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  • Douglas Melnick Email Douglas Melnick
    Chief Sustainability Officer

Communications and Public Affairs: 207-7234
Published on Thursday, October 26, 2017


The Honorable Councilwoman Rebecca J. Viagran and the Honorable John Courage were gracious guests of the Office of Sustainability’s BlogTalk Radio to engage in a dialogue about air quality with hosts, Thea Setterbo and Laura E. Mayes, respectfully. Leading District 3 since May 2013, Councilwoman Viagran has a proven background in working with neighborhood associations and constituent services, and advocates for small businesses. District 9 Councilman Courage who was elected in June 2017, is a proponent of green spaces. Both support the City’s efforts to maintain a healthy environment for residents and a thriving economic environment for businesses.


Councilwoman Viagran is one of the longest serving members on City Council who has been advocating for San Antonio’s air quality. Having earned a bachelor of science degree in geography – urban and regional planning. Her career in city government began as a city council aide. Her focus was working with neighborhood associations and constituent services. Having small business experience from working with her family’s company, she’s supported the business community throughout her career. She served the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as vice president of external affairs and worked as the director of government and community relations for Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT). Below is a summary of her interview with Thea Setterbo.

What are your thoughts on how San Antonio can manage to retain its status as the largest clean air city in the nation?

Viagran: There are challenges among the business community, and it helps that conversations about air quality are happening; what policies can be made, particularly transportation. The City has made great progress within the past couple of years, such as banning the coal sealant and anti-idling ban. Small changes continue to add up to improve our air quality. We want to ensure we have a vibrant air quality so that we can attract new businesses and people to the city in the future.

Having been recently appointed to the Economic and Workforce Development Committee and the Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, Councilwoman Viagran believes San Antonio is attractive to start ups and the Southside has all of the amenities for fueling prosperity, such as new educational opportunities, workforce development and job creation, the World Heritage site, and renewed investment from partners. However, once start ups and new businesses are here, we don’t want to give them a reason to leave. Obstructions, such as air quality mandates that are burdensome to business, can be a strike on our welcome mat for businesses to grow and flourish. Having grown up on the Southside, Councilwoman Viagran was naturally inclined to place natural resources and the environment as a priority in her policy vision.


Councilman Courage, a San Antonio resident for five decades, is a graduate of University of Texas at San Antonio, with a B.A. in American studies. Councilman Courage spent a majority of his career in education. Having served on the Alamo Community College District Board of Trustees, the San Antonio Teachers' Council Board and the San Antonio Literacy Commission, he recognizes opportunities for the betterment of the community. Below is a summary of his interview with Laura Mayes.

What is your vision for quality of life in neighborhoods, specifically the environment and air quality?

Courage: Green spaces are a vital component to improving air quality, especially as our population grows. The addition of trees helps clean the air of pollutants, reduces temperatures by shading streets and when shading homes, help lower energy demands for air conditioning in homes. Homeowners with shade trees benefit from lower energy costs as well.

District 9 has some of the city’s major roadway arteries, and with the projected population growth, there could be an additional 500,000 vehicles on the road in the future. Constituents have voiced their concerns regarding increased travel time for commutes, and Councilman Courage supports the idea of smart growth. For example, offer incentives to populate developed areas of the city. Encourage residents to move closer to work so there is less traffic and vehicular pollution and encourage residents to utilize alternative means of transportation, such as Via buses, cycling or zero-emission vehicles.

Councilman Courage recognizes there are smart technologies that are available and acknowledges there are other communities utilizing other resources. In terms of urban development, companies and developers must be held accountable for land usage too and buildings should incorporate green space to help lower the pollution levels. The question shouldn’t be “Can we afford this?” because the correct answer is “We can’t afford not to.”

Categories: Sustainability, Blog