Changes at the MPO!

Bexar County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization met Monday to vote on proposed bylines changes, including what constituted a quorum, powers given to the mayor and county judge to appoint officials to elected positions, the powers granted to the head of the finance committee, what funds can be used for tolling, and the extension of the MPO’s boundaries to the Hill Country.

Giving into pressure from citizens, the MPO decided not to allow the mayor or county judge to make appointments for elected seats. TURF founder Terri Hall was pleased with the decision.

“We were delighted that this board today decided to strike the language that would give the mayor or the county judge power to break the rules,” Hall said.

The MPO also voted to adjust their policies away from spending on toll roads. The MOP will not use any its discretionary funds for toll roads, but use solely the TxDOT fund that is for that purpose, Scott Ericksen, senior public involvement coordinator for the MPO said.

The meeting moved the organization in a progressive direction Ericksen said.

“I think that the policy board has looked at what changes are beneficial to the long-term transportation-planning process,” Ericksen said, adding that the committee needs to use foresight in planning its finances, citing the high rate of growth in San Antonio and the need to find revenue to support our infrastructure during that growth.

Asked if toll roads were still on the table, Ericksen said that it would be “financially irresponsible to not even consider that possibility.”

Although Hall has been a vocal critic of the MPO's support of toll roads, she expressed her satisfaction with the decision that discretionary funds would not be used to push forward the idea of toll roads.

Ericksen questions the long-term success of cutting sources of revenue, saying, “The policy board in not happy with the planning situation, but no one has any magic bullets to solve the problem.”

Bylaws were amended to give the head of the MPO finance committee. Sheila McNeil, more power to execute her duties.

The MPO also took steps to extend its boundaries of governance. They say that they are doing this only because the federal government is mandating that they do, and if the counties wish to maintain their autonomy, the MPO will agree to it.