|Volume 7, Issue 2 · Friday, Jan. 16, 2009|
Sunset recommends merging Texas Youth Commission
Seeks to combine agency with Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
Just three months after the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) was removed from conservatorship and five months after a new executive director was named, the members of the Sunset Advisory Commission Wednesday voted by a 6-5 vote to merge TYC and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission into a single agency. The issue will now go before the full legislature for debate.
TYC was rocked in 2007 by allegations of abuse of numerous of the minors incarcerated in its facilities. Some of the board members were removed; other resigned. A conservator was appointed and an investigation conducted and sweeping reforms were directed. Following review, Sunset staff recommended the agency consolidation.
“Sunset staff has given us what they believe to be the best course of action,” said Sunset Commission Chair Rep. Carl Isett (pictured). He said how the state deals with and manages juveniles who violate the law and the process by which the state tries to change their lives needs to include programs that “fit together seamlessly.[more]
Joe Straus elected new Speaker of Texas House
Appoints Alexander chief of staff, Krier senior advisor
San Antonio Republican lawmaker Joe Straus (pictured) was elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives on the opening day of the 81st Legislature on Tuesday, ending Rep. Tom Craddick’s hopes of a fourth term as Speaker. Straus promised to bring the divided House together after last session’s near melt-down on the west side of the rotunda.
“Let there be no walls in this House,” said Straus after being elected by acclamation and taking the oath of office. He urged members to “reach across the aisle and reach across the rotunda to build a better Texas.”
Straus, who emerged as a most unlikely Speaker candidate at the last moment before the session started, said he was truly humbled by the “broad-based support” he received.[more]
Mark Wolfe, Chief Deputy Executive Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, Texas Historical Commission
Career highlights and education: I have an undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Oregon, and a law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law. I practiced law for several years in a small firm in Medford, Oregon. There I became very involved with the Southern Oregon Historical Society, first as a volunteer and later as a member of their board of directors. I decided to try to find a way to turn my hobby into a career. I returned to school and obtained a master's degree in historic preservation from the University of Vermont. My first job out of that program in 1990 was to serve as the first Historic Preservation Officer for the city of Deadwood, South Dakota. I was in Deadwood for about six years, working as the City Planner there for part of that time. In 1996 I moved to Denver, Colorado, to work with the nation's largest historic preservation grants program, the State Historical Fund. I took over management of that program in 1999 and also became the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. I left that position in August of 2008 to take my current position in Texas as the Chief Deputy Executive Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer at the Texas Historical Commission.
What I like best about my job is: Getting to know the dedicated staff and volunteers who work so hard to help the THC to save the real places that tell the real stories of Texas history.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: "Get out there!" It's a big state, and I have a lot to learn about its history and its diverse cultures. The best way to learn about Texas is to experience it first hand, so I've been on the road as much as possible. I've traveled through 100 of our 254 counties in my first four months. It may take me a while to cover the other 154 with the legislature coming into session. But I'll get there.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Learn as much as you can about everything the agency does. Our customers often use multiple programs, so it's important for our staff to be conversant in everything we do, and to know who to refer people to when they don't have the answers.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: In a bookstore. I love to read, and Austin has great bookstores.
People would be surprised to know that I: wrote a book on the history of drive-in theaters in Colorado. I'm fascinated by roadside architecture, and drive-ins are icons on the landscape that are being lost all too quickly. I wanted to document their glory years before they disappeared completely. At one time Colorado had 81 drive-ins. There are fewer than 10 in operation today. Other landmarks of the recent past are suffering the same fate, and we need to be vigilant if we're going to save examples of that period in our architectural heritage.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: Many of the staff at the THC recently read Dan Shilling's "Civic Tourism: The Poetry and Politics of Place" in preparation for a planning session on our heritage tourism program. Shilling argues that too many communities pursue tourism expansion without considering the impact on residents and cultural resources. Heritage tourism can be a strong economic engine, but we need to protect the character-defining qualities that contribute to the Texas mystique, the things that make our communities so attractive to visitors in the first place. The Texas Trails program has won national awards, so it's clear that we've been doing a good job over the past decade of the program's existence. Now we find ourselves stewards of 20 of the state's best historic places (following a transfer that was arranged by the legislature in its last session). It's important for us to set the example for how responsible stewards of historic sites should manage their properties both for preservation and community economic enhancement.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Combs warns: make 'careful budget deliberations'
Comptroller estimates revenue at $77.1 billion for 2010-11
Cautioning the members of the 81st Legislature to make "careful budget deliberations," State Comptroller Susan Combs earlier this week delivered her biennial revenue estimate, noting lawmakers will have $77.1 billion for general-purpose spending as they write the 2010-11 budget during the current legislative session. That figure is down $9.1 billion, or 10.5 percent, from the $86.2 billion revenue estimate prior to the 80th legislative session. Combs warned budget-writers to "make sure decisions of today fit within our means of funding them tomorrow."
