Friday, July 13, 2007

Opposition to Perry's Toll Road policy bridges political parties and left-right ideologies

By Faith Chatham - July 14, 2007
Crossposted on Epluribusmedia
Shirley Spellerburg is registered to attend the Freedom 21 National Conference this weekend in Dallas. She sent me information on the conference. It features several speakers who have spoken out vehemently against the North American Union and the Trans Texas Corridor. The conference Shirley is registered to attend is sponsored by the Environmental Conservation Organization, American Land Foundation, American Land Rights Association, America Policy Center, The Eagle Forum and other groups. Speakers will include Patrick M. Wood, founder of The August Corporation and former Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution for War and Peace, (Topic: Origin and strategies of the effort to create a North American Union), and Henry Lamb (Topic: NAFTA, CAFTA, the FTAA, and the SPP are converging into the legal structure that is evolving into the North American Union).

Cliff Kincaid, editor of the Accuracy in Media (AIM) Report, will open the conference (Topic: North American Union, challenge to national sovereignty which is materializing without any discussion or debate in Congress.)

Although John Corsi is not listed as a speaker on promo materials for the conference, she forwarded me links to several of his articles. Corsi published an article in November 2006 on the NAFTA Superhighway Tran Texas Corridor as a key issue in the Texas Governor's race. Mr. Corsi wrote an article in Human, a leading Conservative blog, which parallels articles which the DFW-RCC team researched and published on liberal blogs during that election cycle. We tied international players to the push for the Trans Texas Corridor and showed how toll road proponents used non-profit 501s such as Texas High Speed Rail Corp. seminars to sell their transportation/public infrastructure reengineering vision to attendees at transportation seminars and forums. Without reading Mr. Corsi's article (NAFTA Super Highway Debate Inflames Texas Governor's Race) we were writing very similar things about the Trans Texas Corridor as an issue in the 2006 Texas Statewide races. Corsi didn't chronicle the contributions by Zachry to all incumbent Republican Texas state officials (Perry, Dewhurst, Craddick, Combs, Staples, Patterson) as we did.

DFW-RCC (DFW REGIONAL CONCERNED CITIZENS) sprang from a team of researchers who volunteered for down-ticket Democratic challengers during the 2006 Texas election cycle. Hank Gilbert, candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, handed us his excellent research on the TTC and NAIS and challenged us to verify and keep digging. He was the first person who told us about the Kansas City Smart Port. What began as an attempt to understand what Gilbert was talking about at a candidates meet and greet during the primary, evolved into a quest to discover who was behind the movement to reengineer Texas and USA transportation policy.

The biosphere is stratified. Most political blogger visit and write for either left or right blogs. Trolls are detested by both and most bloggers avoid the "opposition camps" blogs. On DFW Regional Concerned Citizens, we are a middle ground issue oriented activist network rather than a pure left or right blog. Recognizing common threats and arriving at the same truths from different directions, activists from the North Central Texas region who voted for different candidates during the last presidential election, agree on the basic facts regarding the Trans Texas Corridor.

I shudder to think of the rhetoric which would emerge if many of the activists on this network were to debate the truth or distortation of fact regarding George W. Bush's military service and/or Mr. Kerry's service during the Viet Nam War. Although we probably agree that this nation under Mr. Bush is not where we think we should be, the activists on this network would probably not trust the same leaders or alternative to get us to a different place. Yet from vastly different vantage points, many of us have arrived at many of the same conclusions. For several years some of us have been writing political commentary about NAFTA and the Trans Texas Corridor (and financial interests behind it).

When Shirley Spellerburg sent me links to Jerome Corsi's articles yesterday, I was astounded at how closely his article NAFTA SUPER HIGHWAY DEBATE INFLAMES TEXAS GOVERNOR'S RACE is a close overlay of the facts our team exposed on Daily Kos, Texas Kaos and Burnt Orange Report in candidates' journals for Hank Gilbert, David Van Os and Fred Head during the 2006 Texas Primary and General Elections!

All three stumped across Texas speaking out vehemently against the erosion of citizen’s rights and misuse of the legislative process to rip property rights from landowners. Gilbert warned of dangers to our nation's food supply from uninspected agriculture imports and the impending loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of this nation's richest farm land to the Trans Texas Corridor toll road. He entered the race when the author of the bill enabling the construction of the Trans Texas Corridor by exercise of eminent domain for private development, Todd Staples, entered the race for Agriculture Commissioner. Staples won the election but Gilbert's warnings and sound reasoning ignited a movement and united citizens on all spectrums of the political "divide."

