City of San Antonio to change ordinance due to TURF lawsuit

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

City of San Antonio to gag political speech in proposed change to ordinance

City’s hypocrisy seen in “Vagina Monologues” banner being hung, yet it denied toll road/recall banners for being too “controversial”

San Antonio, TX, January 29, 2009 – Today, the San Antonio City Council will consider a change (agenda item #21) that would gag political speech in its street banner ordinance in response to TURF’s lawsuit over the City’s approval then abrupt denial of two street banners.

TURF filed suit against the City in United States District Court on December 2, 2008 for infringing upon its free speech for denying two street banners: one announcing a recall petition drive involving District 8 Councilwoman Diane Cibrian that directed citizens to a recall web site (www.RecallDiane.com) and another announcing a web site www.281OverpassesNow.com with non-toll solutions to fix Hwy 281 N.

This proposed change in ordinance is a direct response to the litigation still pending before the court. The City’s Development Services Department brief submitted to the Council for this agenda item by Director Rod Sanchez makes legal claims that remain an open question before the court. Whether or not the space above streets and between utility poles is a traditional public forum or not and whether or not the City can restrict free speech in this forum is not a settled matter. Judge Xavier Rodriguez' ruling even states that the plaintiffs may prevail.

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“To make changes to the ordinance prior to any final action by the court is beyond the pale. The Judge stated in his first ruling that ‘...There is a distinct possibility that the plaintiffs may ultimately prevail on the claim that the ordinance violates the First Amendment as applied to them...’ so for the City to act now is entirely premature and may invite further First Amendment challenges over the blatant restriction of free speech in this forum.

“”Protecting political speech and the right to dissent in a public forum was the primary purpose of the First Amendment. This case has enormous implications for future First Amendment rights over public streets. We’re urging the City to pull this agenda item until the litigation is settled and we ask that Councilwoman Diane Cibrian recuse herself from any action on this agenda item since one of the banners involved a recall of the Councilwoman,” states a concerned Terri Hall, TURF Founder and Director.

Then, in a turn of events that can only be construed as a double standard, the City at this very moment has granted a permit for a banner emblazoned with "Vagina Monologues" (see photo here) that’s hanging above Alamo Street near Durango, yet the same entity denied TURF’s banner about toll roads and a recall campaign for being what it claimed was too “controversial.”

“Isn't ‘Vagina Monologues’ controversial if not more so than toll roads? Some might call it outright offensive or even obscene speech. This unequal application of the ordinance bolsters our claim that the City is discriminating against TURF based on the content of its banner and suggests the City is blatantly suppressing TURF’s message while giving other controversial messages a free pass,” notes Hall.

For background on the case: go here

See complete text of comments submitted to the City Council below:


To be read prior to any vote on Agenda Item #21 regarding changes to the City Code for Street Banners

Submitted by Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), a non-profit, all-volunteer grassroots group promoting non-toll transportation solutions

Public comment on First Amendment Street Banner concerns

This agenda item is a direct response to a lawsuit filed by TURF challenging the City Development Services Department’s denial of permits for (2) TURF street banners under the current ordinance which reads: temporary signs “…must advertise or promote a non-commercial, not for private profit event, a charitable community drive, or a community announcement.”

This case is still in litigation and it is beyond the pale to make changes to this ordinance until the case is settled. Whether or not the City can restrict free speech based on content in this forum is an open question before the court that ought to be fully considered prior to any changes in the City code.

United States Judge Xavier Rodriguez states in his initial ruling: "Given the lack of definitions or limiting terms in the Code and the placement of decision-making authority in the director of development services, the ordinance appears to allow virtually unfettered discretion in the director to determine what qualifies as a 'community announcement.' Standing alone, this evidence would suggest that the ordinance is constitutionally problematic because that amount of discretion seems unreasonable in light of the nature of the forum and could permit the director to make decisions based on viewpoint.

"...There is a distinct possibility that the plaintiffs may ultimately prevail on the claim that the ordinance violates the First Amendment as applied to them..."

Whether or not the space above streets and between utility poles is a traditional public forum or not is an open question before the court where the plaintiffs may prevail. In the brief by Mr. Sanchez, he tries to claim the City has consistently shut out political speech. Yet based on the blatantly contradictory testimony in the case, it is NOT clear as to whether or not a consistent application of the ordinance has been applied since the City approved the banners knowing the content only to later deny them after much deliberation and confusion ensued about whether or not the banners were permissible under the code.

When the City denied the banners it stated TURF didn’t meet “the category and definition” only to later claim in court documents that the message of the banners is “controversial,” and therefore the legal basis for its denial. However, the statute gives the City no such authority to deny permits based on content, which violates of the citizens’ First Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Then, in a turn of events that can only be construed as a double standard, the City at this very moment has granted a permit for a banner emblazoned with "Vagina Monologues" (see photo here) that’s hanging above Alamo Street near Durango, yet the same entity denied TURF’s banner about toll roads and a recall campaign, which the City approved and then later denied for being what it claimed was too controversial! Isn't "Vagina Monologues" controversial if not more so than toll roads?! Some might call it outright offensive or even vulgar and obscene speech. This unequal application of the ordinance bolsters our claim that the City is discriminating against TURF based on the content of its banner and suggests the City is blatantly suppressing TURF’s message while giving other controversial messages a free pass.

The City of San Antonio seems to lack the proper respect for Free Speech and the fair treatment of ALL groups, regardless of their make-up or message. The City denied TURF’s banners simply because it disagrees with the message of toll opponents. We the people own the public right of way, and the First Amendment protects the citizens from government gag orders on speech, particularly political speech.

First, we ask that this agenda be pulled and that any changes to the ordinance occur after the lawsuit is settled and the public is allowed to fully weigh-in on this crucial Free Speech issue. Second, Councilwoman Diane Cibrian should recuse herself from any action relating to this item since one of the banners involves a recall campaign for the councilwoman.

Judge hears evidence in TURF lawsuit against City of San Antonio

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Judge hears evidence in TURF lawsuit against City of San Antonio

City denied TURF permits to hang banners
above roadways
 
San Antonio, TX, January 6, 2009  – Monday, United States District Judge Xavier Rodriguez heard TURF’s motion for a temporary restraining order and motion for a preliminary injunction against the City of San Antonio for denying TURF permits to hang two banners in the public right of way, which TURF believes is a blatant violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

After hearing more than 3 hours of evidence and testimony, Judge Rodriguez did not rule but said he intends to rule by the end of this week. Rodriguez repeatedly and openly struggled with the fact that the City at one point approved the banners only to later deny them with no legal basis other than the arbitrary interpretation of City employees. He also stated he’s wrestling with the City’s discrimination based on viewpoint and other key legal arguments noted by TURF attorney David Van Os.

