FAMILIES UNDER THE RAIL – Page Legacy

If you were watching CBS This Morning on March 12th, you may have seen a short interview with Rhonda Page Jordan from Waller County. We caught up with Rhonda so we could bring you more about her family legacy and the land that’s been in her family for over 130 years and is being threatened by this high-speed rail project.

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The current generations of the family living on the Page Family Ranch.

When asked about the family legacy of her land, Rhonda said:

John William Page, Sr. and Mary McNeil Morris Windham, my great, great grandparents, married in 1864. Mary’s uncle, Joel Robison was a Colonel in the Texas revolution. April 22, 1836 was the day after the battle of San Jacinto and also the day he saved a Mexican soldier’s life. Upon the threat of being shot after refusing to walk further after capture, Colonel Robison reached out and pulled the soldier horseback behind him, noticing white satin cuffs under a common soldier’s suit. Once delivered to General Sam Houston, the Mexican soldier revealed he was, in fact, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. In gratitude, the General later gave his gold brocade vest complete with gold buttons to Uncle Joel, which was then shared with bridegrooms from surrounding counties.

 

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Taken in 1932 of M L (Bud) Page.

John and Mary Page went on to have a son, John William, Jr., who married Helen Hegar, daughter of Alfred and Helen Hegar, in April 1864. They began their lives farming 48 acres in Hegar, Waller County, Texas, in 1881, growing his spread to 350 acres and, later choosing ranching as a way of life. The Great Depression forced my grandparents to move to Houston to make their living, but Grandpop held the land even during those hard times. My father, the eighth child of eleven born to Alfred and Helen, and his brother, James August (second son) went on to continue their father’s legacy of raising Registered Red Brahman cattle. Both lived here until they passed.

 

It is on Page Ranch that my family also lives. My sister makes her home here. My mother, at age 96, resides here raising a small herd of commercial cattle with my brother and his family. My husband, Doug, and I partner a commercial cattle herd here with our daughter, her husband and family, who also built their only home here. Together our lives center around the children, grandchildren, horses, chickens, cattle and hay raised on Page Ranch. Living here forty years, this is the only home Doug and I have owned. We are fortunate God has given us the ability to live and to enjoy the abundant wildlife here. We are blessed to have children who watched animals being born and dying; who bottle-fed calves and pigs, who returned baby birds to their nests. There are no words to explain what the loss of our ranch means to us.

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Taken in 2005 of 3 of the 6 generations who have lived on the Page Family Ranch.

 

This is our home Texas Central Railway threatens to take. Loss of income due to loss of acreage for pasture and hay, with no way to recover loss of property value or use, are unnecessary losses. Disruption of human lives, domestic livestock and wildlife, change in water flow and retention, and decimation of grazing pastures doesn’t begin to explain the changes one could expect, and that is only during construction of a high-speed rail. Constant noise and movement, near constant trains blasting through the quiet peacefulness is not an 1adjustment, it is an alteration. Terrorism threats, derailments and loss of wild and domestic life is not taken lightly. These can be prevented. Texas is a land of ranchers, farmers, property owners. It is a heritage, a way of life. Are Texans willing to trade private property ownership for eminent domain and a Japanese train? Rural Texans aren’t and we pray for the support of those who live in cities, but enjoy a quiet country drive or bicycle ride.

Stay tuned to Off The Rails for more from the Page Legacy and from Families Under The Rail. If you would like us to feature your family legacy in Families Under The Rail, please contact us at info@TexansAgainsHSR.com today.

Despite Rider 48 Vote, Texas Will Not Fund HSR

As you may know, High-Speed Rail was subject to a highly unusual and highly publicized vote last night by the committee making final decisions on the state budget. After requesting that budget writers confirm that there is no current authorization for state support of high-speed rail, the committee voted 6-4 against a proposal by Senator Schwertner to place language in the budget explicitly forbidding the Texas Department of Transportation from spending any state money to facilitate the project. Senator Joan Huffman, who voted against the rider, emphasized that the vote should not be interpreted as support for the proposed HSR project, which she believes needs more study and should not begin without further evaluation from the State.