Corsi is a controversial author. (One of his books was an attack on John Kerry - "Swift Boat Veterans for Peace" during the 2004 Presidential Election.) Although DFW-RCC is a broad based, non-partisan issue oriented network focusing on issues in the 16 county North Central Texas Council of Government (DFW) region, the original group which founded the network would probably have a rather heated discussion with Mr. Corsi on some the premises he presents in that book as fact if we were focusing on the 2004 Presidential Election. Ironically, when we fast-forward to 2006, approaching toll roads and eminent domain for private development in Texas, Mr. Corsi and the original DFW-RCC research team mirror each other on most points!

Rick Perry won reelection with a plurality. He sits a Governor, reelected by the smallest percentage of voters in modern Texas history. I posted excerpts last week on DFW REGIONAL CONCERNED CITIZENS (Follow the Money - Campaign contributions and policy) excerpted from research the DFW-RCC founders published on Grassroots News U Can Use and other Democratic leaning blogs (Daily Kos, Texas Kaos, and Burnt Orange Report) last year. We identified the danger of returning incumbents financed by Zachry (partner of Cintra) to office.

Mr. Corsi appears to have only focused on the top race. We focused on THSRC (Texas High Speed Rail Corp.) and TTI (Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University) initially. Tracing ties officers of Texas High Speed Rail Corporation have with other non-profit organizations led us to explored NASCO CORRIDOR more thoroughly in 2007. In November 2006 Mr. Corsi named NASCO Corridor as a tool of the North American Union folks.

Corsi wrote on 11/03/2006:
In Texas, the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-35) has become a major issue in the gubernatorial campaign where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is viewed as a chief proponent for building this new, giant toll road parallel to Interstate-35.

This year, three major candidates are contesting Perry: Democrat candidate Chris Bell, Republican-turned-independent Comptroller Carole Keaton Strayhorn, and independent Kinky Friedman. Moving outside traditional party lines, the typically colorful Strayhorn presents herself as “One Tough Grandma.” Strayhorn’s children include Scott McClellan, the former press secretary to President Bush. Kinky Friedman, who aspires to be the Lone Star state’s first Jewish governor, is a 61-year-old country-and-western troubadour who is known by his trademark cowboy hat, mustache with limited goatee, and ever-present cigar.

All three contenders have slammed Perry for advancing TTC-35, a new toll road to be built four football fields wide from Laredo on the Mexican border to the Texas-Oklahoma border south of Oklahoma City. As disclosed by the Texas Department of Transportation, this road, characterized by this author as a “NAFTA Super Highway,” will be financed by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transport, a Spanish investment consortium with ties to Juan Carlos and the ruling family of Spain, and built by San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Co. I have previously documented the extensive campaign contributions made by Cintra-Zachry to the Perry campaign.

Incumbent Under Attack

Each of Perry’s contenders is attacking him (as well as each other), campaigning on a platform opposing TTC-35 construction. Democrat Bell notes that in 2001 as comptroller, Strayhorn recommended that Texas build new toll roads. Bell’s campaign website rails against TTC-35, noting that the road would “destroy almost 1.5 million acres of prime farmland and strip Texas landowners of over 150 square miles of privately owned property.” Bell’s argument strongly suggests graft:

The Trans Texas Corridor is a case study in corruption and cronyism, and one of my first acts as governor would be slamming the brakes on the whole plan and dragging it back into the public light.

Strayhorn’s website is equally emphatic that TTC-35 is a politician’s dream and a citizen’s nightmare:

In this election, there are two sides and one choice – the Austin political establishment and its land-grabbing, secret, foreign-owned tolls versus the people and their desire for freeways. I stand with the people. I will shake Austin up.

A video clip of Strayhorn speaking at a vocal rally opposing TTC-35 can be viewed on the Internet. Here Strayhorn connected TTC-35 to NAFTA by claiming Perry’s super-highway plan amounted to turning “Texas DOT into Euro-DOT.” In her speech to the rally, she also renamed the “Trans Texas Corridor” as “Trans Texas Catastrophe.” Strayhorn called for putting TTC-35 to a referendum, which prompted participants at the rally begin chanting, “Let the People Vote!”

