Holding Sonleitner Accountable for Things Imagined

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 21, 2006

Dear Austin Chronicle Editor,
    In your article last week [“Primary Colors: Part II,” News, Feb. 17], you stated that Commissioner Karen Sonleitner,"supported floating a gas-tax option as a toll road alternative, a proposition supported by anti-tollsters." That is not the case.
    I was there on April 27, 2005 in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing to testify for the option for a region to vote on a local gas tax as opposed to freeway tolls. Karen Sonleitner was there to push the local gas tax in addition to the freeway tolls.
    The article also states that "blaming Sonleitner for the toll plan has been overblown.” Sonleitner is responsible. In that same committee hearing, Sonleitner herself stated that she worked extensively to help create the authority. The unelected board members of the toll authority are mostly Williamson County people that will set the toll rates for roads we've already paid for here in Travis County, while Williamson County gets more freeway built without tolls. The state comptroller has since found that the toll authority creates double taxation without accountability, as well as favoritism and self-enrichment.
    E-mail records from 2003 show Sonleitner pushed Judge Biscoe to "expedite" a Travis County tax giveaway of $550,000 to the bureaucratic tolling authority as seed money. Sonleitner voted to privatize and toll hundreds of millions of dollars worth of our public highways! The fact is, Austin public highways will be the first freeways in the country to be shifted to toll roads, permanently taking expressways away from citizens that paid for them. The added tax to move all goods and services in Central Texas will increase our cost of living, as the additional freeway toll expense will get passed on to our families. Sonleitner's financial reports show the same special interests who profit from the freeway tolls fund her campaign.
    It's time for Karen Sonleitner to be held accountable in the Democratic primary taking place now.
Sal Costello
Founder of People for Efficient Transportation PAC
   [News Editor Michael King responds: Despite Sal Costello's tendentious and Manichean rewriting of history, Commissioner Karen Sonleitner attended the Ways and Means Committee meeting, along with several of her colleagues from CAMPO, to support a bill allowing a regional gas-tax option as an alternative to toll-road funding of highways, as we reported.]
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