Texas Central Railway argued that Senator Schwertner’s proposed rider would kill their project as the Texas Department of Transportation has to be involved in planning and oversight; however, the last known version of the rider included language that would have allowed for TxDOT coordination and oversight. We know that no HSR project has ever existed without government subsidies, which is why we supported Senator Schwertner and his rider. However, in spite of the technical outcome of this vote, the committee sent a clear message to the Dallas Houston HSR investors and lenders, along with TxDOT, that State money will not be available for the project and included provisions, consistent with legislation supported by Texans Against High-Speed Rail, which require notice and reports to be made to local officials before a passenger rail project can begin in Texas.

Although the legislative session is coming to a close, Texans Against High-Speed Rail will continue to work with legislators as the issues related to HSR continue to be debated on transportation bills still under consideration by the Texas Legislature. We will keep you informed on how you can weigh in on those bills. Despite the rigorous pace of the legislative session and the urgency associated with our efforts, we must remain steadfast in our long term opposition plan. We thank you for the important role you have played, and will continue to play, in support of Texans Against High-Speed Rail and legislation that will protect landowners from losing their land and their heritage to an ill-conceived rail project that is not right for Texas.

You can read or listen to the discussion by the State Budget Conference Committee and the Legislative Budget Board below in the transcript or by clicking the red link for the video (NOTE: the discussions about Rider 48 begin at 5:22) …. Appropriations: Conference Committee Meeting on HB1 – May 21st, 2015.

Rider 48, High-Speed Rail Limitations
Budget Conference Committee Hearing
84th Texas Legislature
May 21, 2015

Senator Charles Schwertner –

“I’d like to make a statement, Mr. Chairman.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Sure, Senator Schwertner.”

Senator Charles Schwertner –

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. Members, this rider is about protecting the taxpayers, citizens, and property owners here in Texas. This rider is not put forth to the Senate Finance Committee in the dead of the night or through a backdoor maneuver, as I’ve read in the press. This was openly discussed in a unanimous decision coming out of the Senate Finance Committee in, subsequently, a 30 to 1 vote on the floor of the Senate. Simply put, this proposal of a high-speed rail in Texas has been sold to the people of Texas, and the taxpayers of Texas, and to members of this legislature that it will never require state taxpayer dollars to help with it’s operation or upkeep or construction. And I believe when a private enterprise promotes that promise, it should be held to account. And this rider does that. Simply put, it says that no state taxpayer dollars will be utilized in the construction of high-speed rail. It’s very simple. And it corresponds, of course, with the promise that has been made by private enterprise. However, I believe when you look across the countries and actually the entire world, there has never been a high-speed rail that has not received subsidization by the state or the government. So, I believe we’re being sold a potential bill of goods. Um, and I believe in the long-term that the citizens and the taxpayers are going to be left holding the hook … and that’s already occurred actually. The federal government, with the proposals for the building of this high-speed rail, have already put forth a TIFIA Loan, which is a $5 Billion federal infrastructure loan, which is subordinated debt, which means it comes … the repayment of that debt comes after repayment of the other aspects … other obligations of that enterprise. So, I, again, believe that we need to as a legislature, take a strong stand that the state of Texas, when told that they are not going to need state taxpayer dollars … hold them to account. And that’s all this rider did. So with that, I appreciate the opportunity, at least, to state my point of view regarding this rider. Um, and my attempt to try to, again, protect the taxpayers and property owners here in the State of Texas.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Senator Kolkhorst.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst –

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. For clarification in moving the Senate that means that there will be no rider that speaks to the high-speed rail project, is that correct?”

Chairman John Otto –

“This is a motion to adopt the Conference Committee recommendation which is House, which would be … there would be no rider.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst –

“That’s correct. And I just want to reiterate what Senator Schwertner said about the rider being discussed in the Senate. I had a bill, Senate Bill 1601, as well, that would have taken eminent domain authority away from this private company, and in those discussions that passed out of the transportation committee, it was said several times that this was a project that would not utilize any taxpayer dollars. And I think that the spirit of the rider in the Senate reflects what they had stated numerous times publicly. And so I appreciate you allowing us to sever this to represent our districts, whose land will be greatly affected by this, and I agree with Senator Schwertner that this could potentially have grave consequences for the State of Texas. Thank you.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Ok. Senator Huffman.”

