The crowd numbered upwards of 150 folks – united in their anger and opposition to not one, but two metro turnpikes to be built as part of the controversial Driving Forward Oklahoma turnpike program. Organized by the Eastern Oklahoma County anti-turnpike coalition, Wednesday’s state capitol anti-turnpike rally also featured neighbors from the other side of the county, those in way of the proposed Southwest Kilpatrick Turnpike extension.
“The farmer is of no importance to the OTA obviously,” said Jayna Gordon whose legacy family farm near Mustang will be sliced to accommodate the extension of the Kilpatrick from I-40 to Airport Road. She told the crowd her family all lives on their 160 acres, the land her grandfather purchased in 1935.
The rally also featured plenty of politicians running for office. State Rep. Richard Morrissette who is making a run for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission told the crowd, “with your voices and your persistence, you will stop this expansion of the turnpike.”
Morrissette also told the crowd it might be time to go to court to seek an injunction against the $300 million EOC, before bonds are sold for the project later this year. If there was the will among the legislature and the Governor, the project could be stopped. However, the current legislative session ends next week – and there’s plenty of budgeting to do before then with an historic revenue failure.
State Sen. Al McAffrey was also at the rally. He represents an inner-city senate district, but is making a run for Congress against incumbent Steve Russell.
McAffrey said even though a special legislative session is imminent, his fellow lawmakers are too passive to touch the turnpike issue. “This group (at the rally) needs to go to ODOT meetings and the media and blast them good. Building turnpikes is not the right thing to do. We don’t need more debt.”
Other candidates speaking at the rally included Frank Volpe of Harrah who is also running for the Fifth Congressional Seat. Volpe told the crowd, “Property rights are what separate America from the rest of the world.”
Balancing a luncheon appointment and a rally appearance, Rep. Lewis Moore, who is running unopposed, carried graphs pointing out the mis-allocation of motor fuels tax distribution. Moore called for a moratorium on all turnpikes. He said of the $1.2 billion the state gets on gas taxes, license fees and titles on vehicles, the OTA gets $44 million. Education gets $261 million. His point is that transportation related taxes aren’t going to transportation in the state, and we have the crumbling bridges and bumpy roadways to show for it. It’s a problem 50 years in the making, he said. Moore doubts his fellow lawmakers will take up this turnpike issue in this particular legislative year, but he calls this turnpike a mistake. “The solution is in the pie,” he said. His graphic pie.
The rally was organized by EOC resident Paul Crouch and others. He said the candidates who joined their protest will have his vote. He also welcomed once and future gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson who will run on an anti-turnpike platform. He said Oklahoma is second only to Florida in the number of toll road miles in a state. “How long are we going to be fooled by these people,” he asked the crowd who responded in unison, “Stop the Turnpike.”
Even as the turnpike rally proceeded, other EOC residents were checking their mailboxes. Letters from Driving Forward and OTA agent, Olsson Associates arrived today for property owners in the EOC turnpike alignment. The letters asked for survey permission, and included a self-addressed stamped envelope. One resident said the letter offered a choice to return it signed signaling permission to survey, or unsigned signaling permission not to survey. A letter unreturned signals permission given for surveyors to enter private property.
What is Lewis Moore’s connection with his hometown highway oligarch Neal A. McCaleb?
Here he is again with that old “$500 million that ought to go to highways gets diverted elsewhere.”
Those of us who’ve been fighting these battles awhile recognize this nonsense immediately. Who ginned it up?
In 2004, they called themselves “Oklahoma Good Roads and Transportation.” They’ve also called themselves
“Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads,” and, perhaps most comically of all – “T.R.U.S.T.” — Transportation
Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation – or, in other words, “for highways-only.”
Who ARE these people?
Neal A. McCaleb. Gary Ridley. Bob Poe. Kell Kelly. — the usual cast of the highways-only crowd surrounded
by their very predictable gang of peckerwoods.
Representative Moore either “doesn’t know” where the stuff he’s pushing came from — or he’s “right in there
Which is it?
