Monday, July 23, 2007

"The highway lobby is in full bloom, and they have managed to captivate some very green elected officials."

Toll critic Adkisson ousted as MPO chairman


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 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.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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