Thursday, May 24, 2007

UPDATED: White smoke emerges on transportation bill

By Ben Wear - Austin-American Statesman -Wednesday, May 23, 2007
There’s a deal afoot on SB 792, and it doesn’t include Amendment 13.

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, one of the Senate conferees on the bill, said agreement was reached earlier this afternoon and final drafting touches are underway. Carona said all five Senate conferees are on board. However one of them, state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, said later that he is not in on the deal at this point.

On the House side, Carona said that four of the five House representatives are on board. That doesn’t include state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who according to one House member was in the governor’s office during the 4 o’clock hour discussing the issue.

Carona said the governor, wielding a veto pen for a bill for which no override is possible, has the upper hand, especially because Rick Perry pretty much is happy with the law as it stands now.

“We have far more to lose on this than the governor,” Carona said. “And he’s given in to the will of the Legislature on a great many points.”

Those points, however, do not include Kolkhorst’s Amendment 13, which would have included so-called “facilities agreements” in the ban on private toll road contracts. The Texas Department of Transportation has already signed what is called a comprehensive development agreement for TTC-35, which would be a tollway parallel to Interstate 35. Individual segments would be built under those facility agreements.

Carona said that no such agreements will be ready to go during the next two years, at least for highways, because of the time it takes to get final environmental approval from the federal government. The department, however, might be ready to go with a new freight railroad from Dallas to Laredo, and would like to preserve the ability to do that before the Legislature comes back in 2009.

“The rail project has never been an issue,” Carona said.

Both houses will now have to consider the conference committee report in up-or-down majority votes. A Senate vote could come as early as Thursday. The House, with its 24-hour layout rule, the ongoing fracas over Speaker Tom Craddick and a likely oppositional push by Kolkhorst, might take longer.

Read more

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I-30 to have toll tags lane by 2011 Super Bowll?

Gordon Dickson of the Star-Telegram broke the news in an article about transportation plans for the Feb. 2011 Super Bowl game in Arlington. There is nothing in the 2030 Mobility Plan about I-30 becoming a tolled or managed lane corridor. It has not been mentioned in releases from the RTC and is not included in the 400+ page TIP - Transportation Improvement Plan.

There are hearings coming up in June at the NCTCOG's RTC regarding changes to the TIP! Will be interesting to see how far they will go to fleece the citizens of North Texas to accommodate Mr. Jones' one weekend-event!

The public is encouraged to sit in and listen to the proceedings at the next RTC meeting.PLACE: NCTCOG Regional Transportation Council
DATE: June 14, 2007, 1:30 - 4:00 PM

Public Meetings on changes to the TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) are scheduled:

Public Meeting: June 6, 2007, 6:30 - 8:00 PM
Meeting Location: Burleson City Hall, 141 West Renfro, Burleson, TX 76028

Public Meeting: June 7, 2007, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices, Arlington, TX Transportation Council Room

Public Meeting: June 7, 2007, 6:30 - 8:00 PM
Meeting Location: Christopher A. Parr Library, 6200 Windhaven Parkway, Plano, TX 75093

Water Resources Council: June 14, 2007, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices, William J. Pitstick Executive Board Room

Tower 55 Technical Advisory Group Meeting: June 15, 2007, 1:30 - 3:00 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices Regional Forum Room

Outer Loop/Rail Bypass Meeting: June 15, 2007,1:30 - 3:30 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices, Pecan Conference Room

Outer Loop/Rail Bypass: June 20, 2007, 1:00 - 3:00 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices,Pecan Conference Room

Storm Water Public Education Task Force: June 21, 2007, 1:30 - 3:30 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices,Tejas Conference Room

NCTCOG Executive Board Meeting: June 28, 2007, 7:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Meeting Location: NCTCOG Offices, William J. Pitstick Executive Board Room

The NCTCOG Offices are located at 616 Six Flags Drive, Arlington, TX 76005

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Action Alert on SB 792 by David Van Os

