Newsletter May 2008

Newsletter May 2008

President’s Message

Ted Trakas

Just a few items of interest this month.

I have completed an economic analysis of the digital billboard ordinance that San Antonio City Council passed on December 6, 2007.

According to my figures, the ordinance will allow billboard companies to exchange old passive signs for new digital ones and increase their gross revenues by factors up to 38-to-1. Obviously, our mayor and councilpersons, including our own D8 councilwoman Diane Cibrian, did not have the benefit of a similar analysis before they negotiated and passed their ordinance, and then declared it a “good deal for the city.” (I’m sorry. Call me cynical if you must, but I have to think the billboard people had a good, hardy, private laugh on that one.)

In performing research for the analysis, I found that the city council in Anaheim, CA was not so ill prepared when they voted on a similar proposition. Under the leadership of their mayor, Anaheim demanded industry bids against a Request for Proposal. Clear Channel, the primary billboard company in
San Antonio, bid a proposal that had 9 times fewer digital billboards than what San Antonio allows (aka ‘gives away’) in its ordinance. And oh, by the way, Anaheim rejected all bids because they were not sufficiently in the public interest and compromised scenic protections already in place! (Imagine that!!)

Unfortunately, my analysis is too long to reprint in this newsletter because of its lengthy appendices, so you may ask how you can see it and judge its validity for yourself. Not to worry. I have posted a full electronic copy on our VJ web site, at [And I am sorry that I gave you a wrong (.com) address in the last newsletter.]

So please visit our web site for this information, under the ‘Issues’ link, and then let city council know if you think the San Antonio ordinance was a “good deal for the city.” D8 Councilwoman Cibrian can be reached at and 207-7086

2008 Officers:
President – Ted Trakas (The Summit)
Vice President – Ann Ryan (River Oaks)
Secretary – Norma Baird (Charter Oaks Condos)
Treasurer Pro Temp – Woody Halsey (Charter Oaks, 699-6098)
Newsletter Editor and Database Manager – Victor Camacho (Colonies North)


MAY 10

On May 10th San Antonio and Bexar County will be voting on extending the Visitor Tax.

This is not a new tax; it is a tax that already exists. The Visitor Tax is paid through a hotel occupancy tax and a short-term motor vehicle rental tax, usually affecting only visitors to our area.

Following is a brief description of the four key areas of improvement which depend on continuing this existing revenue source. Each of these four propositions will require your vote.

  • San Antonio River Improvements – a Project to cultivate and expand the San Antonio River, addressing flood control and providing recreational amenities.
  • Youth & Amateur Athletic Facilities – a Project to build athletic facilities throughout Bexar County. A list of some of the new facilities include: soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds, football fields and tracks.
  • Community Arenas & Rodeo Grounds Enhancements – this project is to provide enhancements to the countyowned:
    Freeman Coliseum; livestock grounds; and the AT&T Center (after 2012 when the Center is ten-years old)
  • Performing & Cultural Arts Centers – this project will transform the Municipal Auditorium into a multi-use
    performing arts center with direct access to the River Walk, help build the region’s first western art museum and
    renovate the Alameda Theater.

If passed, the Projects represented in these four Proposals will provide  educational opportunities and enrichment opportunities for our community, our children and our visitors.

More Information at


Northside ISD News

The end of the year for school districts is always a busy time, but with all the new requirements mandated by the State Legislature, this year is busier than ever. Some of the new requirements deal with Physical Fitness, Steroid Testing, bus safety and fingerprinting of teachers and employees. These come on top of all the tests associated with The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills testing (TEKS).

So a lot has to be accomplished in the last two months of school, but we continue to work hard to address these issues while we provide a great education for our students. So far the results of our TEKS testing are quite improved over previous years.

Another state mandated change for this school year also impacts us now. The school start date was moved back to the last Monday in August, which means that the school year ends later. Since Northside has 9 major high schools with between 500 to 700 students each and we want to allow their families and friends to attend this milestone, we will use the Alamodome for graduations. This means that Clark will graduate on the June 11th, and other schools will not
graduate until June 12th. Since the last day of school is on the 4th, we need for everyone to have patience, and we hope a better schedule can be worked out for next year.

We currently have 12 new schools in some phase of construction; 5 of them will open this fall. Brandies High School will help with overcrowding at Clark. A new Middle school on Kyle Seale will help to relieve Rawlinson, which is at the end of Vance Jackson. There are also 3 new Elementary schools, with the nearest one being Carnahan on Babcock Road. We expect an additional 3,000 students this August so we will continue to open new schools as soon as we can
complete them.

There are no school board elections for Northside this year; our elections are always at the same time as the City Council Elections, in odd numbered years. The Venue or Visitors Tax Extension is of interest though because a Large Outdoor Stadium Pool would be built on our land and would be of great help for all of our students in the swim programs. This vote does not create a new or larger tax; it simply allows money to be collected on hotel bills for a longer
length of time in order to fund additional projects.

If you have questions about the Stadium Pool, please call me or the school district.
Katie Reed 308-5555
President, Board of Trustees
Northside ISD 397-8770

A Question of Safety – Digital Billboards

Digital billboards represent a giant leap in applied technology that is very appealing to the business person who wants to advertise. Messages can be changed frequently. Prices compare with newspaper and other media. The public can’t turn them off, as with TV or radio.

But, for the public – that’s the problem. Digital billboards are one more distraction for the driver traveling at 60 or 65 miles per hour. Relevant independent studies (mostly by the auto insurance industry) on the usage of cell phones while driving or other driver attention-distracting activities
(eating, putting on makeup, etc.) overwhelmingly show that driver inattention is a major cause of traffic accidents and even fatalities – with younger drivers more subject to distraction.

An analysis of the “100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study”, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and released in 2006 states: taking one’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds for any reason not directly related to driving significantly increased individual near crash/crash risk. The study goes on to say that the factors that make drivers likely to look at an electronic sign for more than two seconds at a time are:

  • They are extremely bright and are designed to be visible in bright sunlight and at night. They are designed to be eye-catching, and they are.
  • They can be seen from great distances, making them distracting even before they begin to communicate their messages.
  • Because the messages rotate, drivers are likely to look to see what comes up next. And, unlike static signs, there will always be the urge to look. These signs do not fade away into “background visual noise.”
  • Younger drivers may be more easily distracted by electrical media.

The Federal Highway Administration has initiated a study to examine the safety issues related to electronic signs and will announce its results in 2009. Your City Council could not wait for these studies. It relied upon studies produced by the billboard industry stating that digital billboards had no more impact than static billboards. In October 2007, the first peer review of these studies, conducted by the Maryland State Highway Administration, refuted that conclusion.

We ought to be able to rely upon our local government to protect our safely. Have they let us down?

For more information on driving safety, see:

  1. “A Critical, Comprehensive Review of Two Studies Recently Released by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America,” by the Maryland State Highway Administration
  2. “Billboards and the Digital Age,” by Scenic America

Both studies can be downloaded from

If you are concerned about your driving safety, let your City Council representative hear from you. This issue comes up again in December 2008. But, don’t wait, let them hear from you now.

A message from June Kachtik, Co-Chair
Scenic San Antonio

Scenic San Antonio is a member organization. Individual dues are $30. Email: Or, mail to: Scenic Texas, Inc./ 3015 Richmond, Suite 220/ Houston, Texas 77098. If your group would like a presentation on billboards, please contact June Kachtik at or 342-0135. She or another member of Scenic Texas is available. We have a 5-minute video that you will appreciate. It shows what can happen when billboards get out of hand.