Tale of Two Larsons

After years of being the lone ranger against tolling existing freeways, Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson seems to have taken a strange turn. Most will recall Councilwoman Sheila McNeil’s remarks about Larson’s precinct, “Those people up there can afford the toll roads. The average income up there is $300,000 a year.” In days past, Larson would have been the first to defend his precinct from such inflammatory and discriminatory rhetoric (he’s called these toll roads a targeted tax on his precinct), but no more. Just hours before the December 3 vote to approve toll rates for 281 at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Larson got on the radio and actually defended McNeil instead of taxpayers and then did the exact same thing at the MPO meeting itself.

Considering Larson stood before a crowd of more than 600 at AlzafarShrineTemple at the final 281 public hearing proclaiming that he’s adamantly opposed to ANY toll roads, his behavior in the last few months casts doubt about the credibility of his position. Case in point, Larson’s appointee to the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (tolling authority) is former City Councilman Bob Thompson, who is pro-toll and in favor of toll-taxing 281 users in Larson’s precinct to fund mass transit projects his constituents may never use.

Larson got an earful after Thompson’s remarks as he did after several other meetings where Thompson didn’t seem to square with Larson’s public position on toll roads. So naturally now that Bob Thompson’s two-year appointment is up, his constituents are asking for a toll opponent to replace Thompson on the ARMA. Larson nor his office has returned phone calls requesting a meeting to discuss possible replacements.

Over the years, Larson has also repeatedly blamed the Legislature for diverting gas tax revenues away from transportation creating the need for toll roads, and for their insistence on making local government pick-up the tab for building and maintaining STATE highways. He’s essentially asked angry taxpayers to take out their rage on the Legislature. Well, this year his constituents have a choice to vote out a pro-toll incumbent, Frank Corte, and replace him with toll opponent, Tony Kosub (www.TaxpayersforTony.com) in the Republican primary. Yet who is Larson siding with? The gas tax raiding incumbent who got us all in this mess.

They say politics makes strange bedfellows, but it sure looks like more of the same good ol’ boy club to voters when the man who they once thought was their hero promotes business as usual instead of democracy in action.

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Below is Lyle Larson’s response to this article:

On Toll Roads and Transportation Infrastructure…

As a long-serving member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Transportation Policy Board, I am convinced that transportation congestion affecting this region can be addressed without the use of toll roads. Previously, the MPO approved a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) that provided for the construction of three overpasses at major intersections along US 281, north of 1604. These overpasses would alleviate the congestion, eliminating the need for a toll road. I intended to follow through with this plan, however, in December 2003, TxDOT passed a minute order indicating that all future capacity added to the state highway system would be tolled, if proven viable.

As former Chairman of the MPO, I take exception to the toll plan. I have a history of cooperating with TxDOT to ensure that our community’s transportation needs are fulfilled. During my tenure as an MPO board member and former Chairman, TxDOT approached me numerous times in an effort to garner additional funding and I worked actively to see that their requests were satisfied.

I worked on behalf of TxDOT to set aside 25% of the community’s portion of the Metro Mobility Fund and voted with TxDOT to make this a reality. I was one of three individuals to work closely with late State Senator Frank Madla to develop the Advanced Transportation District legislation. I have consistently been supportive of TxDOT while serving on the MPO and as if to punish me, they placed the entire starter toll system in Precinct 3.

I have worked diligently to provide local funding for this community, and in return, my constituents are being forced to pay tolls in order to subsidize other transportation projects countywide. For this reason, I will never be supportive of the toll project in my precinct.

Where I Stand…

Since the inception of the of the Texas Department of Transportation’s starter toll plan for Bexar County, I have been one of its most outspoken opponents. My stance on this issue is widely known throughout the community as I have actively promoted an alternative to the toll plan, prior to the existence of the San Antonio Toll Party.

