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TEXANS BATTLE TTC

 Throngs hit streets of Austin to rally against Trans-Texas Corridor

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By Mark Anderson

TEXANS UNITING FOR REFORM and Freedom (TURF) marched up
Congress Avenue and held a big rally on the capitol steps in Austin April 5, short circuiting an apparent underhanded effort to suppress grassroots turnout against the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC).

This is the second straight year that ranchers and various other opponents have converged on Austin to passionately voice their opposition to the TTC, or NAFTA Superhighway, an invasive mega-tollway network that would carve out at least 584,000 acres of Texas land, forcing most landowners to sell their properties at a big loss.

With at least two main arteries (TTC-69 and TTC-35) and numerous offshoots, the overall TTC would have 4,000-plus miles of pavement in Texas alone—with its huge main sections about a quarter-mile wide, including rail and utility lines—and would fan out across the United States, forever changing the face of the nation.

The TTC actually is a transnational highway system for the contemplated North American Union, designed to meld Mexico, the U.S. and Canada together as one big, happy family.

According to a TURF news release provided before the rally, this organization had received calls from panicked TTC opponents who had heard some residents claim that TTC-69 has been stopped.

“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Steve Ogden told Walker County Commissioner, B.J. Gaines, that the Trans Texas Corridor I-69 project is over, scrapped . . .” the news release stated. “The word is spreading like wildfire among elected officials in the path of TTC-69, including the mayor of Kendleton, just in time to tell constituents: ‘There’s no need to attend that rally in Austin this weekend since the TTC-69 project is over.’”

But TURF leader Terri Hall, a San Antonio resident who recently appeared on CNN’s Lou Dobbs national news program to explain the threat the TTC poses to land ownership and national sovereignty, noted that there’s no reason to believe the TTC has been scrapped.

“At this juncture, it’s na´ve to believe word-one from politicians or TxDOT, an agency run amok, that is misusing our taxpayer money to lobby in favor of the TransTexas Corridor and prone to $1 billion in accounting errors. The TTC-69 public comment period isn’t even completed yet, and the environmental hearings were completed only weeks ago, and now they’re trying to convince taxpayers the project is dead? Who are they kidding?”

Hall told AFP that despite the apparent effort of Kendleton Mayor Carolyn Jones to suppress turnout, a delegation of perhaps a dozen people from that city attended the rally to protest the TTC. If ever completed, the TTC would set the stage for applying tolls to freeways, because freeways provide a non-toll alternative that could doom the TTC mega-tollway plan. The TTC would be operated by a Spanish firm known as Cintra that would reap the profits while partnering with U.S. politicians to ensure that eminent domain and law enforcement powers are wielded.

Hank Gilbert, TURF board member and rally coordinator, wants certifiable proof the TTC is dead, whenever that day may come. He was quoted as saying in the TURF news release: “The claim the TTC-69 project is over is an underhanded, 11th-hour dirty trick to sabotage the people’s right to protest this project, and we’re asking (that) every state law, every Transportation Commission Minute Order, every local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and tolling authority plan authorizing the Trans Texas Corridor be immediately revoked in writing. Until that’s done, we’re pressing ahead. It’s clear we can’t trust a word that comes out of the mouths of TxDOT or politicians.”

The April 5 rally was well-attended. “It was great; it was several thousand people like last year,” said Hall, whose other group, the San Antonio Toll Party, held a meeting attended by AFP in January, where various plans were announced, including an ongoing effort to encourage anti-TCC, anti-toll candidates to run for public office at all levels.

The “Don’t Mess with Texas TURF, Stop the TTC & Tolls Rally” included various speakers, such as representatives of the Teamsters, Eagle Forum, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Oklahoma State Sen. Randy Brogdon (who passed legislation to stop the TTC from coming through his state), and local leaders, including Mae Smith, the mayor of Holland, Texas. She heads the state’s first-ever sub-regional Planning Commission.

That group seeks to put a roadblock in the way of TTC-35. Such local units, organized under state law, can help form a tighter network against the TTC. Rallies are all good and well, but they may or may not convince TTC-backers in the legislature and elsewhere to back down, said Mayor Smith. Therefore, as she told AFP, she formed the East-Central Regional Planning Commission in August of 2007.

On Jan. 31, 2008, Ms. Smith and the mayors of three other nearby cities in Bell County informed officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the Texas Transportation Department (TxDOT), in their estimation, is skipping steps in the environmental impact study that is being carried out and includes public hearings across Texas.

AFP attended an early-February public hearing in McAllen, Tex., where local officials and others with a vested interest supported the TTC, but most of the citizens spoke against it or were skeptical. Many of the local officials, such as McAllen Mayor Mike Perez, believe that the TTC would help boost local economies. Smith observed that some major cities (McAllen is a large city on the Mexican border) may see some residual benefits, but the bigger picture is what matters, she said.

Smith—whose regional commission includes Holland businessman Ralph Snyder and a school board member from each town—says it’s vitally important for many more such commissions to form and band together to halt the TTC. But, to be fair, she added that anti-TTC people need to be ready to explain to TxDOT that there are legitimate alternatives, such as expanding existing freeways, that would be genuine infrastructure improvements.

Helping TxDOT re-focus its efforts would steer it away from pushing the TTC, which—if ever shoved into the “heart of Texas”—will usher in an even bigger invasion of Chinese/Asian goods, hauled via truck and rail into the U.S., starting at Mexican seaports and heading north—flooding the U.S. with even more sub-quality, often hazardous products (and onward to Canada).

The implications for consumer and public safety—with these shoddy products hauled in aboard often-substandard Mexican trucks—are enormous, along with the fact that the ongoing implementation of NAFTA that the TTC signals will continue to unravel the already critically ill American economy that needs its thrifty middle class restored if it’s ever to truly prosper.

With people such as Terri Hall, Mae Smith and several others keeping up the pressure, America has a chance. For, as many observers have noted, it is in Texas where the TTC’s funeral must be held. It cannot be allowed to take root there, lest the NAFTA network spread like a cancer across the nation, tearing asunder what little remains of U.S. manufacturing with the infusion of imports made by ultra-cheap labor, against which American goods cannot compete—since U.S. goods are saturated with huge tax and regulatory costs that stifle production and must be passed on to the consumer.

Mark Anderson is the author of The Ron Paul Revolution, AFP’s special report we are encouraging everyone to distribute. For more on how you can help Ron Paul expand his influence, click here.

(Issue # 16, April 21, 2008)

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