The QueQue: SA fluoride resistance hits LULAC, Streetcar wrasslin’, Occupy speaks
Published: October 19, 2011
At the heart of the disagreement between VIA and Council is which comes first: a north-south streetcar line pushed along by wealthy landowners or an east-west route that would likely bring in more wealth to areas that could use it. VIA’s initial proposal was to lay five miles of starter streetcar lines across downtown by 2017 for $190 million, the first leg of which would be an east-west stretch connecting two fresh VIA transit hubs on each side of the city. It was to be paid for with VIA funds, $55 million already approved from Bexar County, and an equal sum, yet to be approved, from City Hall. Then, with results to show for themselves, VIA would shop the north-south development-friendly line to the feds, hoping for transportation dollars to float the last leg of its streetcar starter line.
But the City wants success faster and isn’t willing to bank on federal dollars in this new age of austerity. “We want to be able to point to success — this is the best route for that,” Assistant City Manager Pat DiGiovanni said. “This is us putting our best foot forward.”
The city has made it clear the north-south venture is more “economic-development oriented” than transit-oriented. Under the city’s plan, property owners along the corridor who would benefit from streetcar would help front some $15 million in taxes from a special assessment district, something property owners in the area would have to approve. At a public transportation hearing in District 9 last week, DiGiovanni called it a “quid pro quo situation” for landowners along the proposed Broadway corridor. The rest of the cash from the city would come from 2007 bond savings, as well as a chunk from the city’s general fund leveraged over the next several years.
After canceling Friday’s board hearing over the new streetcar plan, VIA was set to endorse the city’s proposal Tuesday afternoon — something that seems almost certain if VIA wants any cash out of City Hall. Council will consider the revamped plan Thursday.
Castro v Doggett: barbed-wire love
What started out as an amiable primary race between state Rep. Joaquin Castro and longtime congressman Lloyd Doggett, two strong, like-minded Democrats, has begun to devolve into an exercise in barb exchanging. Both are fighting for a district, newly-created congressional district 35 stretching from San Antonio to Austin, which they call a product of blatant GOP gerrymandering, part of a map that may not even fly once the federal courts have had their say. Still, discontent started to simmer when, while testifying in the federal redistricting trial last month, Ryan Downtown, a lawyer who helped guide state Republicans through redistricting, testified that Castro and state Rep. Mike Villarreal “liked the idea of 35,” and “wanted to make sure that the district was sufficiently weighted towards Bexar County, as opposed to Travis County.”