Newsletter September 2008

Newsletter September 2008

President’s Message

Ted Trakas

In a number of ways, this has been a busy summer.

On June 19, Neighborhood and civic groups, including Vance Jackson Neighborhood, Inc., addressed city council about the digital billboard pilot during ‘Citizens to be Heard’. The billboard pilot ordinance, you will recall, was passed on December 6, 2007 over strong citizen opposition. (Over 300 of you signed and returned petitions against this ordinance.) The ordinance is a one-year (sweet heart) affair whereby the industry, and primarily Clear Channel which owns around 90% of the current billboards in San Antonio, is allowed to trade old billboards in order to put up 15 large, digital screens (or ‘faces’) on billboards on San Antonio highways, including Scenic and Urban Corridors (I-10, 1604, Wurzbach Parkway, etc.) that past councils had designated for aesthetic protection. After one year, pilot billboards will remain permanently but no new exchanges are allowed without a renewal of the ordinance.

Deep research by Scenic San Antonio (SSA) into the application process for the new billboards uncovered that majority of the old billboards that were submitted for removal and credit under the pilot were out of compliance, broken, empty, or in fact already demolished. Hence the industry was seeking credit for and city staff was accepting many old billboards that arguably should have been condemned and removed under current laws. Also, beyond these application and pilot problems, I gave a presentation that made the case that the pilot ordinance is an unmitigated ‘bad deal’ for citizens and that other municipalities, such as Anaheim, CA, are holding out for better ‘deals’.

The pilot will come up for renewal in December 2008 and we will include another petition in our November newsletter. There is a better chance that council will listen to us this time, since city elections come due in May 2009. (For details, please see June Katchik’s newsletter article and the ‘Issues’ page on the VJ web site, http://vjni.org/.)

As of this writing, a zoning change request has been submitted for properties on Huebner and Sandstone. The request (Z2008225) seeks rezoning of three Huebner properties from O-2 (Office) to C-2 (Commercial) and rezoning of the two Sandstone properties from R-6 (Residential) to C-1 (Commercial). The association and neighbors met with the developer and architects, hosted at Councilwoman Cibrian’s district office on Wurzbach. Our impressions are that the applicants had good intentions and designs, but all neighborhood representatives maintained that the subject properties are currently zoned correctly, as Office and Residential, and any change in zoning to Commercial is unacceptable. (Again for the latest update, I refer you to the ‘Zoning’ page on http://vjni.org/.)

Finally, on September 6, 2008, the Neighborhood resource Center will host the 19th Annual Neighborhood Conference at the NEISD Community Education Center, located at 8750 Tesoro Dr. During this conference over 200 neighborhood leaders, local government officials, and other eager community leaders and neighbors will attend educational workshops and exhibition tables. For those who might want to become more informed of and involved in city processes, whether in the association or other groups, I highly recommend you attend this conference.

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)

 

School is Back in Session

Another school year has kicked off and Northside has opened 5 new schools. Brandeis High School, Vale Middle School and Carnahan, Forester and Scarborough Elementary Schools were
all finished on time and either at or under budget. This is a tremendous accomplishment and is another example that reflects on the excellent operation of the Northside School District.

However, the most important function of our District is how our students are learning and how the District and individual schools are rated are a reflection of that. The top ratings are very
difficult to achieve for a large, very diverse and growing district. We continue to receive more students from foreign countries and those students do not speak English. However, within one
year they are in our accountability system. We are very pleased that we have NO low performing schools and our District was rated as Recognized. Many of our schools also received this rating.

Our teachers are doing a great job with our students and we are finally able to pay them a little better. A new teacher in Northside now has a starting salary of $45,250. We also gave a small
stipend for returning teachers so that our teaching staff is more experienced than some districts. We also do a lot of mentoring with our new teachers and the results are obvious.

Our schools are always available to visit and we welcome mentors. Go by your local school if you really want to see our schools in action.

