City Council Committee Chooses Three Candidates for VIA Board

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A VIA Metropolitan Transit sign marks a bus stop at the corner of Commerce Street and Soledad Street.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A VIA Metropolitan Transit sign marks a bus stop at the corner of Commerce Street and Soledad Street.

A San Antonio City Council committee selected three candidates Wednesday to be considered for appointment to the VIA Metropolitan Transit board of trustees. The full Council will vote April 12 on appointing the candidates – Brian Dillard, Ezra Johnson, and Amanda Merck.

Appointees to the 11-member board serve staggered two-year terms, and five positions are allotted to the City of San Antonio, with the other six divided between Bexar County, which appoints three board seats, and suburban mayors, who appoint two. The board chair is elected by the members of the board.

“We’re on the brink of a moment for San Antonio and transportation that we need to seize,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “I want this board to know that they’ll have an active role in making that happen.”

Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association President Brian Dillard urges Dignowity Hill residents to give feedback on the project next to Hays Street Bridge.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Brian Dillard, former president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association.

The City Council’s Governance Committee includes Nirenberg and Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Rebecca Viagran (D3), Rey Saldaña (D4), and Ana Sandoval (D7). The committee selected Dillard, a security analyst and current chair of the VIA Transit Community Council. The immediate past president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association wrote in his application that he wants to continue working on VIA’s 2040 Vision Plan, and use his experience on the Community Council to further ensure that San Antonio has affordable public transportation.

Jeffrey Sullivan / Rivard Report

Ezra Johnson, a resources attorney with Uhl, Fitzsimons, Jewett & Burton.

Johnson, a resources attorney with Uhl, Fitzsimons, Jewett & Burton, told Council members on Wednesday that he’s committed to becoming a daily VIA rider. He said improving the funding mechanism for public transportation and public transportation infrastructure will be his primary focus as a member of the VIA board. Johnson ran unsuccessfully for City Council from District 10 in 2017.

“I think the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the funding mechanism for VIA, and that funding mechanism going forward,” Johnson said. “The current allocation of the sales tax and where that’s going to be in the future I think is going to be another issue that’s going to require some work and political capital.”

Jeffrey Sullivan / Rivard Report

Amanda Merck, a research specialist with the UT Health Institute for Health Promotion Research.

Merck, a research specialist with UT Health San Antonio’s Institute for Health Promotion Research, said she wants to ensure that all San Antonians have equal access to opportunities to public transit.

“VIA Metropolitan Transit is a growing piece of our overall transportation network, which impacts public health, equity, and climate change,” she said. “My interest in serving on this board is to kind of look at any transit issues through that lens of public health and how accessing connectivity impacts public health.”

The Governance Committee also recommended for re-appointment current members Patricia Rodriguez, the board’s secretary, and Robert “Bob” Comeaux, the board’s union representative.

According to city documents dated Apr. 4, Lester Bryant, a financial services professional at Mass Mutual of South Texas who is the board’s vice chair, reapplied for his position but was not recommended.

Steven Hussain, vice president of Workforce Development at Goodwill Industries of San Antonio, was also listed as a candidate considered for reappointment. However, shortly after publication Wednesday evening, Hussain, who did not interview with the committee on Wednesday, emailed the Rivard Report a copy of a resignation email he had sent to City officials and Nirenberg on Apr. 2.

VIA Board Chair Hope Andrade announced nearly two months ago that she would step down. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Nirenberg have not yet announced their recommendation for her replacement. 

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