Hello my fellow citizens opposing the Turnpike,
For several months now, we’ve been fighting very hard to stop this insidious project. We’ve held rallies and garnered media attention. On the political front, a couple of State Reps stood with us and made what legislative maneuvers they could. Sadly, Governor Fallin has been entirely unresponsive, and Senator Sharp has thrown in with the development interests who are fully behind its construction. As a result, the citizenry of Eastern Oklahoma County have been cast aside.
Facing this reality, some of us have formed another opposition group, for the sole purpose of seeking redress through our judiciary. We have made a decision to retain a solid law firm well-experienced in this area of the law.
Please understand that our only intention and goal in this endeavor is to STOP THIS TURNPIKE. We do not wish to settle for anything less. The initial cost of legal services to get us started is over $12,000. We are requesting your financial assistance, to support us in our fight. If you are able to help, in any way you can, kindly let us know.
We have legally established ourselves as an Oklahoma Charitable Organization known as Victims of Eminent Domain Fund. We ask for your help so we can continue this fight. If you would like to donate, mail donation checks to :
Victims of Eminent Domain Fund
P.O. Box 747
Harrah, OK 73045
We can also be reached by phone at: 405-454-6265
Many thanks for your continued support!
Looks like OTA is at it again. They have a company called RSG Research doing a survey for CDM Smith about turnpike traffic. Be sure to let OTA know what you think!
Oklahomans speak about the Turnpike's impact on their lives.
Please listen to their stories. Many have been victimized twice. Once by OTA and again in the media as homeowners are portrayed as "greedy and anti-progress". Many fighting against OTA are not going to loose land. We fight because we researched and see a system that is broken and dangerous for our state!
Please listen to their voice here: http://www.victimsofeminentdomain.com/#!voices-of-victims/cq2e With your support, we can keep our stories from becoming your stories!
Rep. Moore Calls for Moratorium on Turnpikes
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Lewis Moore today called for a moratorium on new turnpikes in Oklahoma until an agreement can be made to dedicate the current collection of fees and taxes on fuel, drivers’ licenses and vehicles to roads, highways and bridges. “We collect enough money to meet our transportation needs without having to resort to building turnpikes,” said Moore, R-Edmond. “It is time to hit the pause button on new turnpikes while we reorganize. Constituent concerns and current news articles about traffic projections make a moratorium an even wiser decision at this time.”
More than $500 million a year, in motor fuel and motor vehicle collections, is diverted from taking care of our roads, highways and bridges. Money we think is being used to repair, resurface or build roads is spent elsewhere. Our roads and bridges are a core function of government. Having safe roads for families and school kids to drive on is as important as anything else.
“There is a need for a high speed route in Eastern Oklahoma County linking I-40 to I-44,” Moore added. “We just finished the Hogback Road exit on I-44. It only makes sense to create a super two-lane from I-40 to the Hogback Road interchange. Luther and Triple X Roads are vital North-South roads that need work as well.”
Decades of diverting money, has left a void filled by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. It’s no different than underfunding the Department of Corrections and then giving out private prison contracts, Moore said.
“ODOT is a professional, well-run agency,” Moore said. “We have an eight-year plan because we have a lot of work that needs to be done and now we know we have the money we need if we use it for its intended purpose. Nothing can trump a system of roads and bridges moving our families and commerce safely and spurring economic development. We’ve been living with poor roads and bridges when we’ve had the money to do it right. It is shameful and must stop.”
Moore said the state is chasing the wrong priorities.
“We are not only transferring road projects to for profit bondholders to build, we are considering bonding free roads so we can spend the rest of the money appropriated to ODOT projects and delaying those 8-year projects to 10-year projects to boot,” Moore said.
There was $455.35 million of state motor fuel tax collected in 2015 (see attached chart). The Oklahoma Department of Transportation receives 45.2 percent, county highways and bridges receive 29.1 percent, the Turnpike Authority Trust Fund receives 9.7 percent and the remainder is split up for non-highway uses, tribes, municipalities and transfers to the General Revenue Fund.