The Trans-Texas Corridor moratorium bill needs YOU
David Van Os - Texas Kaos
A few days ago it looked like the people of Texas were going to get a two-year moratorium on the TTC monstrosity. It looked like overwhelming numbers of legislators in both the House and the Senate had heard the voices of the people. It looked like our House members and Senators were going to get us breathing room in which to continue to spread information and education to our fellow Texans about the intolerable scar Dictator Perry and his campaign contributors want to rip across the face of our state. Read more

T.U.R.F. warns that Market Valuation in SB 792 allows backdoor CDAs

By Terri Hall - Executive Director Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom


In seeking clarification on the implications of “market valuation” on toll projects (Sec. 228.0111), TURF has learned that if SB 792 passes as written, ALL toll projects around the state MUST USE market valuation to establish toll rates and to set toll rate escalation. Traditional turnpikes, where an entity simply sells bonds for the actual cost of building the road and the tolls pay back that debt, WILL BE OFF THE TABLE!
Read more

Monday, May 21, 2007

TX Dome - What is so bad about applying market valuation? (+)

What is so bad about the "apply market valuation" clause in SB 792?
Q. Does this clause give landowners a better price for land confiscated by eminent domain?
A. No, in this bill, they are referring to market valuation for the ENTIRE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT rather than for getting an appraisal on the real estate before they pay the land owner. There are rules that apply to acquisition of land by eminent domain which will not be changed by this phrase in this bill.
Q. What is Market Valuation as used in HB 792?A. What they are referring to is HOW THEY VALUE the land years after it is acquired, how they VALUE the entire infrastructure throughout the life of the contract.
Q. Is it a common practice?
A. Applying Market Valuation to state highway projects is a new concept. Market Valuation is a private sector practice where an owner of an asset values that asset over time as the value of the real estate escalates. As demand for adjacent property rises, rental and usage fees rise to reflect what the private company would have to pay for that house or business or real estate on the day they lease it to a user. For example, a friend of mine rents a house she purchased for $20, 000.00 but which appraises on today's market for $45,000.00. Years ago she charged $150.00 a month for rent but today she charges $750.00 a month for a tenant to rent the house.
This is a common practice in the public sector because she used her personal funds or credit to acquire the property. She is not a public housing authority which uses public funds.
Q. Why is it a such "big deal" in this particular bill?
A. Until a few years ago, only public toll authorities were legally allowed to build toll roads in Texas. With changes in the law, we now allow private companies to partner with the state to build toll roads. We also have public toll authorities which build toll roads in Texas. Public and private toll companies are in competition for bids on lucrative projects. Public toll companies (like NTTA) have an advantage in the bidding process because they operate on different rules than private companies like Cintra. A private company is supposed to invest private investor capital into the project and the private investors, wherever they live in the world, get a return on their investment and they can spend or invest that money anywhere in the world in any kind of project they choose. A public authority uses taxpayers money as an agent of the people and the return or user fees goes back into the public coffers, not to private investors. The return must remain in the region for use on public works projects for the public good. READ MORE

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Suggested letter - email to North Texas Legislators

SUBJECT LINE: RE SB 792 - HB 2268 Market Valuation requirements for public toll authorities projects in DFW region is last straw

ADDING "MARKET VALUATION" Requirements to public toll authority's public transportation projects and elimination of Amendment 13 from SB 792 are DEAL BREAKERS for the voters. We'll remember those who allow this to happen when the PEOPLE VOTE next time.
"Please INSIST that the Trans Texas Corridor unquestionably be INCLUDED in the moratorium by RETAINING Amendment 13 in SB 792! We're counting on you TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!"

The NCTCOG's RTC and many local elected officials serving on the RTC descended on Austin arguing for the DFW region (NCTCOG area) to be exempted from the 2 year moratorium. Legislators in other districts fought to keep their citizens protected. In our region we have to trust TxDOT and the RTC.

I am writing to tell you that citizens in the DFW area are upset. Allowing MARKET VALUATION to be applied to public toll authorities projects in this region is the LAST STRAW. We've are taking note and rembering the names of elected officials who sold the public out by fighting to protection citizens in the North Central Texas Region from bad CDA contracts.