One City employee, Arturo Elizondo, who initially granted permission for the banners only to later deny them, contradicted the testimony of his supervisor, David Simpson, which, by his own admission, baffled the Judge. The explanation for their denial changed stories several times and morphed into what amounts to legislating on the fly in order divine some excuse to deny approval of the banners.

 
“First the City denied our banners saying we didn’t meet the ‘definition,’ now they’re saying they denied the banners because the content or message of the banners was ‘controversial.’ They’re making this stuff up on the fly, demonstrating for all of us that this is a politically-motivated gag order of citizens who dare oppose the politics of those in power. The City’s reasons for denial are NOT in the ordinance, plain and simple. The Judge even said so on several occasions,” states TURF Founder, Terri Hall.

“It’s no secret that Mayor Hardberger and many Councilmembers as well as City staff who sit on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) have cast votes for and advocated toll roads. Based on the City’s actions, one can conclude that the City will not tolerate differing viewpoints or give fair and equal access to citizens’ groups wishing to utilize temporary banners to communicate important community information to its fellow citizens in the public’s right of way,” Hall added.

Background:
The City claims the speech/message of the banners is “controversial” and therefore the legal basis for its denial; however, the statute gives the City no such authority to deny permits based on content, which violates of the citizens’ First Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Through TURF’s efforts to inform the public about the gas tax original plan for 281 and the recall of pro-toll, flip-flopper District 8 Councilwoman Diane Cibrian, it applied for permits from the City of San Antonio to place banners above the roadways at key locations. TURF was originally granted permission only to have that permission later rescinded once the higher-ups at the City caught wind of TURF’s banner messages: one directing people to the www.281OverpassesNow.com web site and the other to the www.RecallDiane.com web site. One of the banners had already been made at a cost of nearly $700!

TURF sues City of San Antonio over free speech

PRESS ADVISORY

TURF sues City of
San Antonio for infringing on Free Speech
City denied TURF permits to hang banners
above roadways

San Antonio, TX  – On Monday, January 5 at 2:30 PM, United States District Judge Xavier Rodriguez will hear TURF’s motion for a temporary restraining order and motion for a preliminary injunction against the City of San Antonio for denying TURF permits to hang two banners in the public right of way, which TURF believes is a blatant violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution..

Through TURF’s efforts to inform the public about the gas tax original plan for 281 and the recall of pro-toll, flip-flopper District 8 Councilwoman Diane Cibrian, it applied for permits from the City of San Antonio to place banners above the roadways at key locations. TURF was originally granted permission only to have that permission later rescinded once the higher-ups at the City caught wind of TURF’s banner messages: one directing people to the www.281OverpassesNow.com web site and the other to the www.RecallDiane.com web site. One of the banners had already been made at a cost of nearly $700!

WHO: The concerned citizens of TURF

WHAT: Hearing for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the City of San Antonio for violation of citizens’ Free Speech

WHERE/WHEN: Judge Xavier Rodriguez’ courtroom on Monday, January 5 at 2:30 PM in Courtroom 3 on the first floor of the John Wood United States Courthouse at 655 E. Durango Blvd.

“Clearly, the City of San Antonio has no respect for Free Speech nor fair treatment of ALL groups, regardless of their make-up or message. The City denied our banners simply because it disagrees with the message of toll opponents. We the people own the public right of way, and the First Amendment protects the citizens from government gag orders on speech. We hope the court will right this wrong and allow our banners to be hung,” states TURF Founder, Terri Hall.

The City claims the speech/message of the banners is “controversial” and therefore the legal basis for its denial; however, the statute gives the City no such authority to deny permits based on content, which violates of the citizens’ First Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Citizens demand fix to 281 NOW

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Citizens demand fix to 281 NOW

San Antonio, TX, October 24, 2008  – Concerned citizens with the San Antonio Toll Party and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas (AGUA) joined District 122 Candidate for State Representative Frances Carnot in a joint press conference to demand the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) work with the citizens to fix the gridlock on US 281 (north of Loop 1604) now. TxDOT and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority are misleading the public into believing NO fix to 281 can move forward for 3-5 years, which is patently false.

The environmental clearance got pulled for the US 281 toll project ONLY. There are provisions in the law that would allow the original gas tax funded 281 overpass and expansion plan (www.281OverpassesNOW.com) to move forward in just over 30 days.

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas (AGUA), whose lawsuit is still active in federal court despite TxDOT’s announcement to pull the clearance for US 281, have asked for a meeting to discuss an immediate solution with Transportation Commission Chairwoman Deirdre Delisi and she’s refused.

“Our desire is to work with TxDOT to alleviate the congestion on US 281 as quickly as possible, but they refuse. Instead, they continue to hammer weary commuters with their stubborn ‘toll roads or no roads’ club,” states an outraged Terri Hall, Founder the San Antonio Toll Party and Texas TURF.org.

“Even with the toll road off the table for the foreseeable future, TxDOT continues to behave like a rogue agency who puts profits over the public good. Politicians for the district, State Representative Frank Corte and Senator Jeff Wentworth, continue to sit idly by and let this crisis fester rather than demonstrate effective leadership and exercise legislative oversight over this out of control agency by getting the overpass plan built NOW,” Hall notes.

“Perhaps the citizens cries for help are being repeatedly ignored because Corte doesn’t even live in District 122? Does he even care what his constituents and the businesses in this corridor are needlessly suffering at the hands of a rogue agency over whom he has oversight?” asks Hall.

The citizens and businesses in the 281 corridor deserve better, and they plan to step-up their efforts with a 5 point plan to get the overpass plan built immediately. Step one: take their anger to the ballot box!

“From day one the citizens have insisted that the least invasive, most affordable solution be built on 281 immediately, and that’s clearly the original gas tax funded overpass plan. It’s one-tenth the price ($170 million versus the $1.3 billion toll project), half the size (10 lanes versus 20 lanes), and would take less than half the time to build (18 months versus 3.8 years). It’s inexcusable abusive government and sheer greed to hold commuters hostage a single day longer,” Hall insists.