Motor vehicle collections in 2015 totaled $764 million. A third of that money went to school districts, another third went to county highways and bridges and the remainder went to general revenue, non-highway uses and municipalities.
“Nearly half of the money was transferred away from highways and bridges,” Moore said. “We have to decide whether we want below average roads, highways and bridges and whether we want the best roads to be owned by the turnpikes.”
Reading legislative bills is not fun. It's often confusing. But if we hope to effect change we must participate in the process and get informed. Please follow with us as we investigate:
Below is an image of what the Oklahoma Legislative website looks like. We hope you take the time to bounce around and familiarize yourself with what each tab and link does. Each provides a slightly different view of the life of a bill.
The House bill or Senate bill designation will let you know which legislative branch originated the bill. When you visit the live website we encourage you to click on the link (circled above) of the specific HB/SB. Doing so will take you to a Microsoft Word version of the bill. Often amended, new, or reworded text will be underlined. For existing statues and laws, you may have to scroll down pages just to find the underlined portions. Often there are many underlined portions. The Versions and Votes tabs will also give you detailed information on wording changes, and who supported or opposed the bill.
The truth is that people who lose their property to eminent domain proceedings are almost never made whole. With eminent domain, the property owner can’t say “no” and usually must settle for much less than he or she would have bargained for in a voluntary setting.
One law professor who has written extensively about the problem of inadequate compensation for people who’ve been forced to sell under eminent domain is Gideon Kanner. In his article “UnEqual Justice under Law: The Invidiously Disparate Treatment of American Property Owners in Taking Cases” he writes: “The true standard of compensation is not indemnity, but rather fair market value so artfully defined as to exclude factors that sellers and buyers in voluntary transactions would consider, and that the government need only pay for what it acquires, not for what the owner has lost.”
Those losses include business goodwill, relocation expenses and the emotional damage of having to leave a community where one may have strong ties. In the government’s reasoning, people are expected to suffer such losses as part of the price of being a citizen. As the Supreme Court stated in the 1949 takings case Kimball Laundry v. U.S., “In view of the liability of all property to condemnation for the common good, loss to the owner of non-transferable values…is properly treated as part of the burden of common citizenship.” That 'tough luck, property owner' mindset still prevails.
Far from “getting a fortune” or even two or three times the market value of their property, most owners are left substantially worse off after their unwanted encounter with condemning government agencies. Few if any of them are content to shrug off the losses as their part of the “burden of common citizenship.”
Judges, and especially the justices of the Supreme Court, will have to stop ruling that merely because an individual is paid an amount deemed “fair market value,” the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of “just compensation” has been satisfied.
What does all this mean for Oklahomans suffering under the regime of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority? In recent OTA public meetings, Secretary of Transportation Ridley artfully dodged answering questions about homeowners receiving the 'best offer they'll ever get' from OTA. Watch video at mark 11:30. Ridley never answered the question about valuation of property taken.
If ALL the homeowners in the path went to court, they could potentially raise the price to such exorbitant amounts that OTA might be priced out of this project. OTA has a set amount they can spend. Residents wishing to coordinate legal action should start by seeking reputable legal council, preferably lawyers who have tried and won class action eminent domain cases. Due to OTA forethought, many in-state legal representatives that specialize in eminent domain have already been engaged by OTA, thereby causing a conflict of interest when homeowners call for consultations.
However, the arduous process of finding representation becomes worthwhile when you consider the following: The valuation cases in the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network show a HUGE discrepancy between what is offered by the court appointed commissioners verses OTA's best offer. The court awarded amounts on appeal for about 10 cases totaled $1,626,485 vs. $593,840 from the initial court commissioners offer.
"In determining the market value of real property taken by power of eminent domain, it is not merely the value of the property for the use to which is had been employed by the owner that should be considered, but it's adaptability to all purposes, present and prospective, to which it may reasonably be applied by the condemnee must be considered and taken into account in fixing such value". This was litigated in OTA v. Martin, where the landowners sought compensation for the value of a gravel deposit on the land that had commercial value. The market value was established by expert witness at $15,500, while OTA's witnesses valued it at between $239 and $800.