Admitting the funding forecast is "decidedly cautious," Combs said the national economy is an "important factor" in her revenue forecast. She cited declining sales tax receipts, what could be "the worst national recession in decades," a declining stock market and volatile oil and gas market as contributors to the economic climate in Texas.
Although consumer confidence is down across the nation, Combs said it is still "innately more optimistic" in Texas than it is in the rest of country. She predicted Texas will see more effects from the downturn of the national economy in FY 2009 and then begin to regain economic momentum in FY 2010.
"The economic and revenue outlook for Texas during the next two years is challenging, but we have positive factors that put us in an enviable position to ride out the national downturn and emerge strong, healthy and competitive," Combs said.
DFPS names James new deputy commissioner
Child Protective Services (CPS) Assistant Commissioner Joyce James (pictured) has been selected to serve as Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) deputy commissioner.
James began her career in child welfare as a CPS caseworker 30 years ago. She has since served as regional director, where she oversaw various Adult Protective Services, Child Care Licensing and CPS programs. She also led the way for CPS reform in Texas as directed by Senate Bill 6 and Senate Bill 758. James has served as assistant commissioner since 2004.
DFPS Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein said James’ “wealth of experience, dedication to our clients and proven leadership” make her the ideal choice for the position.
Molina new deputy HHSC executive commissioner
Joanne Molina (pictured) has been tapped by Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins to serve as the Health and Human Services’ Commission’s deputy executive commissioner for social services. In her new position, she will oversee the Offices of Eligibility Services, where she will work closely with the Department of Family and Protective Services and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.
Molina began her career in human services as a food stamp worker in 1975 and has since worked in a number of positions related to eligibility services, policy and quality assurance. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.
Hawkins said Molina’s viable combination of skill, knowledge and experience “will help us continue to modernize our eligibility system.”
DPS announces Platt picked as new general counsel
The Texas Department of Public Safety has named Stuart Platt, a U.S. magistrate judge in the Midland-Odessa area for more than a dozen years, as its general counsel, effective Jan. 20.
Platt, who holds a law degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, has been an assistant U.S. attorney for 10 years in the Eastern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Tennessee. He also was in private practice in Greenville. He has a son who is a DPS trooper in the Texas Highway Patrol.
As general counsel for the agency, Platt will advise the agency’s director and management, as well as the Public Safety Commission, in legal areas affecting the department. Areas of legal practice include employment and personnel, criminal law, traffic law, litigation, tort claims, administrative law, property and contracts. Platt is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and has served in the Army as a Judge Advocate General and Inspector General. He was on active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2003 to January 2005. He graduated from the Army War College with a master’s in strategic studies in July 2008.
Barnes donates $1 million to LBJ School of Public Affairs
The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin will benefit from a $1 million gift announced this week from former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes (pictured). The funds will be used primarily for student fellowships.
"Except for President Johnson himself, nobody has been more important to the LBJ School of Public Affairs than Ben Barnes," said LBJ Foundation President Larry Temple. "He was instrumental in the school's creation and initial funding and Ben has been a key adviser and supporter of the LBJ School over the past 40 years.” Barnes serves on the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation board of directors and the LBJ School's advisory committee, and his volunteer efforts on behalf of the school cover more than three decades.
