Friday, May 30, 2008

A Party of a Dedication!

Since I'm on the Citizens Advisory Council for VÍA Metro Transit, I received a mailed invitation to today's dedication ceremony for a new transit center on the South Side. Students in the Alamo Heights ISD are suffering Final Exams; thus, I don't have any more sub-teaching jobs, so I went to this dedication. It was in mid-morning, and when I left early to do an errand en route to the party, the windiness made it sufficiently cool that I donned a suit coat as well as dress shirt, slacks and tie. My coat lapel sported a lapel pin celebrating VIA's 30th anniversary, which had been given to me in March by the company. It gave me one more reason to "dress up" a bit more than I might have in this unusually hot and humid end of May.

The new Transit Center, which doesn't open to the public and for use by bus lines 'til 9 June, is beside IH 35, across the Interstate from South Park Mall and just northeast of Zarzamora. It's also going to be the training facility for VÍA operators, with that activity to be housed in a separate building. A few weeks ago it was announced that the new facility was to be formally named the Senator Frank L. Madla Transit Center and Training Facility. The late State Senator -- whose untimely and tragic death is covered in my posting of 28 November 2006 -- represented the South Side.

As I approached the main building, inside which the party was to take place, I saw that indeed its silhouette or general outline was like the building at Kel-Lac Transit Center, opened a few years ago and after I began serving on the CAC. Unlike Kel-Lac, where the outside walls are covered with horizontally-corrugated metal paneling which give it the look of a cubical approximation of a Quonset Hut, the Madla Center facility has good-sized rectangles of a tile-like material, mostly snow-white but with a few in some bright color like red or blue.

When I entered I saw a great crowd -- almost wall-to-wall -- who were enjoying the lovely sound of a teenage mariachi group dressed in black and silver charro outfits. From the program I found out that they were from South San HS, which is probably the closest high school, being just a few blocks beyond the other side of the Interstate. I realized that I had inadvertently entered thru what was effectively the "back door" for the ceremony, and that programs were across the room at the other door (effectively the "front door"). So I passed thru the crowd, received a program (a half-size sheet) and found a place to sit. This was on one of the curving blue-painted metal benches that will provide seating for waiting riders when the transit center begins serving the public. There were also several chairs brought in and set up for additional seating -- but still there were plenty of folk who had to stand.

The mariachis finished and VÍA Public Affair's Priscilla Engle commenced the formal program by introducing the Madla family, VÍA Board and Administrators and local elected officials present. Then Father Flanagan, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of San Antonio prayed the invocation and the blessing on the facility. He was rather long-winded and a bit repetitive, but I attribute this (at least in part) to his advanced age. Then VÍA Chairman Eddie Herrera gave the first speech. He, like subsequent speakers, paid tribute to the late Senator and his support for public transit, and lauded the facility and its importance to the South Side: it's the first such transit facility on the South Side (unless one counts the one beside McCreless Mall, which recently became history, as did the mall). Herrera also pointed out that Leo López, who just ended his term on the VÍA Board and was present in a white guayabera (rather than his usual Board meeting apparel of suit and tie, regardless of outdoor heat), was responsible for the suggestion that the new transit center for Madla's South Side be named in his memory.

Other speakers included the two County Commissioners present: Tommy Adkisson (Precinct 4) and Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez (Prec. 1). Commissioner Adkisson is a tireless supporter of VÍA and of improvement in the transit and traffic infrastructure of Bexar County.

Also present and speaking was State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. When I first read her name on the program I frowned. During the first year or so that I lived here she and Mike Villarreal led a small group of Democrat legislators who fled the lege's session in the Capitol, sneaking to New Mexico so as to prevent a quorum for voting. It was their cowardly tactic for preventing votes that they knew would go against them due to the Republican majority. And I'd hated this cowardice, considering it unworthy of heirs of The Alamo defenders' heroism! Thus initially I wasn't happy about her presence. But I mused that I ought to leave aside my animosity for the time being and listen to her words of dedication without prejudice. Senator Van de Putte's speech actually was very good! So good it turned around my attitude toward her!

City Councilman Cortez, in whose district the Madla Transit Center is located, also spoke. I had seen him, and he me, only a few hours earlier, when I addressed the Council during "Citizens to Be Heard". Only today the Councilman lacked a necktie! So after the program I couldn't help but greet him with, "Didn't we see each other just a few hours ago? Only now you look kinda naked!" as with a grin I pointedly stroked my tie. He grinned back.

Another speaker was the late Senator's son, Frank Jr. When he finished, he and his mother unveiled a plaque on the wall, which proclaimed the facility's naming after the Senator, whose bas-relief portrait was on the plaque. Then we were invited to enjoy some more performance by the mariachis from South San, and to partake of refreshments. These latter were pastries of various kinds, and chunks of fruit. CAC Chairman Bill Martin joked with me, that he KNEW the food was why I had come. Years ago he'd taken note of my frequent trips to the cookie table at VÍA Board or CAC meetings! I wasn't the only butt of Bill's humor, tho': he also remarked that today was the first time he had seen Leo López sans suit and tie!

After sufficient refreshment I enquired about the training facility and if it were available for touring. I was told that yes, it was. So yours truly almost zipped over to "inspect" it. You see, dear reader, education of all types is "in my blood". I was delighted and not surprised to see that the two rooms inside come equipped with projectors at the center of the ceiling. At Alamo Heights HS I had noticed that this year the classrooms there were likewise equipped with these projectors and accompanying screens near the wall, which can be used to show videos, DVDs or Power Point. I'd say that the Sen. Frank L. Madla Transit Center and Training facility is "state of the art".

Afterward I got a ride on a charter bus (one of VÍA's own), up IH 35 to the VIA Admin Building. During this I enjoyed pleasant conversation with other riders, who all had some formal connection with VÍA, most being administrators or employees. Bill Martin also rode, and then gave me a ride home. Thus went yet another party in "Party City" San Antonio! I justifiably call this dedication a "party" because there were entertainment and refreshments both solid and liquid.

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