Several groups who say they are tired of being 'ignored and threatened' by VIA Metro Transit have begun an effort to force a vote on that controversial downtown streetcar proposal, whether VIA, the City and the County want one or not.


  The groups have begun circulating petitions to force a vote in November on changing the San Antonio City Charter to require the public to have a voice on any streetcar, light rail, or other steel rail project.


  "This would require council to go to the voters, for anybody who wishes to put streetcar or light rail on city streets," said Dick Slife, who is one of the leaders of the petition campaign.


  He says the Charter change would not affect the use of streets for any other reason.  He said the city will not have to hold a public vote for the Battle of Flowers Commission to stage its annual Fiesta Parade, or for the Knights of Columbus to march through downtown.


  But, if any agency wants to 'tear up' city streets, which are built or maintained by the taxpayers, Slife says it is only logical that the agency should have to get the permission of the voters to do that.


  Slife blamed VIA's 'arrogance' for forcing citizens to take this step.  He said citizens voted in 2004 not to allow tax money to go for 'light rail' but VIA and other officials cooked up a bogus claim that a 'streetcar' is 'not light rail.'  Then, when citizens asked questions about the $280 million streetcar plan, which is already $70 million over budget, all they got were comments like 'we're going to build it anyway' and 'its too far along to stop.'


  "This is a reaction against elected officials who refuse to listen to the citizens, and push along with their own agenda," he said.


  Slife said 20,000 signatures are needed by July in order to force a vote in November on a change in the City Charter, something he says will be easy to obtain.


  "We have a box that people mail the complete pages to, and there are envelopes arriving there every day."


  This is separate from a measure being pushed by anti-toll groups that would require a public vote on any efforts to build toll roads in the city.  But those groups are also circulating petitions to change the City Charter.