Friedman’s campaign website joins the anti-TTC chorus:

Kinky is opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor since it relies on toll road construction. He feels that the TTC is a land grab of the ugliest kind, with land being taken from hard-working ranchers and farmers in little towns and villages all over Texas. The people who will ultimately own that land are the same people who own the governor.

Typically, Perry’s campaign website defends TTC-35 as business as normal, just another highway needed to accommodate the state’s growing population and burgeoning economy:

Texas’ rapid population and commerce growth has strained our highway and rail systems to their limit. Rather than taking decades to expand these important corridors a little bit at a time, Governor Perry developed the Trans Texas Corridor plan. The Corridor plan allows the state to build needed corridors much more quickly and without a tax increase.

This past summer, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held a series of final public hearings proposing the final route choices for TTC-35. Thousands of Texas residents showed up at these hearings to protest TTC-35, not realizing that the only question at issue was the specific route, not whether the super highway would be built. TxDOT has proceeded with a resolve to begin construction in 2007, as if TTC-35 were a “done deal,” regardless how much public outcry is heard in opposition. Ironically, since the Texas gubernatorial race is a plurality contest, Perry could win even if a majority of the votes go to a combination of his three opposition candidates. Thus, unless Texas voters opposed to TTC-35 are able to focus on one opposition candidate, Perry could win even if his TTC-35 plan is opposed by a majority of Texas voters.

Sal Costello, founder of the and vocal opponent of TTC-35, has led the Internet charge against the proposed super highway. The has produced two television commercials supporting the group’s endorsement of Strayhorn in the governor’s race. One commercial proclaims, “If you liked the Dubai Ports deal, you will love the TTC land grab,” while the other presents a cartoon figure of Perry who announces, “You will love my TTC land grab. It turns your property into foreign profits.” The ads have been aired thanks to People for Efficient Transportation PAC, a group which Costello also founded .

David Stall, another opponent of TTC-35, has created, a website dedicated to disclosing information that TxDOT has not fully disclosed, including arguments contesting the ability of TxDOT to utilize eminent domain under the recent Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London to grab more than half a million acres of Texas private property and displace up to 1 million Texans from their homes, businesses, ranches, and farms in the process of building out the full 4,000-mile TTC network planned to crisscross the landscape throughout Texas.

A documentary opposing TTC-35, titled “Truth Be Tolled,” was premiered at the Austin Film Festival on October 26. Austin talk-radio host Alex Jones, an outspoken opponent of TTC-35, has archived videos of his in-studio radio interviews with both Sal Costello and David Stall.

A group of citizens in central Texas have formed an organization known as the Blackland Coalition, which has also created a PAC that is running newspaper ads in Texas opposing TTC-35.

Bloggers Ask Questions

While the mainstream media have largely ignored the issue super highway toll roads, bloggers in Texas have even picked up an issue HUMAN EVENTS first developed, namely that trade organizations such as North America’s Super Corridor Coalition (NASCO) have been supporting NAFTA super highways through endorsing the activity of their members, including TxDOT.

In an interview with the author, Todd Spencer, the executive vice president of the 145,000 member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, openly opposes TTC-35 on behalf of the group’s 145,000 members who operate more than 240,000 individual heavy-duty tucks and small truck fleets throughout the U.S. and Canada. Spencer argues that the real purpose of the TTC-35 project is to open Mexican ports, such as Lázaro Cárdenas, so Mexican trucks can transport Chinese under-market goods into the U.S. at a reduced transportation cost.

“We are also concerned about security. There’s no reason to think that just because there’s a Mexican customs office in Kansas City that all Mexican drivers on the Trans Texas Corridor will stay on the route. The Mexican trucks will get off the TTC and go lots of other places and there won’t be anything meaningful to stop them.”

Spencer fully expects TxDOT to make the TTC-35 toll road attractive by setting high speed limits, in the range of 75 to 80 miles per hour. Noting that TxDOT is planning on charging up to 40 cents per mile as a toll for trucks, Spencer commented that this was equivalent to charging an extra $2.40 a gallon in additional fuel taxes.

“Once the TTC is built,” Mr. Spencer commented, “TxDOT will attempt to force people to use the toll road.” How? “Simple,” Spencer responded, “just watch, once TTC-35 is completed, TxDOT will begin maintaining I-35 a lot less. You can count on Cintra to enforce a ‘no-compete clause’ that is designed to prevent TxDOT from building an alternative road or even improving I-35.”