TURF launches new campaign: www.281OverpassesNow.com

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TURF launches campaign demanding overpasses for 281 NOW

San Antonio, TX, Wednesday, September 10, 2008 – Citizens fed-up with delays to the fix on 281 have launched a new campaign to demand the gas tax funded fix to 281 be installed immediately, not a toll road. A new web site www.281OverpassesNow.com is chalk-full of documentation, videos, and data including a comparison of the “original” gas tax funded fix to 281 to the enormously expensive $1.3 billion dollar toll road plan.

“We don’t need a toll road, we need overpasses,” notes Terri Hall, TURF Founder. “The QUICKEST, most affordable, least invasive solution has been promised in public hearings since 2001 and funded with gas taxes since 2003. When they can fix 281 for $170 million and keep it a freeway instead of waste $1.3 billion and take nearly 4 years to make it a toll road few can afford, it borders on malfeasance to REFUSE to do the fiscally responsible solution IMMEDIATELY.”

After exhausting every other means to stop the toll road for three years, the citizens through TURF along with co-plaintiff’s Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, or AGUA, filed a lawsuit in February to stop the toll road in order to advance the gas tax freeway fix. On the day the lawsuit was filed, the two parties announced there is NO opposition to installing the promised and funded overpasses and expansion of 281 from either group.

In what amounts to a total victory for the grassroots, TxDOT had to ask the court for a 60-day delay in the 281 lawsuit to buy time to persuade the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) NOT to yank its environmental clearance for the 281 toll project. Through the discovery process of the TURF/AGUA lawsuit, it's been discovered that TxDOT withheld key documents not only from the public and TURF attorneys, but also the feds!

TxDOT purposely withheld a key study from a geologist they hired that stated the potential long-term effects of the toll road on the Edwards Aquifer could be “severe.” Such a study didn't conclude what TxDOT wanted it to in order to get clearance from the feds, so they intentionally hid the report and failed to submit it to the FHWA who uses that crucial information in their decision on whether or not to give federal approval for the project.

There is also an email that shows TxDOT tried to "fix" the environmental work for 281 to pre-determine a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (or FONSI) BEFORE the study even began. TxDOT then hired a company, HNTB, to do the so-called "independent" environmental study even though HNTB has a MAJOR conflict of interest, in that, the tolling authority (ARMA) also hired HNTB to do the preliminary engineering for all their toll projects! So HNTB had a vested interest in a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (or FONSI).

“TxDOT and the RMA blame us for the delay instead of their own incompetence and deception. As usual, they seem to think they can wiggle out of their corruption without consequences simply by supplementing the record. They were FORCED to come clean through a lawsuit brought by concerned citizens, not by them being forthcoming,” said Hall. “We will NOT tolerate willful deception nor politicians’ stubborn refusal to give taxpayers the most affordable fix to 281. Give us the overpasses on 281 NOW.”
###

TxDOT caught hiding 281 docs from the feds

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TxDOT CAUGHT IN DECEPTION!
TxDOT hid 281 documents from the feds, asks court for 60 day delay on 281 case

San Antonio, TX, Thursday, August 7, 2008 - In what amounts to a total victory for the grassroots, TxDOT has to ask a Bexar County federal district court for a 60 day delay in TURF's 281 toll road lawsuit so they can beg the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) NOT to yank their environmental clearance for the US 281 toll project. Through the discovery process of the lawsuit filed by TURF and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas (or AGUA), Judge Fred Biery required TxDOT to hand over the complete administrative record for US 281, including all the financials and the documents from when the improvements were funded with gas taxes that would keep US 281 a FREEway. It's been discovered that TxDOT withheld key documents not only from the public and TURF attorneys, but also the FHWA!

There is an extensive email record that shows TxDOT tried to "fix" the environmental work for US 281 to pre-determine a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (or FONSI) BEFORE the environmental study was even conducted.

"They rigged it! That is a DIRECT VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW," says TURF Founder, Terri Hall.

TxDOT then hired a company, HNTB, to do the so-called "independent" environmental study even though HNTB has a MAJOR conflict of interest, in that, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) also hired HNTB to do the preliminary engineering for all their toll projects. So HNTB had a vested interest in a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (or FONSI).

Then, it's also been discovered that TxDOT purposely withheld a key study from a geologist they hired that stated the potential harmful effects of the toll road on the Edwards Aquifer. Such a study didn't conclude what TxDOT wanted it to in order to get clearance from the feds, so they intentionally hid the report and failed to submit it to the FHWA who uses that crucial information in their decision on whether or not to give federal approval for the project.


TxDOT now has to submit these documents to the feds who will completely re-consider their previous approval of the US 281 toll road. It's likely the feds will yank their environmental clearance for the toll road in light of this deception by TxDOT. If they don't, the court is likely to do it for them. So TxDOT is in total damage control mode and released a statement (see below) about their motion for a 60 stay in the US 281 lawsuit that tries to minimize what the documents reveal and, of course, blames the citizens who brought TxDOT's deception to light for the delay instead of their own incompetence and willful dishonesty.

"As usual, TxDOT seems to think they can wiggle out of their corruption without consequences simply by supplementing the record, and essentially telling the feds and the court, 'oops, we left out some key stuff, but approve our rigged process anyway.'  They were FORCED to come clean through a lawsuit brought by concerned citizens, not by them being forthcoming. The tactics at TxDOT never cease to amaze," notes an incredulous Hall.

For more information on the TURF/AGUA US 281 lawsuit, go here and here. .

TxDOT's official statement on the request for a stay in litigation:

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has asked a federal district court judge to issue a stay of the litigation regarding the expansion of U.S. Highway 281 in San Antonio.  We recently located documents which they feel may need to be reviewed by federal officials as part of the environmental evaluation of the transportation project.
 
In the process of responding to discovery requests for the lawsuit, staff identified documents that had not previously been submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  TxDOT will submit these documents to FHWA for their review.  FHWA will then determine whether the administrative record for the U.S. 281 project should be amended and whether the project's prior environmental clearance would need to be reconsidered.  In order to provide FHWA time to review the documents, TxDOT requested that the ongoing litigation be delayed up to 60 days.
 
"Every day that this project is delayed is another day that Bexar County drivers are stuck in traffic," said TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz.  "Nevertheless, we are committed to making sure that the 281 project complies with all federal and state requirements.  The extension we requested would allow FHWA to review these new documents and come to an independent decision about how to proceed.  We recognized that we should bring these documents to the attention of FHWA, and we want to make sure they have the time they need to review them."
 