Members of the RTC and local elected officials only get one vote when you run again for re-election. The people get thousands of votes. Most of the voters in this region differ with the RTC on use of surplus toll revenue to fund highway projects. Most of the voters in this region differ with TxDOT on raising toll rates higher than necessary to retire the debt and maintain the roads in order to generate billions of dollars of surplus toll revenue to use on other projects.

Citizens are outraged that the Texas Legislator has refused to seriously address Public Transportation funding problems.

We are angry that you refuse to stop diversions from transportation funds to non-transportation uses.

We are angry that instead of indexing the gas tax to keep up with inflation, you avoid addressing gas gouging and propose a temporary 20cent suspension of the gas tax. That is pandering rather than problem solving. Twenty cents a gallon for three months does not address air quality in non attainment areas. It does not help us if we are forced to pay high tolls for 675 miles of stragetic highways in the DFW area.

Applying Market Valuation to public toll authorities is the last straw. Fight for us or be prepared to face our opinions and fury when you come back to your district and ask the voters to re-elect you.


ACTION ALERT - Moratorium Bill

SEND A MESSAGE TO THE LEGISLATURE, DAVID DEWHURST AND RICK PERRY THAT ADDING "MARKET VALUATION" Requirements to public toll authorities public transporation projects and elimination of Amendment 13 from SB 792 are DEAL BREAKERS for the voters. We'll remember those who allow this to happen when the PEOPLE VOTE next time.

"Please INSIST that the Trans Texas Corridor unquestionably be INCLUDED in the moratorium by RETAINING Amendment 13 in SB 792! We're counting on you TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!"

The NCTCOG's RTC and many local elected officials serving on the RTC descended on Austin arguing for the DFW region (NCTCOG area)to be exempted from the 2 year moratorium. In order to protect their districts and keep them included in the moratorium, legislators from other districts agreeded to exclude the DFW region from the moratorium. North Texas Senators and State Representatives need to hear from hundreds of voters from this region IMMEDIATELY to help offset the pressure from the NCTCOG, TxDOT and RTC.

They need to know that we are upset! Call and email them and make them understand that allowing MARKET VALUATION to be applied to public toll authorities projects in this region is the LAST STRAW. We've been taking note and taking names of those who sold the public out by not allowing us protection from bad CDA contracts.

The following Senators and State Representatives' districts are within the NCTCOG. Their clout impacts the entire state. Call your rep and your senator. Then call others on this iist. Call them all! Tell them that they are there to represent you, not the RTC or NCTCOG. Make sure that not understanding the implications of applying Market Valuation to public toll authorities bid is not a good enough answer. They have one last chance to UNDO the damage. This bill is in conference committee and must be voted on again. MARKET VALUATION is said to be a deal breaker for Perry. Let these officials know that MARKET VALUATION is a deal breaker for the people and our vote in November trumps Perry's threat of VETO in May!

Point out that members of the RTC and local elected officials only get one vote when it is time to reelect Legislators. The people get thousands of votes.

Also, Lois Kolkhorst got a good amendment (#13) into the House version of the Bill. It includes the TTC in the moratorium. Perry is insisting that it come out. Let these North Texas Legislators know that keeping the TTC in the moratorium is a Deal Breaker for the people.
Dewhurst contact info:
Via a web mail form:
(512) 463-0001 (his voicemail is already full!)

DFW area Senators need to hear from OUTRAGED CITIZENS who object to their allowing MARKET VALUATION BE APPLIED TO DFW Toll Projects by Public Toll Authorities. Our Delegation has rolled over and played lap dog to the NCTCOG RTC, TxDOT and pro Cintra lobby groups headed by Rick Perry. They are elected to represent the Citizens. It is imperative that Citizens make these elected officals understand that they get one more opportunity to serve us. We will remember how they sold us out when we go to the polls to vote when they run for re-election.

