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But is it news? Adkisson, Hall, and anti-toller intolerance

Don't tell Tommy! Visions of Cali tollways courtesy of TURF.

Greg Harman

gharman@sacurrent.com

The tug-of-war between the Express-News and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson has been partly settled, with the County releasing hundreds of pages of emails to toll-road opponent and Mysa.com blogger Terri Hall from Adkisson's official email account. Readers piled on in the comments section, though not to raise torches against Adkisson and Hall. Instead, the majority of comments were irritated by the daily's apparent siege on Adkisson, a vociferous critic of efforts to turn U.S. 281 into a toll road.

There is nothing improper exposed by the records, but it's understandable the writer and editors in this case would feel compelled to make something out of it as Adkisson has so resisted complying with the paper's full request. And yet â?¦ that doesn't make it a news story.

POLITICAN SEEKS REGULAR ADVICE FROM UNCOMPENSATED LOCAL CITIZEN

*cricket*cricket*

The article shrieks that Hall plays an “intimate and significant role” in Adkisson's management of the Metropolitan Planning Organization. That through Adkisson, Hall has found “a de facto seat at the table.” For starters, we thought that was sort of the job of our elected leaders, to carry the concerns of residents to the table for us. For finishers, hasn't Adkisson been loud and proud in his anti-toll posture from the start?

“I move around the community as any public official in Bexar County,” Adkisson told the Current this week. “I don't get any comment from anybody saying, â??Hey. Toll those roads.' They're all saying, â??Hey. Be careful about those tolls.'”

Adkisson has refused to release emails to Hall from his private email accounts, ensuring the fracas will continue. “I just feel like it ought to be possible to think out loud without having every measure scrutinized for its stupidity or its brilliance,” he said. “In the process of arriving at public policy, you're â??What do you think about this?' and the other person may say, â??I think you're a dumb ass if you say that.' And I'd just rather not shower that on everyone and their brother.”

If there is a story at the MPO, it has long been about the intersection of private gain and the public good. From the cashing in of Perry cronies on the now-slumbering Trans-Texas Corridor to TXDOT and MPO skirmishes over tolling 281, pressing highway needs mean there is the scent of mad money in the air. Perhaps, the Express should listen to their readers when they suggest they should instead be shooting for MPO board members who may be overly influenced, I don't know, by the monied interests at work and not gunning for two ideologues bridging a yawning political divide through their mutual distain for the notion of double-taxing residents for a functional roadway.

Hall frames her objection to the article by asking:

Why is `the Express` so interested in what I have to say to Commissioner Adkisson, but have no interest in what Richard Perez (Greater Chamber of Commerce, former MPO Chair), Carri Baker-Wells (Greater Chamber of Commerce), the Dawsons (owners of Pape Dawson Engineering, Sam Dawson is President of the Greater Chamber of Commerce), and SAMCO (lobbies for toll roads with taxpayer money along with dues from over 70 private highway construction, finance, and engineering firms, chaired by a tolling authority board member, Jim Reed, who has the power to vote to give contracts to firms in SAMCO) have to say to public officials? These people actually profit from the public trough by their actions, versus us taxpayers who foot the bill for their feeding frenzy!

Asked one reader mildly: “Why is this news?”

And, yet, still unresolved is the question of Adkisson's emails.

“It shouldn't be a crime to try to include more public comment and input, especially when it's not driven by some big, powerful, wealthy corporation type or special interest,” Adkission says.

Of course, it's not illegal. Unless, like our other politically well-grounded friend, Mr. Nico LaHood, treated in this tomorrow's feature story, one's good work is at risk of being polluted by questionable gropings after secrecy.

Undoubtedly, I also support strong open-records laws. However, I also support journalism functioning in the public's interest. If the increasingly thin Express has the resources to run and publish investigative campaigns like this one, I can think of a few possibly worthier email accounts they could be hacking.

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