Posted Friday, March 28th 2014 @ 1pm by Jim Forsyth
VIA Metro Transit is rejecting the idea of holding an election on that controversial downtown streetcar plan, saying state law not only does require an election, it actually forbids one, 1200 WOAI news reports.
VIA CEO Alex Briseno told reporters that the only time cities the size of San Antonio can call elections on transportation projects is when the tax rate is being raised, and that's not happening with the streetcar plan.
"The tax rate is not being raised," he said. "The tax rate will remain the same. In this particular project, there will be no increase in the sales tax rate."
Briseno said referendums are not held for other transportation projects in the region, such as 'toll roads and highway interchanges.'
But several groups are working to demand a vote. There is a proposal for a referendum in November to change the city charter to require that voters approve any destruction or alteration of city streets for 'rail based transportation projects.' There is also a movement on City Council led by Council Joe Krier to call for a referendum on the city's funding of the streetcar.
Briseno says these proposals are so vague and uncertain, VIA can't slow down work 'just in case' something happens.
"Do we stop and wait to see if they have enough signatures? Do we wait to see if the signatures are verified? Do we wait until the election is held? I don't know. But if something like that does happen, we will take action at that time."
Briseno says the VIA board is moving forward with plans to select a streetcar design, and he hopes to have the project ready for groundbreaking in the next year.
Streetcar opponents were quick to blast VIA.
"Shame on VIA for behaving like arrogant bureaucrats, and shame on Nelson Wolff and Julian Castro for not holding the VIA board they appointed accountable to the people," Tea Party leader George Rodriguez said.
He said the VIA attorneys have found a 'big legal loophole,' and said Briseno's comments were 'ironic and laughable.'