In a split 6 to 3 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court validated Turnpike Authority bonds for the ACCESS project
This is a destructive blow for the citizens of Oklahoma as it essentially grants to the OTA the ability to build wherever they want without regard to law, legislative oversight, or the will of the people.
In the dissenting opinion, Vice Chief Justice Dustin Rowe writes:
“The majority’s decision confers upon the OTA incredibly broad discretion without any cognizable limits. The OTA is apparently free to blatantly disregard the Legislature’s directives with respect to routes and funding. This decision does not simply approve the proposed bonds, it sets a new precedent that future bond applications seeking our approval are merely seeking our rubber stamp–which we freely give today. I find the majority’s holding to be plainly contrary to Oklahoma law, and as such, I must respectfully dissent”
Pike Off OTA and Oklahomans for Responsible Transportation issue a response:
The citizens of Oklahoma experienced a devastating ruling by the state Supreme Court; an opinion that strips the citizens of their voice and their due process rights to have grievances adjudicated in a court that allows for a true merit review of the issues. The opinion sets the precedent for the Supreme Court to simply rubberstamp bond applications, without considering whether or not the OTA is acting outside the scope of its authority. This ruling provides the OTA the incredibly broad discretion to interpret location and funding authorizations within the turnpike enabling act however they see fit; to build wherever and whenever they want with no state agency or entity oversight.
While obviously disappointed in this ruling, Pike Off OTA and Oklahomans for Responsible Transportation remain committed to sunlighting the poor transportation planning, engineering practices, and questionable financial transactions of the OTA through investigative audits, legislative reform and other avenues. The ongoing investigative audit is an important step in exposing questionable financial transactions, internal auditing protocols and business practices and will force the OTA to develop policies that better align with responsible transportation principles with transparency the citizens deserve.
Our ongoing legislative reform efforts are directed to rightfully return the oversight of the OTA to the people through representative democracy ideals. We believe the Supreme Court decision should make it apparent that the legislature must take back control and establish robust oversight measures within the turnpike enabling act. Legislative reform is the only way to reverse the OTA’s abhorrent business practices.
For the moment, we encourage all those citizens that may find themselves in the pathways of the proposed new alignments to join our community to stay informed and connected. We acknowledge that many who believed their homes and properties to be safe with the original routes, may now find themselves in the crosshairs with little to no warning. Please engage with us as we navigate this next stage of the OTA “liberally construing” their legislative location authorizations. At this time, we do not know when or where the OTA will announce their new route locations to accommodate the Bureau of Reclamation denial to cross fee title and easement lands. Many components are still in motion. As we learn more about the new route locations, and subsequent courses of action we can take on behalf of our community, we will keep you informed and primed to make the best decisions you can for you and your family.
In the meantime, Pike off OTA and the Oklahomans for Responsible Transportation will continue our important work to shed light on the lack of due process, transparency, and oversight at the OTA, and continue to collaborate with state and federal entities to ensure our concerns are heard and guardrails are placed to protect all Oklahomans.