Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

An Invitation

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

With the METRO Board’s selection of an alignment for the University Corridor on October 18, our vision of neighborhood friendly light rail on Richmond is getting closer to reality. There are still important City and Federal thresholds to be crossed, but the momentum is clearly building.  Our grass roots movement has played a critical role in generating that momentum.

We are only at the beginning of the neighborhood friendly part of our goal. RichmondRail.org has an important part to play in sharing specific ideas and concerns with METRO as they develop the detailed design of the rail line, and in urging the City and other stakeholders to make important investments in sidewalks, lighting, trees, signage and other improvements that make our streets safe and attractive public places. We also need to continue our commitment to Richmond Ave. businesses to see them through construction.

On Tuesday, December 4, we invite you to join us for a special Tuesday Night Out at a favorite Richmond restaurant, Maria Selma.  Please come and help us CELEBRATE our successes and ENVISION Richmond Avenue with rail.  This will not be our typical Tuesday Night Out. We’re expecting a senior official from METRO and representation from City Council to share their views on the role RichmondRail.org has played and can play in the next phase. Bring your ideas - we’ll also take time to begin crafting a vision of what will make the University Line the neighborhood asset we all want.   

What:   A Special Tuesday Night Out for RichmondRail
            Hot Hors d’oeuvres & Soft Drinks, Cash Bar
When:  Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
Where: Maria Selma Restaurant, 1617 Richmond Ave.
Reservations:  $15 in advance, admission $20 at the door

Click here to reserve your place and pay in advance. If you plan to pay at the door, please RSVP with the number in your party by Dec 2. When you make your reservation we ask you to also consider making an additional donation. With your help, RichmondRail.org will continue to promote constructive solutions that look towards the greater good of our community and a sustainable quality of life.

 

Larry Katz

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

As a property owner with a financial services business on Richmond Avenue, I support “Rail on Richmond.”

Richmond Avenue represents a major east-west artery for Houstonians. The rail will reduce automobile traffic and emissions while providing greater mobility. The people who live, work, and patronize merchants in the area will benefit greatly. Without rail we will likely see an increase in automobile traffic and ultimately adding more lanes to Richmond. Widening the street will obviously result in some property loss to landowners and reduced customer parking on Richmond Avenue.

With due regard to projected costs and funding, I think the only logical and viable corridor for the proposed rail route is along Richmond to Cummins to Westpark. It improves mobility between Greenway Plaza and Downtown and the Medical Center. For the inexpensive price of a rail ticket you can save time and money traveling to those destinations. In addition to reduced congestion, rail will eliminate the frustration associated with limited and high-priced parking in those areas.

Any delay in this project will increase future expenditures to improve mobility in an ever-growing metropolitan area. Houston is already 20 years behind the times when it comes to mass transit. For the good of all Houstonians, we deserve an overall rail system comparable to the ones in other major cities.

You can now donate to RichmondRail online

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76
RichmondRail.org’s pro-rail efforts are entirely funded by our volunteer directors and passionate individuals like you. We operate on a shoestring, but the coming weeks are critical as we approach the METRO board’s choice of a final alignment. Your donations today will help us ramp our efforts and solidify public support.

We will very much appreciate any amount you can give! You can give by credit card or by check. To find out how, click here (or follow the Donate! link under Pages at the right). While contributions are not tax deductible, they do help us ensure your voice will be heard!

Details on final options for the University line are published in DEIS

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76
Friday, August 3rd METRO released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the University transit corridor and opened a 45-day period for public review and comment. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) contains detailed analysis of each of the remaining short-list alignment options as well as the the “no-build” option. It identifies benefits of each option as well as impacts on a range of factors including traffic, parking, noise, trees, flooding, property, and more. The DEIS is the formal basis for review by federal, state and local decision makers as well as the public, leading up to the METRO board’s choice of a final alignment and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s record of decision.

You can review the DEIS online. You can also request (for a fee) a bound copy or a CD, or view the printed version at a number of libraries and other locations around town (details).

