and today, we’ll see some results,” he said. “If not, you can bet in the 2008 elections, we’ll see results.”
Participants staged south of the Capitol to march up Congress Avenue, with the march six blocks in length and including not only people, but a variety of farm animals and equipment.
“I think we had a good cross-section of the state here,” said Gilbert, noting he met with people everywhere from the Panhandle to South Texas. People also had come in from out-of-state, he said, because of their concerns as to what was happening in Texas. Linda Curtis of Independent Texans agreed that the people at the rally represented all walks of life.
“I think the legislators are getting the message,” she said. “But we can’t sit back and say that. The legislators do have a problem, and that is the governor.”
Acknowledging the governor’s veto power, Curtis said her organization would be prompting legislators to make sure their legislation is voted on in time to still have time left to override a Perry veto.
Independent Texans also has other “cards to be played,” she said, adding also that if officials don’t heed the concerns, they will “get un-elected.”
Throughout the rally, different speakers voiced their concerns on the two issues of toll roads and animal tagging, often drawing thunderous cheers and chants.
“We’re here from everywhere and we’re here to send a message,” Gilbert said in addressing the crowd. “And what’s that message?” “Don’t tag Texas,” yelled the crowd, several of who carried replicas of the Gonzalez flag bearing the words, “Come and take it.”
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance spokesman Judith McGeary, who was among the event’s organizers, voiced her opposition to animal tagging and tracking mandate and thanked everyone for their attendance.
“You are making your voices heard by being at this rally,” she said.
Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds said he was in opposition to the animal IDs and toll roads before singing a new song written especially about the issues.
“ ‘Down with Big Brother,’ I said, ‘Shame on Big Brother,’ always trying to track and trace me,” Vaughan said as many in the crowd joined in on the chorus.
Several legislators joined the list of those speaking, including state Reps. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde; and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.
“I want to thank you all for exercising your rights as citizens and telling the man (Perry) in that office right there that he’s wrong,” Coleman said, noting efforts in the previous session to make some changes and noting also legislation filed this session, several of which call for the outright repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
“We can stop this because of your work,” he told the crowd, saying that Texas shouldn’t be a state where “you’re going to have to be rich to drive on our highways.”
Saying there is still “a long way to go in this process,” Coleman expressed his appreciation to state Sen. John Carona, who heads up the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. “I want to thank him for going against the grain to make sure Texans are treated properly,” Coleman said of Carona’s holding of the public hearing. “We want to make sure that you won’t have to drive on roads that you’ve paid for twice.”
Kolkhorst discussed the legislation she has filed, and acknowledged lawmakers erred in passing the bill that enabled the Trans-Texas Corridor.
“This session will see more aggressive efforts to take the Trans-Texas Corridor out of the code,” she said. “This is just one of many things to take away our freedom.”
The issues are not Republican nor Democrat, Kolkhorst said, saying, “This is a Texas issue. It’s about the United States. ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ is right.”
She said she had met with the lt. governor and House speaker – and both were listening.
“I think you’re going to be amazed at some of the things that come out,” she said. “We’re going to take our roads back. We’re going to take our mistake back and take our nation back. No North American Union.
“You got it, baby,” Kolkhorst told the cheering crowd.
McGeary encouraged those in attendance to take the time to visit with their local legislators.
“Go in and talk to them,” she said.
Macias said it was an honor to speak at the rally.
“I stand before you here on Independence Day, and the winds of change are blowing again in Austin,” Macias said, adding, “You as Texans have chosen to stand up and speak your mind to your elected officials.”
Macias said he personally didn’t agree with the scope of the Trans-Texas Corridor or plans to toll other roadways in the state.
“Let’s work together with public, private and citizen input to solve our transportation issues, now and in the future,” Macias said.
A spokesman for Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul of Texas said the Capitol belonged to Texans.
“For those who live high on the low hill of character … we are here today to knock on their door because this is our property, too,” she said, saying the nine most terrifying words are, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”
“When someone is stealing your rights, it’s time to follow the money,” she said. “It’s time to stop the highway robbery, it’s time to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor.”
The project has connections to NAFTA and the North American Union, she said, asking the crowd, “Are you going to pledge allegiance to the flag of the North American Union?” and urging people to contact their respective lawmakers.
During the rally, concerns were expressed by several of the speakers about possible far-reaching implications of the Trans-Texas Corridor and animal identification project, especially relating to the potential for a North American Union that would unite the United States, Canada and Mexico under one flag, currency, identification card and government, they said.
“Once you can ID something uniquely, you can track it. Once you can track it, you can monitor it. Once you can monitor it, you can control it,” said Liz McIntyre, author of “Spy Chips,” a book about the use of radio frequency identification computer chips.
“It’s all about ID-ing, tracing and controlling inanimate objects, animals and even us,” she said. “There are plans afoot to chip everything … and every highway will be a spyway if we let it happen.”
Terri Hall of Texas Toll Party noted some of the testimony given during Thursday’s Senate committee hearing, saying one expert testified that it costs the taxpayer 50 percent more to have a public/private partnership.
That expert noted it “is always better to keep these contracts in the public sector,” Hall said. “These are not a foreign country’s roads. These are our roads.”
Saying that opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor are gaining the ear of legislators, Hall pointed out questions raised by the senators on the committee, especially in light of a recent audit released by the State Auditor’s Office.
“Perry is lying when he said there is no taxpayer dollars in the TTC,” Hall said. “The audit showed $90 million of taxpayer money has already been dumped into this project. A single law firm got $18 million.”
Noting questions about the Texas Department of Transportation’s coding of expenses – some of which could be illegal under law – Hall said an investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office should be conducted and any wrongdoing found should result in prosecution.
Corridor Watch co-founders David and Linda Stall said progress was being made in the fight against Perry’s transportation project.
“It’s about money, all of this is about money,” David Stall said. “It’s not about transportation. It’s about revenue-generating. We have to stop this, and we can’t stop now.”
Saying Carona had referred to TxDOT as a “rogue agency,” Stall said the Trans-Texas Corridor has become a “hot topic” and grown into a national issue.
“Texans can either stand up and show what we are about or we can become the laughingstock of the nation over the corridor,” he said.
“We have momentum,” Linda Stall said. “You have been heard. We have to keep pushing.”
Wharton County Commissioner Chris King said the Trans-Texas Corridor will change the face of rural Texas.
“It’s going to change the way we live in rural Texas, and I tell you right now, I’m not for it,” King said. “Rick Perry is not my governor.”
Former state attorney general candidate David Van Os told the crowd to “say no to corporate hogs at the trough.”
One-hundred-seventy-one years after Texas’ Independence Day, the government shouldn’t be talking about handing over commerce and transportation to private, foreign corporations, Van Os said, noting the “Come and take it” message of the several Gonzalez flags being displayed in the crowd.
“Say no to all of it,” he said. “We the people own this plot of ground. We the people own our beautiful state of Texas and we’re not going to let crooks and robber barons take our Texas away from us.”
In his closing remarks, Gilbert told those at the rally that they represent “thousands of people” back home and for each of them to have others who weren’t at the rally to also contact legislators to urge the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Make the legislators commit their support to the repealing legislation, Gilbert said. “If they wont’ support it, let them know that you will make sure this is the last session they spend in Austin representing you.”