To find House Members contact information: HOUSE MEMBERS

To find Texas Senate Members Contact information: Senate Members
DFW area legislators:

Rep. Roberto Alonzo(512) 463-0408 (817) 424-3446
Rep. Rafael Anchía (512) 463-0746 (214) 943-6081
Rep. Dan Branch (512) 463-0367 (214) 745-5888
Rep. Lon Burnham 817 924-1997 Austin 512 463-0740
Rep. Myra Crownover (512) 463-0582 (940) 321-0013
Rep. Yvonne Davis (512) 463-0598 (214) 941-3895
Rep. Joe Driver (512) 463-0574 (972) 276-1556
Rep. Kirk England (512) 463-0694 (972) 264-4231
Rep. Charlie Geren (512) 463-0610 (817) 738-8333
Rep. Helen Giddings (512) 463-0953 (972) 224-6795
Rep. Tony Goolsby (512) 463-0454 (972) 979-8822
Rep. Kelly Hancock (512) 463-0599 (817) 686-8998
Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (512) 463-0641 (972) 401-8825
Rep. Will Hartnett (512) 463-0576 (214) 891-1776
Rep. Fred Hill (512) 463-0486 (972) 234-8980
Rep. Terri Hodge (512) 463-0586 (214) 824-1996
Rep. Jim Jackson (512) 463-0468 (972) 416-7698
Rep. Jim Keffer (512) 478-8805 (800) 586-4515 (800) 586-4515
Rep. Phil King (512) 463-0738 (817) 596-4796
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (512) 463-0186 (972) 772-8525
Rep. Jerry Madden (512) 463-0544 (972) 424-2235
Rep. Brian McCall (512) 463-0594 (972) 881-0890
Rep. Sid Miller(512) 463-0628 (254) 968-3535
Rep. Anna Mowery (512) 463-0608 (817) 732-1372
Rep. Rob Orr (512) 463-0538 (817) 295-5158
Rep. Diane Patrick (512) 463-0624 817-548-9091
Rep. Ken Paxton (512) 463-0356 (972) 562-4543
Rep. Paula Pierson (512) 463-0562 (817) 385-4786
Rep. Jim Pitts (512) 463-0516 (972) 938-9392
Rep. Todd Smith (512) 463-0522 (817) 283-3131
Rep. Burt Solomons (512) 463-0478 (972) 394-3904
Rep. Allen Vaught (512) 463-0244 (214) 370-8305
Rep. Mark Veasey (512) 463-0716 (817) 339-1430

SENATE NORTH TEXAS DELEGATION (Representing Districts Within NCTCOG Region):
Kim Brimer (512) 463-0110
Sen. John Carona (512) 463-0116 (Steve Pulaski is his transportation staffer)
Sen. Bob Duell (512) 463-0102 (972) 279-1800
Sen. Craig Estes (512) 463-0130 (940) 689-0191
Sen. Chris Harris (512) 463-0109 (817) 461-9109
Sen. Jane Nelson (512) 463-0112 (817) 424-3446 (Zack Adams is her transportation staffer)
Robert Nichols (512) 463-0103
Sen. Steve Odgen (512) 463-0105
Sen. Florence Shapiro (512) 463-0108 (972) 403-3404 (Sarah Bagdwell is her transportation staffer)
Sen. Royce West (512) 463-0123 (214) 467-0123
Other key Senators to call are:
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (512) 463-0126

Other key Representatives to call are:
Rep. Debbie Riddle (512) 463-0572 (281) 537-5252Thank her. She fought hardest for her district. Wish my rep fought half as hard for us! She was one of two who voted against SB 792.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson (512) 463-0720 (Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus)
Rep. Harvey Hilderbrand (512) 463-0536 (830) 257-2333 Thank him.
Rep. Dwayne Bohac (512) 463-0727 Thank him.
Lois Kolkhorst (512) 463-0600 (979) 251-7888 Thank her for authoring the moratorium and leading the debate. Express disappointment that she urged members to vote for SB 762 with market valuation inserted and additional toll projects carved out of the moratorium!

