Thursday, March 25, 2010

Group demands complete withdrawal of Corridor DEIS

The Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC), which was instrumental in bringing the Trans-Texas Corridor in Central Texas (TTC-35) environmental process to a halt, has taken another step to completely kill the Corridor through Central Texas. The five mayors whose cities and respective school districts form the ECTSRPC have filed a petition with the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) demanding that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was filed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) be withdrawn.

In the fall of 2009, TxDOT asked the FHA to issue a “no action” or “no build” decision on the DEIS. Holland Mayor Mae Smith, who is also president of the ECTSRPC, explains, “If the FHA issues a ‘no action’ record of decision on the environmental study as requested by TxDOT, the study remains available to use in the future should the governor change his mind and decide to build the TTC.”

According to information released by the ECTSRPC, “Technically, an environmental study can be reused unless it is completely withdrawn from consideration and discarded by the lead agency, which is the Federal Highway Administration.” The Texas Legislature has turned against the Corridor and did not reauthorize the method of financing it, but TxDOT’s power to create the Corridor is still in statute. Bills to remove the Corridor from statute did not make it through the last session of the Legislature.

To see the “Petition to Withdraw the DEIS,” go to

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TFB--"fervor for private property rights justice has not cooled"

Thanks to Martha Estes for calling attention to the Texas Farm Bureau article by Mike Barnett on the upcoming eminent domain battle in the next session.

Barnett points out that the TFB's endorsed candidate Hutchison experienced a disappointing loss to Rick Perry; then he reiterates the determination of the TFB "to achieve true eminent domain reform. . . . TFB's fervor for private property rights justice has not cooled."

Barnett does not think that a Perry victory in November is a slam-dunk. Whoever wins, the TFB is going to continue their property rights fight, following the success of getting Prop. 11 into the Texas constitution last year. However, "Prop. 11, which prohibits the government from acquiring land for non-public use, was only the first step." Now, the TFB will continue to work for additional protections in the areas of fair market value, loss of access, and the right to repurchase.

"We must lay the groundwork now to remind our state representatives and senators of the importance this issue holds for all Texans. . . . When they go into session next January, state legislators must quickly affirm the language from last session’s SB 18, which unanimously passed the Senate but was tied up by the voter ID wrangling in the House as the session closed."

"Any delay could be fatal to our efforts. If whoever is elected governor chooses to veto the reform bill, it would take every remaining day of the session to accomplish an override. There are many who are opposed to this effort to protect private property rights who will be seeking derailment at every opportunity."

"With the disappointments of the last two sessions, it would seem the deck is stacked against Farm Bureau in our eminent domain efforts. Not so. We are a grassroots organization of true believers. The fire to protect our rights as property owners burns deep within. We’ve come very close to achieving our goals two times. . . . The third time will be the charm."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Could Texas Farm Bureau face Perry payback?

Since our rural Coupland area did not go for Perry, I have been wondering if there will be Perry payback against such rural interests as the Texas Farm Bureau. The TFB had endorsed Perry previously, but went for Kay this time. Perry is known for getting revenge against those who go for his opponent, once he wins.

Peggy Fikacs explores this question in her article "Farm Bureau unworred about Perry payback."

Fikacs mentions the Texas Medical Association's former chief lobbyist Kim Ross, who believes Perry was responsible for his ouster after the TMA backed Tony Sanchez instead of Perry in 2002. I myself am aware of another similar situation from the Perry/Sanchez campaign.

However, Fikacs reports that the TFB "neither regrets its support for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison nor worries about reprisals from Gov. Rick Perry." TFB spokesman Gene Hall comments, “Our most recent endorsement of him was followed by the veto of the eminent domain reform bill, which is the most important property rights legislation in the last 20 years. Supporting him and not supporting him seems to be very similar.”

According to Fikacs, "Hall stressed the group has not closed the door on a Perry relationship. He's also not concerned about the Hutchison endorsement affecting his job security, though Perry is credited with a long memory toward those deemed political enemies."

Fikacs asked Perry spokesman Mark Miner if the TFB "might face payback." Miner responded, “We're focused on the general election and looking forward to receiving the support of numerous organizations as we did in the primary.”

Fikacs adds, "He didn't say, 'Or else.'"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Coupland area does NOT go for Perry in the primary

Here we are, past the primary, and Gov. 39% has become primary winner 51%. I hope that if his victory in the Republican primary leads to another term, Perry's "vision" of the Trans-Texas Corridor is too far gone for him to resurrect it, at least through the Highway 95/Coupland area. The Corridor is still in statute--TxDOT still has the authority to create it. But TTC-35, the route paralleling IH-35 from the Oklahoma border to the Mexican border, is no longer on the drawing board, since its Final Environmental Impact Statement ended with a finding of "no action" or "no build." If Perry decides to come back and pursue TTC-35, the environmental process will have to start over, with years of work and more millions of dollars.

At least, we can see that in the Coupland area, the two precincts around Coupland did not follow the state-wide voting trend. Pct. 433, including Coupland and east of Coupland voted:

Perry 37%
Hutchison 37%
Medina 26%

Pct. 413, beginning just west of Coupland, voted:

Perry 32%
Hutchison 35%
Medina 34%

(percentages rounded)