In addition to consistently voting against all toll projects that have come before the MPO Transportation Policy Board, I also worked to get a bill filed in the state legislature which intended to prohibit legislators from diverting funds from the Fund Six, the State Gas Tax Fund. Furthermore, I have repeatedly approached legislators on both the state and federal level to assist in whatever way possible to use overpasses, instead of tolls, to alleviate congestion on 281.

Despite the fact that many members of the business community have disagreed with my opposition to toll roads, I have consistently represented the interests of my constituents.

Prior to making an appointment to any County board or commission, I evaluate each candidate based on several factors including attendance, possible conflicts of interests, rationale for decisions and motive for serving. Several people have indicated an interest in serving on the RMA Board and I will interview all applicants for appointment and plan to evaluate each one thoroughly.

Separately, as Chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board, I worked to ensure that the IH-10/Loop 410 Interchange and the I-37/Loop 410 Interchange projects were made possible.

Clearly, transportation is a paramount issue for all levels of government and, as your Congressman, I will be committed to making transportation issues a top priority, ensuring that we invest federal money in infrastructure so we can avoid catastrophes like the collapse of the I-35 W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota last year.

On Political Debate…

It is unfortunate that Terri Hall has chosen to attack the individual who has led the charge to prevent toll roads in Bexar County. I have actively and dutifully worked to address this community’s transportation needs and have never wavered in my opposition to toll roads in my precinct. Long before the founding of the San Antonio Toll Party, prior to Terri Hall’s move to Texas, I have attempted, from every angle, to address traffic congestion without the use of tolls.

It is also unfortunate that Mrs. Hall has elected to criticize my relationships with other public servants in Bexar County. In response to my relationship with Frank Corte, we disagree on the issue of tolls roads; however, we have worked together on a number of other issues throughout the years. I consider Frank a personal friend and have a great respect for his military and public service, as well as his Christian values. I don’t believe in disposing of friends over a single issue.

I also work closely with Sheila McNeil, as we are both Co-Chairs of the Bexar County Military Transformation Task Force. In order to work with other elected officials to achieve great things for a community, it is not prudent to burn bridges over one issue. Although Sheila and I disagree on some issues, I respect her commitment to public service.

I respectfully request that Mrs. Hall refrain from making any additional derogatory and disparaging comments about me. I believe that this debate should be continue to be held in a respectful manner, without personal attacks and allegations.

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Can someone please point out what was disrespectful, disparaging, or derogatory about my comments? There is no bigger issue in Larson’s precinct than toll roads. Many neighborhoods will be completely landlocked by toll roads. How does he achieve “no toll roads” by supporting the very people who repeatedly vote to toll his precinct? Also, how does he achieve “no toll roads” with a pro-toll appointee to the RMA who advocates a Robin Hood scheme of charging taxpayers twice for the same stretch of road in order to fund mass transit? How is that logical or good public policy?

I factually stated observations not only made by me, but by many of his constituents. Throw Jeff Wentworth in the mix, and Larson is supporting three politicians who have repeatedly voted to toll his precinct. Wentworth is doing radio ads for Larson…let’s remember that every time we got our roads in the toll moratorium bills (HB 1892 & SB 792), Wentworth stripped them out. Wentworth has taken a heap of cash from the highway lobby and has worked off and on for the law firm that represents Zachry and road contractors.

Who’s attacking whom here? It’s fine to do one’s best to get along with friends and work with colleagues, but when they repeatedly stab your constituents in the back (on an issue you claim to champion) and then you line-up with politicians instead of one’s constituents, there is a HUGE disconnect. The voters may just remedy that March 4.

10 Replies to “Tale of Two Larsons”

  1. Byron Terral

    Well Mr. Larson is showing his true colors as a true seasoned politician. What other reasons would politicians have to propose, design a program, and have it passed without voter approval unless it’s to line their pockets and rub bellies with with those who wish to ‘rule’ over hardworking people with real jobs. What other subversive group as these type of politcal bottom feeders would create more future tax budens on their own children and grandchildren and steal what their parents have already paid for! Oh yes, this toll road business really makes sense Mr. Larson. Your really watching our backs! You toll road people are troll’s that snick, crawl, hide your way into creating more taxes to burden future generations. Now that’s something to stick your chest out for and be proud of yourself. Yes sir, let’s just keep stealing and taxing people-that’s the ticket. What a brilliant idea.

