Thursday, January 05, 2006
Your Job is Just a Toll Road Away
Ripping up good Texas farmland, imposing double taxation on good Texas citizens, and misusing public authority for private enrichment. Do these sound like the kinds of things a public servant would want to do? You wouldn't think so. But when it comes to toll roads, these things are no obstacles to the sellout politicians, resume-building government bureaucrats, and greedy private interests whose corrupt culture of cronyism is ripping off our democracy.
Through Rick Perry's toll road plans such as the Texas Transportation Corridor, Highway 281, and the recently announced Interstate 69 plan, insider politicians and ambitious bureaucrats are chomping at the bit to sweeten the pot for their corporate cronies. In return, the corporate fat-cats whom they serve are only too happy to pay the expected tithes from their ill-gained profits to the said politicians' campaign treasuries. And the professional bureaucrats are simply beaming at the chance to increase their career value doubly by polishing the apples of two sets of masters.
As one example, Slick Rick's buddies at the Texas Transportation Commission, in concert with local politicians eager to climb higher up the ladder of self-service, want to turn a big chunk of Highway 281 north of San Antonio into a toll highway. They could care less that the targeted section of Highway 281 is the only roadway connecting many thousands of residents of western Comal County and northern Bexar County with their jobs in San Antonio, and that the planned toll road will leave thousands of working people with no way to get to work and back home other than either (a) paying the double taxation of a toll fee to a private corporation, or (b) crawling their way along stop-and-go access lanes. Nor do they care that during many long months of construction transportation access for these thousands of residents will be severely hampered.
Never mind that at every public hearing citizens have turned out in mass opposition to converting the free public highway to a toll road. Never mind that under state law it takes a referendum election to convert an existing roadway to a toll road (to which point, word-gaming state lawyers say it's not conversion of an existing road to tear the road up and rebuild it!). Never mind that citizens have repeatedly requested a referendum as provided under state law -- to which call for democracy one of the professional politicians in Bexar County elective office responded, "Tolls are coming so get used to them."
The 19th century framers of the Texas Constitution were especially sensitive to the unsavory idea of private corporate interests operating toll roads and collecting toll fees, so they mandated in Article 4, Section 22 that, "The Attorney General shall... take such action in the courts as may be proper and necessary to prevent any private corporation from... demanding or collecting any species of taxes, tolls, freight or wharfage not authorized by law." One would think that Attorney General Greg Abbott would take his job description seriously. One would think that since the Attorney General's job description mandates him to investigate the legality of private toll collections, he would already have questioned Slick Rick's Texas Transportation Corridor plan to hand over the biggest highway in the history of the state to private tax collectors.
But the truth is that Greg Abbott is a mouthpiece for the special corporate interests and their cronies in the power-grabbing Bush-Perry gang that have hijacked the Republican Party. He's not about to lift a hand against the self-promoting political-corporate machine of which he is part and parcel.
The Texas Constitution, the people's charter, entitles the people of Texas to a fighting Attorney General who will live up to his duty to preserve, protect, and defend their basic civil rights. Chief among the rights of the people is their fundamental right to democratic self-government free of the corruptions of cronyism and self-service. If you like the idea of having a Texas Attorney General who will fight for your right to democratic self-government as opposed to insider self-dealing corporate government, I am definitely your man. Welcome to the fight to restore democracy and the rule of law in the great state of Texas!
posted by snarko! at 10:36 PM
I am also against the toll roads, but didn't hb3588 passed in 2003 give the private corporations the right to toll our roads, thus adeptly sidestepping the state constitution?
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