Biedermann trounces Miller, but Miller on war path to trample property rights

Link to article here. (Click on the link at this site to view the video of Miller gettin' cozy with a lobbyist)

Despite defeat, Miller executes more damage to property rights
By Terri Hall
June 1, 2016

After an onslaught of threats that remain unresolved, residents of the Texas Hill Country just got a little retribution. From issues with land development and water to toll roads and property rights, Texas House District 73 yearned for new leadership. After an ugly, heated run-off election last week, it got it. Incumbent State Representative Doug Miller, an establishment Republican and staunch supporter of liberal Republican Speaker Joe Straus, was ousted by newcomer conservative businessman Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg. With Miller set to appear as an ‘expert witness’ on behalf of the developer of the controversial Johnson Ranch housing development, a very public showdown between neighboring landowners and this lame duck representative is taking shape.

Will Austin show Uber the door?

Link to article here.

Austin to decide whether or not to give Uber the boot
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
May 4, 2016

It’s a surprising ballot proposition in a state that boasts it’s the bastion of freedom. Austin voters will head to the polls this Saturday, May 7, to decide whether or not ridesharing companies like Uber will stay or go. A ‘Yes’ vote on Prop 1 will welcome Uber to stay. A ‘No’ vote will give them the boot.

The liberals that dominate the Austin city council have been downright hostile to ridesharing companies. So hostile it’s required a ballot initiative to decide whether this growing Texas city actually supports free market capitalism or government intrusion in the free market world of transportation.

Villalba dogs anti-toll senators over LBJ East

Link to editorial here.

Just when you think you've seen it all, something else happens that still manages to shock you. Well, this mean-spirirted editorial by State Rep. Jason Villalba and Dallas Councilman Adam McGough takes toll road politics to a whole new level. Read this outrageous hit piece that actually claims the survival of the Dallas area as a 'world class city' depends on a toll lane on I-635 East. Our response is below it.

ACTION ITEM
Support our anti-toll Good Guys! Send in a Letter to the Editor in support of Sen. Bob Hall and Sen. Don Huffines for their efforts to secure a non-toll LBJ East.
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EDITORIAL: Villalba and McGough: Stop stalling the LBJ 635 East Project
By Jason Villalba and Adam McGough
Dallas Morning News
April 4, 2016

When running for political office in North Texas, whether for State Senate, the Texas House or the Dallas City Council, one quickly learns there is a single issue that unifies all citizens, political parties, business leaders, chambers of commerce, rotary clubs and community groups. To a person, all agree there is a current and growing need for more robust and efficient transportation infrastructure in Dallas County and all of North Texas.

Texas agency gives green light to failed toll developer for dump of foreign toxic waste

Link to article here.

Texas agency approves dump for foreign, toxic waste in Laredo
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
April 14, 2016

In a move that threatens the health, safety, and sovereignty of South Texans, the state’s environmental policemen, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), granted preliminary approval for a toxic waste dump to failed toll road developer Carlos ‘C.Y.’ Benavides III, whose last deal in South Texas, the Camino Columbia toll road in Laredo, went bankrupt. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the facility known as the Pescadito Environmental Resource Center is designed to accept waste across an 800-mile perimeter. Yet the region has excess landfill capacity — 138-year capacity according to the South Texas Council of Governments — making this landfill clearly binational aimed at accepting toxic, foreign waste from deep inside Mexico.

Benavides’ last big venture, the 21.8-mile Camino Columbia toll road, connected Laredo, Texas, with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. It quickly failed to live up to traffic expectations and the $90 million private toll road landed in bankruptcy court where the state paid $12 million for it. However, Texas taxpayers, national banks, and other companies still lost $75 million in unpaid project debt.

Lawmakers call for deeper scrutiny of RMAs

Link to article here.

Three billion reasons to shut down toll authorities
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
April 2, 2016

It’s been a rough week for Texas’ Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs). They’ve come under scrutiny in recent years as duplicative, wasteful, and even corrupt governmental entities that exercise a lot of power, control billions in tax money all with very little oversight and financial accounting. So much so that Lt. Governor Dan Patrick created an interim charge to investigate the state funds that flow to RMAs and asks the Senate Transportation Committee to recommend additional oversight procedures to ensure RMA expenditures are a valid and accountable use of state funds. Ouch!

Study to eliminate Texas toll roads

Link to article here.