Saenz said that the documents will be submitted to the FHWA out of an abundance of caution.  "A new, more conservative view of TxDOT’s records related to the 281 project would require these materials to be forwarded to FHWA," he said.  "We wanted to take the cautious advice of the attorneys and give the FHWA another opportunity to review this project.  On balance, this is a small addition to the 24,000-page administrative record, but it deserves scrutiny from FHWA."
 
In its filing with the court, the department wrote that it has no intention of delaying the proceedings but wants to ensure that the FHWA has ample time to examine the recently identified information to determine whether the administrative record should be amended.
 
We recently adopted new policies on how to assist FHWA in the preparation of the administrative record showing the environmental review of a transportation project.  "Preparing the administrative record for a complex transportation project is an enormous task.  We will do our part to make sure the process is the best it can be," said Saenz.

MPO power grab, round II

PRESS ADVISORY

MPO power grab, Round II

MPO may vote to give Chair, Mayor, & County Judge unilateral powers, change a quorum, make tolling easier

San Antonio, TX, Monday, June 16, 2008 – At Monday’s San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO) meeting, the Board will vote on proposed changes to its bylaws that would water-down what constitutes a quorum, allow the County Judge and Mayor to unilaterally appoint MPO alternates instead of the entire Council or Commissioners Court as stated in their charters (which may include UN-elected appointees in the place of elected ones), make changes to the scoring of projects that encourage more tolling, and give the Chair and Director more unilateral powers and decision-making.

“We the people have seen these tactics by the political establishment time and again just like the repeated attempts to kill term limits. If the taxpayers reject your UN-Democratic policies, just keep bringing them up time and again until you wear the voters out, catch them off-guard, or beat them into submission. Well, the public rejected this power grab last year, and we reject it again now,” observes Terri Hall, TexasTURF.org Founder.

Last year, this same attempt by the Mayor to appoint an unelected alternate (that would have voting powers in the place of an elected appointee) was soundly rejected by the public and tabled at the City Council. (See more history below.)


The changes to the quorum would allow unfilled vacancies NOT to count toward the 50% quorum needed to conduct business. Since the SAMPO is nearly half appointees, this would encourage the vacancies that most often are the result of a change of elected officials to remain unfilled, while appointees then make multi-billion dollar tax decisions with NO accountability to the taxpayers.

WHO: Taxpayers through Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and MPO Board members State Representative David Leibowitz and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson.

WHAT: MPO meeting where they’ll vote on proposals to make UN-Democratic changes to the bylaws and change the scoring of projects to make tolling easier

WHEN: Monday, June 16 @ 1:30 PM

WHERE: Via Transit Center, 1021 San Pedro (near SAC)

The City Council has smooth transitions of power every two years and the MPO has survived all of them. Yet under the guise of the Mayor’s concern he can’t fill the vacancies with the new councilmembers for 2 months, he and Chairwoman Sheila McNeil again feel there’s an urgent need to re-write the rules.

Read about the past attempts by Mayor Phil Hardberger & former Councilman, now President of the Greater Chamber of Commerce, Richard Perez to make it easier to railroad their UN-Democratic policies at the MPO: here, here, and here.

281 toll project to cost 3 times more than freeway plan

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tolling Authority votes to increase cost of 281 fix by THREE times!
Losing bidder, Zachry, to get $325,000

San Antonio, May 14, 2008 – Today the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA), a fancy term for tolling authority, voted to have a consortium headed by toll road extraordinaire Fluor Corporation pay over $330 million to bulldoze US 281 and rebuild it as a toll road. Even worse, the losing bidder, Zachry Construction, will get paid $325,000 simply for losing the bid!

“The original FREEway plan to build overpasses and expand the highway as promised in public hearings in 2001 (and funded with gas taxes in 2003) came to $100 million and would have taken 18 months to complete (versus 3 1/2 years to build the toll road). Now the ARMA is deliberately deceiving motorists by saying a 5-year delay is somehow speeding things up.

“On top of that, they’re crowing ‘we saved you money’ while charging taxpayers THREE times the price of the FREEway plan! The RMA also says there will be non-toll lanes, but fails to tell commuters their only non-toll option will be access roads with slower speed limits and permanent stop lights. That’s not a choice, it’s highway robbery,” notes Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) whose organization teamed up with Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas (AGUA) in filing a lawsuit to stop the US 281 toll road and FORCE TxDOT to install the funded FREEway improvements.

The taxpayers have demanded TxDOT install the cheaper, faster, and funded gas tax FREEway improvements on US 281 from day one (see the proof it's been funded since 2003 here.. For more than 3 years, the Texas Legislature, the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO), and the ARMA have repeatedly thumbed their noses at the thousands of taxpayers who have attempted to reverse these organizations’ votes to toll US 281.

TURF has also asked for a public vote on ALL toll projects, especially a freeway to tollway conversion. Make no mistake, this is a conversion. Every single lane motorists drive on today will be converted to toll lanes, and the NEW lanes will be frontage roads with non-highway speed limits and permanent stop lights.

“This is thievery pure and simple. It’s criminal that our politicians have repeatedly voted to rip-off taxpayers in a massive money grab. There is NO excuse for failing to build the FUNDED FREEway improvements other than to make money. They can’t make money off a freeway, only a toll road. In fact, 281 users need to know their FREEway will be converted into a toll road to fund improvements to 1604 in a BIG, FAT, UNFAIR Robin Hood scheme. It’s a targeted new tax on driving at a time with record high gas prices with no end in sight,” Hall said.

The US 281 toll project will also include a non-compete agreement where the ARMA agrees not to expand or improve ANY roads surrounding the toll road, which means Blanco Rd., Stone Oak Pkwy., Redland Rd., and Bulverde Rd to name a few. The ARMA says a non-compete would not prevent TxDOT, the City, or County from expanding roads, but none of those entities would dare put the toll bonds in jeopardy by expanding nearby roads and violating a non-compete investors demand. The ARMA is also declining to insure the bonds for this project putting the taxpayers on the hook if the road goes belly-up.

The ARMA is also relying on it’s a risky traffic projection adding 25% to the already aggressive growth projections the SAMPO uses. Considering the soaring price of gas and the trend toward moving inside Loop 1604 and 410 to shorten commutes, the failure of the US 281 toll road is likely. Express-News columnist Ken Allard seemed to agree in his column last week (read it here.).

