Several current and former state representatives gave emotional acceptance speeches saying they were "honored" to received awards at TURF's 'Stars of Texas' award luncheon. The event recognized and celebrated the work of Texas State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and former State Rep. David Leibowitz to repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), former State Rep. Jim Dunnam and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson's efforts to keep tolls off existing roadways and stop the sale of Texas roads to private corporations, and Rep. David Simpson's work to rein-in invasive searches by the TSA that impede freedom to travel.
Rep. Kolkhorst has introduced legislation to repeal the TTC for the last three sessions. This year, it finally passed. The pie-in-the-sky, 4,000-mile, 1,200 foot wide network of toll roads, rail, utilities, telecommunications, etc. that would confiscate 580,000 acres and displace 1 million Texans on TTC-35 alone is DEAD. However, in SB 1420, 14 Texas road projects remain eligible for P3s that will cost urban commuters dearly, 75 cents per mile, and still pose sovereignty, eminent domain, and monopoly concerns.
Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) noted, "So taking a line from the movie Princess Bride, the Trans Texas Corridor is 'mostly dead.' Regardless of the final status, the TTC has been officially repealed, which is cause for our celebration today. We put the proponents in serious retreat, yet we will remain vigilant."
Hall pointed out that by its own admission, the highway department (TxDOT) plans to break-up the TTC in smaller pieces and do the project using the original road or loop name like, SH 130, and Loop 9 around DFW. However, the size and scale will be greatly diminished, which Hall thinks is a tremendous victory for property rights and Texas landowners.
Kolkhorst teared up as she listened to Hall recount the stories that lead up to the repeal of the TTC. As she accepted her award she remarked, "How could we even think of selling off our infrastructure to foreign companies? Shame on us, shame on us for thinking about it. I will fight any Republican, any Democrat, anyone who wants to take our state from us."
"I don't know how you did it. The deck was so stacked against you...You inspire me, you will inspire other generations. God bless Texas and may it always stand as a free and sovereign nation," Kolkhorst concluded at the end of her emotional speech.
Simpson in typical form, brought a hush over the room as he spoke, "Civil government has destroyed many lives. What is fundamental to property or to working is the movement of our bodies, in a sense, transportation. I'm encouraged by the people who are waking up and listening who are holding coffees, holding town hall meetings, looking at voting records."
Simpson described the proper role of government, which should be limited to just two things: enforcing the rules between individuals and punishing the wrongdoer who harms his neighbor and beyond that, government should "get out of the way," a statement which drew hearty applause. "The role of force should be very limited. The role of force has not made Texas great, it has not made America great, freedom has made Texas great."
Leibowitz praised the grassroots who worked together toward a common goal to slay the TTC, "This really is a very special group you have put together. Many different political philosophies, different walks of life, urban, rural, people that have come together for a common cause. People that come forward and work together to get something accomplished, they do end up, in fact, literally moving mountains."
Then he noted that he was unusual in the legislature in that he didn't have a lot of photos of himself alongside notable figures hanging in his office, like the many dignitaries and celebrities that visit the Texas Legislature while its in session, but "I will in fact cherish this" (referring to his 'Star of Texas' Award).
Attendees roared after viewing a video clip of Dunnam's exchange with TxDOT's Phil Russell over private toll roads that could best be described as a body slam that left Russell reeling and ultimately killed the P3 re-authorization in the special session of July 2009 that lead to the expiration of P3s a month later.
Dunnam said the "danger we have today in all levels of our government is that certain people 'own' it...the people stood up and stopped these toll roads in my district. It was all about the money, all about money for private interests making money off the government."
He went on to assert that elected officials are afraid to stand up to the money, "but, fortunately, they're also afraid of y'all" (pointing to Hall).
In his usual style, Adkisson recounted the history of Bexar County from the Battle of Alazan to the Battle of the Alamo to express that they've never been a bunch to back away from a fight. Adkisson has been in a battle royale trying to stop tolls on existing roads in San Antonio for 6 years.
"We ran the king out of town in 1776 and established our freedom as Americans and then we proceeded to establish big, private money as a modern monarchy. They're at work on a regular basis, and your elected officials are constantly tugged at by these people and they're trying to figure out if they're going to agree with you or the big money boys. I salute you because the dream of American democracy and American freedom is one that's made possible by your daily efforts."
"Never ever believe there are just Republicans or Democrats in this process, there's a marbling of commonality that runs throughout our democracy. We are Americans today and we are Americans forever," Adkisson concluded and received a standing ovation. In fact, every elected official honored received rousing standing ovations throughout the awards ceremony.
David and Linda Stall, founders of Corridor Watch and the couple that ignited the firestorm of opposition to the TTC, gave impassioned speeches about what motivated them to continue on in the face of great odds against them. "We could move somewhere else and do our jobs, but the neighbors I could see out of every window made their living off the land and this corridor would have not only taken their land, it would have destroyed their livelihoods," Linda Stall acknowledged.
In addition to paying tribute to a roomful of honorees, Hall was sure to give credit to Austin Toll Party and Texas Toll Party Founder Sal Costello for the movement's success.
Hall said Costello had a knack for marketing, he was edgy, and one of the most effective advocates against the toll roads and TTC in the state. He used the online petition to gather his email list that not only riled politicians but grew his army to over 50,000. Costello mastered how to use alternative media, like blogging, before blogging gained legitimacy.
"I stand on his shoulders. The information and techniques I learned from him were absolutely invaluable, though he moved on and lives in Illinois, I know he's here in spirit today," Hall remarked.
2011 Stars of Texas
TURF Founder Terri Hall with Truth Be Tolled filmmaker William Molina
Award-winning filmmaker William Molina, also an honoree, condensed footage from his four films in the Truth Be Tolled series to share with those gathered as a finale -- bringing attendees through the full gamut of emotions, anger, tears, and even laughter as the film montage ended to the tune Trans Texas Corridor Blues.
Complete list of honorees below.
The 'Stars of Texas' Honorees:
The Honorable Texas State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, Brenham
The Honorable Former Texas State Representative David Leibowitz, San Antonio
The Honorable Former Texas State Representative Jim Dunnam, Waco
The Honorable Texas State Representative David Simpson, Longview
The Honorable Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, San Antonio
Hank Gilbert, Co-founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
David & Linda Stall, Founders, Corridor Watch
William Molina, Filmmaker, Storm Pictures
Ralph & Marcia Snyder, Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC)
(Also accepting awards on behalf of the Honorable Mae Smith, Mayor of Holland, TX, President of ECTSRPC & Dan & Margaret Byfield, American Stewards of Liberty)
David Van Os, Attorney, Advocate
Melissa Cubria, Texas Public Interest Research Group
Agnes Voges, Blacklands Coalition (Also, accepting an award on behalf of Chris Hammel, Blacklands Coalition)
Trey & Jennifer Duhon, Citizens for a Better Waller County
Linda Curtis, Independent Texans
Martha Estes, Working for Accountable Government
Judith McGeary, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance
Don Dixon, Citizen Advocate
Gina Parker Ford, TURF Board Member, Eagle Forum, Advocate