Barnes, a former member of the Texas House, was elected Speaker in 1965, the state’s youngest Speaker. He became Texas’ youngest lieutenant governor three years later at age 31. He retired from public office in 1973 and is the founding principal of the Ben Barnes Group, a business consulting and lobbying firm. In 1995, he was named a “Distinguished Alumnus” of UT-Austin.
TWDB approves financial assistance for projects
The Texas Water Development Board has approved financial assistance totaling $46,450,000 as follows:
Office of State-Federal Relations has four new on staff
The Office of State-Federal Relations (OSFR) has named Scott R. Slusher, Katie Viletstra, Kelsey M. Walker and Leslie Ann Quillen to its staff.
Slusher, previously a congressional liaison and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy at the Small Business Administration, joined OSFR in January as senior federal liaison. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
Viletstra, a former public affairs advisor specializing in homeland security, immigration, transportation and other issues for the Southwest, joined OSFR in January as a federal liaison. She received her bachelor’s degree from Chapman University and master’s degree from George Mason University.
Walker joined OSFR this month. Prior to her new job as a federal liaison, she served as a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Commerce serving the Secretary in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. She graduated from Texas A&M University, where she currently serves as president of the D.C. Alumni Organization.
Quillen, former senior buyer at a media corporation where she handled media placement for nationwide congressional and gubernatorial campaigns, joined OSFR this month as executive assistant to the executive director. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University.
TDHCA secures $387,000 to mitigate foreclosures
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has secured $387,000 in federal grant funds to help reduce the number of home foreclosures in Texas. The funds are made available through the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program. They will be used to build on the foreclosure prevention counseling effort TDHCA initiated last year through the Texas Foreclosure Prevention Task Force. That program helped assist homeowners in or near foreclosure to develop a repayment plan or modifications to their mortgage loans.
TDHCA Executive Director Michael Gerber said these funds will help the department’s partner organizations counsel an estimated 949 more families at the local level in 2009. Included among the counseling providers set to receive a share of the grant funds are the City of San Antonio; Credit Coalition, Houston; Frameworks Community Development Corporation, Austin; Gulf Coast Community Services Association, Houston; El Paso Action Program/Project BRAVO, El Paso; and the North Texas Housing Coalition, Dallas. The Department will jointly administer the program with the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.
Those eligible to receive foreclosure intervention counseling must own and reside in one-unit, single-family properties with mortgages in default or in danger of default. Counseling will include a financial analysis of each client's situation, research to determine the current value of the client's home and a review of available options, such as a restructuring of the mortgage loan. Funds will be targeted to regions of the state with the greatest need, defined as areas experiencing a high rate of subprime lending, delinquent loans and foreclosure starts. Approximately 88 percent of the program funds will be directed toward low income or minority homeowners or neighborhoods.
Texas State Library divisions closed through Tuesday
Two divisions of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission - the Library Development and Library Resources Sharing division - will be closed from today, Friday, through Tuesday, Jan. 20, while relocating to their temporary Camino La Costa location due to renovation of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building. Patrons and librarians with questions about Library Development programs such as Grant Programs/E-rate should e-mail their E-rate coordinator. Questions about workshops, the public library annual report, the Library Science collection and other development questions can be directed to (512) 463-5468 during this time.
Patrons and librarians with questions about Library Resource Sharing Programs such as TexShare, Library of Texas or the Publications Clearinghouse, please direct all e-mail to email@example.com or leave a message at (512) 463-7610 during this time. All phones and fax numbers are expected be functioning on Jan. 20 at 8 a.m.
Austin city manager appoints executive positions
Austin City Manager Marc Ott has appointed a new chief information officer and budget officer. Gail Roper (left) of Raleigh, N.C., will fill the CIO post, and Ed Van Eenoo (right) of Chula Vista, Calif., will take the helm as budget officer beginning Feb. 2.
Roper brings more than 25 years of service in both the private and public sector to her new position. Her work as CIO in Kansas City, Mo., earned her recognition as one of Government’s Five Most Influential CIOs by a government magazine in addition to other honors, including Distinguished Professional of the Year and Administrator of the Year from the American Association of Public Administrators.
In the 1990s, Roper worked as an information technology division manager for the City of Austin, where she implemented the city’s first help-desk operation.
