Larson Grills TxDOT as Streetcar Vote Looks More Likely
By Jim Forsyth
July 8, 2014
As State Rep Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) is contemplating an effort to yank the state's $92 million share of funding for the controversial downtown streetcar plan, a public vote on the streetcar is becoming more likely, with four City Council members now bucking the City Attorney and calling for a vote on the issue, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
Larson ripped into members of the Texas Transportation Commission over it's willingness to 'enable' the streetcar construction by agreeing to a bizarre 'money swap' with Bexar County.
"That was done under the cloak of darkness, and there wasn't a lot of discussion about it," Larson told Transportation Commissioners. "Unfortunately, y'all helped facilitate building that project, where the vast majority of the public is opposed to it."
TxDOT and Bexar County greed to swap funding, to avoid allegations that money from the 2004 Advanced Transportation District sales tax increase, which voters were promised would be used for streets and would not support 'light rail,' was being used for a rail project. The money swap was legal, but Larson blasted the Commission for it's 'lack of transparency,' prompting one commission to respond that he has a 'controlled rage' about the money swap, and would vote against it if it came up again.
Larson said it's not too late for the Commission to reverse it's decision.
"90% of the people in Bexar County are opposed to (the streetcar)," Larson said. "All the polling shows that is universally disliked. They want roads built. They want additional capacity and operational issues addressed on the major thoroughfares that TxDOT is responsible for."
Larson's proposal is to take the $92 million from the streetcar fund and use it to build new capacity on US 281, where officials have proposed tolling some lanes.
Larson called the streetcar a 'social science project' that would no nothing to relieve congestion in parts of the city where congestion relief is needed.
"This is a misguided legacy project that a couple of politicians in San Antonio wanted to push forward, and they got you guys to buy into it," Larson told the Transportation Commission.
Meanwhile, opponents of the streetcar, which include LULAC, libertarian groups, and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, say they now have four members of council who are willing to push for a public vote on the streetcar, despite claims by city officials that any vote would be illegal.
They say Cris Medina has joined Mike Gallagher, Joe Krier and Ron Nirenberg in supporting a vote.
Ironically, one of the major arguments being used by officials like Mayor Castro against various voter i.d. proposals is that they would strip citizens of their right to vote.
"How can any interim mayor be appointed who doesn't support the public's right to vote," Greg Brockhouse, a spokesman for the group Streetcar Vote Coalition, said. "We are going to turn in 25,000 signatures. That is about as many as voted to elect Julian Castro mayor in 2013. How can any interim mayor, and those council members who appoint the mayor, stand against more than 25,000 people demanding the right to vote."