“This is fast becoming a risky boondoggle in a time of economic crisis. There will not be enough political cover for the politicians when this hits the fan,” Hall finished.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson fired off a letter of concern about the financial viability of toll roads in this economic climate with high gas prices forcing people to change their behavior to reduce costs. Adkisson and ARMA Executive Director Terry Brechtel met today, but neither changed the other’s mind.
-30-

Passage of Prop 1 opens door to fix 281 without tolls

Link to this release as an article here.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Terri Hall, (210) 275-0640

With passage of Prop 1, time to fix US 281 without tolls

(San Antonio, TX - November 5, 2014) It’s been a long battle, more like a ten year war, over converting US 281 in San Antonio into a tollway, but with passage of Proposition 1 shifting $1.7 billion in oil and gas severance taxes immediately into the state highway fund, the ‘we’re out of money’ excuse to toll this freeway just got chucked.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Sen. Donna Campbell sent a letter to the Texas Transportation Commission in May asking for more non-toll lanes on US 281 should Prop 1 pass. Now Wolff still wants one transit-toll-HOV ‘managed’ lane each direction regardless of having the money to fix it completely without tolls, but Campbell, who represents the corridor, has stated unequivocally that she wants expansion and wants it all to be without tolls.

Krier's conflicts of interest pose problem for council seat

Link to Examiner article here.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Terri Hall, Director, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and Texans for Toll-free Highways
Phone:
(210) 275-0640

Krier’s conflicts of interest should keep him out of District 9 seat
Chairs board of Cintra's SH 130 tollway

(San Antonio, TX - Monday, April 28, 2014) With Wendy Davis on the hot seat for conflicts of interest representing the North Texas Tollway Authority while a sitting senator on the Senate Transportation Committee, San Antonio voters need to be aware of similar conflicts brewing in their own backyard before they head to the polls. When deciding who should fill the San Antonio City Council District 9 seat vacated by Elisa Chan, they need to know about some serious red flags with Joe Krier. Krier worked for the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, which happens to be Spanish toll road mega giant, Cintra’s, U.S. law firm. Krier also serves as Chairman of the Board for Cintra’s SH 130 tollway.

Both of these positions create major conflicts of interest for Krier as San Antonio faces imminent toll projects all over the north side on US 281, Loop 1604, I-10 and 1-35 (and eventually the entire city). If that’s not enough, Krier also served as Chair of the San Antonio Mobility Coalition (or SAMCo), the largest transportation lobby group in the Alamo city which lobbies for toll roads and multi-modal transportation (think street cars/light rail) as well as the President of the Greater Chamber of Commerce. His coziness with big business interests like Cintra and Zachry that want to takeover control of our public highways in long-term contracts designed to extract the highest possible tolls (up to 95 cents a mile in DFW), subordinates the taxpayers and the public interest to special interests.

TURF Founder named San Antonian of the Year

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TURF Founder named San Antonian of the Year

Toll road issue catapulted a grassroots movement across the state that got lawmakers to take notice

(Friday, December 14, 2007, San Antonio, TX) TURF Founder and Director Terri Hall was named San Antonian of the Year by WOAI News Radio in San Antonio today.

“What a surprise! This honor belongs to the PEOPLE of Texas for their indefatigable passion and support that started as a small band of concerned citizens that later launched a movement across the state,” shared Hall.

Hall got involved in the toll road fight in 2005 after attending a Texas Department of Transportation meeting that announced her main lifeline (US 281) for business, medical care, and shopping was going to be converted into a toll road. Then a mother of five children (now she has 6), Hall knew she and her family would be priced off the highway and forced into a difficult life-altering situation if she didn’t get involved and try to stop it. After contacting her legislators and getting nowhere, she knew it was going to take organizing fellow citizens to get lawmakers attention.

The group soon became a movement causing a firestorm of controversy all the way to the halls of Washington D.C.  At the crux of the issue is HOW the toll roads are being implemented more than the projects themselves.

“This is being foisted upon Texans without their consent. Appointed boards are making multi-billion dollar toll tax decisions that will literally impact peoples’ everyday lives. Decisions about where folks live, work, and play are being deeply affected and the people aren’t being given a say in the matter. Let the people vote!” notes Hall. “The citizens need to be put back in the driver’s seat when it comes to transportation decisions, especially how transportation is financed. "

“TxDOT has too much power, they’re not accountable, and they’re deaf to the citizen outcry, so much so they’re spending $9 million in TAXPAYER money to sell us toll roads. It’s time for a sweeping change, and we intend to make it happen,” Hall promised.

Read about TURF’s lawsuit to stop TxDOT from spending taxpayer money to lobby for toll roads here.

Read about how the study of TxDOT’s misuse of taxpayer money to lobby for toll roads has been added to the Texas House of Representatives Interim Charge here..

###

MPO Chair McNeil to taxpayers: "Those people can afford the tolls"

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Terri Hall  /  PHONE: (210) 275-0640
Founder/Executive Director
Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom (TURF) & San Antonio Toll Party
Contact: Tommy Calvert, Jr. / PHONE: (210) 481-0198
President & CEO
Calvert International Consulting

VIDEO SHOWS MCNEIL LIES ABOUT CITY DATA PRIOR TO TOLL TAX VOTE

Distortion At Public Forum Shows Toll Advocates Resorting to Class warfare & Lies Prior To Tax Increase Vote

San Antonio, TX, Friday, November 30, 2007 – During a meeting of the United Homeowners Improvement Association (UHIA) on Wednesday, Councilwoman Sheila McNeil (Dist 2) and Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO), was so taken aback by constituent opposition to tolls that she multiplied city statistics by ten times in an effort to silence discontent over toll road proposals.
 
“Those people can afford the toll roads. The average income up there is $300,000 a year," McNeil told her constituents. The City of San Antonio's website contradicts McNeil’s statement as it notes the per capita income in District 9 is only $31,000. McNeil admits she’s fine with voting to toll the northside, just not in her backyard, leaving out the fact that many of her constituents travel, go to school and shop in the job-rich northside. 

See video of McNeil’s hacking of facts on YouTube:

(You Tube account terminated...)


Noting the obvious commute that many District 2 residents take to the northside everyday, Dr. Joyce McCullen, district 2 neighborhood leader and former VP of the PTA exclaimed, “It’s already hard enough to make ends meet with gas over $3.00, now they’ll take money we use for groceries and prescription drugs to make construction companies rich.”

McNeil also told her constituents to take the access roads if they couldn’t afford the toll roads, essentially telling them to contend with traffic congestion while the wealthy get an expressway.
 