Senator Joan Huffman –

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members. I’d like to support my fellow Senators here and say that, and to speak up for Senator Schwertner, to say that this was not done in the dead of night. It was discussed in the Senate. Also I’d like to state publicly that I am going to vote yes and concur with the House to ensure that the process moves along. I hope that agreeing to look at this further does not mean or is misinterpreted as being in support necessarily of the project. So, I think that’s an important message to be heard. It’s something that will be discussed, and researched, and looked at, and that’s simply what these votes mean. I just wanted to state that. Thank you very much.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Senator Kolkhorst.”

Senator Louis Kolkhorst –

“Mr. Chairman, one more follow up for you and Chair Nelson is that there is no money appropriated in this money for the high-speed rail, am I correct on that Chairs?”

Chairman John Otto –

“My understanding is that not only is there no money appropriated for this, they don’t currently have the authority to do this under … uh, the way that the way that the Fund 6 is set up. It would only be if there was whatever discretionary money might be there. And my understanding is that’s all spoke … that’s all appropriated.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Chair Nelson.”

Senator Jane Nelson –

“Mr. Chairman, that is my understanding as well, but I would like to ask the Legislative Budget Board to verify that if that’s possible.”

Legislative Budget Board –

“That is correct. There is no money in this budget for high-speed rail projects.”

Senator Jane Nelson –

“Thank you.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Senator Schwertner.”

Senator Charles Schwertner –

“Yes, but I’d like to also… thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Mobility Fund does a lot of expenditure, although it’s oversubscribed to projects such as high-speed rail, is it not?”

Legislative Budget Board –

“Yes, that is correct, but you are also correct about it being oversubscribed.”

Senator Charles Schwertner –

“Alright. So, again, this message is out to the taxpayers and property owners that this project is being sold to the people of Texas as something that will never require state backing or subsidization or bailing out, and unfortunately I think that is a complete fallacy, and one that we will rue the day that we do not stop it up front. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst –

“Thank you. Mr. Chairman.”

Chairman John Otto –

“Members, we are now going to take the vote as … let me just go back over it … if you vote … this is a motion to adopt the Conference Committee Work Group Recommendation to adopt House. So a no vote means you do not wish to adopt the Conference Committee Recommendation of House … a yes vote means you do want to adopt the Conference Committee of House. If there are no further questions, Representative Gonzales moves the adoption of the Work Group Recommendation for this severed item. Are there any objections? If not, clerk will call the roll.”

Clerk –

“Chair Otto”

Representative John Otto –

“No.”

Clerk –

“Chair Nelson”

Senator Jane Nelson –

“Yes.”

Clerk –

“Turner”

Representative Sylvester Turner –

“Yes.”

Clerk –

“Davis”

Representative Sarah Davis –

“Yes.”

Clerk –

“Gonzales”

Representative Larry Gonzales – 

“Yes.”

Clerk –

“Ashby”

Representative Trent Ashby –

“No.”

Clerk –

“Hinojosa”

Senator Chuy Hinojosa –

“Aye.”

Clerk –

“Huffman”

Senator Joan Huffman –

“Yes.”

Clerk –

“Schwertner”

Senator Charles Schwertner –

“No.”

Clerk –

“Kolkhorst”

Senator Lois Kolkhorst –

“No.”

Chairman John Otto –

“There being 6 Aye’s and 4 Nay’s, the motion is adopted.”

Statement regarding Rider 48 by Senator Charles Schwertner

Late this evening, in a 6-4 vote, I came up short in my attempt to ban the use of state taxpayer dollars to support the construction of a high-speed railway in Texas.

The budget provision I authored, Rider 48, was quite simply about protecting the taxpayers and property owners of Texas. Texas Central Railway has gone to considerable lengths to convince the members of the legislature and the people of Texas that this proposed high-speed railway would be built using only private funds — repeatedly claiming that this project can be accomplished without the use of any state tax dollars. The budget rider I authored was a straightforward attempt to hold TCR to their word…no more, no less.

I realize many of my constituents will be disheartened and disappointed by tonight’s result. However, this outcome says less about a battle lost than it does about our ability to prevail in a greater conflict. When I first came to Austin, I promised the people of my district that I would do everything in my power to stand up for them and fight to preserve their way of life. As long as I have the privilege of serving in the Texas Senate, I intend to continue that fight.

