TURF to sue transportation board for equal protection
MPO Board composition violates First and 14th Amendments to U.S. Constitution
San Antonio, TX, Monday, October 22, 2007 – In what could change the way toll roads are decided and approved in Bexar County, TURF filed a NEW lawsuit in FEDERAL COURT to put the power over transportation decisions back in the hands of the PEOPLE. TURF recently scored a victory in STATE COURT in a different lawsuit against members of the Texas Transportation Department and Transportation Commission.
A lawsuit has been brought against the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO) Transportation Policy Board that allocates tax dollars to transportation projects and approves toll rates and toll projects and San Antonio Councilwoman and MPO Chair Sheila McNeil. The lawsuit alleges that the composition of the SAMPO Board is unconstitutional and Chairwoman McNeil has been a party to denying the First Amendment right of free speech to the constituents of elected MPO Board members like State Representative David Leibowitz by blocking an agenda item and any debate on an issue brought up at his request. This novel lawsuit cuts to the heart of how toll roads are approved.
It’s based upon the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 28 U.S.C. §1331, and 28 U.S.C. §§1343(3) and (4). The section of the post-Civil War civil rights enactments codified as 42 U.S.C. §1983 provides the Plaintiff’s enabling cause of action. A faction of governmental officials with the help of unelected board members have shut citizens and voters who oppose toll roads out of equal participation in the political process. The case will also argue that actions like Chairwoman McNeil’s removal of an agenda item asking for the funds TxDOT is spending on the Keep Texas Moving ad campaign be returned to building roads.
By way of recent example, in a SAMPO Transportation Policy Board meeting of September 24, 2007, Defendant McNeil, using the badge of authority of Chairmanship of the Board, arbitrarily removed from the meeting agenda a motion by State Representative and MPO Board member David Leibowitz calling for SAMPO to object to certain expenditures of public money by TXDOT promoting toll roads, which expenditures Representative Leibowitz believed to be inappropriate.
Defendant McNeil, acting under color of law, removed Representative Leibowitz’s motion from the meeting agenda even though Representative Leibowitz had properly and legitimately placed it on the meeting agenda and SAMPO had included it in the public posting of the agenda pursuant to the Texas Open Meetings Act. Defendant McNeil, acting under color of law, refused to permit Representative Leibowitz to present his motion because of her disfavor of his attempt to provide a voice for his constituents who oppose turning free public highways into toll roads.
TURF will be asking for both a temporary and permanent injunction to suspend ALL activities of the MPO until the case is decided and the Board’s composition is changed to reflect proper Constitutional representation allowing equal protection under the law per the 14th Amendment.
The unconstitutional MPO has blocked agenda items, voted against an independent review of toll plans that would bring accountability to the gross misuse of taxpayer money in these toll plans, voted against restoring the gas tax funded overpasses on 281 (281 in particular DOES NOT NEED TO BE TOLLED, what’s needed are overpasses and they’ve been paid for since 2003, the money is STILL there, they could do it tomorrow, but this un-Constitutional Board persists in preventing the simple solution that’s already paid for!
The MPO Board has also delayed votes, blocked the succession of the next Chair, and changed the bylaws to allow yet more illegal representation on the Board.
“The people of Texas are FED-UP with out-of-control abusive government. We’ve done everything in our power to exert the political pressure to change this unconstitutional Board, but when the deck is stacked and a powerful unelected voting block is allowed to persist unchecked, we have no choice but go to court to address our grievances. This is taxation without representation and we cannot and will not allow it to continue,” says Terri Hall, Founder and Director of TURF.