Rail opposition: same old faces, same old tactics

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.

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