Embarrassed for Us on Toll Roads

RECEIVED Thu., Sept. 2, 2004

Mike [Clark-Madison],
   I think you have not been given the full picture of why people who live in South Austin are angry, and it is not about paying for our "lifestyles." I was embarrassed for you when I read that ["Austin@Large," News, Aug. 20]. We have been paying for and waiting for roads to be completed for years. The money is available to complete unfinished existing roads. This is not a lifestyle issue. The decision to turn existing, paid-for roads into toll roads was made against 93% of the people who responded. When have you seen 93% of respondents agree on anything? Will Wynn et al. decided not to represent the 93% and go their own way. We would like representation. Is it too much to ask of a journalist to look beyond one source, the Statesman, who by the way did not keep the public informed about what CAMPO was up to? This is about honesty in the government, representation for the voters, and fiscal responsibility by the government. And how about the whole story by the press! We did not like the plan as it was voted on and said so before the vote was taken. How does one exercise one's political power? I think it odd that as a journalist, your article did not address the details. Didn't even ask the questions. Made the people of South Austin seem like spoiled voters. "Just pay the damn money and shut up." Do you know how many roads are being turned into toll roads? Are you aware of the underhanded way this was done? Are you aware that the reason for the tolls is that the state doesn't have money for maintenance, so it's spending Austin's allotted money on statewide maintenance and leaving Austin to pay tolls to complete existing commuter roads? What is right about that? Do you think that it will not effect you? Go to www.austintollparty.com and read for yourself what we are about. Think for yourself. You are a journalist and that is important. If you don't report the truth, the public may not get the truth. I am really surprised you stopped so short of the whole story.
Jean Harper
   [Mike Clark-Madison replies: I never know what to say to people who simply cannot grasp that others might look at exactly the same "facts" as they see and come to different conclusions. As with most of our Austin Toll Party friends, this writer makes claims that are simply untrue: Nowhere in the CTRMA plan is there one foot of "existing" highway – that is, lane miles that people drive on right now – that is "paid for" that is being converted to a toll road. Not one foot. If 93% of the respondents are wrong about that basic fact, then they are wrong, period, no matter how loud and nasty they get. As for "lifestyle," all I know is that transportation choices heavily influenced my selection of a place to live and raise my family. I don't think it's too much to ask whether the folks in Southwest Austin – who now think they're entitled to ever-larger tax-supported highways so they need not wait in traffic – gave the same thought to the subject. I realize that there are people in Southwest Austin who don't want new roads built at all, and I exempt them from my broad brush here. But until we all start taking more responsibility for our own choices, we will all be unhappy with the compromises that must be made.]
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