Mayor Mike Rawlings signs West Nile emergency declaration

Aerial spray plane

Credit: Dynamic Aviation

Example of an aerial spray plane that will be used to combat the increasing West Nile threat in North Texas. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings signed a declaration of emergency as the city continues to battle the spread of West Nile, clearing the way for aerial spraying. Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed aerial spraying will take place Thursday evening in Dallas.

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on August 15, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 15 at 5:35 PM

DALLAS - Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings signed a declaration of emergency as the city continues to battle the spread of West Nile, clearing the way for aerial spraying.

Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed aerial spraying will take place Thursday evening in Dallas.

Rawlings said it was the "right thing to do" as he doesn't want any more deaths "on his conscience."

Dallas officials will be asking the state to aerial spray the entire city. The state will cover the $500,000 cost for the five planes and spraying.

Asked why the city wants the entire city sprayed since initial plans focused on north of Interstate 30 where most cases have occurred, Rawlings said, "There was some discussion by some of the city council that say hey, we've got some issues in the south as well and so be considerate of citizens in the south, since we were going to do it already, we decided to do it throughout the whole city."

Based on the city's history of discrimination excluding the south could've been controversial.


Council member Dwaine Caraway said he's glad his district won't be left out, "Whatever we have available to us I think that we should jump on every resource so that the folks can be educated and be prepared."

"Aerial spraying risk is minimal given the ongoing spread of the West Nile virus," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Zach Thompson, the director of the Dallas County Health Department, shared his agreement.

"We're in a fight we can't win on the ground," he said.

Council members expressed health concerns that may arise due to spraying. Council member Sandy Grayson asked if residential pools would be safe and was answered with a "yes" as health experts said the insecticide breaks down in light and water. Lakey also said risks to playgrounds and organic gardens were minimal.

Council member Monica Alonzo became emotional while expressing her concerns. With her eyes misting, she said as a former farm worker she is very concerned about spraying pesticides over the area. She urged the city to reach out to citizens to help them become aware of the spraying and its effects.

Noted landscape architect Howard Garrett, the "Dirt Doctor," was direct telling the council aerial spraying won't work since it doesn't kill larvae in standing water.

Garrett wrapped up his comments during public speaker period saying, "Please reconsider, it's a big waste of money," to the applause of supporters in the audience.

By using emergency power in city and state law Rawlings bypassed the council and several council members questioned that.

Ann Margolin told the mayor, "What gives you the authority to make this decision on behalf of the city?"

Rawlings said he did it believing there is a public health crisis and he wanted to protect his colleagues politically, "I want to take the politics out of it.  I want to say this is my responsibility I will take the heat for it and I think that's the right place for it to be."

Rawlings decision means the planes will be in the air over Dallas very soon.

 

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