In 2014, citizens in HD 2 found themselves facing implementation of a massive toll-road project known as the Blacklands Tollway that would have run from Greenville to Garland, just east of Dallas. The project would have allowed the Texas Turnpike Corporation, a private organization, to use eminent domain authority to confiscate land from property owners in the district in order to build this for-profit tollway — were it not for overwhelming citizen opposition.
Now, for obvious political reasons, State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) is denying being supportive of toll-road projects. However, according to the citizen-activists who actually led the fight against this boondoggle in his district, Flynn’s rhetoric is duplicitous, at best.
“I visited the office of Representative Dan Flynn on multiple occasions during 2013-2015,” says Brenda Short, one of the founding members of a group that successfully opposed the Blacklands Toll Road project. “He never lifted a finger, as far as I could tell, to stop the Blacklands Toll Road, and I never felt like he cared one bit that a private organization would have been able to use the power of eminent domain over the citizens to build a for-profit toll road.”
Short was not the only one who perceived Flynn as outright unhelpful in regard to their concerns. Chris Kurinec, a local property owner who was faced with the threat of eminent domain, said his dealings with Flynn were also very discouraging.
“I was one of the citizens that lived in Hunt Co. Precinct 2 that was going to lose my property to a private tollway being pushed by NEXTEX (Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District) and other supporters of more public/private partnerships for ‘transportation’ projects in Texas,” says Kurinec. “Once we discovered that all of our local officials were pushing the project forward regardless of our opposition to both the process and the project itself, we reached out to Rep. Flynn and asked for his support.”
Kurinec says Flynn responded with a “boilerplate” letter praising public/private partnerships for minimizing the use of taxpayer funds and encouraging the activists to just keep registering opinions with the same local officials that had ignored their pleas.
“Even with personal visits by property owners to his office, Rep. Flynn was fully behind this private toll way, and continued to advise us with statements such as, ‘stick together,’ and ‘don’t take the first offer,’” Kurinec says. “Rep. Flynn fully knew our local judge’s position, and yet he kept advising us to just keep talking to the person who had no regard for our opposition.”
Fortunately, the project was ultimately stopped — thanks to overwhelming citizen engagement. Among those citizens was Bryan Slaton, who is currently challenging Rep. Flynn for his seat in the House.
“It wasn’t until Bryan Slaton got involved and helped us educate and organize people that critical mass was finally achieved and the whole thing cratered under the hundreds of emails and phone calls it took to get 12 local governments to pass resolutions opposing the tollway. Dan Flynn was nowhere to be found,” says Terri Hall, a statewide anti-toll road activist with Texas TURF. “Bryan Slaton stood with the residents threatened by the Blacklands private tollway when Dan Flynn refused to listen and supported the toll road and the special interests behind it. Residents of HD 2 deserve genuine representation and someone who will not only listen to them, but fight for them and the issues important to their community.”