McNeil steals Chair from Adkisson at MPO

Read more about the battle for the Chair of the MPO and why it was Adkisson’s before McNeil came along and stole it here. Councilwoman McNeil attempts to argue the vote for Chair wasn’t a toll road vote. UNtrue. Why would TxDOT and all the pro-tollers line-up in lock-step against Adkisson and vote FOR McNeil if this weren’t about toll roads? Why would TxDOT care to take sides against the County if this weren’t about them getting their agenda pushed through by UN-elected appointees like themselves? This outrage will ultimately be settled at the ballot box and in the courtroom!

Jack Leonhardt’s comments in the article below should be carved in stone as a memorial to the total corruption that grips San Antonio. “It is wrong for this board to be labeled as an anti-toll board,” he said. He displayed the total disconnect between politicians and the people they’re elected to represent. This region DOES NOT WANT TOLLS, to be labeled anti-toll would accurately represent what the PEOPLE want. So who would care that our MPO was labeled as such? The highway lobby. This is about the money and special interest deals, and heaven forbid if the campaign cash would dry up due to an “anti-toll” Chairman!

Leonhardt handed the City of San Antonio a quid pro quo yesterday in exchange for agreeing to de-annex the Windcrest Mall from San Antonio and back into the Windcrest tax base. Leonhardt spent the weekend prior to the vote cozying up to the highway lobby at the Texas Transportation Forum. Undoubtedly they whipped him into shape and told him in no uncertain terms that it was his job “to keep a toll critic from sullying the image of the MPO.” Leonhardt didn’t come up with that contention himself, he can scarcely run a meeting. Guess he has to be somebody’s puppet…it’s what politicians like Perry do best.

Link to Express-News articles here and here.

Toll critic Adkisson ousted as MPO chairman
By Patrick Driscoll
Express-News
07/23/2007

City and county officials battled Monday over who should control the Metropolitan Planning Organization.The battle pitted city and county officials against each other, and they couldn’t even agree on whether controversial plans for 70 miles of toll roads had anything to do with it.

The city, which has more seats on the board, won 10-7, making Councilwoman Sheila McNeil the new chairwoman.

McNeil, who just got re-elected to City Council, was appointed to the MPO board last month along with three rookie council members. She said the city just wanted to keep the chairmanship another two years, and that she doesn’t have an opinion yet on toll plans.

“The city is just trying to maintain its leadership on the board,” McNeil said. “This was not a toll-road vote.”

The board has swung the chairmanship back and forth between the city and county, with no set times, but former Councilman Richard Perez had to step down after two years because of council term limits. Since 1988, the city had the chairmanship 12 years and the county 10.

County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who has been on the board nine years and lost the chair to McNeil, said the vote had to do with pressure from highway officials to lock him out of the job because he often criticizes toll plans.

“The issue here is that the highway lobby is in full bloom, and they have managed to captivate some very green elected officials,” he said.

Windcrest Mayor Jack Leonhardt, who presided Monday, said the vote was to keep a toll critic from sullying the image of the MPO, which oversees how more than $200 million a year in gasoline tax revenue is spent.

“It is wrong for this board to be labeled as an anti-toll board,” he said.

City pushes toll critic aside
By Pat Driscoll
Express-News
July 24, 2007

For the first time that anyone can recall, the Metropolitan Planning Organization board duked it out over who should be chairman.
They had to take three votes, and each was identical, showing a clean fault line between city and county officials on the MPO board.

The 10-7 votes were to:

Go with a two-thirds vote instead of a majority to suspend rules.
Reject rule change allowing only elected officials to vote for chair.
Elect City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil as chairwoman.

Officials couldn’t even agree on whether divisive plans for more than 70-miles of toll roads had anything to do with the split votes.

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Sheila McNeil

McNeil, recently re-elected to City Council and appointed last month to the MPO board along with three rookie council members, said she doesn’t even have a position yet on toll plans.

“The city is just trying to maintain its leadership on the board,” she said. “This was not a toll-road vote.”

The board has swung the chairmanship back and forth between the city and county, with no set times, but former Councilman Richard Perez had to give up the chair in May after two years because of council term limits. Since 1988, the city had it 12 years and the county 10.

County Commissioner Lyle Larson, who held the seat four years before Perez, said no one even wanted the job when he took it. And the board rarely shows so much interest in any vote.

“I would say never, under the four years I chaired this, that at 20 minutes to five we’d still have 18 members,” he said.

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Tommy Adkisson

The difference now is that the toll-road issue has exploded, says county Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who’s been on the board nine years and lost to McNeil in the bid for chair. Adkisson said the vote had to do with pressure from highway officials to lock him out of the job because he often criticizes toll plans.

“The issue here is that the highway lobby is in full bloom and they have managed to captivate some very green elected officials,” he said.

Councilwoman Diane Cibrian said that’s unfair. Council members on the MPO board have served publicly for years before being elected to council. McNeil chaired the council’s infrastructure committee and has been involved in at least half a dozen other efforts.

“There’s no reason for this issue to divide us,” Cibrian said.

Though the chairman is limited to helping set agendas and directing meetings of the 19-member board, they are also a major spokesman, and that has power of its own.

Windcrest Mayor Jack Leonhardt, who presided at Monday’s meeting, said having a toll critic as chairman could sully the image of the MPO, which oversees spending of more than $200 million a year in gas tax funds.

“It is wrong for this board to be labeled as an anti-toll board,” he said.

Voting for McNeil was:

Herself
Councilman Philip Cortez
Councilman Justin Rodriguez
Councilwoman Diane Cibrian
City Planning Director Emil Moncivais
City Public Works Director Tom Wendorf
City VIA appointee Ruby Perez
Windcrest Mayor Jack Leonhardt
TxDOT District Engineer David Casteel
TxDOT planning engineer Clay Smith

Voting for Adkisson was:

Himself
County Commissioner Lyle Larson
County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez
County Infrastructure Director Joe Acevas
County VIA appointee Melissa Castro-Killen
Selma Councilman William Weeper
State Rep. David Leibowitz

Abstaining was:

AACOG Director Gloria Arriaga

Absent was:

State Rep. Carlos Uresti

NOTES OF INTEREST:

If Adkisson had got his way, and only elected officials voted, the result would have been a tie.

Though Uresti wasn’t there to vote, he supported Adkisson, according to a letter read by an aide at the meeting.

The two Texas Department of Transportation engineers on the board took different positions than the two state representatives.

The two VIA Metropolitan Transit members sided with the entities that appointed them to VIA board.

Seven citizens spoke, and all favored Adkisson. About 20 in the audience stood, when asked, to also show support.


COMMENTS
With David Casteel, Clay Smith, and Tom Wendorf voting on the same side…you know that Sheila McNeil is going to be pro-toll which I find odd considering her council constituents benefit the most from the current system of roadways.

Her base constituency would be greatly harmed by tolls.

Oh well…what did you expect? TxDot has been forcing this issue down everyone’s throat and if you try to stand in their way, they will find a way to crush you.

The Texas Good Roads lobby obviously is more powerful than the citizens because the citizens just take it.

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