Several weeks ago, UTW reported that a planned international, 1,200-foot-wide "superhighway" that would pass through Oklahoma, connecting Canada and Mexico, is part of a farther reaching, behind-the-scenes plan for the eventual creation of a European Union-style "North American Community" in which the sovereignty of the continent's three nations would be reduced with the creation of common institutions and shared resources and infrastructure (see "Trans America" in the June 7-13 issue of UTW, or read it online at www.urbantulsa.com).
While this grand scheme has largely escaped the notice of the mainstream national news media, locally based grassroots organizations are taking up the slack and exerting the necessary pressure upon their elected officials to oppose it.
The Texas-based group Corridor Watch played a pivotal role this year in briefly halting construction of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, which many believe would have been the first leg of what has come to be known as the "NAFTA Superhighway" of the North America's Supercorridor (NASCO) Coalition's ambitions.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation plan, the TTC would be composed of a network of about 4,000 miles of supercorridors up to 1,200 feet wide in parts and would include rail, toll ways and utility lines, following the I-35 Corridor from the Mexico border to the Red River.
The plan is highly controversial in Texas because it calls for devouring millions of acres of private land through eminent domain, as well as handing control of toll roads to private entities for leases as long as 50 years.
Corridor Watch, though, played a major role in alerting Texans to what, exactly, the TTC would entail for them, as well as in appealing to state legislators to pass a law this session putting a two-year moratorium on the project.
While grassroots groups in Texas were bending legislators' ears south of the Red River, groups in Oklahoma were doing the same in the Sooner State, which frustrated plans that might have led to a similar project by Oklahoma's Department of Transportation.
State Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, recounted to a recent gathering of the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly how he caught wind of the issue through a chance meeting with Ken Sellers, vice president of the Oklahoma City-based "Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise" (OK-SAFE).
Wright was in a coffee shop in Broken Arrow early in the session, but the person with whom he had an appointment to meet there cancelled at the last minute. It was then that Sellers, who also resides in Broken Arrow, recognized him as his state rep and asked if he could speak with him.
With his schedule freed up for an hour, Wright agreed, and Sellers took the opportunity to voice his objections to a piece of proposed legislation that could embroil Oklahoma in the same struggle ensuing in Texas.
It was House Bill 1917, by Rep. Phil Richardson, R-Minco, which would have authorized ODOT to assume federal environmental review responsibilities to participate in a pilot program for certain road projects specified by federal Title 23 codes.
Sounds pretty innocuous, right?
(And pretty boring, to boot...)
That's what Wright thought, too.
"I'll admit, when I first saw that bill, I voted for it," he said.
"Then, I 'Googled' the reference to the federal code and found the pilot program for highways," Wright continued.
Along with explicitly waiving Oklahoma's 11th Amendment rights, which protect the state from being subject to lawsuits by citizens of other states and of foreign nations, the bill also would have enabled ODOT to participate in "unlimited scope projects," as Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, later explained.
Brogdon (whose involvement will be explained shortly) explained that the bill's language specified that ODOT could assume responsibility for the EPA environmental impact studies for projects specified under chapters 325, 326 and 327 of federal Title 23 codes.
The first code relates to trails and service roads, he said.
The second relates to resurfacing existing roads.
The third, through--327, relate to "unlimited scope projects," which means ODOT would be able to undertake projects as massive in size as the TTC, Brogdon explained.
"I believe that's exactly what that's designed for," he said.
Upon learning of the bill's potential ramifications, Wright then used his clout to kill the bill in committee.
The bill's language was resurrected, though, when it was attached to another piece of legislation by Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, and Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City: HB 1819.
Branan attached the language at the request of ODOT representatives.
Brogdon had earlier learned of the bill's ramifications through discussions with Wright, but had already been informed about NASCO's designs and how they fit into the larger puzzle of the "North American Community" by previous exchanges with Sellers and other concerned citizens (once again, if you're lost by now, see "Trans America" in the June 7-13 UTW).
Along with opposing HB 1819's passage through the Senate, Brogdon also filed two amendments--one that would withdraw Oklahoma from membership in NASCO and another that would have removed the language waiving Oklahoma's 11th Amendment rights.
He also filed Senate Concurrent Resolution 10, which urges Congress to withdraw the United States from the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (another piece of the puzzle--see the June 7-13 issue).
After much debate and struggle in the Senate, the transportation bill eventually made it back to the House, stripped of Brogdon's amendments, but also stripped of the offending language so that it had no more effect than to enable ODOT to resurface certain roads.
The resolution, though, passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously.
On the Radar
The subject of an impending international superhighway and its possible ramifications for a North American Union are highly controversial at the moment because the larger puzzle is difficult for the casual observer to see and the constituent pieces aren't very widely publicized.
What isn't controversial, though, are the forces to which Wright and Brogdon attribute their opposition to the construction of a NAFTA Superhighway: citizen involvement.
"The best thing you can do is find out who your senator and representative are and call them up for coffee," Wright told the gathering of local Republicans last week.
"The politicians of this country will not determine our future; that power lies solely in the hands of the people," Brogdon concurred.
He explained that constituent involvement played a large part in Republicans and Democrats setting differences aside and uniting on the aforementioned issues.
The late husband of Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, was the driving force behind Oklahoma's joining up with NASCO in 1995 to promote the I-35 Corridor as a potential "NAFTA Superhighway."
Sen. Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, not only carried the legislation that joined Oklahoma to the group, but also served as NASCO chairman for a time.
And yet, his widow not only supported Brogdon's proposed withdrawal from NASCO, but also seconded the motion to pass SCR 10 out of committee.
With her family involvement in view, Brogdon said he later asked her why she supported his proposals.
As he recounted, she said her husband wasn't a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but wanted to see how Oklahoma could benefit from it once Congress approved it.
In other words, he wanted to make the best out of a bad situation, but didn't realize just how bad that situation really was, Brogdon said.
"He thought he got lemons and wanted to make lemonade, but wound up making prune juice," he explained.
Since that time, the surviving Leftwich won her husband's seat in the Senate, and in that capacity began to listen to labor unions and constituents who have been adversely affected by the trade agreement.
"All of my union friends recognize now what this is doing to the trucking industry," she said, as recollected by Brogdon.
He's been listening to the same concerned voices as his colleague from across the aisle, which led them to agreement on policies despite differing political philosophies.
"I got a lot of Democratic support and the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) teamed with me on this bill," Brogdon said. "They did it for the jobs and I did it for the sovereignty of our country."
As he briefed his colleagues and supporters in the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly about what he's learned as a result of feedback from constituents, Brogdon gave them what he later called "a bitter pill to swallow."
He said, "The Democrats are on the right side of a lot of issues; we're on the wrong side of when it comes to trade and liberty."
The moral of the story is that, regardless of differences of political affiliations between elected officials and constituents, they should keep in touch.
"Personal contact is essential--we can represent you better if we know what you think," said Brogdon.
He said no one could talk him into making a fundamental change in principles, such as converting from being pro-life to pro-choice, but he and Wright both emphasized that, had it not been for constituents taking the time and the interest to inform them about the problems associated with NAFTA and the proposed supercorridor, they wouldn't have been alerted to them and wouldn't have opposed them in the Legislature.
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