News : Bus stop or still tilting

In May, the Current looked at a February 2 lawsuit filed by Public Transit Users’ Association member Alfred Ehm asking that trustees for VIA Metropolitan Transit stand for public election `see “Tilting at Transit Buses,” May 10-16, 2006`. About four months after the suit was filed, U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson opted to dismiss the case, in compliance with a request made by the VIA board.

Since this dismissal was made without what is known in court-speak as “prejudice,” Ehm still has the chance to appeal until 30 days after the judge’s order, a deadline that falls on June 30. Even with this possibility, Ehm says he is still undecided on a plan of action.

“I’m leaning in that direction, but it costs a bunch of money and takes a lot of time, and is really hard on the nerves,” Ehm said.

One of VIA’s lawyers, Andrew Yoder, of San Antonio-based Cox Smith Matthews Inc., says the reason Judge Furgeson dismissed the case was that Ehm failed to make an adequate claim clearly stating his contention: the unconstitutionality of VIA’s 11 board members’ being appointed by three government bodies (City Council, Bexar County Commissioners Court, and the Council of Suburban Mayors) rather than elected, despite the fact that VIA receives 77 percent of its yearly operating budget from taxes. If Ehm can rearticulate his claim, he will have a better chance at a successful appeal, Yoder says.

One of the main concerns, according to Ehm’s fellow PTUA member Mel Feldman, is that the government officials who appoint the board don’t regularly ride the bus.

“I have ridden mass transit for over 50 years,” Feldman said. “I think I know a hell of a lot more than people on the VIA board.”

In response to this claim, Priscilla Ingle, VIA vice president of public affairs, says at least one of the 11 board members rides the bus on a regular basis, and that three members rode the bus about three weeks ago to become more acquainted with public needs.

Even so, Feldman and Ehm still believe SA needs public-appointed representation to better serve people who are directly affected by the Board’s decisions.

Angela Chambers

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