To get you started, the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition (CTC) has posted an illustrated analysis of the DEIS (starting with the options west of Main) in Christof Spieler’s Intermodality blog. Have a look.

METRO is providing the opportunity for you to review plan details and ask METRO staff questions about the DEIS at open houses 5-7 pm Monday, August 13 at Holiday Inn Select - Greenway Plaza and Tuesday, August 14 at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. The next step will be to submit comments (due September 17), and attend the formal public hearing at 2 pm on August 27, 2007, at South Main Baptist Church. Details on the open houses and the public hearing can be found on the METRO Solutions website.

Tuesday Nights Out are a fun way to support RichmondRail

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

The many wonderful restaurants along Richmond Avenue play a big part in making our Neartown, Upper Kirby, and Greenway Plaza neighborhoods vital places to live and work. It’s in our interest to ensure that these businesses survive and thrive through light rail construction and beyond. We continue to gather for Tuesday Nights Out to show Richmond restaurant owners that we, their customers, support rail on Richmond and we support them.

Tonight, our 39th Tuesday Night Out, we’re meeting other RichmondRail friends at Blue Fish House, 2241 Richmond Ave.  For upcoming venues, check here (or follow the link under “Pages” at right to Tuesday Nights Out).

See you Tuesday night!
 

Great news! Rep. Culberson no longer on Transportation subcommittee

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

Early in 2006, Congressman John Culberson urged his constituents to contact him with our views about rail on Richmond. Even though he has repeatedly declared his personal opposition, we know many RichmondRail supporters have dutifully written Rep. Culberson to urge him to support rail on Richmond. We also know many of you were disappointed to be rebuffed by Culberson’s indifferent form letter reply.

As recently as March 29, Rep. Culberson has told constituents that:

“I have a responsibility to the Houston region to help improve our entire transportation network as the only Texan on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.”

But here’s the surprise: it turns out that since January 11th, Culberson is NOT on the Transportation subcommittee anymore. He’s now just one minority member out of 66 on the Appropriations committee, which should severely constrain his attempts to hijack the federal transit planning process! See this press release for details.


Freshman Texas Congressman Ciro Rodriguez has replaced Culberson on the House Appropriations Transportation subcommittee. And three other Texans — Chet Edwards, Kay Granger, and John Carter — all serve on Appropriations, too. It cannot hurt for us to let each of them know that we need their help. When Federal Transit eventually awards funding to METRO for rail on Richmond (because it will serve the most people for the lowest cost), we are counting on their Appropriations committee to approve it, in spite of their colleague’s hangups.

Judge denies “fishing” expedition; rail foes file suit

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

Late Tuesday, Judge Levi Benton ruled in favor of METRO to deny rail opponents’ requested “Rule 202″ motion. Opponents claim that METRO is violating terms of the 2003 transit referendum. They asked the judge to compel METRO officials to provide oral testimony so they could fish for ammunition for their planned lawsuit. Judge Benton denied their motion, perhaps because it was plain the plaintiff intended to file suit with or without extra depositions.

Sure enough, plaintiff Daphne Scarbrough filed suit against METRO the next day. Her high-profile attorney, Andy Taylor, boldly described the suit as “nuclear war” against METRO. But despite Taylor’s bravado, it’s important to remember that lawsuits have always been a part of rail politics in Houston, but litigation has never stopped a rail project.

The Houston Chronicle has the story:
“Merchant seeks to bar Metro projects without new election”.

What’s interesting is this: one anti-Richmond merchant now seems intent to shut down Houston’s entire transit system expansion just to keep light rail off of Richmond. That may not go over well in the Near North Side, East End, Third Ward, or Uptown…

Rail opposition: same old faces, same old tactics

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

Last month, rail opponents announced they were filing — NOT a lawsuit — but a “section 202 motion” with the intent to eventually file a lawsuit against METRO. They are asking a judge to grant them authority to use depositions to “fish” for some kind of evidence of wrongdoing by METRO.

