I have some thoughts. I had intended to go to the meeting in Rockwall. However, I had some reports I had to get out and I didn't want to stay up until 3:00 AM. I noticed on the NCTCOG website that the meeting would be broadcast on live feed. That helped my time problem considerably. I could watch the corridor meeting and do paperwork at the same time.
Well, not so fast, Murphy. We're dealing with bureaucrats, here. I couldn't get the live feed to feed. I hit all the links several times to no avail. Now, I'm not a computer geek, but I can usually get where I need to go on a computer screen, provided the instructions are in English. Nothing I did worked. So......I decided to do a little website reading about NCTCOG and the proponents of the proposed toll road. It was interesting. Also, today's Dallas Morning News had a pretty good article on the meeting. Between the website and DMN reading, I kinda smell a rat. Let me explain.
First, I am absolutely open on the construction of the proposed toll road. I will make up my mind after I hear all the pros and cons. It's important to me that I hear all the pros and cons. The best decisions are made when you know all the facts........not part of them.
Let's go in reverse order and talk about the more recent newspaper article, first. To summarize, the DMN said the turnout was excellent and the overwhelming comment was "NO!!" Sadly, the paper reported that much of the "free flow of ideas" was nothing but a shoutdown. That is sad. I fully understand the concern of private citizens and the effects the proposed toll road would have on them individually. I believe their stories should be heard, because collectively they represent a total view of the hardships that could be created. Collectively, this is a very important story that should be told and evaluated by the other side. It is those stories that demand appropriate compensation from authorities if the toll road is ever built. However, according to DMN the meeting turned into a "shout down" a couple of times. I strongly disagree with "shout downs" for a couple of reasons. First, it is not cool. It has all the class and charm of a Waste Management, Inc. trash truck. But, more importantly, "shout downs" block the protestors from learning about any soft spots in the proponents argument. If the toll road people are busy trying to get away from the shouters, they are not talking. If they are not talking, you will not learn and take notes on some of their mistakes in judgment. Remember, they are trying to sell the audience. If left to "sell" without interference, they may make some mistakes. If the "pro" speaker raises his hands in glorious praise of the toll road, you might notice his pants button is loose. You make a note and when its your turn to talk, reach over and pull the button, allowing his pants to fall down. At that point, you have a decided edge. If he had never raised his hands in praise, you would have never noticed the button. Listen first. Act later.
Now, lets talk about what I read on the websites. Below is a link to the NCTCOG site.
http://www.texasnortheastgateway.com/faqs or www.nctcog.org/blacklands.
I didn't like some of what I saw. The salesman is talking. I'm looking for the pants button.
Below is a question and answer by our government:
What is the procedure if citizens disagree with the decisions of the Regional Transportation Council?
NCTCOG provides public meetings as forums for citizens to provide comments and feedback to the Regional Transportation Council. In addition, public comments are always taken online, through e-mail, traditional mail, or over the phone. All comments received are provided to the RTC before the council is asked to make a decision. Comments provided to NCTCOG after decisions have been made will be included in the minutes of the next public meeting for information. A roster of RTC members, who are primarily elected officials, is available here.
Please note: The government just said you can complain......nothing else. This is pure bureaucratese and said nothing. I would expect more out of Texas government. They're made of better "stuff" than that. The NCTCOG is supposed to be oversight on private companies doing business with citizens. This was an extremely poor answer to a valid question. Call your representatives in Texas government.
For other certain questions, the NCTCOG directed the reader to the web page of the private contractor. You can get there from either of the two sites above. Here is a question and answer they provide:
When asked if they had eminent domain autrority, the Texas Turnpike Corp. responded:
In Texas, some governmental and private entities are authorized by law to purchase private property through the use of eminent domain for transportation projects so long as the project serves a public necessity and is for public use.
Texas Turnpike Corp. is one such private entity that has been authorized by law to use eminent domain to acquire needed rights-of-way for toll road projects that serve the general public.
If I ever heard a "stick it in your eye" response, this is one. Who determines "public necessity?'
Here is another question.
When asked about service roads and access ramps, the Texas Turnpike Corp said:
The project will not have service roads with the exception of portions of the preliminary routes that may require short service roads to act as connections to current roadways to maintain existing connections.
In other words, no benefits will be provided to new areas accessed by the new toll road. Furthermore, some lands will be cut off by the new toll road. This is not exactly public spirited. This portion of the proposal brings nothing to the "public necessity and public use" cited above. No new citizens are benefited. If NCTCOG cites increasing traffic in the near future as a reason for this toll road, it ignores no one can get on the toll road except at Greenville and where it hooks into Bush Toll Road. Everybody in between has to drive around the proposed toll way to get where they are going.
The above answers border on pure garbage, perpetrated by both NCTCOG and Texas Turnpike Corp. I smell a rat.
When taken in total, including the two websites you need to read, I don't like what I see. It smacks of something I can't get my arms around. Does that make it bad? Not necessarily. I think more investigation is warranted, very much including the character of Texas Turnpike Corp. I want to know some deals they have done.
The most glaring fact I see is that Texas Turnpike Corp is a private, profit making organization. Is that bad? Not necessarily. I am a capitalist. I like to see profits made. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to make profits. Being a capitalist, I like deal making. If toll road authorities want something, they need to give something. Being profit motivated explains much of the "hard ball" positions Texas Turnpike Corp is taking. They are trying to cut costs as much as they can. I understand that. What bothers me is that NCTCOG seems to be running interference for them. If so, I now suspicion politics.
Could I support the Blacklands Corridor? With the right circumstances I could. What are those circumstances? Well, first of all, I am selfish for Rowlett. My answers only reflect Rowlett benefits. All others on the way to Greenville have other stories. It is proposed that the new toll road cross our North Shore area. If so, the new toll way MUST HAVE access roads and access ramps. This corrects an earlier mistake and provides access to land and enhances future development in North Shore. Secondly, there must be more teeth put into the settlement with current land owners. Fair market value isn't fair in many cases. For example, an ADA house (handicapped) is not necessarily attractive to non ADA purchasers, therefore maybe not getting a reasonable appraisal during settlement negotiations. Also, costs converting another house into ADA standards costs money. It should be recognized in the settlement. There are sentimental issues, school issues for school kids, and other considerations. The advocates of the new toll road should address these considerations in settlements.
If the above needs are satisfactorily met, I could support the toll road. If Texas Turnpike Corp attempts to take land out of Rowlett's tax base, burden other land from becoming good tax base additions, and does not give due consideration to land owners, it is time to get out the pitchforks, ox wagons, skinny kids, and march on the Governor's mansion.
Texas Turnpike Corp can not get a money machine for nothing. They need to pay the people that made it possible. The cost has to be covered in their business plan. If the numbers don't work, don't do it.
We may have to follow the politics on this thing. Then we can go back to yelling.