Van Eenoo has served as director of budget and analysis for Chula Vista, Calif., for the past three years. He has also served as a research specialist for Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he received his master’s degree.
Van Eenoo, a former math teacher in the Peace Corps in Kenya, was honored with Distinguished Budget Presentation awards from the Government Finance Officers Association during his tenure at Chula Vista.
Henrich chosen interim president at UTHSC-San Antonio
William L. Henrich, M.D. (pictured), vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has been named interim president of the health science center, to replace Dr. Francisco Cigarroa. Cigarroa last week was named chancellor of the UT System, effective Feb. 2.
Henrich will serve in the interim capacity until a full-time successor to Cigarroa is named. Because Cigarroa had already announced his intent to retire from UTHSC, a presidential search advisory committee has already been named. Henrich has served as vice president for medical affairs and dean of the health science center's School of Medicine since March 2006. He also holds the John P. Howe, III, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Health Policy. He also was chair of medicine and held an endowed professorship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and was physician-in-chief at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Henrich held many positions at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, including professor of internal medicine, associate chief of staff for research and development at the VA Medical Center in Dallas and attending physician at Zale Lipshy University Hospital.
Henrich received his undergraduate degree at Columbia University and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Oregon Medical School and a fellowship in nephrology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Jennifer Martin appointed as TWU vice provost
Dr. Jennifer Martin (pictured), dean of the Graduate School at Texas Woman’s University, has been named the new vice provost for the university. Her appointment was effective Jan. 5.
As part of her new duties, Martin will oversee Academic Support Services, including the following departments: Financial Aid, the TWU Libraries, Enrollment Services, Academic Outreach (P-16), Research and Sponsored Programs and Lifelong Learning. She also will assist in academic policy review and development and will work with the TWU Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Research in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaffirmation process.
Martin has been the dean of the TWU Graduate School since 2002 and will continue in that capacity. She has served the university in a variety of positions since 1986, including associate dean for graduate studies, chair of the Department of Family Sciences and professor of Family Sciences. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Lamar University and her Ph.D. from TWU.
Brown heads Lamar Institute of Technology Foundation
Joanne Brown (pictured) has been selected to head the Lamar Institute of Technology Foundation as its executive director and director of development. Brown has an extended history working with nonprofit agencies. She currently serves on the advisory board for Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth, as finance committee member of Catholic Charities and vice-chair of administration for the Symphony of Southeast Texas.
As former Junior League president in Beaumont, Brown oversaw the development of the Southeast Texas Family Resource Center, raising more than $1 million for the project. Brown’s formula for such success is simple. She said she takes what she has been given and multiplies it.
Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from Lamar University.
Antel named chief academic officer for U of H
John J. Antel (pictured), dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Houston since 2002, has been named provost and senior vice president of UH and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Houston System. If approved by the UH regents, he will assume his new position on Feb. 1.
According to UH System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator, Antel will oversee faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, work with faculty to effect curriculum development and collaborate with other vice presidents to integrate physical and technological innovations in classrooms.
Antel first joined UH as an assistant professor of economics in 1981. He was named an associate professor in 1988 and became a full professor in 1995. He chaired the economics department from 1997 to 2002 and, since 2004, has chaired the Undergraduate Enrollment Management Taskforce. Antel came to UH after working as a consultant in labor and population studies for the Rand Corp. from 1976 to 1986. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Jarvis Christian College picks Thomas as new president
The board of trustees at Jarvis Christian College recently selected Dr. Cornell Thomas (pictured) as president to replace Dr. Sebetha Jenkins. Thomas formerly served a system vice president for institutional diversity at Oklahoma State University and an assistant professor of educational foundations and administrations at Texas Christian University.
Dr. Thomas holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri, a master's degree from Jackson State University and an Ed.D. from Texas A&M University-Commerce. He replaces Robert Madding, who retired in June 2008.
UT combines social work, public health for joint degree
Through a collaborative program with The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, students at The University of Texas School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus (ARC) will soon have the opportunity to earn a dual master’s degree in public health and social work.
Dr. Cheryl Perry (pictured) said the joint degree program “provides students with health promotion skills at the individual, family and community levels."
