Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tick tock

2014 is finally here! It’s been a long and stressful four years but finally the June 30 deadline for completion of Phase One of the proposed Central Texas Airport is on the horizon. There may be some surprises in the coming months but it’s unlikely that any last minute efforts to resuscitate the project will get much traction. So sayonara and RIP. There’s the door . . .

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Are we confused?

Not likely. But that is the rationale that the USACE used to deny FOIA requests from two separate individuals in the last few weeks. Here are the exact words:

The withheld documents are deliberative and predecisional. However these documents were not used in making the final determination regarding the permit. After my review of the documents and the case law as stated above, I have concluded the release of these documents many result in the public confusion as described above. Therefore I must withhold the documents under the protection of Exemption 5.

Public confusion? Really? We know that’s just code-speak to justify non-transparency.

To add insult to injury, the identical letter (except for identifying information, of course) was sent in response to both FOIA requests by the same bureaucratic troglodyte at the Southwestern Division of the Corps up in Dallas.

One of the FOIAs has been appealed, accepted and sent off to the Secretary of the Army in DC for a determination. Note that the last appeal has languished in DC for nearly two years. We’re not hopeful about this one escaping the black hole of bureaucracy either.

Nope. There’s no confusion here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What’s with ‘Mythbusting’?

StopCTA participated in every Commissioners Court public comment period for nearly a year. We only stepped back when the Big Fire became the County’s number one priority. One of the last comments presented by StopCTA on August 8, 2011was titled ‘Mythbusting’.

‘Mythbusting’ outlined some details about Jim Carpenter’s second failed attempt to create a MUD during the 2011 legislative session - the first try was in 2009 - and discussed Rep. Mark Strama’s involvement with the proposed bill. Then the process of how a MUD could be created without involvement of the legislature was presented. But perhaps most importantly, acquisition of the Falcon Seaboard property (located just across the river from the proposed CTA site) by airport interests (Meck-CTA, LLC) was publicly announced for the first time.

On August 9, the day after those comments were presented to the Court and posted to the Factoids blog, County Engineer Ronnie Moore shared ‘Mythbusting’ by email with Jim Carpenter. Mr. Moore stated more than once that he kept up with what StopCTA was posting. But we’re curious as to just what in that post made it worthy of sending to the developer. Maybe someday we’ll have an answer . . .

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

No more excuses

A few days before the 381 Agreement for the proposed Central Texas Airport was approved, Cyndi Wright, editor of the Advertiser emailed Jim Carpenter this request:

“it looks like the possibility of approving a 381 agreement is on the agenda for Monday’s commissioner court meeting. Would you like to make a statement for the pre-meeting story?”

Within minutes, the developer emailed Geoff Connor and County Engineer Ronnie Moore for advice about what would be “best for the project’s success from both the County’s perspective as well as ours”. By the end of the day, Moore had taken charge and emailed a three paragraph blurb to both the Advertiser and separately (with an explanatory preface) to Jim Carpenter and Goeff Connor.

The first two paragraphs explain some basics about the 381 Agreement. But the third describes actions outside the 381 Agreement that “CTA must take in order to begin construction of the airport.”:

“CTA must still secure all necessary financing to purchase the land and obtain approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for modifications to the FEMA-designated flood plain. The project must also comply with the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) requirements as implemented and monitored byt the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”

Mr. Moore may have been confused as to WHY the CTA needed a permit from the Corps - FEMA handles flood plain issues, the Corps domain is Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. But he was correct that approval from the Corps would be required.

So there you have it. We now know what Jim Carpenter knew and when he knew it. He was on notice BEFORE the 381 Agreement was in place that the Corps needed to be involved with the project. He ignored Ronnie Moore’s advice. If concerned citizens had not brought the project to the Corps’ attention would the developer have ever contacted the Corps? Or would airport construction have started without a permit in place? That seems like a real possibility. And what a mess that would have been!

So please Mr. Carpenter . . . no more whining about delays and no more excuses. You have no one to blame but yourself.

The whining wingman

Several months after Jim Carpenter’s letter to Greg Hill, Ronnie Moore followed up with a letter to Stephen Brooks on November 30, 2011. The stated purpose of the letter is to provide ‘accurate information’ regarding ETJ authority related to the ‘CTA Green Corporate Center project’ but it quickly declines into blatant cheerleading for the project.

There is subtle guilt-tripping:

. . . if this project does not come to fruition as a result of inaccurate informaion, the biggest potential loser is Bastrop County and Elgin ISD; i.e. students in the Elgin School District”.

and a dig at the USACE for their thorough but time-consuming handling of the permitting process:

It is my understanding that the standard of practice for the USACE review of these types of permit applications is: the level of review of the project will be “commensurate to the level of impact to waters of the U.S.”. The permit application is to fill a small man-made stock pond . . .”

Then after a regurgitation of the promotional passages in the 381 Agreement, Mr. Moore plays the ‘wildfire disaster’ card:

“In order to assist in the recovery from this disaster, we should all be doing what we can to boost the ad valorem tax base of our County, and to create additional job opportunities for the residents of Bastrop County.

Projects that have a potential of creating job opportunities and adding value to the ad valorem tax base, create an opportunity for Bastrop County to recover economically from the recent wildfire disaster. Please keep that in mind as you consider any project, in Bastrop County, that comes before you for review and permitting.”

But all that is not the real story of this letter. It was sent not only to Mr. Brooks but copied to eleven other individuals including the those at the FAA (who had just denied the CTA’s request for an extension of the reservation of airspace), the TCEQ, Sen. Kirk Watson, Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, Rep. Glen Hegar in the Texas Legislature and in Washington D.C.,Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Rep. Michael McCaul and the mysterious Greg Hill who appears to be Rep.McCaul’s Chief of Staff. The cozy relationship that the developer seems to have with Greg Hill is disconcerting. Especially so considering that Rep. McCaul has received generous contributions from aviation related industries. In politics, just follow the money . . .

While it’s easy to fault Mr. Moore for this letter it does have one saving grace. If the project fails and the developer decides to extract revenge on Bastrop County, this letter would defend the County’s fulfillment of the Mutual Assistance requirement of the 381 Agreement.

2014 all entries
2013 all entries
2012 all entries
2011 all entries
2010 all entries