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DFW transportation board meets in SECRET
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Link to article here.

Regional Transportation Council meets in secret for the first time

 MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER - 10 November 2011

The Regional Transportation Council held its first closed meeting Thursday, and officials later adjourned without ever saying what the session was about.

About an hour after kicking scores of staff, consultants and other observers out of the meeting, RTC members opened the doors and then quickly adjourned without comment.

They were able to meet in secret by citing an exemption to the Texas Open Meetings Act that allows public bodies to meet in private when they want to talk about economic incentives they plan to offer a firm that is considering moving to their jurisdiction.

In addition, the law provides an exception to allow the body to consider “commercial or financial information received from a business prospect to locate in the region.”

So what was the meeting about?

No one was saying. No action was taken in public session.

Several RTC members, including Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell and energy executive Jere Thompson, said they could not comment. Bill Hale, the Texas Department of Transportation’s chief engineer for the Dallas district, said members had been warned not to speak under penalty of potential criminal prosecution.

Officials referred questions about the meeting to Arlington attorney Pat Remington, who serves as outside counsel for the North Central Texas Council of Governments and occasionally for the RTC.

Remington, a former Arlington City Council member, would not say whether such a warning had been issued to RTC members and could not comment on the matters discussed in the meeting. He said only that through its funding decisions, the RTC makes choices that can affect businesses’ decisions about investments and thus plays a role in economic development.

For that reason, Remington said, it was entitled to the same exceptions to the public meeting act that cities, counties and other bodies enjoy.

He said a new situation has arisen that necessitated the private briefing, but he could not explain what.

The Regional Transportation Council is a 43-member planning body made up of members appointed by city councils and county commissioners, and others, including representatives from the state Transportation Department, area transit agencies and the North Texas Tollway Authority.

The council makes decisions about which transportation projects can be put into long-range plans, applies for federal grants and — through agreements with the Texas Transportation Commission — often has the final say about which major projects get state funding and which do not.
Opposition to Keystone from left & right
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Link to article here.

Keystone XL pipeline unites left and right

By , Published: November 11, 2011


President Obama’s decision to delay a final ruling on the “tar sands” pipeline from Canada to Texas has been cheered by environmentalists a s a rare victory — and it is. But it’s also a rare product of a coalition between conservationists and conservatives in red states.

Environmentalists oppose the project because of the energy-intensive, pollution-creating oil extraction. Conservatives and tea party activists are worried about the use of eminent domain, or the government’s ability to take private property, to build a pipeline for a foreign company. And both sides are concerned about oil leaking into aquifers that supply Texas and the Plains states.

While Obama’s decision focused on the opposition in Nebraska, environmentalists all along the pipeline’s path have joined forces with conservative Republicans in opposition to the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The issue has not yet become a national one for conservatives, as it has for environmentalists. But Nebraska and Montana both have competitive 2012 Senate races, and the pipeline could become a problem for candidates on both sides of the aisle. For now, it’s an example of how left and right can overcome their divisions — just like Obama always wanted.

Last Updated ( Monday, 13 February 2012 )
Keystone put on hold
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Link to article here.

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UPDATE 1-Studying new Keystone US route may take 12-18 months

Wed Nov 9, 2011 4:13pm GMT

WASHINGTON Nov 9 (Reuters) - The United States may decide within weeks whether to pursue a new route for the Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas pipeline, a move that could delay a final decision beyond the 2012 U.S. election, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama's decision on the pipeline is being scrutinized by environmentalists who oppose the project and by proponents, who say it would create jobs, the central issue in his 2012 re-election campaign.

As a result, TransCanada Corp.'s proposed $7 billion pipeline may become a political hot potato for the administration. Some of Obama's liberal supporters have strongly opposed the project and the president risks alienating this important constituency ahead of the November 2012 election if his administration approves it.

Perry's toll tax legacy turns five
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Link to article here.

Here's the text of an email I sent to Reporter Ben Wear in response to this article claiming the dust-up over toll roads has faded....

Toll roads are no more popular today than when Sal Costello started the Austin Toll Party.

Case in point....

Defeat of Prop 4.

Other Indicators -
Open Letter signed by over 100 grassroots groups, mostly tea parties across the state hand delivered to the Governor, Lt. Gov., Speaker and every legislator during the session. This level of opposition is UNPRECEDENTED, eclipsing even the backlash in 2007. (The file with 2,000 signatures that also signed onto this letter is too big to include here.)
• DFW is raging over the Cintra takeover up there, and the proposed tolls on every new lane of pavement
• Houston is hopping mad over the $10 HOT lanes
• San Antonio is as stirred up as ever

Though Sal Costello's online petition isn't dumping massive emails into elected officials' in-boxes (or yours) anymore, it doesn't mean the anti-toll angst has faded. It means the grassroots have adapted to spam filters and switched to new methods to protest the toll roads. Since the economic downturn (starting in 2008), driving overall continues to go down, not up. It shows the average motorist can't afford the sustained increase in gas prices much less tolls on top on it. People are being forced to change their habits and drive less to make ends meet.