Beginning this summer, the ARC will be moving from downtown Austin to the UT Austin School of Nursing building. Students must be accepted to both the UT School of Public Health and School of Social Work to enroll.
UT School of Architecture establishes endowments
Thanks to a $1 million donation to The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, the university will fund two endowments, creating a professorship and a graduate fellowship in urban planning. Both endowments will focus on reconnecting planning with architecture, landscape architecture and urban design while encompassing a holistic approach to conserving energy and curbing greenhouse gases.
Dean Fritz Steiner (pictured) said the gift “will help us to build on one of our biggest strengths here in the School of Architecture,” adding no other school in the state, and very few in the nation, offer “the rich mix of disciplines that we do.”
Philanthropists and prominent Dallas civic leaders Deedie and Rusty Rose donated the funds.
Traffic problems can make you money
When was the last time sitting in traffic made you money? The Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition (TRTC), a nonprofit transportation advocacy group, will award cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 to the winners of its 2009 “Cannes-gestion Film Festival” video contest, designed to engage the public in showing how traffic impacts their daily lives.
The contest is a play on words of the Cannes, France, international film festival and the videos will be shared with members of the Texas Legislature, who face numerous transportation issues this session. The contest, which runs through March 16, is open to anyone including students, residents, companies, employees and families. Entries must be a one- to two-minute video documenting the frustrations with traffic in the western half of the DFW Metroplex, how it impacts lives and how the motorists deal with congestion, such as riding a train, bus or bike. A panel of judges will review all submitted videos and select the top three cash award winners. Entries may be posted on YouTube or submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For official contest rules and instructions as well as more information, go to www.trtcmobility.org or call 972-580-0662 ext. 24.
City of Irving cited for technology advances
For the fourth consecutive year, the City of Irving was chosen one of the top 10 cities with populations of 125,000 to 249,999 for it technological advances, following a survey by the Center for Digital Government. A survey team from the National League of Cities and partners reviewed and assessed the ways cities are utilizing technology for daily operations. Peer benchmarking was used for measuring excellence in implementing strategic initiatives and supporting information technology assets.
Some of the factors considered in the rankings include: eGov initiatives, IT strategic planning and strategic alignment, infrastructure development (including communication broadband), standards and methodologies, promotion of technology in public safety, and IT organizational structure.
Representatives of the City of Irving were recognized in November at a reception in Orlando, Fla., during the National League of Cities' annual conference. IT officials note that cities are beginning to incorporate new technologies that optimize service delivery to citizens.
Contreras named to intergovernmental relations post
Carlos Contreras (pictured), board member for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has been named by San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley as the city's Director of Intergovernmental Relations. He replaces Andrew Smith, who has accepted a post with the University Health System.
In his new position, Contreras will monitor both state and federal government activities for the city and manage the city's legislative program.
Harlingen to get new VA health care center
A new 120,000-square-foot health care center to be leased to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be constructed on the campus of The University of Texas Regional Medical Education Center at Harlingen. The facility will be leased for a minimum of 20 years and will feature numerous outpatient services, including six surgical suites and clinics for prosthetics care, oncology and sensory aids. It also will feature parking for 750 cars in a three-story garage.
VA officials estimate that 95 percent of the four-hour trips many veterans are currently having to make to San Antonio for medical services will be eliminated by having a facility in Harlingen. The new facility will work with The University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center to provide expanded services that include specialty and diagnostic services such as pharmacy, digital x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and others. Physicians will perform outpatient services.
The VA also plans to expand the services it provides at its facilities in McAllen and Corpus Christi with inpatient care at local South Texas private-sector hospitals under contract to VA.
David Leininger chosen as DART’s new CFO
David Leininger (pictured) has been selected as the new chief financial officer for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) agency. As CFO, he will oversee all financial activities including budgeting, financial planning, federal funding, accounts payable and general accounting.
Leininger brings to his position at DART more than 30 years experience in the public and private sectors – in management for both local and international businesses as well as working with the cities of Dallas and Garland.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Benedict’s College in Kansas and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas.
