Friday, August 24, 2007 – The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) not only crossed the line, they leaped over it! And if citizens want justice, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (who took down Congressman Tom Delay) is just the guy to deliver. TxDOT gleefully announced this week that it’s spending $7-$9 million in taxpayer money to “sell” the public what Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson called “the largest tax increase in Texas history.” And what pray tell are they selling?
“Unaccountable, eminent domain abusing, runaway toll tax roads and the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC),” admonishes Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). “It’s not just smarmy; it’s ILLEGAL!” (Chapter 556 of the Texas Government Code forbids governmental agencies from engaging in lobbying.)
As if TxDOT hasn’t heard the word “No!” from enough citizens, over 13,000 at last year’s TTC-35 hearings alone, apparently they lack the intellectual capacity to understand one of the most basic words in the English language.
“To add insult to injury, they patronize us further by thinking we just haven’t gotten the message, or that we somehow don’t understand their cash cow, land-grabbing, DOUBLE TAXING toll road policies, therefore they need to spend OUR money to further indoctrinate us into submission,” suggests Hall.
Though the advertising campaign started June 1, it’s not likely to last long since citizens have called on Travis County District Attorney, Ronnie Earle, to come to the rescue.
“The politicians who are ramming this down our throats need to realize they can’t escape the long arm of the law, especially Ronnie Earle’s. Tom Delay couldn’t, and neither will they,” warns Hall.
Read TURF’s formal complaint filed with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle below:
Mr. Ronnie Earle
509 W.11th St
Austin, TX 78701
August 22, 2007
Dear Mr. Earle:
The citizens of Texas believe the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is illegally using taxpayer money to wage a cleverly cloaked public relations campaign to push the wildly controversial Trans Texas Corridor and toll road proliferation.
According to a memorandum obtained by the Express-News entitled "Keep Texas Moving: Tolling and Trans-Texas Corridor Outreach" sent to transportation officials by Coby Chase, director of the agency's government and public affairs division, TxDOT has undertaken a multi-million dollar campaign including direct mail, billboards, and training of employees to sell the public their proposals over talk radio.
It's not only an inappropriate and wasteful use of our gas tax dollars by an agency perpetually claiming it’s out of money for roads, but it's ILLEGAL for a PUBLIC agency to take a policy position and use the public's tax money to sell them something using an under-handed PR campaign.
The State Auditor already found TxDOT "cooked the books" Enron-style on the Trans Texas Corridor mismarking funds as "engineering" when in fact, they spent it on PR. The Auditor’s office testified to this before the Senate Transportation Committee on March 1, 2007. See the report entitled “An Audit Report on the Department of Transportation and the Trans-Texas Corridor” released in February 2007 (see it here).
Please open an investigation and prosecute this agency for its repeated illegal activities. The people of Texas want justice. When Ken Lay cooked the books at Enron, he was sent to jail. The same needs to happen with those guilty of breaking the law at the highway department.
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF)
“If a corporate CEO had done this to their shareholders, they’d be in JAIL!” notes Hall.
Citizens gasped when the Texas State Auditor’s office revealed that TxDOT cooked the books at the Senate Transportation & Homeland Security Committee hearing March 1. A record 800 witnesses heard this testimony at the hearing.