Katie Reed
President, Northside ISD Board of Trustees

 

THE CASE AGAINST MORE BILLBOARDS

You may have heard the following myths about billboards. Please consider our responses, and then contact your city council person. It is City Council alone that has the power to set and
change public policy.
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MYTH: Billboards are just the “cost of business” in the 7th largest city in the United States.
Why be opposed to progress?

TRUTH: Houston and Dallas are even larger, and they ban new billboards. In 1980, Houston had 10,000 billboards. Their ban has reduced that number to 4,500 – and all by normal land use
changes, not by paying tax money to billboard companies. About 350 cities in Texas ban new billboards. San Antonians need to tell their elected officials that they want better public policy –
REDUCE VISUAL BLIGHT! BAN NEW BILLBOARDS!

MYTH: Billboards help promote businesses.
TRUTH: Nobody comes to San Antonio to see billboards. To quote from “B.B. Control is Good for Business” a five-year study of 35 cities by the Mississippi Research and Development Center
concluded that “The way a community looks affects how both the residents and visitors feel about it. An attractive community has a better chance at industry, including tourism.”
Remember, tourism is the second largest “business” in San Antonio. Think about it this way: how would you feel if a billboard blocked your view of The Alamo?

MYTH: Two recent studies sponsored by the billboard industry have concluded that digital multiple message billboards are no more likely to cause traffic accidents than conventional
billboards.
TRUTH: Both studies have been blasted by a peer review. In addition, a federal district ruled that the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study was so infected by industry bias as to lack
credibility. Both were debunked by traffic safety expert Jerry Wachtel, hired by the Maryland DOT, who has been highly critical of the conclusions and methodology of both studies and
recommended that no governmental entity should rely on them to establish public policy. The Federal Highway Administration will complete its safety study by the end of 2009.
City Council was told about driver safety prior to their vote to allow a pilot program for digitals for 2008, but they chose to ignore it. City Council did not require a genuine traffic safety study
as part of the pilot program on digitals. Don’t you think they should have considered your safety?

MYTH: There will be a 4-to-1 reduction in billboards as a result of the pilot digital multiple message program.
TRUTH: We will never see a visual reduction in billboards as long as we allow new billboards. Because we have not adopted a “No New Billboards” ordinance, billboards are being erected on
the most profitable routes, and digital multiple message technology will be installed on existing signs in scenic corridors and urban corridors where they should be prohibited. An how has the “trade off” really worked out so far?

  • City Council did not wait for an unbiased driver safety study slated for release next year. Instead they are using San Antonio citizens and visitor as guinea pigs.
  • If City Council was going to do this, it should have gotten a much better deal. Billboard companies may yield up to a 38-to-1 increase in gross revenues, which is far better for
    companies, by a factor of 9-to-1, than another offer Clear Channel Outdoors made to the City of Anaheim, CA. For the complete analysis, go to the website of the Vance Jackson
    Inc. Neighborhood Association and find “The Economics of San Antonio’s Digital Billboard Ordinance.” In San Antonio, the ratio of take-down so far has been 2-to-1,
    not even the 4-to-1 that was promised. And our analysis is generous. It includes signs that had no advertising on them when taken down!
  • Digital billboards generate noise pollution, heat pollution, light pollution, pollution from manufacturing and disposal of signs themselves – and for those billboards that are
    not powered by Windtricity, there’s carbon pollution.
  • The City Council and CPS have publicly stated goals to reduce energy consumption. The City has purchased Toyota Prius Hybrids as an energy savings measure. Yet, a
    digital billboard uses 28.7 times as much electricity as a regular billboard, and the 15 digitals negate the savings of 345 Hybrids – far above the number of cars in the City’s
    fleet.

