Safe Clear gets 3 year extension

HOUSTON Safe Clear is the city's agreement with tow truck companies to help keep freeways clear and moving. City officials agree that the initiative is a good program, but the topic of minority participation kept the City Council debating during the meeting.

"I like Safe Clear because it helps people who can't afford a tow," program subcontractor Patrick Mason said.

Mason has been a subcontractor with the Safe Clear program since the beginning. He said one of the most gratifying aspects of his job is helping people like the Opsal brothers get off the highway.

"I just bought an iPhone at Best Buy," said Jeff Opsal. "I didn't have $140 on my credit card to get towed off the highway."

Safe Clear has been in operation for five years, and during the Wednesday meeting, City Council officials had to decide whether to extend existing contracts by three more years or put them out to bid. Several council members, including Wanda Adams, said there just aren't enough minority subcontractors taking part in the program, so she can't support it.

"There should be more minority participation in subcontractors," Adams said, "but there is zero participation on subcontracts that's on the Safe Clear program. There are zero."

Adams' claims confused Mason, who is an African-American subcontractor with Safe Clear.

"Not only Black, you have Hispanic, you have all different races on the freeway," he said.

Mason works with Jeanette Rash, a female business owner who's been an integral part of Safe Clear.

By the end of the meeting, a majority of council members voted to extend the Safe Clear contracts and Rash was overcome with emotion.

"All I want to do is take care of the citizens, make sure they are safe and let them know we're not the bad guys," she said.

The plan has a three-year extension has been approved. There are also two one-year options that will eventually be voted on by City Council members at that time.

In the meantime, some of the participants who have worked on the Safe Clear program for years are gathering together said they are now working to extend the initiative into surrounding communities.

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