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The QueQue

The QueQue: Pearl to get railroaded, ACLU sues ICE, CCA over Hutto assaults, TCEQ’s plot to destroy the planet exposed

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Pearl to get railroaded

Despite a no vote from District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules and District 5 Councilman David Medina’s no show, San Antonio’s Council bravely vaulted fringe objections from the Homeowner Taxpayer Association (“Mayor Castro, do not railroad us!”) and Tea Partiers (“We don’t need a Solyndra in San Antonio”) to course down the tracks toward a “multimodal” future and our first urban rail project. “First,” that is, if you overlook the city’s original electric streetcar system shuttered in 1933. The eight council members approving the proposal said they earnestly wanted to get the ball rolling on Mayor Julian Castro’s SA2020-driven vision to use transit to help revive downtown. “This is not a plan cooked up by rogue politicians and special interests. This is a response to something that has been asked of us,” District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal said, referencing the numerous VIA public meetings that birthed the first drafts of the city’s plan. “If we don’t take action at this point, we’ll be sitting here in a decade or two talking about an idea that never materialized.”

The project, though, is contingent on two things. VIA (in for $70 mil), the city ($40 mil), and county ($55 mil) must now draft an inter-local agreement to oversee the project and determine the line’s exact alignment. More uncertain is the city’s plan to create a special assessment-district tax on property owners along the streetcar corridor (running from the Pearl Brewery south toward HemisFair and east to VIA’s Robert Thompson Transit Center) to generate the $15 million needed to finish it out. Approval of the district will require approval by more than half of the property owners along the route, according to Assistant City Manager Pat DiGiovanni. On the heels of the city vote, VIA officials, the mayor, and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff were set to meet this week with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in D.C. to discuss federal funding for VIA’s planned West Side Multimodal Transit Center, which VIA hopes to open by the end of 2012. If successful, expect more non sequiter eruptions from the peanut gallery.


ACLU sues ICE, CCA over Hutto assaults

The ACLU of Texas sued a former jail guard at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention center, several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, and private-prison giant and Hutto operator Corrections Corporation of America in federal court last week to recover damages for three women who claim they were sexually assaulted by a guard. Hutto, a family detention facility until a recent revamp made it women-only, has a little history of such things.

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