Saturday, May 19, 2007

Kaufman mayor's race decided by one vote

By Jim Getz WFAA
09:20 AM CDT on Saturday, May 19, 2007
A recount has upheld William Fortner's one-vote victory over incumbent Paula Bacon in the Kaufman mayor's race. The recount yielded the same totals as the May 12 election, 285-284, Kaufman County Voter Registrar Dick Murphy said. Dr. Fortner's 285th vote came on a provisional ballot, one in which a city resident voted on paper instead of electronically because election judges had initially given him a ballot containing only Kaufman school board races and a state issue. Ms. Bacon said she was consulting with an elections expert about the validity of the provisional ballot. Meanwhile, Charles Gillenwater's election to the Kaufman City Council also was upheld. He had received 174 votes to incumbent Stanley Holmes' 171.
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ACORN walked in Weatherford

Weatherford Telegram - on, May. 07, 2007
ACORN walked in WeatherfordA busload of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) members were in Weatherford Saturday to “turn up the heat” on State Representative Phil King.
Allison Brim, ACORN organizer, said that 45 members from Fort Worth, Dallas and Irving walked the Willow Creek neighborhood near Azle Highway, knocking on doors and asking residents to sign letters that would be faxed to King.

As the head of the House Regulated Industries Committee and one of five House members of the Conference Committee now reviewing House Bill 482, King, (R) Weatherford, wields a great deal of power in the fight for affordable utilities in Texas, Brim wrote in a press release announcing the event.

“Amendments in HB 482 include a summertime moratorium on electric disconnects, a 15 percent rate discount for consumers and restoration of the System Benefit Fund,” she wrote. “Toward the beginning of the legislative session, King appeared to side with consumers. On Feb. 28 the Star-Telegram reported that ‘… King and consumer groups said the cuts should be at least twice [the 6 to 10 percent proposed by TXU].’

Later reports from the House floor indicated that King changed his mind – that he wishes for the Conference Committee to eliminate the 15 percent consumer discount from HB 482, Brim wrote.

She added that ACORN members came to King’s home district to let his constituents know what their representative has been doing in Austin when it comes to electric rates, and to ask for help in winning strong statewide affordable utilities legislation.

“We just wanted to find a neighborhood that was the right size for us to door knock,” Brim told the Weatherford Telegram. “What was important was to be in his district. People in the neighborhood we went to were very sympathetic to people who are paying high electric bills. They’re on municipal utilities, so their rates aren’t exorbitant.”
To receive updates on ACORN’s work every two weeks go to

Some content contributed by Allison Brim, head organizer for Dallas/Fort Worth ACORN, 5353 Maple Ave. No. 200, Dallas 75235, 214-823-4580.
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City of Mansfield approves Texas U’s

By Nicholas Sakelaris - News-Mirror Writer - Thu, May. 17, 2007
The City Council approved a funding agreement Monday with the Texas Department of Transportation to get the ball rolling on new service roads and Texas Turnarounds on U.S. 287 between Walnut Creek Drive and East Broad Street.

Construction is expected to start by 2008 and be completed by 2010. There will be two Texas Turnarounds on Walnut Creek Drive and one on East Broad Street, which will provide access to The Shops at Broad Street, several hotels and Kohl’s at the Mansfield Marketplace. The city’s share of the project will be $4 million with TxDOT, Tarrant County and federal funding paying the rest. The new Texas U’s will be enhanced with brick or stone to improve the visual appearance of the bridges, said Bart VanAmburgh, city engineer.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

David Stall of Corridor Watch reports on SB 792

SB792 is Now The New and Improved TTC CDA Moratorium Bill.
Thursday House vote: 145 to 2

Representative Lois Kolkhorst came through on Thursday with a couple great amendments that will ensure the moratorium really stops the Trans Texas Corridor for two years.

SB792 is a virtual bullet-bill, but not bullet-proof.

The vote to pass SB792 on second reading, as amended, was an incredible 145 to 2. Then, only minutes later the House did something rarely seen, they suspended the Constitutional Rules and moved to take a third and final vote immediately without waiting until Friday.

Now the bill will be shot over to the Senate where they had hoped to get it on the Governor's desk by Friday morning. The big question is will they accept it as amended by the House, or complicate the process by going to a conference committee.

Almost three hours of TTC bashing.

The vast majority of discussion and debate that took place on the House floor today displayed open contempt for the Trans Texas Corridor. Most other toll and highway projects where left alone, except SH281 and Loop 1604 in San Antonio. That wasn't the case with the Trans Texas Corridor.

Representative after Representative told the assembled body how much their constituents dislike the TTC. Representative Harvey Hilderbran said that in his district there was, "zero support for the TTC." That caused someone on the floor to reply, "less than zero."

It was very clear that the members of the House have been hearing us and our concerns about the Trans Texas Corridor. It was especially gratifying to hear Representatives say that the TTC comes nowhere near their district.

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SB 792 about summer break, not passing a good bill

May 18th, 2007 by Terri Hall (Executive Director of T.U.R.F. and San Antonio Toll Party)
The REAL truth behind today is that Governor Perry called the Legislature’s bluff. He successfully did what he did to win re-election…he got North Texas and Harris County to drink his poison pill last weekend (remember that three extra days he bought himself for arm-twisting by refusing to accept HB 1892), which was evidenced by the unanimous vote of the Senate Monday.