Three Texas programs recognized in dropout study
A new report titled Best Practices in Dropout Prevention released by ICF International in partnership with the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network found three Texas programs made significant headway preventing high school dropouts last year. Career Academies, Communities In Schools and Project GRAD each made consistent, positive and meaningful impacts in the reduction of dropouts.
Career Academies focuses on preparing students for careers by combining regular academic coursework with career-centered curricula. Communities In Schools is a stay-in-school program that links students with other agencies and programs in the community to help them stay in school, improve academically and graduate or receive a GED. Project GRAD encourages college attendance by providing scholarships while maintaining focus on classroom management, college acceptance rates and overall student performance.
The Best Practices study, a requirement of House Bill 2237, was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2007.
UT professor adds to groundbreaking cancer research
Two researchers, including faculty member Dr. Casey Wright of The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy, have identified a mechanism that may prove beneficial in treating types of lymphomatic cancer.
Wright, an assistant professor of pharmacy who joined the UT faculty last fall, said researchers wanted to better understand how the membrane protein CD30 contributes to lymphoma. In the study, Wright and his partner uncovered an unexpected partner protein that interacts with the CD30 membrane.
The findings of Wright’s research are published in the Jan. 9 issue of Science magazine.
Institute of Texan Cultures lands executive director
Timothy J. Gette (pictured) has been selected to head The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures as the museum’s new executive director, succeeding John L. Davis.
The year-long search for a director yielded some 60 candidates for the position. UTSA Vice President for Community Services Judy Valdez said it was important to find an individual “with the skills to align the museum's proud legacy with the university's 2016 strategic plan, particularly in the areas of education and community outreach.”
Gette previously worked as executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History since 2004. Prior to that post, he worked as chief operating officer at the Dallas Museum of Natural History and director of operations at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas.
Austin ISD selects West as interim chief financial officer
Trustees for the Austin Independent School District on Wednesday appointed Steve West as the district's interim chief financial officer to replace Larry Throm, who resigned last year to take a position as chief financial officer for Dallas ISD.
West previously served as assistant superintendent for business and operation at Allen ISD, assistant superintendent for finance and controller at Pasadena ISD, assistant business manager for West Orange-Cove ISD and controller for Region 5 Education Service Center in Beaumont. He also held the position as vice president at Morgan Stanley, Austin. West holds a bachelor's degree from Lamar University.
TWDB hoping for economic stimulus funds
As the U.S. House puts the finishing touches on its economic stimulus package of some $825 million, at least one Texas state agency is encouraging communities to submit their projects for consideration for funding if those federal dollars flow to the states.
On its Web site, The Texas Water Development Board notes that some of the economic recovery legislation may include funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects through the existing State Revolving Fund programs the agency administers. TWDB notes such funds will target projects ready to go to construction, which would thus both contribute to the nation's economic recovery and help meet infrastructure needs for Texans. The instructions for the process are outlined on the Web site.
According to some sources, the plan could include up to $80 billion in funding for states for education programs and $90 billion for Medicaid assistance as well. Another $85 billion is expected for infrastructure funding for highways and bridges. Officials say much of the spending will be routed through state governments, then to municipalities and local authorities. House leaders called for $30 billion for highway construction and $10 billion for mass transit and rail.
Baytown to ask state help with red-light runners
In an attempt to collect overdue fines, Baytown city council members recently agreed to ask the Texas Department of Transportation to flag vehicle records of motorists with overdue fines from automated red-light cameras in Baytown. About one-half of the red-light camera violations are unpaid, said City Manager Garry Brumback.
If state approval is given, city officials can then ask county governments to refuse to renew vehicle registrations for motorists who do not pay the fines. While state officials have approved similar petitions from other counties, Brumback said, the tax assessor-collector in Harris County said he was not interested in the plan. About 70 percent of the red-light violations caught by the 10 red-light cameras in town are reportedly registered in Harris County.
If the state approves the request, the city will be required to pay the state $23 to place or remove a flag on a motor vehicle record in addition to 12 cents for each transaction on the file, Brumback said. That fee will not reduce the city’s revenue, but will be subtracted from the portion of each $75 fine that goes to the company administering the camera system.