TCR Fighting Rider 48

Ironically, TCR has made it very clear they intend to use state funds for the project they have been touting as “entirely privately funded.” Despite their extensive team of lobbyists who have been working behind the scenes, they are now asking Texans to contact their legislators to OPPOSE Rider 48, which would prohibit use of state funds for subsidizing or assisting with construction but allow coordination and oversight of HSR projects. Rider 48 is simply a taxpayer protection. If TCR can’t afford to pay for their project, we shouldn’t have to.

If not having access to state funds makes their project cost prohibitive, their main selling point of “entirely privately funded” is just as misleading as their information on routes and station locations. Check out what the Federal Railroad Administration had to say about this “premature” information in this article on Community Impact Newspaper.

One last thing … Dallas Mayor Rawlings and TCR have been promoting this rider as “trickery.” Riders are provisions within the budget that specify how state funds can and cannot be used. No trickery…it’s part of the process.

If you haven’t already, please TAKE ACTION NOW by visiting our that tab on website where you can email the budget committee members directly to voice your support for Rider 48.

FAMILIES UNDER THE RAIL – DuBois Legacy

Last month, Tom DuBois was one of over 50 people who traveled to Austin to support HB 1876 and HB 1889. Throughout the day, we were able to learn about the history of several pieces of property targeted by the Dallas Houston HSR proposed routes. We visited again with Mr. DuBois and his wife, Debbie, at their home in Leon County where they operate a purebred and commercial cow/calf operation.

The DuBois Family Ranch has been home to 5 generations of the family, currently owned by Tom & Debbie DuBois.

When asked about the family legacy of his land, Tom said:

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Tom DuBois’ father, Thomas Samuel DuBois, was born in this house on July 31, 1912.

I’ve had family members on both my father’s and mother’s side residing in Leon County since the mid 1800’s. My grandfather, Norman G. DuBois, first purchased part of this place on January 8, 1898, and continued adding to it until 1927. Following the storm of 1900 in Galveston, my grandmother rode a wagon train with her family to Leon County, and her father passed away on the trail along the way. After marrying in the early 1900’s, my grandparents were farmers, raising four children, corn and cotton and selling cord wood to pay for the land. My grandfather never owned an automobile, and all he and my grandmother knew was hard work. My father and mother had to leave the farm during the depression, as the place could not provide a living for both my grandparents and parents during that time.

 

Our home place is currently owned by myself, and my wife, Debbie. Our three daughters were the fifth generation to grow up and live here. Our daughters are devoted to this land, and my wife and I will do whatever it takes to protect it and our way of life. I hope you can see just how important the piece of land is to our family and their future.

How will your cow/calf operation be impacted if the high-speed rail comes through your property?

We currently run our operation on a little over 500 acres. This includes owned and leased agreement properties. We have to move our cattle from time to time when water or grass is limited in a certain area. We rely on access to existing county and private roads to minimize the distance we must travel with the livestock on the highway. If some roads in the county are closed or access is limited, this will have a huge burden on us. Even with occasional access culverts, the time, the money and the distance we could travel adds to the cost of operation.

 

The same applies when we have to move equipment to the hay fields to bale and transport the hay to the winter feeding areas. Not to mention if this train right of way crosses any of our operation property splitting the land in half. Now I would possibly not have water on that side of the pasture. Access culverts do not address how the high earthen berms would block water runoff that we rely on to feed our ponds for watering our cattle.

How have the proposed HSR routes already impacted your property? And do you have other concerns?

We already see the property values moving downward, and properties currently on the market are creating little interest because of this HSR threat. Having an abundance of deer on our properties, deer hunting is a huge revenue source for many ranchers. What will the noise and vibration do to these herds of deer? And will there be deer hunting restrictions that would come with this train concerning the use of high powered rifles in and around the track? Also, who has the liability if livestock or wild game (deer or hogs) do get on the train right of way? Wild game do go through the best of fences.

We Must Stop This Train.

Stay tuned to Off The Rails for more from the DuBois Legacy and from Families Under The Rail. If you would like us to feature your family legacy in Families Under The Rail, please contact us at info@TexansAgainsHSR.com today.

 

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