They want your tag and registration fee money. They insist that it’s “rightfully road money” — counting on
what they apparently consider to be widespread ignorance among the current taxpayers and their elected
officials. That money, however, is actually PROPERTY TAX – and as such it goes to the general fund with
a historic emphasis on supporting public education. Perhaps they figure “the less educated Oklahomans
are, the easier they’ll fall for their line of baloney….”
Repayment for road use is supposed to come from “fuel taxes” – which really are not “taxes” at all, but,
rather, user fees. Trouble is that, thanks to Neal A. McCaleb, operators of heavy commercial semi-rigs, each inflicting
pavement damage statistically equivalent to up-to 9,600 automobiles at legal gross weights pay three-cents-per-
gallon LESS state fuel tax than the auto pays. At virtually every public policy junction worsening state road
quality and raising state road debt over the last 30 years, you’ll find NEAL A. McCALEB among the instigators.
Below is a link to an article I wrote about this scam back in 2004 –
Concrete, Lies and Videotape (or, at least, “printing ink…”)
Don’t let them on your property.
I feel like Elmore just called me names, but I learned something. I am certainly not saying every penny of that money should go for roads. I personally would not divert a penny from schools because they are already in crisis. I am saying that nary a penny of that should go to the OTA. That is just madness. Our tax dollars should not go to toll roads. It’s like double jeopardy or something.
I don’t recall calling you names, ma’am – but suffice it to say that after about 30 years of this stuff, I’ve seen most of their tricks.
One of the reasons I warned all those years ago about voting in term limits on state legislators was that, after 12 years, institutional memory leaves with those timed-out of office. Worse than this, however, it seems to take at least that long for most of our elected representatives to stop feeling and acting like shave-tail plebes in the presence of such as Ridley and McCaleb. As ought to be obvious — bureaucrats are NOT “term limited” – and Ridley, a McCaleb drone and McCaleb’s hand-in-government even when he, himself, is not officially there, has been held-over by each governor – regardless of party – since Keating.
It’s never happened this way before. The dividing line – I assure you – was “term limits.” What it did for the corporate powers was weaken the experience, latitude and authority once held by elected office holders who now take office with that 12-year clock ticking in their ears – and simply are not in office long enough to gather the required weight of experience to counterbalance the corporate-controlled bureaucrats. In short – the people were convinced by corporate operatives to shoot their own feet off – to greatly weaken their only representative bodies.
Such matters as “what’s the purpose of tag and registration receipts” – the long, long established means of recovering property tax on cars, trucks, boats and so-on, and overwhelmingly coming from the taxpaying public instead of heavy commercial trucking — are apparently part of the institutional memory that’s been lost.
The “insult” is coming from the highway lobby — and from the compliant elected officials carrying its water — who seem to believe that the public, too, can be effectively fooled in this matter.
Worse yet, meanwhile – our state government has NEVER performed the most basic exercise required for proper management of the public roads we paid to build and placed in its trust – a highway user-cost-recovery audit known as a HIGHWAY COST ALLOCATION STUDY.
How can ANYBODY manage roads and bridges effectively without knowing what each class of users must be charged? How can we possibly come out charging the heavy trucks inflicting thousands of times the damage done by autos “3-cents-less state fuel tax per gallon” than the autos pay?
None of this is particularly complex – but it strikes at the very heart of the far-too-cozy relationships with the special interests long enjoyed by our elected representatives.
With the basic facts about fuel taxation (which can proportionally recover road-use costs unless the baseline has been deliberately sabotaged — as was done here by McCaleb and Bellmon in 1986) and tag and registration fees (trucking paid less than 10% at my last look) — any constituent can silence such nonsense as is coming from Representative Moore and others.
Recall with me, too, that McCaleb’s argument has been that when taxpayers rejected SQ723 a few years back – a fuel-tax measure clearly front-loaded by its authors to continue to place most of the load on the driving public – “they were saying they now refuse to pay to maintain public roads — so we’ve gotta build turnpikes.” You see — these smart boys think that they’re a LOT cagier than Oklahoma voters. In fact, they’re simply self-serving liars who have for far too long been given far too much credence by the elected officials whose attention and respect they BUY.