Streetcar opponents file petition against project

Streetcar Vote Coalition turns in nearly 27,000 signatures to city clerk


SAN ANTONIO – The fight over VIA's streetcar project is heating up even more with the filing of a petition that could derail the project.
The Streetcar Vote Coalition turned in nearly 27,000 signatures to the city clerk -- more than enough to get the issue on the November ballot.

Not all of them are opposed to VIA's $280 million streetcar project, but all of them agree that their voices should be heard.

"The citizens want a vote on whether or not this is a basic city service and I think the City Council needs to take it one step further and listen and ask a very important question are they going choose VIA over the voters," said Streetcar Vote Coalition Campaign Manager Greg Brockhouse.
The petition calls for a change to the city's charter -- one that would require voter-approval before granting VIA right-of-way for any streetcar or light rail project.

The city attorney has already said that any change to the charter would not apply to VIA's project. But potential legal battles aside, coalition members say simply getting the issue on the ballot might be enough to sway the City Council, which still has to vote to appropriate its $32 million contribution to the project.

"I think the house of cards is starting to crumble," said Jeff Judson, with the Streetcar Vote Coalition. "The numbers are so obvious that any politician has got to be thinking, 'OK, I'm either going to commit suicide for Nelson Wolff or I'm going to protect my own hide politically."
Once the signatures are verified and a place on the ballot is sealed, Brockhouse said the hard work truly begins.
"We will be campaigning to make sure the community knows a couple of key points, (including) how the ballot language is written, what they have to do, and then we're also going to work hard to make sure people come out to vote," he said.

VIA officials have issued a response to the backers of the petition drive:

"VIA Metropolitan Transit respects all levels of civic engagement and public participation. That's why, when developing the SmartMove plan, we conducted over two years of public planning meetings, community presentations, and briefings with elected officials, and we received public comment. We worked together as a community to develop a plan to enhance mobility and provide more travel options throughout the region.

"Over the two-year planning process, we had a total of 141 engagements with the public as SmartMove developed. A total of 888 people attended the VIA public planning meetings alone.

"We have our concerns, though, that some of the backers of the petition drive to alter the San Antonio City charter are misrepresenting the purpose and effect of the petition. We think they are misinforming the public regarding the modern streetcar project, but we will continue to share the facts and provide accurate information on the streetcar project, and we will stay focused on making sure the transportation needs of this great city are met.

"The streetcar project is just one component of a larger transportation system being realized through the SmartMove plan, but it is certainly an essential part of that plan. We look forward to its completion and to providing more transportation choices for the community."