One Eastern Oklahoma County area example - Orchards appear to have been carefully avoided during this alignment.
Read full article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeleef/2016/03/15/sorry-mr-trump-but-youre-completely-wrong-about-eminent-domain/2/#7d9bce793add
Let me summarize the following article in one sentence: Mary Fallin will sign laws banning eminent domain for energy sector wind farms that could potentially compete with her oil cronies, but she supports eminent domain for OTA, a quasi-goverment agency headed by her appointees and campaign donors.
Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law an eminent domain measure that protects rural landowners from the threat of companies looking for locations to build wind turbines.
The bill's author, Sen. Ron Justice, of Chickasha, said wind power provides a tremendous boost to the state's economy, but he said it is important to protect landowners' rights.
The law was heralded by a northwest Oklahoma property owners group.
“The Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition supports any legislation which will help landowners protect their property now and for future generations,” the group said Friday. “We feel this is a step in the right direction since the use of eminent domain for profit is becoming a hot topic.”
Full article here: http://newsok.com/article/3567697
While the idea of new road may excite some, many Oklahomans resent the intrusion of yet another Turnpike. Questions from residents abound as Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has been unable, or unwilling, to answer some very fundamental questions about the contractors and numbers used to justify recent projects. Has the turnpike authority contracted with a firm known for providing erroneous data? Research into the issue suggests so.
"Wilbur Smith Associates had predicted that traffic volumes on the Indiana Toll Road would increase at a rate of 22 percent over the first seven years. Instead, traffic volumes shrank 11 percent in the first eight. By the time the firm filed for Chapter 11, debt on the road had ballooned to $5.8 billion."
In 2012, the Reston (VA) Citizens Association completed a study examining traffic projections provided by engineering firm Wilbur Smith. The group collected data from 26 toll road projects on which Wilbur Smith had produced the traffic projections. During the first five years that were forecast, traffic projections overshot actual traffic every single year, and by an average of 109 percent, according to the report.
Randy Salzman, associate editor at Thinking Highways North America, has studied these types of deals for years. He’s never seen a case where a private consulting firm like CDM Smith underestimated toll revenues on a privately-financed highway. “If there was honest predicting, some percentage of them would under-predict traffic,” he said. “There would be a bell curve. Instead, what we have is these projections that are always immensely above what the actual traffic is.”
There is ample incentive for these firms to inflate numbers. Firms that predict high levels of traffic attract investment dollars and regulatory approvals, which lead to construction projects, and the same firms often end up directly cashing in.
Around 2011, prominent traffic revenue and toll consulting company Wilbur Smith Associates combined with CDM Smith citing that 'The two firms have 'compatible cultures and values'. As Oklahoma residents feared, CDM Smith is a consideration in current Oklahoma Turnpike projections and planning. (See Item 154) Many in the path of the future turnpike loop wonder why OTA would use a company with such a dismal history of failure. Is there some benefit to OTA if the numbers were erroneously inflated?
When you consider that OTA will receive an influx of over $890 million from a single bond sale, the answer becomes clear. Residents are concerned that eminent domain is being used to stabilize a dying agency, rather than building roads based on corroborated numbers. Local residents state, "It will add insult to injury if our land is taken 'for the good of the state', only to find out the need was fabricated out of greed. It rips at the very fabric of our rights and guarantees as U.S. Citizens."
Please read the full article from StreetBlog USA: The Great Traffic Projection SwindleOTA contracts to CDM Smith: https://www.pikepass.com/pdf/December%202015%20Authority%20Agenda.pdf (Item 154)
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was originally intended to be a self terminating agency.
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has never paid off a turnpike. Due to cross pledging, which allows for perpetual funding between turnpikes, OTA never will pay off any turnpikes.
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority may raise tolls at any point. They have thwarted all legislative attempts to give elected officials the ability to regulate toll hikes. They currently plan to raise toll by 16%.