McNeil attended a cozy, closed door meeting at Valero October 19, that the Chamber of Commerce crowd called to rally the business community to gain approval of the toll roads at the SAMPO meeting on December 3. Her loyalties appear to be with big business and not her constituents whose average household income by contrast is $14,512 a year.
 
“I don’t think San Antonians like their politicians making our city the Neo-Fascist capitol of America.  Mussolini is looking up from hell and thanking pro-tollers for carrying on his legacy of authoritarianism and a corporate-run state.  Then our elected officials pretend there is the option of allowing us to use alternate streets when they are giving control of those alternate routes to the toll operators.  When they give away the maintenance of the feeder streets to the toll owners as part of the non-compete clause their financeers require, how would any right-minded person be expected to believe its in the best interests of those toll owners to maintain those roads?  This reminds me of plantation segregationists engraving the words ‘colored’ over a black school and calling it ‘separate but equal’. Real American leaders take us toward a more perfect union, despots divide and conquer.  It’s a sad day when a Black elected official in essence slaps the ‘colored’ sign on our freeways and stereotypes people based on income because of the side of town they live in,” notes Tommy Calvert, Jr. president and CEO of Calvert International Consulting.
 
 
"We're creating a segregated highway system: One for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. It's horrible to pit one part of the community against the other. We need to be doing what's in the best interest of the entire community. These are federal and state highways that don't stop at the district or county line," said Terri Hall, Founder and Director of the San Antonio Toll Party and Texans uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF).
 
Over 80,000 automated telephone calls have been made urging people to turn out to Monday’s SAMPO meeting at 1:30 p.m. at the VIA building on San Pedro & Evergreen to tell the Board to vote no on tolls, no matter where they are planned.
 
The SAMPO is likely being asked to vote FOR a non-compete agreement that would prevent the expansion of free roads surrounding the 281 tollway like Bulverde Rd., Red Land Rd., Stone Oak Pkwy, and Blanco Rd because the bond investors require them to guarantee a return on their investment. But we don’t know because TxDOT is keeping it SECRET ahead of Monday’s vote!

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TURF seeks injunction, alleges MPO a “front” for toll road builders, operating outside Constitution

From the steps of the John Wood U.S. Federal District Court in Bexar County, TURF announced its motion seeking an injunction against the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO) for violating the citizens Constitutional rights (in the First and 14th amendments) and hijacking the Board to benefit road contractors.

“By filing this injunction today, we hope to put transportation decisions back in the hands of the people,” said Terri Hall, Founder/Director of the grassroots group TURF.

TURF is asking the court to intervene before December 3 where SAMPO is to vote to approve the financial terms (toll rates and rate increases) for the US 281 toll project as well as to shift yet more tax money to building toll lanes on EXISTING corridors, amounting to a TRIPLE TAX (once for what’s already there, a second for building the toll lanes, and a third toll tax).

TxDOT is keeping vital financial information on the 281 toll project SECRET ahead of the MPO’s vote to approve the financial terms. Board members are being asked to vote on information that has NOT been disclosed, including whether or not a non-compete agreement will prevent free roads surrounding the 281 toll lanes from being expanded.


MPO Board members State Representative David Leibowitz and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson submitted affidavits (see links below) to the court with ample evidence to prove the MPO has violated the First Amendment and 14th Amendment as it relates to citizens opposed to toll roads.

TURF attorney David Van Os described the actions of the MPO this way: “The self-serving business interests that will reap huge profits off toll roads are manipulating the processes of the MPO to stack the deck against those opposed to tolls. They’re keeping their voices from even being heard which violates their Constitutional rights.”

Adkisson, who has been prevented from representing his constituents’ opposition to toll roads by the MPO’s bullying tactics used Thomas Paine’s words to describe the corrupt practices at the MPO, “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right.”

He went on to object to unelected members of the MPO serving on the Board which, in effect, dilutes the votes of elected officials. “Unelected members aren’t accountable at the ballot box,” said Adkisson.

The injunction seeks to halt all activity of the SAMPO Board until it’s reconfigured to have only elected officials with voting powers. TURF’s lawsuit against the SAMPO was originally filed on October 22 and TURF is now seeking an injunction as the next step in that lawsuit to force the unconstitutional composition of SAMPO to be re-configured to have only elected officials with voting powers.

SAMPO allocates tax dollars to transportation projects in Bexar County and approves toll rates and toll projects. The lawsuit alleges that the composition of the SAMPO Board is unconstitutional and Chairwoman Sheila McNeil has been a party to denying the First Amendment right of free speech to the constituents of elected MPO Board members like State Representative David Leibowitz by blocking an agenda item and any debate on an issue brought up at his request (see on YouTube here read about it in his affidavit, link below).

TURF recently scored a victory in STATE COURT in a different lawsuit against members of the Texas Transportation Department and Transportation Commission.

TxDOT keeps toll study SECRET

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TxDOT keeps toll study SECRET, refuses to divulge financial terms ahead of 281 vote
MPO Board asked to vote FOR possible non-compete agreement preventing expansion of free roads

San Antonio, TX, Thursday, November 15, 2007 – Ahead of a monolithic vote to approve toll rates for 281 at the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO) on December 3, citizens and MPO Board members alike have more questions about the 281 toll rates than answers. The MPO is likely being asked to vote FOR a non-compete agreement that would prevent the expansion of free roads surrounding the US 281 tollway like Bulverde Rd., Red Land Rd., Stone Oak Pkwy, and Blanco Rd because the bond investors require them to guarantee a return on their investment. But we don’t know because TxDOT is keeping it SECRET!
 
“The public and even public officials are being kept in the dark on critical financial terms in the 281 toll study. This is an assault on open government!” cries Terri Hall, Founder and Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF).
 
Here’s a sampling of vital information that we don’t know:
1.    Is there anything that could make the annual toll rate increase at a rate higher than CPI (like higher cost of construction or high gas prices)?

2.    How much traffic will divert from the tollway onto neighborhood streets to avoid paying tolls thereby increasing traffic, putting the safety of neighborhood streets in jeopardy, and increasing the cost of road maintenance for the City or County?

3.    Where are the entrances and exits to the tollway so a person can calculate how many fees or other hidden costs add to the cost per mile?

4.    Is the tollway feasible with gas prices at or above $3 a gallon (as other studies have concluded)?

5.    And most importantly, will the bond investors require a non-compete agreement that would prevent any new roads or the expansion of existing roads near the 281 tollway, like Bulverde Rd., Red Land Rd., Stone Oak Pkwy., and Blanco Rd.?