Corpus Christi ISD to sell bonds for new facilities
Trustees for the Corpus Christi Independent School District recently decided to sell bonds for facilities improvements throughout the district, but have not yet decided the amount of the bond sale.
Voters in November approved $192 million for bond projects and board members expect the amount of bonds to be sold will range from $70 million to $169 million, depending on the market reaction. Superintendent Scott Eliff said he expects the district will get a low interest rate that will enable the district to sell $169 million in bonds. If not, the district can sell $70 million in bonds without delaying construction plans, he said. Revenues from the bonds will be used to build three new campuses to consolidate six of the district's 40 elementary campuses. A fourth elementary school is to be built on the south side of the city.
Board members also approved $2.4 million in maintenance projects, including replacing air conditioning units at several schools.
Plano moving forward with $148 million bond proposal
The Plano City Council recently agreed to move forward with a plan to ask voters to approve a $148 million bond proposal in May 2009.
City Manager Tom Muehlenbeck (pictured) said the proposed bonds, if approved, will provide $32 million for nine public safety projects, $1.8 million for five library projects, $55.6 million for 11 park improvement projects, $24 million for five creation center projects and $34.8 million for 59 street improvements. A $15 million proposal for improvements to Plano Centre originally included in the bond proposal was canceled.
The deadline for adding or removing projects from the proposed bond referendum before council members is Feb. 17. The Council is expected to vote on the election ordinance on Feb. 23.
San Angelo ISD names new purchasing director
As one of four finalists, Charity Vasquez has been named purchasing director for the San Angelo Independent School District. She will replace Steve Van Hoozer, who was recently named director of bond planning and construction.
Vasquez has worked for the district for nine years as an accountant, accountant specialist, cash and investment manager and budget coordinator.
Vasquez, an area native who graduated from Angelo State University, said she is looking forward to “meeting with the campuses and really being able to help them.”
Dynamo stadium in Houston could be in the works
The Dynamo professional soccer stadium could be one step closer to fruition as Harris County and the City of Houston continue to try to iron out a deal for both to participate in the project.
Although the county has asked not to be a part of the actual construction of the facility, commissioners are willing instead to use county funds for building public amenities at the stadium and to assist with infrastructure - such as water and sewer lines to serve the stadium - or perhaps parking areas and some of the landscaping. Other conditions also are being worked out. There is speculation that county commissioners could vote on a proposal later this month or in early February.
Should the county partner with the city on the East Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, each would agree to forgo $10 million of its share of property taxes from the area to help pay for the stadium. The co-owner of the Dynamo team has indicated it will invest $60 million of the $85 million necessary to build the stadium, with the rest coming from federal tax credits and other sources.
Rosenberg approves $2.5M in park improvements
Rosenberg City Council members recently approved plans for the first stage of improvements at Seabourne Creek Park and agreed to apply for a $500,000 state grant to help pay for the improvements.
Phase one of the park improvements include building three baseball fields, a softball field and a soccer/football field. Voters in 2006 approved $2.5 million in bonds to pay for the project, but city officials said that increases in materials and labors most likely will bring the project over the $2.5 million budget. The cost of the five athletic fields and the first parking area is $987,375 for infrastructure improvements and $1,842,875 for the park additions. City officials hope the $276,000 cost for lighting will be paid by the state grant if approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Plans also call for the park to include two sand volleyball courts, two horseshoe pits, one 9-hole disc golf course, five park grills, five recycled park benches, seven recycled picnic tables, two playgrounds with safety surfacing, a multi-use sport field, 10 sets of bleachers and a playground share structure. City officials plan to select a contractor in early March and the target for completion of the first phase is spring 2010.
New Braunfels approves $650,000 to upgrade center
The New Braunfels City Council recently approved spending $650,000 to improve the New Braunfels Civic Center.
The upgrades including a new electronic marquee, new flooring for stages and the ballroom, upgraded electrical and audio/visual capability, a new partition in the exhibit hall, lighting upgrades, a new generator and new furniture for the lobbies, said City Manager Mike Morrison (pictured). Funding for the upgrades will be provided from revenue from hotel and motel room occupancy taxes.