Texas lawmakers ponder eliminating some toll roads
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
April 1, 2016

In a complete about face from the Rick Perry years of toll roads and public private partnerships (P3s), a marked shift away from tolling is taking place in Texas and was on display this week at the Texas capitol. No less than four transportation hearings took place over two days, and each addressed toll roads in some way. The one that made the headlines, however, was the hearing held by the House Transportation Committee on the elimination of toll roads.

The road lobby donned Cheshire cat grins once they heard the ‘number’ - the amount of money it would take to completely remove tolls from the toll systems built with any state money. The number is staggering - a whopping $21 billion in principle or $38 billion with interest. If the bonds were paid off as of September 1, 2017, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director James Bass estimated it would take $30 billion.

Texas AG joins landowners in Red River lawsuit against feds

Link to article here.

Texas Attorney General intervenes in Red River land dispute
By Terri Hall
March 22, 2016

It’s a nightmare most ranchers and property owners hope they never experience. But it’s happening to property owners along a 117-mile stretch of the Red River at the Texas border where the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking to seize 90,000 acres of  private property. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future filed a lawsuit, Aderholt, et. al. v. Bureau of Land Management, challenging the move on behalf of seven Texas families and three counties, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly had the state of Texas join the suit as an intervening party. The General Land Office followed suit. Governor Greg Abbott has also expressed his support for the impacted landowners and vehemently defends the existing boundary lines of Texas’ northern border.

Cintra's SH 130 toll road goes bankrupt

Link to article here.

Texas’ first public-private toll road goes bankrupt
By Terri Hall
March 2, 2016
Examiner.com

It's appropriate that on Texas Independence Day, March 2, Texans got to formally declare independence from its bondage to a tremendously unpopular, anti-liberty public private partnership (P3) contract as a result of Cintra's bankruptcy on SH 130 (segments 5 & 6, the southern 41 miles of the 86-mile tollway). It's been just over three years since former Governor Rick Perry's grand toll road experiment began on this stretch of highway.

Straus, Wolff try to rewrite toll road history in San Antonio

Link to article here.

Straus, Wolff attempt to rewrite history on toll roads at election time
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
February 16, 2016

It’s always interesting to watch politicians try to re-write history when election time rolls around. A case in point is State Representative Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House, and Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff. Both have supported tolls in the past and they’ve put up persistent roadblocks to removing tolls from San Antonio road projects, but now they’re taking credit for expanding US 281 without tolls. Of course, this was after a total rebellion from the grassroots and residents in the corridor for over a decade. We heard repeatedly why we had to ‘accept’ tolls, why it was a ‘done deal,’ and why these powerful men ‘could do nothing about it.’

It wasn’t until Governor Greg Abbott campaigned against toll roads and advanced the largest infusion of new road funding in Texas history during his inaugural first year in office that either Straus or Wolff actually made a major effort to expand area highways without tolls — and that was largely due to the fact that grassroots anti-toll groups like Texans for Toll-free Highways advocated and won protections for taxpayers in the legislation prohibiting the new funding from being used on toll projects. That’s when the dominos started to fall.

HOV lane conversion on 281 in Alamo city will shrink capacity

Link to article here.

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff makes erroneous statements in this News 4 story. The Alamo Area MPO’s own consultant said HOV lanes have done nothing to increase carpooling or alleviate congestion. Ginger Goodin of the Texas Transportation Institute testified before the MPO last month that HOV-bus lanes are designed to change behavior and get people to switch modes of transportation.

Then there’s Wolff's claim that the 281 project will add 6 new lanes. The only new lanes they’re building are FRONTAGE ROADS, not general purpose highway lanes. There are NO NEW highway main lanes whatsoever in this project, and, in fact, the HOV lanes will convert two of the six existing general purpose lanes (open to all cars) into an HOV-bus restricted lane, actually shrinking existing capacity and leaving only 4 non-HOV lanes when today there are six.

The public has a right to know how congested this corridor will continue to be when they’re promising one thing and delivering another.

Millions set aside for highway improvements
By Emily Baucum
New 4 WOAI-TV
February 9, 2016

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County leaders set aside millions of dollars Tuesday to help revamp two major highways: Loop 1604 out west, and Highway 281 on the far north side.

It's all part of a nearly billion-dollar plan to improve roads in growing parts of town.

The plan no longer includes toll roads but it does include something else we've never seen in this area: carpool lanes.

Austin, Houston Mayors call for shift away from cars to transit

Link to article here.