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has never been audited by the Oklahoma State Auditor. OTA does a 'self audit'. It would take a petition of 10% of Oklahoma voters to make a citizen request for a special audit of OTA.
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority does not have to perform Environmental Impact Studies unless they accept federal funding. Since asphalt is made from oil derivatives, many contaminants may leach into our ground water supply which is heavily used by Oklahomans via well water. No studies will occur to determine how detrimental the impact of the turnpike will be to resident left in it's path.
Oklahoma leads the nation in Turnpikes. If Turnpikes equal wealth, why are we so broke?!?
OTA has been building roads for 65 years and yet Oklahoma ranks among the worst in the nation for the condition of our roads. Maybe it's time for a change.
OTA has legislatively pre-approved plans for 32 additional toll projects!
OTA is an agency steeped in debt and based on bonds. As interest rates rise the dynamics around bond debt and bond attractiveness shifts. Higher rates lessen the value of the bonds currently owned. OTA is a bad investment! Not only for Oklahoman's about to lose land, but for the actual investors! The only possible way their bonds would look attractive is if OTA issue NEW BONDS as rates rise.
The Authority claims that it is “an instrumentality of the State of Oklahoma" and "a body corporate and politic.” In other words, it is a part of the State. But to whom does it answer? Nobody! Not the voters and not the legislature. Members consist of the Governor and 6 appointees of the Governor. Once they are appointed, they get to do whatever they want.
Fallin’s appointees to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority include Kenneth Adams, David Burrage, Kevin Hern and Albert Kelley, each of whom gave $5,000 to her gubernatorial campaign. Another Turnpike Authority choice, C. Carl Gibson, donated $200 to the governor’s campaign. A sixth appointee, E. Gene Love, donated $250.
Mary Fallin opposed eminent domain so strongly that she signed a law forbidding wind farms from invoking it in Oklahoma. Why would Fallin block eminent domain for the energy sector, but willfully and recklessly uses it for the transportation sector? While most Oklahomans support safeguarding property rights, Fallin's very close association with big oil makes the move seems self serving.
The North/South Eastern Loop route already exists! Why build a redundant road when state Hwy 177 is just a few miles east? Residents of the area use it routinely to link I-40 to Turner en route to Tulsa. Also, traffic heading from I-40 to Turner en route to OKC area may use the new Hogback gate. How is spending $300 million for one leg of a turnpike loop even ethical when the routes already exist for free?
Driver use of cell phones has impacted safety data significantly. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will point to traffic data pertaining to wrecks without ever factoring in cause. Roads do not typically get the better of drivers who are paying attention.
Drivers use GPS to avoid toll roads. As a result, some turnpikes are renamed to trick drivers and GPS units into using the road. Tolls still apply despite driver preference.
The truth is that people who lose their property to eminent domain proceedings are almost never made whole. With eminent domain the property owner can’t say “no” and usually must settle for much less than he or she would have bargained for in a voluntary setting. The government only pays for what it acquires, not for what the owner has lost. Those losses include businesses, relocation expenses, emotional damage, loss of proximity to family/community. (Current court rulings in Oklahoma show offers from OTA are about 2/3 lower than actual court awarded valuations of same property.)
Monies offered as payment during eminent domain are taxable as income, thus reducing the buying potential of the settlement amount.
Eminent domain does not factor in the actual availability of comparable land, housing, or homesteads available on the current market.
Quality of life and current home value for those living in close proximity of a turnpike is often lost.
Living near any highway, turnpike or otherwise, poses health risks with devastating effects such as asthma, cardiovascular issues, increase rate of Autism, cancer.
Oklahoma Deserves Better than Oklahoma Turnpike Authority!
I'd like to share a little bit about my own journey as I investigated some of the fundamental questions about this proposed turnpike. When I first heard about the DrivingForward project I went to Facebook and posted a cautionary post to all my friends in Choctaw. Having lived in the area, I knew that Choctaw had traditionally been the area targeted and I wanted friends there to be informed about future changes. Initially, I had a favorable reaction at learning the state budget might actually have recovered enough to finance some new roads. That reaction was very short lived.
