The job of getting that controversial streetcar built downtown is about to get a lot harder for VIA Metro Transit and for elected officials who are pushing the controversial plan.
The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, probably the single most influential organization in the city, later today will come out against the streetcar, and will demand that a public election be held to decide on the fate of the project if VIA persists on attempting to build it over clear taxpayer opposition.
“At $400 million for just 5.9 miles of track, it is easy to see how misguided spending priorities are jeopardizing the basic city services the community expects,” the SAPFFA says in a statement.
Most of VIA’s efforts lately have been focused not on building the streetcar, but in fending off a steady stream of efforts to kill it. VIA just got a ruling that streetcar opponents have to put up a huge bond to fight the plan, only to have a LULAC member appeal that ruling. VIA also recently trumpeted a ruling that the City of San Antonio’s $30 million contribution to the project is not subject to a public vote when a ruling came down that City Council has to vote at least twice more to approve the funding, and those votes can trigger a pubic referendum.
There is also an effort to get a measure on the ballot in November to change the City Charter to require a public vote to tear up city owned streets to build ‘any railed transportation system.’
But the SAPFFA opposition may very well be the hardest battle for VIA to overcome. Firefighters time and time again are recognized as the most popular not only municipal employees, but class of employees period. Not as political as police, firefighters are seen as ‘heroes,’ selflessly savings lives and protecting the city.
And that goes to the heart of the SAPFFA opposition.
“The SAPFFA further recognizes the reality that long term costs for this project will have a profound impact on the city budget and we find it troublesome that the city is attempting to pay for streetcar and other special projects by cutting our citizens’ public safety budget,” the organization says. “Unfortunately, the community has not been given the right to vote on the spending of their tax dollars on streetcar and we find this unacceptable as citizens of San Antonio.”