It is nice to be wanted - sometimes. Right now both the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TexDOT) want a stretch of SH121 in Collin County. Or to be more accurate, the state has proposals from private players that want a piece of the Collin County action. The reason is simply that the tolls from the stretch of road in the fast growing area could well fund a wide range of projects beyond the road itself.
Local municipal and Collin County elected officials had worked out a plan they hoped would solve serious traffic problems in the heart of the country, but TexDOT later backed away from the plan leaving many area leader fuming. Most local leaders would prefer the local NTTA own the project. The NTTA would guarantee payments to TexDOT of up to $500 million over some half a century plus pay costs with a guarantee that tolls would rise if needed to cover construction payments. TexDOT would use money from the project to construct additional transportation projects in North Texas.
The ultimate problem will be exactly what revenues will be used for, regardless of their source. Transportation needs throughout North Texas are far outstripping the ability of fuel taxes to fund. This is leading the state to turn to toll roads. But the funds from toll roads will be used to pay for more than the road on which fees are being collected. They may be used to fund additional projects.
The ultimate decision will lie with the Texas Transportation Commission.
TCTA filed the lawsuit in state district court. “SB 5 violates the Texas Constitution because it grants special favors to telephone companies and other new video providers while forcing cable companies to continue to operate at a disadvantage,” said Tom Kinney, chairman of the TCTA board and president of Time Warner Cable-Austin Division.
TCTA has a similar lawsuit pending in federal court.
With the passage of SB 5, new video providers like SBC (now AT&T) and Verizon are now able to apply for a state issued franchise. "SB 5 will generate investment in Texas and provide consumers with more choices and better products and prices," said AT&T spokesman Kerry Hibbs in response to the new lawsuit.
Incumbent cable companies, however, believe the new law is unfair because they cannot apply for a state issued franchise until their municipal franchise contracts have expired.
Rep. Charlie HowardTexans for Lawsuit Reform PAC (TLR) endorsed Rep. Charlie Howard for re-election on Monday. TLR is the state’s largest tort reform organization. In making the endorsement, TLR praised Rep. Howard’s voting record on legal reform issues. The endorsement of Howard is included here.
The endorsement from Texas for Lawsuit Reform came only days after a massive mailing titled "Shark Watch" to Republican primary voters in Howard’s district insinuating that the conservative incumbent legislator was in the "hip pocket" of the trial lawyers. Howard has a Republican primary opponent.
The question remains: Who is really behind this innocuous-sounding organization (Texans for Texas)? A call to Janelle Shepard, a former nurse and the Executive Director of Texans for Texas was not returned.
Darrell JordanDallasBlog has learned that Darrell Jordan will run for Mayor against Laura Miller in 2007. According to sources close to Jordan, a recent poll shows that Mayor Miller has lost much of the support that propelled her to victory in previous races against Tom Dunning and Mary Poss. It is anticipated that longtime community leader Jordan will make an official announcement in the near future.
Whoever is providing the financial backing of "Shark Watch" may want to consider whether they are damaging the reputation of their own position by their "scattergun" attacks on Republicans who aren’t with them all the time.
Mayor Laura MillerDallas Business Journal (DBJ) has an excellent Viewpoint in its new issue entitled "Bad bet". It is critical of Mayor Laura Miller’s proposal "to replace Reunion Arena with a big casino." As the DBJ editorial points out, "Whenever politicians run out of real ideas to improve their cities, counties, or states, it seems they inevitably turn to casino gambling as a fix-all. The public should not drink the Kool-Aid."
All across the United States (included here in Texas) politicians are promoting the idea of more legalized gambling as a quick fix to their state’s revenue shortfall. Both Rick Perry and Carole Strayhorn have advocated increasing gambling venues as a means of solving the school finance mess. But, gambling has its dark side as the DBJ editorial notes: "Gambling is a sucker’s bet, and it breeds real societal ills, everything from addition to bankruptcy, broken families to crime."
Mayor Miller must be running scared (and running out of good ideas) as she gears up for a tough re-election campaign in 2007.
The Dallas Business Journal editorial can be found on page 26 of the January 27-February 2 issue. I encourage you to read it if you are a subscriber.
Click here to read the DBJ viewpoint online (registration required).
Yesterday the Dallas News ran an excellent story about how Kinko's ripped off the Dallas Independent School District - big time. In its Front Burner Blog, D Magazine's Executive Editor Tim Rogers blast Kinko's CEO Gary Kusin and calls on him to make restitution. We second his motion.