It quickly became evident that Mary Fallin's proposed project relied solely on Turnpikes. The project had nothing to do with a recovering state budget. In fact, it was clearly a devised plan to circumvent ODOT, a state agency that must adhere to state balanced budget laws. As a 30 year state resident I already know how to avoid several of the state's turnpikes. I prefer to avoid them. Even the most basic research into OTA reveals that there are many more turnpikes coming our way. Because of the drastic budget decline under Mary Fallin's administration, my fear for this state is that new highways will not be built in Oklahoma unless they are turnpikes. If the state cannot even fund the simple revamping of Hwy 177 into a NON-TURNPIKE thoroughfare project, is it really time to be building roads? The people I have spoken to about this have issued a resounding common statement for Mary Fallin: Before you build more roads, find a way to fix the roads we have!
I don't like taking a stance against against something unless I am able to offer a solution. I've spent time at the Capitol speaking with legislators and I am afraid to admit, solutions have been scarce. My own solution such as it is would be this: drive 2 hours in any direction. Drive right on out of Oklahoma. Once there ask THOSE PEOPLE what they are doing to get it right. You will notice improved roads upon leaving our state. The geographical conditions don't change at the state border, so how do you explain this? It must be something else.
I believe our engineers know how to build roads if properly funded so......I'm going to have to go with failed leadership and a fundamentally failed system of building and maintaining roads. From inside the capitol I can tell you that suggestions to fix our transportation infrastructure include indexing our gas tax rates so that they account for adjustments in inflation. I'm not in love with this idea, but it IS an idea and I'm happy to hear legislators consider it.
I think a tax increase merits the same careful consideration that Eastern Oklahoma Residents are asking for. Why have we not been given time to carefully consider our situation? The answer is easy. We've stopped this corridor before. Mary Fallin and OTA did not intend to give us time to organize and fight for our rights. They've spent years planning behind closed doors, all while claiming no project was being finalized. Plans were made to ensure that the people would not have the opportunity to object. Before the state embarks on any project that will require eminent domain to be invoked, it should be looked at as an issue to be avoided - not rushed. Anyone watching this drama unfold can tell you......this project is very rushed.
Which leads us to another questions. Why the rush? Why now? The answer is simple. Money.
Something changed in late 2015. In a move that was widely expected, and certainly anticipated by Mary Fallin's administration The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate .25%. Modest as it may be this was America's first interest rate hike in nearly a decade. The Fed forecasted that it will be patient with future rate increases so as not to kill the economic recovery, but the implication that future rate hikes will follow is evident.
OTA is an agency steeped in debt and based on bonds. As interest rates rise the dynamics around the finances of bond debt and bond attractiveness shifts. Bond investors haven't had to worry about higher interest rates for nearly a decade. But now that the Federal Reserve has raised rates, higher rates lessen the value of the bonds currently owned. Simply put, OTA is a bad investment! Not only for Oklahoma's about to loose land, but for the actual investors! The only possible way their bonds would look attractive is if OTA issue NEW BONDS at the NEW higher rates. OTA is dying. They are slowly starving to death......and they want to cannibalize our land in Eastern Oklahoma County to stay alive. It's understandable that residents have no intention of propping up a dying agency that was supposed to self terminate half a century ago.
In a recent speech to concerned citizens Secretary of Transportation Ridley cautioned our community that change must come. Sec. Ridley.......swallow your own pill. Change IS coming. OTA has had decades to thrive. We have residents that remember when the Turnpike Authority was created and they all have a statement they'd like to make. YOU LIED TO US. Why should residents of Harrah, Newalla, Choctaw, Luther and Jones pay the price for your lies, Fallin's failed economics, and basic greed? I'll tell you with no shame......we don't intend to. I know the concept is foreign to you and that you will not understand, but We are not motivated by money and our land is NOT for sale!