Judge rules foreign company can take Texas land using eminent domain

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Judge rules to allow TransCanada to take Texas farmer's land for Keystone Pipeline

(Paris, TX - August 23, 2012) Today, Lamar County Judge Bill Harris ruled in favor of TransCanada, the Canadian company building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, allowing them to act as common carrier and giving them the ability to forcibly take private land from Texas farmer, Julia Trigg Crawford, and any Texans in its path, using eminent domain, despite the lack of evidence that TransCanada meets the statutory requirements of a common carrier whose pipeline is a legitimate public use.
 
"Since the Texas Railroad Commission determined way back in 2008 that it had no jurisdiction over TransCanada's interstate pipeline, it simply defies logic that TransCanada is allowed to take private citizens' land under a Texas law that requires a pipeline operator to subject itself to the Commission's jurisdiction," said Wendi Hammond, attorney for landowner. "The Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly held that if there is an incident of doubt regarding the power of eminent domain authority, then a court must rule in favor of the landowner. Unfortunately, this judge failed to do so."  

Farmer challenges use of eminent domain for Keystone pipeline

Watch Julia Trigg Crawford's interview on Canadian TV after the trial here.

It's significant to note, TransCanada issued a brazenly FALSE statement to the Canadian TV station when it said the court ruled TransCanada was a 'common carrier' and hence has the power to use eminent domain for its pipeline, when, in FACT, the Judge has NOT ruled on the issue of common carrier and eminent domain yet. Can't imagine the Judge takes kindly on TransCanada presuming upon the court before he's issued his decision...

Anti-toll groups celebrate Campbell, Cruz victories

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Anti-toll groups relish Campbell, Cruz victories
Opponents were key players in pushing tolls on Texas

(New Braunfels, TX - July 31, 2012) Anti-toll groups, the San Antonio Toll Party and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), celebrated Dr. Donna Campbell's victory over pro-toll, 40-year incumbent State Senator Jeff Wentworth in Texas Senate District 25 at her victory party held at the Seekatz Opera House in New Braunfels.

Lawmakers need hearings in path of Keystone

Halt eminent domain abuse from other entities like TxDOT set to lease out public ROW to private developers

PRESS STATEMENT BY TURF:

1) Call for hearings in East Texas
2) Call to update 'Landowner Bill of Rights'
3) Call to stop eminent domain abuse by other entities, like TxDOT's recent RFI to lease public ROW

While we're grateful the Texas Legislature is starting to take notice of the eminent domain abuse taking place by TransCanada on the Keystone XL Pipeline by holding this hearing today, this isn't much of a public hearing if the House Land and Resource Committee doesn't hear directly from the public.

PPPs don't work for roads; TxDOT plans to resurrect Trans Texas Corridor

Reveals TxDOT's plans to resurrect the Trans Texas Corridor

(AUSTIN,TX - JULY 11, 2012) TURF warned the Joint Committee of Government Efficiency and Reform and State Affairs that controversial public private partnerships (P3s) that sell-off Texans' public infrastructure to private corporations represents eminent domain abuse and grants state-sanctioned monopolies. While the Committee focused primarily on privatizing government services, Reason Foundation promoted P3s for everything, including public infrastructure.

TURF opposed the legislation that gave the state this authority, SB 1048, and cautioned against the use of P3s that have long-term detrimental effects to property rights and state sovereignty in return for short-term gain -- some quick cash for the state.

Hutchison, Canseco file amendment to protect taxpayers from tolls on existing freeways

Federal highway bill debate starts in U.S. House today

(San Antonio, TX - February 15, 2012) - Today the U.S. House of Representatives begin to debate the federal highway bill known as the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act. The U.S. Senate will soon follow. It's been 7 years since Congress passed the last federal highway bill. Now its racing through Congress at the speed of light.

An amendment to allow tolls on ALL existing interstates in all 50 states is expected to be presented on the floor by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. Imposing tolls on existing freeways is a DOUBLE TAX -- charging motorists an additional tax, a toll, to use what they've already built and paid for.

TxDOT admits to breaking the law, hired lobbyists!

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SMOKING GUN…
TxDOT confronted with docs showing they hired lobbyists

Houghton admits TxDOT hired lobbyists, defended it, and admitted to doing it personally, too!