Congress Gets Involved

Just this week, Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) entered the TTC-35 debate, writing in his weekly column to express his opposition to the super highway. Paul expressed constitutional concerns over TTC-35:

By now many Texans have heard about the proposed “NAFTA Superhighway,” which is also referred to as the trans-Texas corridor. What you may not know is the extent to which plans for such a superhighway are moving forward without congressional oversight or media attention.

Paul has decided to co-sponsor H.C. Res. 487, introduced in the House by Rep. Virgil Goode (R.-Va.) on September 28. The resolution is co-sponsored by Representatives Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.) and Walter Jones (R.-N.C.). It asks the House to not engage in the construction of NAFTA super-highways and to oppose entering into a European Union-style North American Union (NAU) with Mexico and Canada.

Corsi concludes his article with an appeal for the Conservative Caucus. Many of the activists on this forum disagree on how immigration should be handled in this nation and amnesty. Some favor tactics such as those voted by the Farmers Branch City Commission while others of us deplore them as being racists. We recognize that the exercise of eminent domain for private profit is an evil to be confronted; we recognize that our nation's immigration policy is broken but are widely divided on potential solutions. On immigration we are like a blind family with animal in the living room. Some are examining the tail and other the head. Some smell the posterior and others have climbed on top for a ride. We all seem to be insisting that our viewpoint of the critter is the whole story and few grasp the size, diversity of parts, or essence of the whole, are can accurately distinguish between whether it is an elephant or a llama before proposing how everybody should deal with the critter. Priorities vary depending on whether you are riding the animal, farming the animal, petting the animal or are positioned at its rear-end!

Sometimes history (or our perception of history) prevents us from joining others who agree with us on specific issues in working toward solutions for today's problems. Frequently, when we are very invested in a vision or a cause, and others disagree with our world view, we discount all they think or say. When we put our thoughts and opinion on paper and publish them, they remain a chord which can separate or unify others to our current causes/ opinions. I frequently fail to listen to what people are actually saying because I have a perception of what I think they think!

Frequently, when an entire culture, life and death, or our entire way of life, is involved, citizens from various cultures unite. In Eastern Europe on one of my academic trips abroad, several speakers in different countries used the same phrase: "My enemy’s enemy is my friend." I prefer to think that we can build coalitions based on mutual consensus.

DFW-RCC came from a network of friends collaborating on research on toll roads, CDAs, eminent domain and the influence of large campaign donors in the political process. It has evolved into a network of a much more diverse group of citizens, who function largely as a "think tank" information/ activist network. As we are coming together and digging deeper into issues, we realize that there are many areas where we do not share the same viewpoints or objective. We are also discovering that there are many other areas where we were on the same page working in different "sandboxes" working with common objectives.

At the bottom of the DFW-RCC site is a U-TUBE Video link to campaign footage of David Van Os and Hank Gilbert during the 2006 race. Neither of them were elected to the offices they sought. That footage is kept at the bottom of the DFW-RCC site because it serves as a reminder that nothing we write there is truly original or our own. Other Texans' stepped up to the plate long before DFW-RCC was formed. They put their lifesavings and invested several years of their lives traveling Texas speaking out against political corruption, favoritism and cronyism in government. They fought for the constitution of this state and nation and for the right of every citizen to agree or disagree with them. Although neither were elected to office, they focused the debate and unified citizens from diverse camps on the issues. Hank Gilbert rode in on the Trans Texas Corridor /NAFTA highway issue long before any of the candidates for Governor took up the torch. Fred Head and David Van Os and other candidates joined him on the stump. What began as a political campaign emerged as a movement. It is still early in the process. Who knows what really will happen when the left and the right and those in the middle actually communicate rather than posture and prejudge! As citizens probe, step back and evaluate, communicate and act, who knows what will emerge from this current challenge.

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DFW Regional Concerned Citizens attempts to examine issues from all directions. When a story says "By Faith Chatham" it contains my viewpoint. When it is by others, but posted by Faith Chatham, it is from someone else's viewpoint. When I discover contents which is on topic for this site, I frequently link to other sites. Usually those sites contain content which differs from my viewpoint (and frequently that of other members of DFW-RCC).