  2. Jim Hannah

    Accurate confrontation and exposure is the only way to wrestle Orwellian government, political double speak, to ground and stand for reassessment of how we’ve been driven. Here is where a deeper debate could begin if people feel courage again.

    Always to the inspiration of various ordinary people–not a mob or single
    minded consumer class as exists today.

    You are doing good work.

  3. Kent

    It should disappoint but not surprise you that Larson is playing both sides. After many years of observing politicians, I’ve concluded that most or all of them are power-hungry money-whores who do not want to upset their political peers. We obviously have a very corrupt group of politicians as demonstrated by their continued siphoning of money away from collected gas taxes to non-road uses.

    While I fully support Terri’s efforts to stop toll roads, the reality is that toll roads will happen. At the first public toll road meeting a TXDOT official told me that toll roads will happen despite public opposition. There is simply too much money at stake for politicians to get their hands on for them to let this opportunity slip away. Toll roads are happening nationwide.

    Bless you Terri and keep up the good fight.

  4. Kris Biedenharn-Ressel

    Thank you Teri for clearing that up for me…..I definitely will remedy this with my vote and my voice….and it will be against Mr. Larson….Again I thank you for doing ALL that you do!!!! KRIS

  5. nita zachow

    I have been reading about the N.American Union, NAFTA superhighway etc.
    It seems that this toll raod issue is directly connected with this issue. The voice of taxpayers are not being heard. In S.C. people think all of this is just
    a rumor. What is the truth? Keep up the good fight. Nita Zachow

  6. Robert W.

    Dear Ms. Terri Hall:

    I believe that you hit a nerve with Lyle Larson. It seems he has a cavity and needs to fix it. I recommend that he pull the bad out and replace it. Also, it seems that Jeff Wentworth needs a complete set of dentures – there would appear to be no way but for him to get rid of his old rotten things. Perhaps both politicians, who have some serious decays, have forgotten the meaning of “representative” and need to find a more suitable diet (job) with which to milk the public instead of taxpayers.

  7. Harvey Hild

    I see no reason for Larson to burn any bridges or loose any freindships. I don’t think Terri Hall is being out of line at all either. All she asked for was for Larson to appoint an anti toll representative to the MPO board to replace him. Larson’s actions certianly do represnt concern at this point. Personally I think that the three bridges would have taken care of the problem out the 281 corridor, specially since the finds were already approved for the project.

  8. Esteban Erik Stipnieks

    We need infrastructure no doubt about it. We need additional lane miles and overpasses no doubt about it. What we DO NOT need is an agency whoose accounting makes ENRON’S acccounting look honest. We do not need decorative art gold plated highways. We need functional efficent freeways. All the decoration on 410 near the airport is hard work and toil stolen from the taxpayers of Texas. We do not need toll roads which are less safe more expensive to operate.

    When Jeff Wentworth endorses somebody I start distrusting that person. Wentworth is a man of principle all right the wrong kind of principle whatever serves Jeff Wentworth is what Jeff Wentworth is about. When Wentworth endorsed Larson I knew Larson was the man I would VOTE AGAINT it was if John Gotti endorsed a canidate for Sherriff or Sammy the Bull Gravanno said someone would make a good murder investigator.

  9. JKerr

    I think one thing you are all forgetting is that Lyle has been one of the few good guys that have publicly fought against tolls. I emailed him about his appointment to the RMA and he told me that he is still interviewing people and he will make an appointment soon. I think if he were really influenced by the Zachry money he would have changed his position by now. From what he told me, he is still against the toll project. If it was really about the money for him he would do whatever Zachry told him to do. I think he’s different than other politicians. I would vote for him, except I don’t live in his district.

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