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Streetcar issue discussed at Westside Urban Gateway Forum

Issue could possibly go up for vote

The heated topic of streetcars emerged at the Westside Urban Gate Forum.
The heated topic of streetcars emerged at the Westside Urban Gate Forum.

The heated topic of streetcars emerged at the Westside Urban Gate Forum.

Nearly 200 people gathered at the UTSA downtown campus Wednesday morning to discuss issues concerning the west side, including the potential streetcar endeavor.

A panel was moderated by ABC News Correspondent John Quinones. 

Ramiro Cavazos of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Charlie Gonzalez, senior vice president of Public Engagement with VIA Metropolitan Transit and Pat DiGiovanni, president and CEO of Centro San Antonio, were among the panelists. 

At this particular forum, most were in favor of streetcars.

"We have three Anglo males who live downtown running the streetcar issue: (former San Antonio City Councilman Carlton) Soules, (Texas Rep. Lyle) Larson and (Bexar County Commissioner Kevin) Wolff, and so we need to speak up," said Cavazos.

"Every study indicates that this an incredible stimulus for economic growth," said Gonzalez.

The forum gave streetcar advocates a chance to talk about why streetcars would be good for the city.

However, opposition is growing and it's become a big political hot-button issue. 

"Those candidates seeking office better think twice about not listening to the voters (who are) saying, 'Give us the right to vote,' because there's a tsunami of supporters out there against streetcars and it's getting bigger," said George Alejos, a citizen against streetcars. 

Recently, local leaders, including Soules and Larson, have spoken out against the project.

A petition is now in circulation to let voters decide if the city should contribute $32 million to the project.

"There is no need to have a vote on something that is not going to increase the taxes on any of the individuals in San Antonio. If you had a vote, every time you had an expenditure, there would be no progress made in the city," said Gonzalez.     

"It's no longer whether streetcars are good for the city, it's whether citizens have the right to vote and we do have the right to vote," said Alejos.

Some 20,000 signatures are needed for the issue to go up for vote, but for now, VIA representatives say the project is on track to move forward.

For a list of recent stories Eileen Gonzales has done, click here.

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