Harris Cty Civil Court HouseRail opponents would have us believe that their legal case is open and shut. But if the ballot is so clear, why do they need permission to gather additional evidence to make their case? They are asking a judge to authorize a fishing expedition, an attempt to find something — anything — to justify a lawsuit to stop this project.

Their motion is now scheduled for a civil court hearing Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 4:00 pm, in the 215th Judicial District Court of Harris County, 201 Caroline between Franklin and Congress, 13th floor, 77002.

Since the 1970s, lawsuits have been a routine part of rail politics in Houston, but they have never stopped a project. Here’s the program for this round:

Who will be in the courtroom on Tuesday?

Ms. ScarbroughThe plaintiff: Daphne Scarbrough, who owns The Brass Maiden, a high end home goods store on Richmond, says she’s worried about her business. She’s spending her time organizing against rail in her neighborhood, in the Third Ward, on the
Near North Side, and even in the state legislature.

Counsel for the plaintiff: William A. “Andy” Taylor, Andy Taylor & Associates. In 2003, Andy Taylor was the attorney for Texans for True Mobility, a secretive group that ran $1.5 million in ads opposing the METRO Solutions referendum. Texans for True Mobility was co-chaired by Congressman John Culberson.

Public relations for the plaintiff: Chris Begala, a professional political consultant who accompanied Scarbrough to Austin in April 2007 to lobby for anti-METRO legislation. In 2003, Begala served as spokesman for the aforementioned Texans for True Mobility.

Fund raiser for the plaintiff: ??? We don’t know who is funding the current legal action. But in 2003, Taylor and Begala’s anti-rail work was funded by Congressman Tom Delay, suburban apartment developer Michael Stevens, and others. Taylor fought in court to keep the donor list secret.

The defendant: Metropolitan Transit Authority

Counsel for the defendant: Andy Edison, Bracewell & Giuliani

The judge: Levi Benton, 215th Judicial District Court of Harris County

On the sidelines (but not by choice)

The voters: In 2003, voters in Houston and Harris County approved rail expansion by a more than 9,000 vote margin. We want to see more transit, not more delay. And we don’t want our tax dollars going to defend against frivolous lawsuits.

The community: Community organizations in the Near North Side, the East End, the Third Ward, and Neartown have worked hard for more and better transit in our neighborhoods. There is widespread public support in all of these corridors for METRO’s proposed lines. Richmondrail.org’s online petition has been signed by almost 3,000 Houstonians who support neighborhood-friendly light rail on Richmond Avenue. Further, every active civic club along Richmond or US-59 between Main Street and Shepherd formally supports rail on Richmond, as do the Museum District Business Alliance and the Neartown Association.

The history? This is just the latest in years of anti-rail legal tactics.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

While rail transit has finally gained widespread public support in Houston, the opponents continue to mount narrow legal challenges. Once again, rail opponents hope to achieve in court what they can no longer achieve at the ballot box:

Sept 1999 - METRO board endorses a 7-mile light rail system from downtown to the Astrodome
Jan 2000 - Design team begins work on the Main Street line
May 2000 - Suburban Congressman Tom DeLay moves to kill $65 million in federal funding for the line
Oct 2000 - Federal transportation bill passes with DeLay’s language barring METRO from spending any federal dollars on rail in fiscal 2001; METRO Board decides to proceed with local funding
Nov 2000 - Houston City Council authorizes METRO to use city streets for Main Street line
Dec 2000 - Rail opponents file a petition with 1,100 signatures requesting the City of Houston hold a referendum before building the Main Street line; City Attorney rules they need 20,000 to force the vote
Jan 2001 - Rail opponents sue to try to force the City to hold an election; State district judge issues restraining order to prohibit work on rail until lawsuit can be heard
Mar 2001 - State court rules unanimously to lift injunction; METRO breaks ground on Main Street line
Jun 2001 - Rail opponents appeal decision; Texas Supreme Court refuses to stop work on the line or require a referendum
Oct 2001 - Rail opponents get Proposition 3 on the ballot which, if passed, would require an election be held about the Main Street line (and requires the line to be torn up if that election fails) and requires election on any future rail lines
Nov 2001 - In a City election, 74% of Houston voters approve Mayor Brown’s Proposition 1 that lets work continue on the Main Street rail line but guarantees a referendum on any future extensions; voters reject Proposition 3

