Council Tackles Buses, Idling, Sealants

A busy Thursday Morning for San Antonio’s City Council–which tackled new penalties for driving past a school bus with it’s stop arm out, limits for the idling of heavy duty trucks in City Limits, and a ban on the use of coal tar sealants.

“This just gives us another tool… to educate the community, and insure the safety of all the kids” said North East Independent School District Police Chief Wallace McCampbell of the new fines for drivers passing those stop arms.

Cameras aboard the buses will catch drivers in the act–who will be subject to a $300 fine.

Many said it simply happens far too often.

“I know–because on my own street… I have seen cars roll right by that bus with the stop sign out” Councilman Joe Krier said, adding a very personal note to his support for the program.

“I was the little four-year old boy who ran out between two parked cars and got run over” Krier said.

Others called the move a start.

“We can’t stop here” Councilman Ray Lopez said, adding “It really has to be an awareness of the driver. After all is said and done, rules and regulations are in place, but we have to get driver awareness.”

Similar programs are already in place in other big cities around Texas. Councilman Alan Warrick said a difference has already been made in Dallas.

“They (drivers) knew there was some type of penalty if they ran that stop arm… it mattered” Warrick said.

Council also unanimously approved new limits on truck idling in the Alamo City.

“It barely scratches the surface” Councilman Ron Nirenberg said, adding “But I think it’s the first step in a long process for us to shore up air quality in our community–something that’s going to require all of us to be onboard.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor agreed.

“This is an important first step. I’m glad we’re taking it, but there’s a lot more work to do” Taylor said.

Others said the message behind the move is just as important.

“I have a son that struggles with asthma… knowing what we’re doing today is going to help him and countless other children” Councilman Cris Medina said.

Still focused on the environment, Council then turned it’s attention to a call for a ban on the use of coal tar sealants in San Antonio–which led to a short debate enroute to the Alamo City joining several others in the region–and becoming the largest one yet to impose such restrictions.

“The building industry… its an industry that’s always evolving. The fact there are alternatives to certain products I think is a demonstration there are better ways to go about it” Councilman Roberto Trevino said, lending his support for the ban.

Others however have raised questions about the studies linking the substance to cancer.

“There are no formal regulations (on coal tar sealants) put out by the EPA” said Councilman Mike Gallagher, who feared small business owners will be left to pay for the increased costs that now might come as a result of the ban.

“To me, it’s tragic we’re making a decision that’s going to hurt them–and, we’re doing it in such a blatant manner” Gallagher added.

On the other side though, backers of the ban were steadfast.

“The proposed ban will remove a known source of contaminants in our highly urbanized environment… and protect the health of the San Antonio River” said the River Authority’s Rebecca Reeves.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran agreed.

“Everything that flows in to our stream life… it impacts not just the water–but, the wildlife around that too” Viagran said.

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