THE TASK FORCE RESET IS UNDERWAY


Two months ago, we wrote about the city’s Noise Ordinance Task Force. Based on our attendance at multiple task force meetings and on interviews with task force members and with Councilman Mario Bravo, we suggested that the task force needed a reset.


More specifically, we said that the task force needed the involvement of an expert, it needed education for task force members, and it needed leadership.


Councilman Bravo told us back then that he was already working on the first point, and that he had asked an expert, Don Pitts, to come to meet with people here in San Antonio. Since then, with Councilman Bravo’s support, the City has retained Don Pitts as a consultant to the task force.


DON PITTS


Currently, Don Pitts works as a consultant to cities grappling with noise issues. However, for seven years he headed up the team within Austin city government that was responsible for the regulation of outdoor music.


We think his involvement is a real positive, and it’s the first step in the reset that we recommended. We hope that his involvement will be structured in a way that permits him to also provide some education and leadership to the task force. It won’t be enough for him to simply be an advisor who answers questions when asked. He needs the authority to lead.

As we’ve written elsewhere in this issue, there are very good reasons to handle commercial music venues separately from residential noise sources:


“Unlike sound from most other sources,” we’ve written, “sound from music venues isn’t incidental to their operations, it’s the core. And that sound isn’t a one-time thing, like a residential house party. It’s continuing.


“Most critically, it’s susceptible to management, since the venues are operated by a limited number of professionals who want a workable solution for their businesses, who can be educated about the rules and about mitigation techniques, and who are, for the most part, open to suggestions that can provide solutions.”


We therefore encourage the task force to refocus on the original assignment — sound from commercial venues. Let's tackle residential noise as a separate issue.


A BIG STEP FORWARD


But the bottom line is this: the city has taken a big step forward by bringing on an expert. 


“I’m really excited that we brought Don on,” Councilman Bravo told us, “and the fact that both business owners and residents were supportive of this decision gives me a lot of hope going forward.”

ANOTHER ISSUE: FOCUS


There’s one additional problem we saw back in January but omitted from our original article because the other problems needed fixing first. That’s focus.


When this task force was established at the request of Councilman Bravo’s predecessor, Roberto Treviño, and District 10 representative Clayton Perry, they very clearly defined its focus:


The availability of food, beverage, and/or entertainment businesses near neighborhoods has had a positive cultural impact as well as stabilized residential property values. It has also presented unique challenges that affect residents' quality of life. This has led to a less than harmonious relationship between neighborhoods like King William, Oak Park- Northwood, and Tobin Hill and abutting food/beverage/entertainment business.


The intent of this policy is to determine how the Noise Ordinance can be adjusted so it is easy to understand and enforce, and so residents can have peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their home without having to resort to filing a complaint on their commercial neighbors.


But that focus got lost.


Somehow, the task force started looking at residential noise, too. That’s a huge distraction and a recipe for failure.

Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.

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