Follow the Money - Local Politicians Campaign Contributors
Thursday, November 1, 2007
You know it's almost election time, when every time you change the channel, you come across yet another political ad.
Yesterday, there was a new Trinity Toll Road ad airing.
It was the first TV ad from the group that is against the toll road.
It attacks the other side's claims that voting against the road will result in higher taxes in Dallas.
"The lobbyist and politicians are not telling the truth about their toll road Trinity Toll Road," we are told.
"According to The Dallas Morning News,they've used suspect statistics as truth to scare us of new taxes and lost funding," the ad continues.
There are no firm figures on "new taxes" and "lost funding".
Building a toll road in another location, other than the Trinity, would require the city to buy and demolish properties.
That will certainly cost more, but there is no definitive answer on how much.
As for lost funding - TxDOT says the toll road is the centerpiece to redoing the Mixmaster.
Without it, they say, the federal government will not pay for an estimate $1.5 billion in downtown road improvements.
But, it's unknown how that will actually play out.
"Their claims make several leaps and aren't backed up by proof," the ad says.
That's true but again, the cost of building the road in an alternate location is uncertain.
Toll road supporters say it will cost $500 million but they have not been able to itemize that number.
The truth is it could cost more, or less and ultimately it would have to approved by Dallas voters.
"As for those illustrations of the toll road, we've all seen the Dallas Morning News called them 'figments,'" the ad says.
Read more on WFAA
The images of a lush and pleasing tollway were produced by the NTTA, which would own and operate the road.
But the NTTA says the images are only an approximation of what the toll road would look like and is subject to change.
That's your reality check
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Fort Worth Star Telegram business writer Mitchell Schnurman called it “petty politics” and suggested maybe someone forgot to kiss a certain person’s ring.
He was talking about U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s recent refusal to include money for Fort Worth’s Trinity Uptown pie-in-the-sky project in a federal water projects bill, intimating that the Dallas congresswoman was acting like a queen.
If so, I have to say, God save the Queen for saving us! And further, I think it is Fort Worth’s own member of Congress, Kay Granger, who has been acting autocratic and undemocratic over this project, not Johnson.
In fact, Fort Worth leaders seem to have become fixated on a rather regal approach to the Trinity River Vision boondoggle, applauding Granger’s efforts to do an end run on the usual congressional appropriations process in order to get this project — which her boy J.D. has been hired to direct — off the ground ahead of other improvements that have been in the pipeline longer. Voters have had virtually no say in the process.
Perhaps Johnson’s actions will give us all the breathing space we need to ask ourselves why we are doing this. If we answer honestly, I think the “nays” will have it. Does Trinity Uptown solve a flooding problem? No. Do we need to create those thousands of jobs to pull us out of a depression? No. Do we need another mass of housing next to downtown? No. Will we realize so much economic gain that our street and drainage problems will be resolved? No. Will contamination from toxic waste products be abated? No. Will the property gained by developers be worth the losses to current property owners through the use of eminent domain? No.
Dallas has its own Trinity River vision. Ten years ago they set out to at least partially alleviate flooding and asked the voters to approve spending. They now want to change direction somewhat, but at least that city is asking for the voters’ approval. Compare that to Fort Worth.
Fort Worth leaders have become starry-eyed over the grand image of Uptown, created by Vancouver urban designer Bing Thom, that has been promoted by the Tarrant Regional Water District and a variety of other groups. The total price tag of $435 million in tax dollars includes $345 million for diversion of the Trinity River and $90 million for economic development of some sort. The price has escalated three times since the plan first surfaced.
The so-called flood control will protect the 800-acre Uptown area only when some of our effective levees are taken down. There is no flooding there now. The canals that Thom considered so essential to a waterside development are not funded and probably never will be. Digging canals requires relocating utilities and intruding on areas of contamination — a very expensive can of worms.