This is why veto overrides are so rare. The whole thing was a ruse. The Senate used HB 1892’s vote margins as leverage to get Perry to the table. They never intended to override him. Harvey Kronberg was right! The rest of this was a foregone conclusion ever since. Our San Antonio guys were ready to vote against this disastrous “compromise,” but voted for it since HB 1892 had a loophole for the corridor. So SB 792 with all it’s horrific flaws was the only means to get a moratorium that also included TTC 35. San Antonio roads were already in both (even stronger language made it into SB 792).
However, there are so many exceptions to this moratorium, that of all the CDAs currently being negotiated, only TTC 35, San Antonio, and El Paso are in it. The moratorium does stop TxDOT from signing more. So here we are again in yet another session where a last minute omnibus transportation bill where the good stuff gets watered down and the bad stuff gets rushed through with people voting on things WITH NO DEBATE. They had a shell of a debate with foregone conclusions at the outset. It ended up being like what happened to Senator Robert Nichols who was sandbagged and brought in and asked for his opinion on the bill AFTER they had the votes to outnumber him.

Word in the “back room” today was follow Wayne Smith. The leadership said if he votes for something, follow. If he votes against, follow. That’s what the Governor wants. So it went something like this: thumbs up, thumbs down, that’s our ticket out of town. They had a special room off to the side of the House floor with TxDOT arm twisters…they defeated Macias’ amendment to restore open government and allow PUBLIC access to toll feasibility studies….they shut down EVERYTHING. In fact, Smith said he would testify in favor of Macias’ amendment to keep toll studies OPEN to the PUBLIC, then he turned on him at the last minute. Smith couldn’t look Macias in the eye afterwards…what a TRAITOR! That’s what they were being told would avoid a special session.

I love how these sorry excuses for human beings sleep at night when they worry more about missing summer vacation than passing a good bill (stripping this “market valuation” language) or doing what the citizens ask. Don’t get mad at our San Antonio reps who heard you loud and clear; they asked us how to vote…we did the best we could given the circumstances. At least we could get the TTC 35 fixed. It’s the North Texas and Harris County reps that sold the rest of the state out.

If you want to take out your venom on someone, it’s the Senate. John Carona’s office assured us “no compromises” on the key provisions like the buy-back clauses. They said they were pushing to get the equivalent of HB 1892 or better. I beg to differ, it’s worse, far worse! This bill kicks the teeth out of the killer clause that would have chased off private operators for good. Instead, they’re just crippled. We could have knocked it out of the ballpark, but our representatives acted more like politicians than public servants. The Senate set the example of caving into the pressure so the House followed suit. They didn’t have the guts to take this Governor down and override his veto. They wanted summer break more than fighting FOR the citizens of Texas. That market valuation language will bury this state under oppressive tolls if we don’t beat that door down next session.

Guess Senator Carona’s concerns about high tolls only applies when they’re going to Cintra instead of his tolling authority. Both fleece the taxpayer, except under the PUBLIC toll road fleecing they justify it this way: “at least those high tolls go to build more roads.” Goodie! Are these Republicans we’re talking about here? Because this sounds like tax and spend if I’ve ever heard it.
We did get an amendment that PUT 281/1604 UNDER the moratorium (stronger than previous intent language)…but our REAL problem now is Perry’s NEW language that allows the same “market value” poison to be inflicted on us through PUBLIC tolling entities…we only stopped CDAs, not the toll train. They get you coming and going…

Market valuation just opened a new can of worms. TTC 69 is still on the table though support for it as a CDA is already starting to crack. The best medicine? VOTE the rascals out.

Perry is poison for this State and no one will go up against him even though we handed them the golden opportunity for a showdown with this Governor. Even Rep. Joe Pickett voted with KRUSEE!!!

All we truly got today was TTC 35 in the moratorium…everything else just got worse. The Governor beat them with his billy club and they said Uncle inside of 30 seconds without a whimper. Like Lee Iacocca says in his new book, Where have all the Leaders Gone?

Look, at this Ben Wear story (below)…today was all about making it acceptable to the Governor, and turf battles over the pot of money they can extract from “market-based” highways rather than about the PEOPLE of TX that have to pay for these horrific decisions for generations (with interest!)!

READ MORE about MARKET VALUATION language in SB 792

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Collin County Commissioner Prefer NTTA Bid for SH121

BY DANNY GALLAGHER, Staff writer for The Frisco Star
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 12:50 PM CDT)
When it comes to the North Texas Tollway Authority's new proposal for State Highway 121, several Collin County commissioners said they like what they see.

"I think it's a great proposal," said Precinct 3 Collin County Commissioner Joe Jaynes
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Tolling topic of Collin County Commissioners' workshop

By Penny Rathbun, staff writer for The Frisco Star
Friday, May 4, 2007 2:34 PM CDT)
The Collin County Commissioners Court held a work session Monday night in Frisco's City Hall...
Five people spoke to the Commissioners Court on the issue of tolling State Highway 121, including Frisco Mayor Mike Simpson, City Manager George Purefoy, and Frisco Mayor Pro Tem Maher Maso.

All of them were against the tolling, and Purefoy presented a detailed report on the flaws in the Texas Department of Transportation's plan for SH 121 His report shows that the toll will continue to escalate with a 45 percent higher rate for users without toll tags
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Spanish company picked for SH 121 toll contract

By Brandi Hart and Penny Rathbun, The Frisco Star
Friday, March 2, 2007 4:28 PM
Gov. Rick Perry announced Tuesday that Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, the Spanish company that is half of the partnership the state contract for the Trans-Texas Corridor, won the bid to build, operate, and maintain State Highway 121 toll lanes in Collin and Denton counties.

Perry joined officials from Collin and Denton counties on Tuesday to announce the award. On Wednesday, Texas Department of Transportation recommended that the Texas Transportation Commission grant conditional award of the CDA to Cintra - who partnered with Zachary Construction Company of San Antonio for the Trans-Texas Corridor contract - based upon the TxDOT staff review and scoring of the proposals.
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