Governor Perry, as promised, vetoed HB 1892. (HB 1892 began as the moratorium bill and was stalled in the House by Mike Kusee's Transportation Committee. In the Senate, John Carona turned it into an monstrous transportation bill, keeping the moratorium but carving out (exempting many urban projects, and all private toll projects in the DFW region). Rick Perry objected to the bill and promised to veto it (and all bills on all topics sponsored by Senators who voted for it). Carona's committee and the Perry's staff collaborated and turned SB 792 (which started as a companion to SB 1892) into a "Compromise Bill". Without debate or public testimony, this monster transportation bill was passed unamiously by the Senate last week. On the House floor it underwent rigorous debate and had over 30 amendments (most tabled or voted down) which attempted to migite some of its impact. A number (which passed) carved out even more projects to exclude from the 2 year toll moratorium.

Perry's office insisted on "Market Valuation" being applied to public toll projects. This negates much of the benefit of using a public toll authority on a project over a private company such as Cintra. Market Evaluation and additional exemptions from the moratorium are the major differences between SB 1892 (now vetod by Perry) and SB 792. On the floor of the House an amendment was added to SB 792 which clarifies that the TTC is included in the 2 year moratorium. Rick Perry objects to this amendment and his office is reported to be saying that inclusion of that amendment in the House Senate Conference Committee version of SB 792 will be a "deal breaker."

Anti-toll/TTC groups consider their options. David Stall of Corridor Watch found a "legal loophole in HB 1892 which would prevent the TTC from coming under the 2 year toll moratorium if the House and Senate were to override the Governor's veto on SB 1892.

The only other option on the table to get a 2 year moratorium on the TTC appears to be passage into law of SB 792 (despite much of the bill is detested by many grassroots activists and citizens).

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst added Amendment 13 to SB 792 to INCLUDE the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) in the moratorium. Perry says he won't sign SB 792 unless Amendment 13 comes out of SB 792.

In the North Texas area, there is mixed opinions on applying Market Valuation to toll projects in this region. Yvonne Davis and Paula Pierson both argued against applying Market Valuation to SH 161.
Terri Hall of the San Antonio Toll Party wrote that the North Texas folks want it so their tolling authority can use it to prevent a CDA on Hwy 121 in the Dallas area." San Antonio Toll Party is insisting that activists call the Capitol Switchboard (512) 463-4630 and insist that San Antonio area project be exempted from application of Market Valuation.

I don't think that most members of the North Texas Delegation really want Market Valuation applied to NTTA bids. I suspect some are intimidated by the Governor. When the Governor and NCTCOG pushes to the detriment of the people's interest, it is imperative that THE PEOPLE PUSH BACK!I am urging activist to call and insist that DFW project be exempted from MARKET VALUATION. Applying Market Valuation removed the advantage of using a public toll authority.

T.U.R.F. and San Antonio Toll Party also advise activists to:
CONTACT Lt. Governor David Dewhurst
He wants to be Governor and he alone has the power to pressure these senators to keep Amendment 13 in the bill and get San Antonio carved out from "market valuation" projects. He thought, as we all did, that HB 1892 included the Trans Texas Corridor in the moratorium. So please ask him to ensure the TTC IS in the moratorium as our legislators, including Dewhurst, intended!

Applying Market Valuation to a public toll authority's bid/project removes the benefit to the people of using a public toll authority. It makes the public toll authority act like a private entity such as Cintra. Applying Market Valuation to the projects in the DFW Region which NTTA is bidding on in competition with Cintra, levels the playing field and makes Cintra more competitive!

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Give us your ideas. We have organized and are seeking leaders in all 16 counties to join in the fight. We need to be able to generate hundreds of calls and e-mails to these officials. This is a bi-partisian battle. It is not limited to just Democrats. Please share this diary and forward this action alert to all you know in this area!
Other information about toll roads and issues in the NCTCOG region is found on GRASSROOTS NEWS U CAN USE

City of Southlake established an arts council

By ADRIENNE NETTLES - Star-Telegram staff writer
A new Southlake Arts Council will oversee arts programs, activities, and projects in the city.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to establish the arts council and a public arts policy.
Read more

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