On October 17, TURF did an Open Records request to see the 281 market value and toll feasibility studies performed by TxDOT and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA). The Governor’s counterfeit toll moratorium bill, SB 792, includes a nice wide-open loophole [SUBCHAPTER B. OVERSIGHT Sec.A371.051.10 (d)] for TxDOT to leap through to make these financial studies perpetual “draft” documents so they don’t have to release them to the public until after the bonds are sold and contracts signed. This language appears to apply only to private toll contracts, but TxDOT is invoking it for a public toll project!

 
TxDOT wants to have it both ways. They’re asking the MPO to vote on the ‘final’ toll rates but conveniently call the document ‘draft’ to keep the financial guts SECRET,” notes Hall. “This maneuver now enshrined in law isn’t government in the sunshine, and refusing to disclose vital tax information prior to a vote for final approval is malfeasance, plain and simple!”

In SB 792 under SUBCHAPTER D. Sec.A371.151, DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIAL INFORMATION, it requires public hearings disclosing financial information on all toll projects, and the only hearing the Alamo RMA is holding is on December 10 at Barbara Bush Middle School (“to transfer the project from TxDOT to the RMA,” but no mention of financial disclosure, AFTER the MPO December 3 vote to approve the terms.

“The taxpayers are being had! The purpose of this provision in the law, which we testified in favor of, is to allow for full disclosure, transparency, and a chance for the taxpayers to weigh in BEFORE any final decisions are made,” Hall voices.

TxDOT SHROUDED IN SECRECY
Then, State Representative Nathan Macias whose district is affected by converting 281 into a tollway, asked for the 281 studies. TxDOT also refused to give the studies to Rep. Macias UNLESS HE SIGNS A CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT! This means the Legislature approved a bill, SB 792, at the behest of the Governor and special interests that prohibits a public servant from getting access to information on a tax hike prior to a contract being signed and let [SUBCHAPTER B. OVERSIGHT Sec.A371.051.10 (d)]. What happened to open government! If he or any other elected official were to sign a confidentiality agreement, he cannot share any of the information in the toll studies with ANYONE, including the press, his constituents, other legislators or the MPO Board members! This provision also seems to contradict the financial disclosure section of the same bill, SB 792.

Ironically, Rep. Macias is the one who tried to strip this problematic language from SB 792 (after we brought it to his attention for this precise reason, knowing TxDOT would use it to keep more document SECRET), only to have it thrown in his face when he tried to get access to toll tax information prior to any final decisions being made.

IN THE DARK
The MPO Board is being asked to approve the market value study and toll rate formulas on December 3 without knowing ANYTHING other than what the RMA or TxDOT has told them in a 10 minute briefing.
 
“We all know how horrifically the public has been betrayed regarding toll rates and financing to date, so this ‘trust me’ is certain to have a BIG FAT GOTCHA for politicians and taxpayers just around the corner! How can a SINGLE ELECTED OFFICIAL sign-off on anything while still being in the dark and prevented from openly discussing any toll tax variables, especially whether or not the City or County can expand nearby streets? Make no mistake, the taxpayers will be fleeced or forced onto congested surface streets if the MPO Board approves this plan,” predicts Hall.

TURF sues SAMPO for unconstitutional composition & actions

TURF to sue transportation board for equal protection
MPO Board composition violates First and 14th Amendments to U.S. Constitution

San Antonio, TX, Monday, October 22, 2007 – In what could change the way toll roads are decided and approved in Bexar County, TURF filed a NEW lawsuit in FEDERAL COURT to put the power over transportation decisions back in the hands of the PEOPLE. TURF recently scored a victory in STATE COURT in a different lawsuit against members of the Texas Transportation Department and Transportation Commission.

A lawsuit has been brought against the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO) Transportation Policy Board that allocates tax dollars to transportation projects and approves toll rates and toll projects and San Antonio Councilwoman and MPO Chair Sheila McNeil. The lawsuit alleges that the composition of the SAMPO Board is unconstitutional and Chairwoman McNeil has been a party to denying the First Amendment right of free speech to the constituents of elected MPO Board members like State Representative David Leibowitz by blocking an agenda item and any debate on an issue brought up at his request. This novel lawsuit cuts to the heart of how toll roads are approved.

It’s based upon the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 28 U.S.C. §1331, and 28 U.S.C. §§1343(3) and (4). The section of the post-Civil War civil rights enactments codified as 42 U.S.C. §1983 provides the Plaintiff’s enabling cause of action. A faction of governmental officials with the help of unelected board members have shut citizens and voters who oppose toll roads out of equal participation in the political process. The case will also argue that actions like Chairwoman McNeil’s removal of an agenda item asking for the funds TxDOT is spending on the Keep Texas Moving ad campaign be returned to building roads.



By way of recent example, in a SAMPO Transportation Policy Board meeting of September 24, 2007, Defendant McNeil, using the badge of authority of Chairmanship of the Board, arbitrarily removed from the meeting agenda a motion by State Representative and MPO Board member David Leibowitz calling for SAMPO to object to certain expenditures of public money by TXDOT promoting toll roads, which expenditures Representative Leibowitz believed to be inappropriate.

Defendant McNeil, acting under color of law, removed Representative Leibowitz’s motion from the meeting agenda even though Representative Leibowitz had properly and legitimately placed it on the meeting agenda and SAMPO had included it in the public posting of the agenda pursuant to the Texas Open Meetings Act. Defendant McNeil, acting under color of law, refused to permit Representative Leibowitz to present his motion because of her disfavor of his attempt to provide a voice for his constituents who oppose turning free public highways into toll roads.

TURF will be asking for both a temporary and permanent injunction to suspend ALL activities of the MPO until the case is decided and the Board’s composition is changed to reflect proper Constitutional representation allowing equal protection under the law per the 14th Amendment.

The unconstitutional MPO has blocked agenda items, voted against an independent review of toll plans that would bring accountability to the gross misuse of taxpayer money in these toll plans, voted against restoring the gas tax funded overpasses on 281 (281 in particular DOES NOT NEED TO BE TOLLED, what’s needed are overpasses and they’ve been paid for since 2003, the money is STILL there, they could do it tomorrow, but this un-Constitutional Board persists in preventing the simple solution that’s already paid for!

The MPO Board has also delayed votes, blocked the succession of the next Chair, and changed the bylaws to allow yet more illegal representation on the Board.

