I've been here before, but some new things have turned up. They're worth reporting.
One thing I want to reiterate. I don't know if I am for the toll road, or against it. I don't know enough about it, yet. My first opinion was that if taxpayers were not liable for the cost, and it was being funded by private money, I was only concerned whether it would hurt our tax base.........or not. I wanted the toll road to help our tax base.
The Rowlett Lakeshore Times reported that our Mayor, Todd Gottel, was non committal on the toll road. Todd said he didn't know enough. He seemed to catch some fire for his stance. He shouldn't have. He was exactly correct. There are a lot of things that need to be discovered and throwing a childish fit by screaming, kicking the floor, and drowning out the people that are presenting opposing views is not very adult. According to the Rowlett newspaper and a couple of Dallas Morning News articles, there is a whole bunch of yelling and no listening. You don't learn much when you're shooting off your mouth. Its hard enough to get facts out the proponents of the toll road without obscuring what their trying to say. It looks like we still have an abundance of ox carts with wooden wheels, straw torches, pitch forks, and skinny little kids with dirty clothes. They make great images when combating someone you really don't want to hear. Instead of throwing a fit, people against the toll road should ask some good questions, and put the toll road developers on the spot. Listen closely to their answers, then use their answers to bolster your own cause.
Some really good questions are beginning to form up in my head. At first, I was only concerned about the tax base. However, in reading newspaper accounts and watching some of the telecasts, my list of questions have broadened. One thing is certain, unless North Central Texas has a blockade built around it, the area is going to really grow a lot over the next 20 years. Some estimates a few years ago suggested that the DFW metroplex would grow from approximately 4 million at the time of the article to 8 million by the year 2025. That may be a little bit of a reach, but population growth is certainly gaining steam. With recent news of Plano and McKinney our part of town is poised for a lot of growth. So, if we ignore traffic and roads now, we most certainly pay for it later. If you're in your early 20's and reading this blog, you are really going to be angry in about 20 years. If you're a senior citizen, you're really not going to care. Some important questions need to be asked about this toll way.
For example, who is financing this deal? The "fer" people are trying to pull a slick one, maybe. The "agin" people aren't asking who has to put money into the deal. I can assure you the toll road developers aren't walking around with several hundred million dollars in their pockets. So........who puts up the money? The "fer" people say it is private financing, intimating that taxpayer money is not needed. Is that entirely accurate? One thing is certain, the financial risk of this deal will have to satisfy someone I have not seen in print, yet. Whoever these people are, they have the absolute, ultimate vote on whether this thing is built, or not. They will have to feel their investment is secure. The Dallas Morning News reported that a Mrs. Hubley spent some time actually researching some facts. In her research, she revealed that the estimated traffic loads over the next 20 years varied wildly between sources. Anyone putting money in this thing would absolutely want accurate numbers to justify their investment. Mrs. Hubley's research suggests that this comfort level isn't even close to reality. No lender I know is even remotely interested in a deal with inaccurate business plan numbers. Mrs. Hubley reports that TxDot numbers and NCTCOG numbers don't even come close to being the same. However, the investor's risk can be substantially reduced with a guarantee against failure by a state or federal government. Now the rules have changed. Now, the taxpayer is at risk. That is a brand new consideration. THAT IS AN ANSWER YHE "AGINS" NEED!! Has anyone asked this question in the shouting matches? Who is financing the damn thing and are there any government guarantees? If the project defaults, does the taxpayer pick up the check? I would rather know that than someone's unsubstantiated opinion.
I would like to see the piece of paper that grants the toll road developers the rights of Imminent Domain. I know private Imminent Domain was used in Jerry Jones' AT&T Cowboy Stadium, but I want to see where that right flowed to these people. There seems to be a pattern of coziness that is forming up between Texas Turnpike Corp and NCTCOG. NCTCOG seems to be in complete support of Texas Turnpike Corp. Why? Did they issue the "right" to imminent domain procedures? Does NCTCOG have that right? I don't like profit motivated people having rights of imminent domain. How did Texas Turnpike Corp get so cozy with NCTCOG? Steven W. McCullough is a stockholder of Texas Turnpike Corp. He also worked for the City of Irving for 30 years, serving the last 12 years of his tenure as City Manager. He also served as a consultant to DART from 2010 to 2012. He certainly knew NCTCOG. Hummmm.
I know for a fact, the turnpike is not to contain service roads and access ramps, except to service already existing roads. That is absolutely unacceptable. As I have written before, it would actually harm Rowlett if that was the way the road was built. It would isolate properties along the right of way and harm Rowlett's tax base. If they want to truly benefit the communities they serve, they need to enhance the communities in which they are taking land. They must offer acceptable funding to landowners along the way, including displacement costs and some emotional repairations. They should enhance the land values of surrounding land with access ramps and service roads. All this costs money. That's correct. Add it to the bill, then talk to the money people. If this can't be done, its a deal breaker.
I have heard from two sources that a large Canadian land development firm has purchased several thousand acres around the eastern end of this turnpike. What's going on here? I want to see the phone records of these two companies. I am delighted they have confidence with the Dallas area. I do, too. However, if there is some chicanery going on and the taxpayer is on the bubble for a hit, they had better be good farmers. People can go to jail if the cleverness is too cozy.
I have a friend that has been researching this toll road and the players rather in depth. I hope to have more in the future.
I would wish the yelling be kept to a minimum and some intelligent thought might surface so that intelligent questions could be asked. Its the answers in which the real issues are identified and the citizens can make appropriate decisions. Contrary to the old saying, Ignorance is not bliss.