San Antonio City Council today repeatedly ignored challenges to put the issue up for a public vote, and approved that $187 million plan to build a streetcar line downtown completely with taxpayer money, 1200 WOAI news reprots.
The final vote was 7-3, with north side council members Carlton Soules, Elisa Chan and Reed Williams voting no. An earlier vote to scrap the plan failed.
Opponents like Homeowner Taxpayer Association President Bob Martin taunted the council for not agreeing to place the issue on the ballot for a public vote, pointing out that the streetcar cost is larger than the cost of the Pre-K for SA program which was put before voters for approval.
Martin said the reason council won’t allow the public to vote on the streetcar is because they know that the wildly unpopular project would lose badly.
“Obviously, your greatest fear is voter interference, which might come through the election proecss,” Martin said. “Don’t fear democracy. Please.”
Much of the debate centered on the fact that $15 million in private sector funding has been yanked from the project, prompting one city staffer to actually say that the loss of the $15 million won’t be that big a deal because a way has been found to force taxpayers to pay the entire price.
Ben Brewer, who heads the Downtown Alliance, said the private sector money was not pulled because downtown busiensses don’t like the streetcr project, but because the route of the streetcar isn’t known yet.
He promised that just as soon as the route is determined, private money will begin to flow.
“Once the alignments are known for these routes, there will be opportunities for property owners and other indivdiuals to look at private contributions to help support this system,” Brewer said.
Soules called Brewer’s bluff, offering to write those ‘future contributions’ into the plan.
“The question is, why don’t we formalize that now?” he asked. “Before we go forward on this proposal, why don’t we lock down the details of that.”
Like the request to put the issue on the ballot, Soules question was ignored.
In fact, the streetcar is so amazingly unpopular that city officials inserted in all literature supporting the 2012 $596 million city bond issue that no bond money would be used for what it referred to as the ‘VIA Streetcar Project,’ knowing that if voters thought a dime of the money would go to the streetcar, the bond issue would fail.
City officials hope to have the streetcar chugging along the tracks by 2017.