By Terri Hall
City Brights Blogger
San Antonio Express-News
As usual, the Express-News gets it wrong. The paper played its hand in its scathing editorial criticizing Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson’s leadership of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The paper is sold out for toll taxes and a wholly-owned subsidiary of its Chamber of Commerce advertisers.
Adkisson has been one of very few taxpayer champions that has ardently challenged tolling existing freeways (there are 57 toll projects are in the MPO’s plans). The editorial singles out Adkisson even though both Commissioner Kevin Wolff and State Representative Lyle Larson also advocated using Prop 12 funds on US 281 instead of converting the freeway into a tollway.
Are all of these elected officials being ‘manipulated’ by the grassroots (Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and its members among them) or are they doing what they were elected to do — be responsive to their constituents and do the right thing to restore non-toll funding to fix US 281 (north of Loop 1604) without tolls as they’ve been asked to do? Obviously, it’s the latter, but the Express-News chose to publish a below-the-belt hit piece on Adkisson as punishment for his good deeds.
The fact that the toll authority, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA), is the arbiter that decides whether or not US 281 would qualify for these non-toll Prop 12 funds doesn’t hold any sway with the editorial board. Neither does the fact that ARMA controls the timeline for the environmental process, nor does the fact that the 1604 draft environmental document is conveniently already complete (and it’s for a 36-mile project when US 281, by contrast, is only 7.8 miles and ARMA says it can’t be done in time). ARMA, out of self-interest, wants to manipulate the circumstances so there’s never any non-toll funds available when its environmental process is done.
While the Express-News blames the citizens’ lawsuit for the environmental delays, were it not for this litigation, there would be no opportunity for a non-toll fix to 281, not to mention TxDOT’s violation of the law (for which one employee was fired and another demoted) necessitated the “lengthy study.” We’d already be paying 75 cents per mile tolls to a foreign company like Cintra who’d have a monopoly on it (including the ability to prohibit expansion of free routes) for a half century!
If the RMA and MPO dropped the toll option on US 281, the environmental process could move forward at lightning speed, because the economic impacts of the tolling would no longer have to be studied. When Zachry and the special interests in this town ‘manipulate’ nearly every elected official (with Adkisson not in that category) as a matter of practice, the Express-News is showing its true colors about who ‘manipulates’ it by making personal attacks on the people trying to represent what the taxpayers deserve — to preserve their non-toll freeways and get them fixed without paying a DOUBLE TAX — tolls.
So what the Express-News calls “irresponsible” is, in reality, what’s in the public’s best interest and, notably, also a requirement in the MPO’s bylaws — when a project gets its funds yanked (the fix to US 281 was already funded with gas taxes from 2001-2008 and then the funds were spent elsewhere), it’s supposed to be the first one to have them restored when funding becomes available. Yet, the Express-News says this important public decision was a “waste of time” and “misuse of public funds“ for which there “shouldn’t have been any debate.”
Maybe the Express-News should merge with the San Antonio Business Journal, because it represents the same interests, which is certainly not the taxpayer’s.