MYTH: We can control the messages.
TRUTH: The first amendment will not allow control over content. We could have daily, repeated advertisements for sexually oriented businesses and alcohol seen by our children.
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BACKGROUND:
Since 1986, San Antonio has had a billboard ordinance that requires taking down two signs whenever a sign company wants to put up one new billboard. And, no new billboards could be
erected on our major corridors. On December 6, 2007, City Council passed a pilot program to allow billboard companies to change 15 existing billboards into digital multiple message
billboards in our major corridors, in exchange for taking down some of their older signs in 2008. We have been told that in November, City Council will receive a staff report on this pilot
program.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. Contact your City Council representative by letter or email right now to demand no new billboards, digital or non-digital.
  2. Talk to the leaders of your group about having a presentation from Scenic San Antonio about billboard blight.
  3. If there is a public meeting in November about the digital billboard pilot program, attend and voice your concerns. Please contact: Scenic San Antonio.

 

Pest of the Month – Mosquitoes

Irritating, annoying and dangerous Mosquitoes are no doubt out and about this summer. With the rains from Hurricane Dolly and Tropical Storm Edouard, puddles and pools of water are left
standing. These rain storms can lead to two different waves of mosquitoes.

Some mosquitoes lay their eggs in areas that are commonly flooded. The eggs rest on the dry ground in a suspended state. Once the rain comes, the eggs start emerge
from their suspended state and start their lifecycle. In the heat, it may take only 5 days from egg to adult.

Other mosquitoes are just waiting for large areas of water to lay their eggs. They remain active even in dry conditions because we provide them with standing water:
ponds, water bowls, over-watering plants, etc. When larger puddles and bodies of water form from rains, this allows the females to lay eggs that have a better chance of making it to adulthood.

What we often see during rains is a burst in mosquito activity about a week after the rainstorm, and then another burst about a week or later.

In order to control mosquitoes you must find the source. Any object that can hold the slightest bit of water can harbor mosquito eggs. Look for any standing water, not just large bodies of water. Dump out standing water, refresh pet bowls, and turn over empty pots to prevent mosquito breeding sites.

If the mosquitoes aren’t breeding in your backyard, there are some slightly effective repellents: cedar oil and citronella. To control adults, use sprays applied to foliage located at eye level and below with the active ingredients permethrin, malathion, resmethrin, and cyfluthrin.

Personal protection is very important because mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus and other diseases. Use DEET or Picaradin products when spending time outdoors, and especially during dawn and dusk.

For more information about mosquitoes contact Molly Keck, Integrated Pest Management Specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension in Bexar County. mekeck@ag.tamu.edu or 210-467-6575.

 

Magazine Signature Drive

In June of ‘08, I met with the VJ Board and received support for my concern about the magazine racks at HEB’s checkout lanes and a petition drive for a change/choice for Family Friendly Lanes. The following can be viewed on the www.vjni.org website under ‘Issues – HEB‘:

  • Problem and solution statements
  • Petition Forms – individual or group
  • Weekly updates
  • Correspondence

Signatures have been obtained at some local churches, Sunday school classes, Christ the King Bookstore, doctor offices, prayer groups, neighborhoods, and from individuals downloading forms from the VJ website. As of July 25, the petition drive went city wide, from local at HEB # 29 (Wurzbach and I-10); I spoke as a guest on the Adam McManus 630AM radio show. I’ve been asked to speak on Guadalupe Radio. I have been scheduled as a guest a future Catholicism Live (Wednesdays at 8pm) in early October. I’ve been invited to have a table to solicit signatures at the Catholic Women’s Conference in September at St George Maronite.

My understanding from one member of corporate HEB is that the feedback they have received in the past is that people like and want the current type of magazines displayed on the racks at the checkout stands. Therefore, those of us that desire something different have to make it known. The petition drive is a way to let your concerns and desires be known. There is strength in numbers. A large number of “voices crying out in this cultural wilderness” cannot be ignored. Sign a petition and consider asking your friends, family, churches, doctor offices, etc. if you can collect signatures on the multiple petition sheets.

Let’s keep getting signatures! HEB does care about children. They do so much good with their Buddy promotions. Perhaps the checkout lane magazine racks just got overlooked? It’s up to us to let them know what is there and how it impacts us and our children, and that we want a choice in lanes to check out in.