Hempstead, TX, January 22, 2008 – TxDOT was confronted by TURF Board Member Hank Gilbert at tonight's Town Hall Meeting in Hempstead about it hiring 4 federal lobbyists (paid $5,000 and $10,000 monthly retainers ) Chad Bradley, Drew Maloney, Garry Mauro, Billy Moore and one state lobbyist with Alliance for I-69, Gary Bushell, to lobby elected officials and solicit them in selling the public on the controversial Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 privatized toll project.

On March 23, 2007, Bushell met directly with 4 Waller County Commissioners Glenn Beckendorff, Bill Eplen, Terry Harrison, and Milton Whiting. Apparently at the first meeting, Bushell didn't identify himself as a lobbyist as required by law. He failed to declare that he was a lobbyist until the second meeting with commissioners when two TxDOT personnel accompanied Bushell.

It apparently didn’t do TxDOT any good since the Waller County Commissioners have since passed a resolution against the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 project coming through Waller County. But that’s not the case in other meetings where elected officials raced to the microphone to sing the praises of the TTC-69 to their constituents like they did in Texarkana, January 15.

As part of TURF’s lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for its ad campaign to advocate toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor (in violation of Texas Government Code Chapter 556), new evidence uncovered this taxpayer-funded lobbying by TxDOT.

TURF discovered detailed logs showing a concerted campaign to lobby politicians, particularly newly elected officials, which is a BIG no-no for a state agency that must remain apolitical. Bushell personally lobbied more than two-dozen elected officials in the path of TTC-69 prior to the Town Hall meetings.

Houghton admits TxDOT violated the law!
At the packed Town Hall meeting in Hempstead tonight (estimated 800-1,000 people in attendance), Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton said he also personally met with every county judge in the path of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 as he defended the “necessity” of TxDOT hiring lobbyists to “lobby” elected officials (he used that exact word multiple times).

This action is in DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE LAW!

Texas Government Code:
§ 556.005. Employment of Lobbyist

(a) A state agency may not use appropriated money to employ, as a regular full-time or part-time or contract employee, a person who is required by Chapter 305 to register as a lobbyist. Except for an institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, a state agency may not use any money under its control to employ or contract with an individual who is required by Chapter 305 to register as a lobbyist.

"Where's the Travis County District Attorney? TxDOT has now publicly admitted, on camera, that it has violated the LAW!" says an incredulous Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (or TURF).


Zachry sends observer
Trouble in the private toll paradise?
Another first at tonight’s Town Hall was the presence of a Zachry employee taking meticulous notes on his laptop. Zachry Construction is one of the private consortiums seeking the development rights (need to fix link) to the TTC 69 project.

“This is a first,” said Hank Gilbert, a TURF Board member attending the Town Halls. “I’ve never seen a Zachry employee at a single public meeting in my 3 1/2 years fighting this thing.”

This may indicate trouble in Governor’s Perry’s world of private sector control of our public highways. The 80th Legislature passed a private toll moratorium (SB 792) in 2007 and the public-private partnership lobby has been jittery ever since. The public opposition is growing more fierce and more organized.

TURF also discovered in a memo to TxDOT dated November 8, 2007, that Rodman & Co. marketing gurus seem to have drafted quotes on behalf of elected officials in order to place them as positive quotes in press releases about the TTC-69 project.

TxDOT also hired Governor Rick Perry’s political polling outfit, Bacelice & Associates, to conduct a poll that included asking one’s political party affiliation in its questions.

“What does a person’s political party have to do with a supposed ‘public information’ campaign? Nothing, it’s clear this ad campaign is about pushing a political agenda and brainwashing the public with pro-toll talking points like ‘tolls are better than gas taxes to fund roads'. C’mon, this is politics run amok and an agency run amok. Who’s going to rein them in?” criticizes Hall.

“TxDOT has patently and repeatedly denied that they’ve been illegally lobbying elected officials, yet they secretly and knowingly hired registered lobbyists to do the Governor’s dirty work in ramming toll roads and this Trans Texas Corridor down the taxpayers’ throats! It’s an outrage and we intend to put a stop to it since no one else will,” promises Hall.

