Friday, March 18, 2005

Perry's "Red State" Runs Roughshod Over Property Rights

Perry's Red State

" person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
-- Fifth Amendment, United States Constitution

Would you believe that the Texas Legislature has granted unelected officials the power to take private property and lease it to favored businesses interests?

You might say, "I thought they did that in places like China, Russia, Japan, Latin America-- maybe Europe, where communism and fascism were born -- but Texas?

Apparently, some Texas lawmakers think that you can seize a person's private land, lease it to foreign and domestic corporations, and then call it "public use" and "for the public good." But isn't this really government abuse of eminent domain--especially if the needless half-million acre slab they are planning is a actually a hare-brained scheme to raise revenue and reward their campaign donors?

You can bet the contractors and corporations lining up for the Trans-Texas Corridor pork-fest will see it as a "public " necessity, whether the public wants it or not. And when you hear all this talk of "privatization," "user fees, " or euphemisms like "pass through tolls," you can rest assured that the unwitting public will pay through the nose for this boondoggle, whether they use Perry's transportation abomination or not.

Here are just a few excerpts from Texas House Bill 3588, a bit of enabling legislation, pushed by high-priced lobbyists and passed in 2003. It gave appointed officials of the Texas Transportation Commission the power to ride roughshod over property rights so they could pave the way for the Trans-Texas Corridor. Believe it or not, it is now a part of Texas Law:
  • " authority may not pay compensation for public real property, parkways, streets, highways, alleys, or reservations it takes..." [Sec. 370.169(a)]
  • "Property may be leased or a franchise or license granted for any purpose, including use as a facility and use for unrelated commercial, industrial, or agricultural purposes." [Sec. 227.082(d)]
  • "An authority has full easements and rights-of-way through, across, under, and over any property owned by the state or any local government that are necessary or convenient to construct, acquire, or efficiently operate a transportation project or system..." [Sec. 370.169(c)]
  • For a timeline showing how this legislation evolved click HERE.
So you see, now if Perry's appointtee's in the Texas Transportation Commission or some new "Regional Mobility Authority" decides to take private property and lease it to a corporation, they can do it "according to state law." Why? Because they are developing a private toll road corridor!

They could even take your land now for some future boondoggle, just so they can get it on the cheap. Of course they'll let you use the land, until then, if you become their tenant.

How convenient.

The boosters of the Trans-Texas Corridor have suggested that those who oppose the state sponsored land grab "lack vision," or are a little too provincial, backwards or, perhaps, "reactionary." They don't understand why so many Texans are upset about their "50 Year Plan."

Sometimes I wonder how much payola Kool Aid our snoozing lawmakers swilled before they rubber stamped this bill. Maybe they hallucinated and thought they were in some sort of parallel universe, where they were members of the Texas Politburo or the Austin Reichstag.

Or maybe they thought they could just do whatever their campaign donors wanted and nobody would notice.

Whatever happened, a portion of Texas House Bill 3588 appears to have been tailor made for corporations like Cintra, the Spanish public works company that was "unanimously" awarded the contract by members of the Texas Transportation Commission in December 2004.

Dan Shelley, a lobbyist, worked for Cintra in 2003. He joined Governor Perry's staff nine months later. How long after that did his former employer win the multi-billion dollar contract? I am sure the folks at Cintra were really grateful for his services. I also bet they really liked this bit of their new Texas Law:
  • "Tolls, fees, fares, or other usage charges are not subject to supervision or regulation by any agency of this state or another governmental entity." [Sec. 370.172(d)]


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