We were told in 2005 that the funding was set and that work could begin as soon as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the environmental impact statement. We are fast closing in on 2008, and the EIS still isn’t complete, and a new consortium of companies has been hired to plan the construction and refigure the cost.
That new cost figure could be sobering. Other projects started at around the same time — 2005 — are seeing appreciable increases in construction costs. The Omni Hotel started out as a $90 million project and now is expected to cost $170 million. The downtown campus of Tarrant County College should have been priced at $75 million and located somewhere else, but this Trinity Taj Mahal is now coming in at $336 million, with less space than originally planned — and still may end up being moved.
Then, consider how many other economic development projects in this town have been dismal, money-losing failures. The Evans Avenue project, Mercado I, and Mercado II all cost the taxpayers a bunch, and they are still in the doldrums after too many years. Then there is Fort Worth’s finest hour, when somebody convinced a majority of the city council that we should sell certificates of obligation to finance our very own $150 million hotel. Is there anyone out there who thinks for a nanosecond that the city-built hotel would have been of as high a quality as the Omni? Fortunately the citizens revolted, and that albatross flew south.
In the Trinity project, we’re talking about spending half a billion dollars of our money so someone else can profit from that “gorgeous waterfront property.” Schnurman claims that Johnson’s action “has no clear benefit for her or her district.” To the contrary, since it has been documented that the planned bypass channel would increase the potential for flooding downstream, I say the best benefit is no TRV.
Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Art Brender is concerned that Trinity River Vision is a scheme favoring Granger and the Republican Party. That’s not quite accurate. A scheme it may be, but most local Republicans abhor pork-barrel spending and the abuse of eminent domain. On the other hand, they probably appreciate Johnson being concerned about their interests on an issue where their own representative is AWOL.
Picht, a former Fort Worth City Council member, is helping gather signatures for a referendum to cap city spending on the TRV at $143 million unless voters approve an increase. He can be reached at 817-294-0396 or at email@example.com
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Prop 12: Beware of the Hungry Tax Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.
VOTE NO on Prop 12!
The revenue hungry "Tax Wolf" is rearing its ugly head again with Proposition 12, which is carefully crafted to trick Texans to vote for debt, future tax increases and toll roads paid for with our tax dollars (an unaccountable double tax).
In recent years, TxDOT has claimed they’ve run out of money, while they spend billions of our tax dollars to shift our public highways to toll roads and push the equally unpopular Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). Also to blame are Texas legislators, who have diverted billions of our tax dollars intended for transportation, into their pet projects, while they allow TxDOT, a rogue agency, to run amuck.
The State Auditor caught TxDOT inflating it’s needs by $45 billion dollars this year and TxDOT continues to ignore the public by spending millions of our tax dollars on an ad campaign to sell us toll roads and TaxTags.
Proposition 12 is the largest proposed new debt on the ballot this year. It would authorize up to $5 billion dollars of state road debt to be repaid with general revenue, instead of dedicated transportation funds. Yet another accountability breech as TxDOT is eager to become an unaccountable taxing authority.
In 2001, Prop 15 (the first Tax Wolf in sheep's clothing) was put on the ballot and politicos promised it would help solve our transportation crisis by estab lishing the Texas Mobility Fund. Texans trusted TxDOT and le! gislator s and voted for "mobility" and Prop 15 became a constitutional amendment. Much like this years Prop 12, the ballot language of Prop 15 did not openly inform voters that TxDOT would use Texas Mobility Fund exclusively to shift our freeways to toll ways. Prop 15 took accountability and the will of the people out of the equation - so special interests could seize OUR LAND and OUR ROADS for profit.
Don’t be fooled again, help stop the tax wolf and vote NO on Prop 12 - get everyone you know out to the polls! Early voting begins Monday Oct 22. Election day is Nov 6th.
Sal Costello is founder of People for Efficient Transportation. People for Efficient Transportation PAC (PET PAC) is a not-for-profit political action committee registered with the Texas Ethics Commission. PET PAC is not tax deductible.
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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. - Thomas Jefferson