May 2003 - METRO holds public meetings regarding Solutions transit expansion plan
Aug 2003 - METRO board approves ballot resolution to put Solutions plan before voters
Oct 2003 - Texans for True Mobility, led by suburban developer Michael Stevens and Congressman John Culberson, and funded in part by Congressman Tom Delay, spends $1.5 million on anti-rail “issue education” ads to oppose METRO referendum
Nov 2003 - In a City election, METRO Solutions referendum is approved by voters with more than a 9,000 vote margin
Jan 2004 - Main Street light rail line opens in time for Super Bowl

Dec 2005 - Rail opponents get state Rep. Martha Wong to preemptively announce opposition to any future Richmond alignment
Jan 2006 - Rail opponents get Congressman Culberson to urge METRO to build the University line on Westpark
Apr 2006 - Houston City
Council members host 9 public forums for University line
Jun 2006 - METRO holds first scoping meetings for University line; RichmondRail.org becomes first grassroots group in Houston history to fight FOR rail on a specific street

Jul 2006 - More than 1,000 Houstonians sign RichmondRail.org’s petition supporting rail on Richmond
Aug 2006 - Congressman Culberson asks METRO to take Richmond alignment off the table
Nov 2006 - In a state and federal election, Martha Wong draws only 38% of the vote in precincts along University corridor and loses seat to Ellen Cohen; John Culberson’s support falls from 25% to around 18% of the vote in precincts along University line corridor, but he is reelected due to
support in west Harris County.
Dec 2006 - METRO board approves three final options for the University line west of Main Street: two on Richmond as far west as Greenway Plaza, and one along the Southwest Freeway
Jan 2007 - Congressman Culberson urges METRO to build rail along Southwest Freeway, and pledges to keep “fighting to keep rail off of Richmond”
Feb 2007 - President Bush’s budget includes federal funds for METRO’s North and Southeast transit lines
Mar 2007 - Public supporters of rail on Richmond outnumber opponents at Congressman’s town hall meeting; almost 3,000 sign petition of support for Richmond
Apr 2007 - Rail opponents introduce House Bill 1813 to gut METRO board; Texans for True Mobility spokesman Chris Begala testifies in its favor; lacking legislative support, the bill is left to die in committee
Apr 2007 - Rail opponents file “202 motion” request to seek court authorization to depose METRO and seek evidence of wrongdoing, not just on the University line but on other corridors

Culberson is not listening!

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/rradministrator/richmondrail.org/blogs/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 76

The University Corridor light rail will serve all citizens that live, work, go to school or visit destinations within walking distance of a station. It will also serve all the Houstonians that connect at the Uptown, Main Street and Southeast lines. The University corridor line will be an asset for all of Houston – just like our highways and the Main Street light rail. That’s why the support in the Richmond corridor alone is overwhelming. John Culberson is using a few loud individuals as props in his ongoing campaign to kill urban transit in favor of highways to the suburbs. Meanwhile, he is not listening to the majority of voices that support and will use light rail on Richmond:

He is not listening to 30,000 member (and 21 civic associations) of Neartown Association whose constituents live all around the Richmond corridor and have advocated a Richmond alignment of the University Line

He’s not listening to the Board of the Menil Foundaton that has issued a statement of support for the mandated process and declared Westpark irrelevant. Light rail on Richmond would provide public access for the tens of thousands of visitors to the Menil every year

He is not listening to the owners of Greenway Plaza that have advocated a Richmond alignment over Westpark. Greenway plaza is home to nearly 20,000 workers and residents.

(more…)