Two liberal Mayors, Steve Adler of Austin and Sylvester Turner of Houston, are pushing a shift in transportaiotn philosophy away from road building to one constricting auto capacity for single occupancy drivers in order to force them into a carpool, bus, or rail car. It's New Urbanism's clarion call -- declaring a war on cars and seeks to put drivers on a road diet to force a change in behavior to what liberal elites think is a better option. Never mind that over 95% of Texas commuters prefer to drive their own vehicle and commute alone in their cars every day. To these social engineers, they know better and they'll use their power to turn your freeways upside down, and keep them snarled in congestion to try and force change.

Governor Greg Abbott doesn't share their philosophy and he appoints the Texas Transportation Commissioners that control what happens to the state highway system. With two competing philosophies being advanced by powerful politicians, a clash of the titans is likely to ensue.  

Turner calls for change in transportation philosophy
By Mike Morris
Houston Chronicle
February 8, 2016 Updated: February 9, 2016 9:32am

It is time Texas stopped funding transportation for the huge share of residents who commute alone in their cars each day, Mayor Sylvester Turner told state officials, arguing that widening highways leads only to more gridlock.

Instead, the new mayor called for state funding to shift away from the automobile and toward alternatives, including commuter rail, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, park and rides, and local transit, as the Houston region faces projections of staggering growth in the coming decades.

Congress defunds civil asset forfeiture program

Link to article here.

Funds yanked: Congress puts the brakes on civil asset forfeiture
By Terri Hall
February 1, 2016
Examiner.com

Many conservatives are upset with the omnibus spending bill Congress passed at the end of the year, but one provision they should praise is congress rescinding funding for the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture program. Most Americans have no idea what civil asset forfeiture is until law enforcement seizes your vehicle and everything in it during a routine traffic stop even though you have committed no crime.

The program was initially launched to help local law enforcement agencies fight drug trafficking and other organized crime by seizing assets they suspect may be involved in those crimes. But now it’s morphed into a system where you don’t even have to be charged with a crime to have your property seized by police, and few innocent parties ever get their money or property back.

Congress advances NAFTA superhighways in FAST Act

Link to article here.

Congress quietly moves NAFTA superhighway corridors forward in FAST Act
By Terri Hall
February 1, 2016
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

Such NAFTA international trade has all but destroyed the American manufacturing base, it threatens U.S. jobs and has contributed to stagnant wages since its inception in 1992. So the funding and expansion of the NAFTA trade corridors coupled with the porous southern border create another source of angst for American voters as they weigh the current presidential contenders.

CANAMEX map AMC 2014 thTucked into the 1,300-page federal highway bill, ‘Fixing America’s Surface Transportation’ Act, or FAST Act, that passed at the end of 2015, Congress quietly advanced several corridors of the NAFTA superhighway system, like Interstate-11. The interstate will connect Phoenix to Las Vegas and will ultimately run from Nogales, Arizona to northeast Washington State, establishing key trade corridors from Mexico to Canada.

The FAST Act is the first long-term highway bill to pass in over a decade, but it failed to enact any major reforms, failed to shore-up the funding shortfall in the federal highway program, and keeps most federal programs, like the NAFTA superhighways, euphemistically called high priority corridors, on auto-pilot for the next 5 years quietly eluding public scrutiny, while advancing the establishment’s global trade agenda.

BLOAT: Austin toll road costs triple

Link to article here.

Public outrage rises as cost of Austin toll road triples
By Terri Hall
January 17, 2016
Examiner.com

Toll roads in Texas face growing opposition and a shocking revelation by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) just threw gasoline on the fire. The CTRMA tripled its initial cost estimates for its plan to add toll lanes to US 183 from MoPac to RM 620 in Austin from $225.7 million to a whopping $650 million. The 8-mile project will now cost $81.25 million per mile. By anyone’s estimation, that’s a staggering jump.

SNEAKY: IRS can revoke passports over tax debt

Link to article here.

IRS gains power to revoke passports for failure to pay taxes
By Terri Hall
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research
January 4, 2016

Many Americans are shocked to find out that the recently passed federal highway bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act, includes a provision that can take away or block them from having a U.S. passport. At a time when political scandals plague the IRS, which has been used to target conservatives, tea party and pro-Israel-affiliated groups, this is an especially shameful revelation brought to you by the House and Senate Republicans.

The GOP has put itself in a box. The Federal Highway Trust Fund has not been collecting enough revenue through the federal gasoline tax to pay for the level of spending thought necessary by the special interests. The GOP has also failed to fight to ensure every penny of the gas tax is, in fact, going to highways, not transit, rail, and bike lanes that automobile users do not use.

Congress passes highway bill, diverts more money from roads

Link to article here.