Also, please don't confuse the cues from the politicians with the sentiment among taxpayers. Just because the politicos have allowed this nonsense to continue doesn't mean the PEOPLE of Texas are suddenly fine with selling off our roads to foreign companies nor are they okay with this new tax on driving! Few can afford the extra $2,000-$3,000 a year in new taxes to get to work (though maybe some will pony-up for the occasional football game as you did, but infrequent use isn't enough to pay for the roads). So few, the users aren't covering the debt. The fact you site that SH 130 has had a 70% increase in traffic since it opened (deeming it a success) while failing to mention that taxpayers have had to pony-up 70% MORE in subsidies to bailout the loser toll roads in Austin to the tune of $100 million, or ,to quote you, that the system will be 'in the red for a generation,' or that SH 45 SE though 100% paid for was opened as a toll road to cover the losses elsewhere, or that a distressed plane landed on SH 130 it was so empty shows either 'selective' memory or some other agenda at work.

SH 130 is the poster child of failed toll road policy in Texas. It promised to relieve congestion on I-35 and hasn't delivered.  Your own articles repeatedly note that even with drops in the truck toll rates, it hasn't made truckers switch from free I-35 to the SH 130 tollway. They're so desperate to increase traffic on SH 130, there's talk of tolling existing I-35 and making it SH 130, and making existing SH 130 the new I-35. Overall, drivers are protesting with their cars...they're not using the toll roads as much as projected, certainly not in the volume needed to pay for the debt. They're not solvent and now ALL Texans taxpayers, whether we use the toll roads are not, are paying dearly to prop-up this grand toll road experiment.

The wheels are coming off these failed policies and I hope you'll inform the public of the truth.

Terri Hall
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom

Tollways turn 5, to little notice

Ben Wear, Getting There

Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011
Austin American Statesman

The anniversary passed quietly a week ago if anything that happens on Halloween can truly be considered quiet with no official notice.

Five years ago, Austin's toll road era began.

That opening, and the several year gestation that led to it, was anything but quiet. Austin media was all over the toll road system that day, watching TxDOT workers pull aside sawhorses and the first cars pull onto the tollways.

There had been querulous public meetings for several years, with people arguing about where to put toll roads (should Texas 130 go east or west of Walter Long Lake?), about whether to convert what were going to be free expressways into toll roads (the William Cannon Drive overpass on MoPac Boulevard, U.S. 183 north of Oak Knoll Drive, Texas 71 east of Interstate 35), and about whether building a toll road on top of a free road and adding free frontage roads was double taxation (U.S. 183 east of Interstate 35, the Y at Oak Hill).

Then there was angst over the possible conversion of free roads to toll roads (legal briefly, then scuttled before any conversions occurred), the Trans-Texas Corridor plan of toll roads all over the state (also in state law, also scuttled, eventually) and long-term leases to let private companies, particularly foreign companies, build toll roads on the state highway system.

Highway bill should eliminate 'enhancement' program
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Link to article here.

Next Highway Reauthorization Bill Should Terminate the Transportation Enhancement Program

By Ronald Utt, Ph.D.
Heritage Foundation
November 7, 2011

As this Congress and President continue their struggle to reauthorize the federal highway program (now more than two years overdue), their focus should be maximizing the value of each dollar spent by directing available funds to programs that improve mobility and safety on the roads. To do this, Congress should eliminate low-value programs that add nothing to mobility yet pander to influential constituencies and lobbyists, and redeploy these funds to more productive uses.

Heritage has noted that only about 65 percent of federal surface transportation spending is used to support general-purpose roads, while the remaining 35 percent is diverted to high-cost, underutilized programs like trolley cars, transit, covered bridges, hiking trails, earmarks, administrative overhead, streetscapes, flower planting, hiking and bicycle paths, museums, “transportation enhancements,” tourist attractions, and archaeology.[1] In recent months, several Members of Congress have proposed eliminating the Transportation Enhancement program and have introduced legislation to accomplish that goal.

“Enhancements” Defined

Transportation enhancements are among the more useless of the many federal programs that divert highway money to low-value or no-value purposes. Under current law, each state is required to devote 10 percent of the Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds it receives each year from the federal highway trust fund to eligible enhancement projects as defined in existing statutes. Under legislation extended by SAFETEA-LU (P.L. 109-59), fiscal year 2012 spending authorizations for the STP will total $9.3 billion, implying that enhancement spending would then total $930 million that year.

TSA asks woman to lift her skirt during patdown
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011

No, TSA, I will not lift my skirt for you.


Yesterday, I arrived at the airport to head from Houston, TX (IAH) back to Washington, DC (DCA). I am a frequent flyer – I know how the system works. I took off my boots and glasses, pulled my laptop out and went to walk through the metal detector. Naturally, I’d been selected to go through the scanner.

I always opt out of the scanners. It’s sort of a form of civil protest for me. It slows the process down. They get cranky. And I always do it publicly because I want everyone to see what the pat down is actually like. I also feel like they’ll be less invasive if people are watching.

I happened to be wearing a sleeveless cotton dress, a lightweight cardigan, and tights. I stepped aside for the invasion and they ask me to spread my legs.

She started by asking me to take my cardigan off. I said I’d rather not. She seemed put out, but didn’t make me remove it and began the pat down from behind. She made me lift up my cardigan to check my back, went into my sleeves, and touched every inch of my hair.

Then she got to my waist band. I had on black tights under my dress, which I’m certain is not uncommon. She asked me to lift my dress so she could check the waistband of my tights.

I felt my stomach drop. I said “I’m not lifting my dress for you. No way.” She was obviously irritated with me now and said that she would take me to the private screening area if I would like.

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