Melly Trakas

 

Gang Violence in San Antonio

Juvenile gang crime and violence began in late 1988 with about 150 juveniles located primarily in the downtown area of the city. They were called the “town freaks” and their activity included hanging out downtown, drinking alcohol, smoking pot and breaking into cars.

During 1992-1995, San Antonio became one of the top 5 cities for gang activity. There was an average of 20-25 drive-by shootings per month according to San Antonio news reporting agencies. Gang violence decreased during 1996-2000 due to state, city and local community preparation for release of juvenile offenders from the criminal justice system. Funding in the amount of $5M per year was provided for counseling, job training, and other social programs geared toward re-acclimation into society.

Juvenile crime has been on the rise in the past 2 years. Approximately 80% of crimes committed in S.A. have been linked to juvenile perpetrators. One of the main reasons for the increase in crime is the lack of involvement at state, city, county government and local law enforcement. There has been at least a $3M cut in funding by the current administration which has contributed to the unacceptable behavior of the juveniles in our communities. The lack of programs to help our youth maintain jobs, to encourage them to continue their education has resulted in more homicides, burglaries, robberies and home invasions in our community. There are over 20,000 juveniles in our judicial system, of which 60% are responsible for the violence in our communities in the year 2008. There has been at least 70% cut in gang prevention and intervention funds in the last 2 years according to local media. It is also impossible to eliminate recidivism rate without local and state government and law enforcement. The lack of funds has a tremendous impact on the SA community involving juvenile crime. There must be programs designed to encourage our youth to be productive in society providing job skills and more educational programs designed for drop-outs.

The communities themselves must step out and demand that the state and local governments get involved in curtailing the juvenile violence in our city. One of the first ways to determine juvenile
violence and activity is the presence of graffiti, vagrancy, and attire worn by juvenile on a daily basis. There are other indicators as follows: truancy, substance abuse, alcoholism, loud music and parties. If there is an increase of juvenile activity, then we must build a communication system among the communities, local law enforcement and local state agencies to curtail the violence. We must involve the media, city council, commissioners, and business organizations to develop this communication system. One of the most effective ways of communicating is Cellular on Patrol (COP). You can contact AT&T to receive cellular phones and designate block captains in the neighborhood who will be on watch for any offensive behavior by juveniles.

We must look out for gang initiation and activity. We must not be afraid but be aware in order to stop the violence utilizing communication systems available in the community. Parents must take an active role with their own youth to discourage gang involvement thereby helping to keep our communities safe to live in and to raise our families.

Bruce M. Burris, Chief Investigator
Juvenile Probation Department

 

Colonies House Update

Summer is almost over and it has been hot and busy this year. The pool will be wrapping up its season on Labor Day. The water aerobics class will continue until it gets too cold. If you are looking for a great and rewarding exercise routine check out the information on our web site. Tennis is available to members all year.

Thank you to the all the new members from the community. Our membership is up this year but we still would like to increase our membership and we still need your participation. As I said at the
beginning of the year, you can easily participate by being a member or by donating time to help around the club. You do not have to be member to volunteer and I encourage you to volunteer to help your community. One of our biggest needs is for skilled craftsmen, to help repair and fix up the facility. Also, if you can use a paint brush we can use you. How do you get involved? Send me an email, president@colonieshouse.com, or come to the National Night Out meeting in October. I am thankful to all the new neighbors I have met this summer and I hope that you come and participate so that we can grow our community.

National Night Out – Texas Style!

In order to encourage participation in National Night Out, Texas has moved the date for our participation in the event to Tuesday October 7, 2008. National Night Out is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.

According to their web site, NATIONAL NIGHT OUT is designed to:

  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships. and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting
    back.

Colonies House will be hosting an event on this night to bring together out neighborhood and police department. Please check the web site and our marquee as the we get closer to October.