Congress passes highway bill, continues to divert money away from roads
By Terri Hall
December 5, 2015
Examiner.com

Thursday marked the first time since 2005 that the U.S. Congress passed a long-term federal highway bill. The FAST Act, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, is a 5-year re-authorization of the surface transportation program. Criticized for patching the program with short-term fixes for the last decade, the $305 billion bill was supported overwhelmingly by Congress, passing the House of Representatives by a vote of 359-65 and the Senate by a vote of 83-16. President Barack Obama signed it into law late Friday, mere hours before the federal highway program was set to expire.

The bill also authorizes the controversial Export-Import Bank and allows the IRS to use private debt collectors and deny Americans passports if they’re delinquent on their federal taxes. The Ex-Im Bank is the poster child for corporate welfare and congressional giveaways to special interests that conservatives defeated this summer. The short-lived victory could play an important role in the upcoming presidential election as candidates either try to justify the re-authorization of the bank or decry it.

Hill Country residents fume over sewage dump, land grab

Link to article here.

Angry residents give developer earful about sewage dump, land grab
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
November 20, 2015

Last night, in a little hill country town in Bulverde, Texas, over 130 angry residents vented at a hearing over the 4S Ranch wastewater permit. The hearing conducted by the Texas version of the EPA, known as the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ), had an overflow crowd. The original meeting room could not accommodate attendees, who were stacked deep into the hallways. So TCEQ moved the residents into the bay of the EMS building to conduct the makeshift meeting amid fire equipment with no seating. Attendees, many of them elderly, had to grab their own chairs from anywhere they could muster if they wanted to sit down for the nearly 5-hour meeting that went late into the night.

The issue that drew the crowd was the developer of 4S Ranch seeking to amend its wastewater permit from 180,000 gallons of treated effluent contained on the developer’s own property to dumping 460,000 gallons a day of treated sewage onto its neighbors and into Dripping Springs and Lewis Creek (which feed into Cibolo Creek and recharges the Edwards Aquifer). The biggest neighborhood effected would be Oak Village North. The high density subdivision will be located between Stahl Lane and Smithson Valley Road north of FM 1863.

4S Ranch wants to put 1,880 homes on 780 acres in a county where there’s normally a restriction of one house per acre. If there’s just two residents per home, this subdivision alone represents a near doubling of the population of Bulverde (as of 2013, there were 4,841 residents).

Pickett: I've decided I don't like managed lanes

Link to article here.

Transportation chair signals end may be near for toll managed lanes
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
November 17, 2015

The death-knell to toll managed lanes may be imminent in Texas. House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett signaled he’s on a war path to end toll managed lanes at a hearing of the Select Committee on Transportation Planning last week.

The chairman declared war on managed lanes, “I’m on a binge about managed lanes. I’ve decided I don’t like managed lanes.”

Pickett cited a managed toll lane project in his home district of El Paso that carries a mere six percent of traffic. Ninety-four percent of drivers stay on the free lanes. Of those that use the toll managed lane, they only use it for three hours a day.

Obama rule change to put Americans on road diet

Link to article here.

Selous Exclusive
Obama’s Transportation Policy Guided by United Nations Agenda 21 Program

So, with this bureaucratic interference, there must be some other agenda at play if the government is willfully steering road taxes from efficient road capacity improvements to inefficient non-road uses. Some call it ‘new urbanism,’ others call it ‘sustainable development’ or ‘Smart Growth,’ but the blueprint that spawned it all was the United Nations Agenda 21 program. Agenda 21’s stated goal is to change people’s behavior through restrictions in land use, by herding people into dense inner-city housing, and restricting mobility to force Americans out of their cars and into government-controlled mass transit systems. It’s an assault on our freedom to travel and individual liberty.

By Terri Hall
November 2, 2015
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

It’s official. Your federal government is using your gas tax money to incentivize state and local officials to reduce auto lanes and create road diets to force you to change your behavior and commuting patterns. New federal rules announced by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx encourage transportation designers and decision-makers to reduce auto capacity and to create ‘lower-speed roads.’

Smith record on tolls making opponent raise Cain

Link to article here.

ELECTION 2016
Smith record causing opponent to raise Cain
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
October 29, 2015

It’s shaping up to be a tough re-election season for incumbents. One of them may be Baytown’s ethically challenged Wayne Smith. His voting record on transportation reflects a disconnect with many Texans in District 128 who oppose toll roads, especially the privatization of public roads. It’s a record that got challenger Briscoe Cain to take notice, and he’s running to replace Smith as a more conservative voice in the Texas House.