“The LAW forbids TxDOT from using taxpayer money for a political purpose, only to find they’ve blown millions on PR firms and are currently using OUR MONEY to put up more than 2 dozen TxDOT employees as they galavant all over the state in a series of Town Hall meetings. The Town Halls are for purely political purposes, and they’re more akin to a propaganda-filled dog and pony show than a real dialogue giving the public veto power over this project,” notes Hall.

TxDOT is holding this series of Town Hall Meetings ahead of the official LEGAL public hearings for TTC-69 in order to win over an unsuspecting public and to divert critics AWAY from registering their opposition on the official LEGAL record at the public hearings to follow.

TxDOT’s behavior demonstrates why there are laws prohibiting the government from using its power and OUR money against the taxpayer. The citizens have the deck stacked against them when their own government forcibly takes their money and uses it to clobber them.

What TxDOT calls “outreach” is, in reality, an ad campaign (www.KeepTexasMoving.com) using public relations firms and political strategists to “sell” the public on a privatized, tolled trade corridor from Laredo to Texarkana.

Like TTC-35, TTC-69 plans to convert some existing highways into privately controlled toll roads, making Texas taxpayers pay twice for the same stretch of road as well as to force Texas landowners to give-up their farms and ranches for a massive new stretch of road in order to complete the entire TTC-69 project.

Read the latest in TURF’s lawsuit against TxDOT’s misuse of taxpayer money for an ad campaign advocating tolls and against its lobbying activities here (Need to fix link).

Read TURF’s formal complaint against TxDOT’s illegal use of taxpayer money filed with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle here (Need to fix link Press Release: 'TURF asks Ronnie Earle to prosecute TxDOT!').
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TURF is launched!

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Terri Hall,
Founder/Executive Director
Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom (TURF)
PHONE: (210) 275-0640
EMAIL: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
WEB: http://www.TexasTURF.org

Citizens launch statewide grassroots group to combat privatized toll roads


San Antonio, TX, Thursday, April 12, 2007 – Concerned citizens across the state have formed a new coalition called Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public on our government’s new shift to privatizing and tolling public highways. Their concerns range from using controversial financing methods called public-private partnerships (called Comprehensive Development Agreements or CDAs in Texas) and the tolling of existing corridors, to eminent domain abuse (confiscating private land to give to a private company for commercial gain) and security and economic concerns with foreign management of our public infrastructure.

TURF is a grassroots group of Texans who are asking for reforms that require accountability and good public policy as well as promoting non-toll, sensible transportation solutions.

Terri Hall, who is also Founder and Director of the San Antonio Toll Party (www.SATollParty.com), Hank Gilbert, rancher and former candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, and Gina Parker Ford, attorney and the Eagle Forum National Chairman for Judicial Reform serve on the Board of Directors. A long-time supporter of good government and this cause in particular, Dave Ramos of San Antonio, also serves on the TURF Board.

TURF has already been instrumental in working to gain a veto-proof majority in the Legislature for a two-year moratorium placed on private toll contracts.

“We’ve been a loosely knit group of concerned citizens for several years, and it’s time we advance to the next level forming a united, organized movement across the state,” says Hall. “The citizens of Texas want their voices heard and expect their government to act, NOW.”

"People of Texas value their land and it's heritage more than politics. The TTC is an invasion of Texans' private property rights for corporate and political gain;  to provide better transportation avenues for international goods through Texas.  Why should we sacrifice our lands to facilitate them?” asks Hank Gilbert.

“Texas farmers gave up their land to create TxDOT and the Farm-to-market road system, and again to the federal government to create the Interstate highway system.  Both were very important for transportation and U.S. commerce. The TTC is part of a national system designed to facilitate commerce for international companies so they can move their goods across the U.S. through Texas, thanks to NAFTA.  We've done our part twice out of patriotism; we will not do it again to promote others’ greed," Gilbert warns.

“Terri Hall, courageous and dynamic leader, is leading the battle for the voice of the people against foreign owned toll roads. Terri is a ‘David fighting the Goliath’ of corruption in big business and big government as she calls for transparency and accountability in government and exposes the back room deals that do not benefit Texans,” notes Gina Parker.

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