Even though the newly expanded civic center was opened in June 2008, the $12 million final cost of revitalizing the facility did not include many amenities that are needed to compete with other facilities in the area such as the newly opened San Marcos Convention Center, Morrison said. The newly approved upgrades include many that were cut to meet the budget, he said.
Conroe to expand gateway projects to welcome visitors
The Conroe City Council recently approved a second gateway project to be built for the east Gateway on SH 105 and approved plans to build a third gateway on Main Street in early 2010.
The East Gateway, to be located on SH 105, is expected to cost $105,000 and the South Gateway on Main Street is expected to cost between $300,000 to $400,000, said City Administrator Jerry McGuire. The standard design for the gateway is a welcome sign, a rock fountain, landscaping and an arbor, however, the small size of the East Gateway prevents a fountain from being installed at that location, McGuire said.
The South Gateway is expected to spread across three medians and two triangles at Frazier and Main streets, city officials said. The gateway projects are funded through the Conroe Industrial Development Council and a $35,000 grant from the Houston Area Council.
Federal grants of $11.6 million benefit airports
Five infrastructure improvement grants worth $11.65 million have been awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants include: East Texas Regional Airport in Longview, $3.1 million to expand its airport ramp and rehabilitate its runway; George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, $1.3 million for noise mitigation measures; San Angelo Regional Airport, $2.7 million for taxiway and runway rehabilitation; Midland International Airport, $1.5 million for runway rehabilitation and Laredo International Airport, $3 million for ramp rehabilitation.
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2009 Texas Homeland Security Conference set in March
The 2009 Texas Homeland Security Conference will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio March 23-26. It will combine all of the workshops, presentations, training classes and resources normally associated with the Texas Hurricane Conference and the Texas Homeland Security Conference. Workshops and presentations from a wide variety of experts will focus on the full spectrum of homeland security goals: Prevention, Protection, Response and Recovery. The conference is sponsored by the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management and brings together representatives of law enforcement, border security and port security, transportation and cyber security, as well as firefighters, emergency medical personnel, Texas Military Forces, voluntary organizations and private sector representatives. Attendees also will include officials from higher education, public education, health and medical care and public officials from local, state and national governments. Representatives of more than 30 state agencies on the Governor’s Emergency Management Council and federal officials also will attend. For more information on conference registration, general session speakers, workshops and training opportunities, click here.
TxDOT to host small business briefings
The Texas Department of Transportation will conduct a series of briefings throughout the state to educate small and minority-owned business owners on how to do business with TxDOT, particularly relating to how TxDOT procures services and purchases products. General Industry Sessions will include an Overview of TxDOT Toll Projects and Contracting Opportunities on Toll Way Projects, Professional Services Consulting Contracts and State Contracting for Information Technology Products and Services. Other breakout sessions will target small and minority businesses on Small and Minority Business Certifications, Resources for Small Business Development and Marketing Your Business to the State. TxDOT contracts include, but are not limited to, engineering, real estate professionals, IT services, computers, printing, construction, maintenance, goods and services and more. The briefings will be held Feb. 18 and 19 in Laredo; March 26 and 27 in Houston; and April 15 and 16 in Odessa. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.
DIR plans e-Learning forum for agencies, universities
A free one-day e-Learning Forum for Texas state agencies and universities only will be held Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Commons Center of the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in Austin. Sponsored by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), the conference's goal is to share information on what is happening in the industry and specifically in Texas government. Potential topics include tools and trends in e-learning, case studies of successful government e-learning projects with speakers profiling different implementation styles such as simplistic modules requiring little specialized expertise, successfully deploying a subscription-based learning course library, extensive custom development, Web 2.0 and e-learning, collaboration of the IT and training departments and lessons learned and best practices. To register, click here.
'Putting America Back to Work' conference planned
The Texas Workforce Commission will host its "Putting America Back to Work" conference on Jan. 15 and 16, 2009, at the Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark. The two-day conference topics include: The Texas Economic Model, Lessening our Dependency on Foreign Energy, Rebuilding Our Manufacturing Base and Challenges of our Business Tax Structure. Among the confirmed speakers are former Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson and Barry Smitherman, chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. For a registration form and agenda, click here.