“The people of Texas are FED-UP with out-of-control abusive government. We’ve done everything in our power to exert the political pressure to change this unconstitutional Board, but when the deck is stacked and a powerful unelected voting block is allowed to persist unchecked, we have no choice but go to court to address our grievances. This is taxation without representation and we cannot and will not allow it to continue,” says Terri Hall, Founder and Director of TURF.

TURF to announce a NEW lawsuit

PRESS ADVISORY
Press conference Monday at Via Metro Center

San Antonio, TX, Monday, October 22, 2007 – In what could change the way toll roads are decided and approved in Bexar County, TURF will file and announce a NEW lawsuit in FEDERAL COURT to put the power back in the hands of the PEOPLE. TURF recently scored a victory in STATE COURT in a different lawsuit (read about it here) against members of the Texas Transportation Department and Transportation Commission. The lawsuit to be announced Monday is a NEW case that cuts to the heart of how toll roads are approved.

WHAT: Press conference with TURF attorneys announcing lawsuit to bring greater accountability to taxpayers in toll road decisions

WHO: Texas taxpayers through TURF

WHEN: Monday, October 22, 2007@ 1:00 PM

WHERE: Via Metro Center, 1021 San Pedro, San Antonio, Texas

SECRET briefing on toll rates for BIG BUSINESS before public gets access

SECRET briefing on toll rates for BIG BUSINESS before public gets access
Private meeting spurs citizens to get a briefing FIRST (TONIGHT @ 6 PM)!

San Antonio, TX, October 16, 2007 – As noted in a front page story in today’s San Antonio Express News, TURF was alerted to a SECRET meeting of a taxpayer-funded coalition of road contractors called the San Antonio Mobility Coalition this Friday, October 19.
 
The San Antonio Mobility Coalition, SAMCo, led by Joe Krier, will be hosting the meeting at the Valero campus. The SAMCo meeting was going to take place prior to even the PUBLIC getting access to toll tax information for Hwy 281 at Monday’s San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting October 22.
 
“Citizens have to take time off work and head downtown to a place where parking is scarce (MPO mtgs at Via) just to hear this information on their own dime, yet our public agencies bring this vital toll tax information right to the business community's doorstep while they're all on the clock (some of whom are on the taxpayer's dime, too!),” notes an outraged TURF’s Founder, Terri Hall.
 
“Just like TxDOT’s  taxpayer funded ad campaign to push toll roads, it seems there’s no line these agencies will not cross to get unfettered access to our wallets!” Hall said.

This secret meeting prompted citizens to get an advance briefing of their own tonight at the TURF Meeting.

PRESS ADVISORY –

What: San Antonio TURF Meeting
Where: Chester's Burgers at 16609 San Pedro Ave. (between 410 & 1604), San Antonio
WHEN: 6:00 PM
 

“Government ought to be operating without even the APPEARANCE of impropriety, this SAMCo meeting smacks of corporate cronyism and backroom deal-making which has become the norm with Perry and his highway department,” Hall voiced.
 
Not only will the highway lobby be treated to the potential pricetag road contractors can reap for tolling our public highways, the stated purpose of Friday’s meeting is to strategize on how to influence the upcoming MPO vote that must approve the toll rates to move forward. To quote SAMCO’s invitation:
 
“The purpose of the briefing is to provide:
 
1) An advance preview of the US 281 and Loop 1604 financial plans prior to these critical MPO meetings;
2) A forum to discuss cooperative action and joint strategy to support the financial plans and SMP amendments at the October 22 and December 3 MPO meetings.
3) Coordination of supportive resolutions, letters, emails, testimony, editorials, etc. prior to the final MPO votes.”

Wentworth sells out infuriated constituents in favor of campaign contributor & toll road bidder, H.B. Zachry

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wentworth sells out infuriated constituents in favor of campaign contributor & toll road bidder, H.B. Zachry

Austin, TX, Thursday, April 19, 2007 – In one of the most flagrant about-faces of all time, State Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, who previously wrote two letters asking for the non-toll gas tax funded plan to be installed on 281 (story about letter here and link to second one here) AND after signing onto the private toll moratorium (SB 1267), sold out his constituents in favor of DOUBLE TAXING them for roads already paid for and pilfering their pockets with an oppressively high toll contract to enrich campaign contributor H.B. Zachry (and long-time former client of his former law firm, see one of many money trails here) whose construction company is one of two bidders for the private toll contract (or CDA). Wentworth replaced favorable wording that included San Antonio toll projects in a private toll contract moratorium with wording that took them out on HB 1892 that passed out of committee yesterday.

Read about how it went down here.

-30-

Targeted tax: Residents ask Perry to veto fee hike on Bexar County

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Targeted tax on Bexar County: Taxpayers ask Perry to VETO vehicle registration fee hike
New revenues can be used to issue debt to build toll roads - a DOUBLE TAX

(San Antonio, TX, June 5, 2013) - As San Antonians struggle to put gas in their tanks, a bill authored by Rep. Ruth McClendon, HB 1573, to increase Bexar County vehicle registration fees $10 is on Texas Governor Rick Perry's desk and will become law unless he vetoes the bill by June 16. Taxpayers are asking the governor to veto the bill.

Perry has told lawmakers repeatedly that he's opposed to ANY fee hikes, which he and the Texas Republican Party view as equivalent to tax hikes. So Bexar County residents who oppose the bill expect Perry to keep his word. Though several other local fee hike bills passed the legislature (two others in the Rio Grande Valley), HB 1573 is the ONLY fee hike bill that does not require a public vote.

Texans call for boycott of Cintra's SH 130 tollway

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 12, 2012
Texans call for boycott of first foreign-owned toll road
Threatens right to travel, smacks of crony capitalism

(San Antonio, TX - November 12, 2012) Today marks the first day Spanish toll operator, Cintra, starts charging Texas commuters tolls to use SH 130, which doesn’t sit well with ordinary grassroots Texans who care about our right to travel and keeping Texas sovereignty over public infrastructure. San Antonio-based Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Austin-based Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) object to Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road, especially since SH 130 is actually part of the original Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 (See ‘current route’). Though Cintra invented an innocuous sounding name, SH 130 Concession Company, Cintra controls SH 130 (segments 5 & 6).
 


The groups believe public private partnerships (P3s) will usher in the new railroad robber barons of our time -- private toll companies operating state-sanctioned monopolies and charging Texans a premium to drive. TURF & TAG also encouraged Texans to boycott Cintra’s toll road.
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