Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 39 - Friday, October 14, 2016
Legislative conference offered preparation for upcoming session
A number of elected officials, along with others in the executive ranks of government in Texas, were among numerous presenters at the 2016 Biennial Legislative Communication Conference. The pre-legislative session event was sponsored by Strategic Partnerships, Inc and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar kicked off the day-long event and discussed the state's economic outlook. He reported that Texas has moved up two rankings from the twelfth to the tenth largest economy in the world. He also pointed out that the state was less vulnerable to a recession because it has broadened its economic resources. 

The budget will likely be tighter than in recent years due to decreased revenue streams, Hegar said. But, he also said the situation is not dire. The state compares favorably to other states focused on the energy industry as a significant economic driver. Texas continues to improve modestly on multiple economic indicators including personal income.

The state has an economic stabilization fund, also known as the rainy day fund, which may be used in the event of a budget shortfall with a three-fifths vote. The fund is expected to be nearly $9.7 billion at the close of FY 2016.

Texas government executives and others got some firsthand 
information and lots of advice about how to work with the offices of legislators during the upcoming session. Attendees were told that when the legislature reconvenes in January, members will face the challenges of a tighter budget and a number of high 
dollar critical needs - child protection, education, mental health and others.

Kirk Watson, a state senator for the Capital area and the former mayor of Austin, echoed those priorities in his afternoon address. He spoke about heartbreaking stories of children the state was not able to protect as well as medical and educational deficiencies. The challenge, he said, is to find a way to balance the critical needs of the most vulnerable with the principle of limited government.

"Nothing about a so-called efficient, low-tax, low-regulation government rings true if we fail at something so fundamental," said Watson.

One suggestion for agencies that pr
so-called efficient, low-tax, low-regulation government rings true if we fail at something so fundamental," said Watson.
esenters reiterated throughout the event was about preparation. Presenters should have a concrete reason for any appropriation request.

"The most successful requests will be those that can be backed up by data," said Brady Franks, senior policy and budget advisor for the Speaker of the House.

Agencies were also urged to provide consistent information to all parties. Nothing irritates a legislator more than finding out a colleague had information earlier or different information, said Ursula Parks, director of the Legislative Budget Board.


She reminded the crowd that "sooner or later, all of the people you've provided information to all get together and talk...so it is important that we've all heard the same story".

One statement that was repeated many times was "we do not want to be surprised". Presenters from the top three leadership offices described to the audience how their offices will operate during the session and provided good advice about how to reach them when time is of the essence.

One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation by Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune. Evan pointed to many changing demographics statewide that will definitely have an impact in the very near future. Other speakers who discussed some of the politics that may influence issues during the session were Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune and Erica Grieder of Texas Monthly.

The conference has been sponsored since 1998 by the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

more photos available here
Comptroller distributes $650M in monthly sales tax revenue
The Texas comptroller's office has announced the distribution of $650 million in local sales tax allocations for October to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts. The allocations are 5.5 percent more than in October 2015 and are based on sales made in August. 

Cities will receive $425.5 million, up 5.4 percent from October 2015. Counties will receive $38.1 million, up 1.6 percent. Transit systems will receive $145.8 million, up 5.5 percent. Special purpose taxing districts will receive $40.6 million, up 9.8 percent. Click here for more details.

State calls for immediate action on child protection
Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus sent a letter this week directing Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Hank Whitman to immediately develop a plan to increase protections for children in the care of Child Protective Services (CPS). The letter follows a recent DFPS report showing a significant backlog of children not seen by caseworkers within acceptable timeframes. 

"Action plans must be demanded from DFPS regional management in order to address the current situation and proactively prevent additional lapses in the required face-to-face visitations and interventions," the letter reads. "To that end, we are directing that you immediately initiate the following actions as a focused effort to apply expedient stop-gap measures to the problem while legislators prepare for and make funding decisions for the next biennium." 

Leaders called for DFPS to develop a plan to hire and train more special investigators, staff an increased number of the caseworkers to address the backlog, reinforce the culture of accountability at all levels of management and build and enhance partnerships with local faith-based communities.
UTEP to build space center
The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso County announced new aerospace research and rocket-testing facilities coming to Fabens. A Technology Research and Innovation Acceleration Park will be constructed next to the Fabens airport. 

"This partnership marks a giant leap forward not only for research opportunities available to the University's students, but also for economic development that benefits our whole region," said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. 

The county has agreed to provide land and structural support for the project. The university's Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research has partnered with NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, Lockheed Martin and the Missile Defense Agency. All of these partners are expected to house projects at the new complex.

Officials expect the project to take 10 years for construction, grant funding and the implementation of projects proposed by university partners.
State-ordered study urges demolition of San Antonio State Hospital
An architectural study, approved by state legislators in 2014, recommended that the San Antonio State Hospital be demolished and rebuilt. The facility was originally built in 1892 and the most recent additions to the complex were added in the 1970s.

The study conducted by the architectural and engineering company indicates 80 percent of the hospital's structures are in critical condition. The cost of maintaining the current facility would be more than the estimated $175 million it would cost to rebuild the hospital.

The state legislature would be required to approve any funding to rebuild the state hospital in San Antonio.
Travis County weighing five locations for courts
With a goal to choose a site by next year, an advisory group appointed by Travis County commissioners narrowed down their search for sites to locate civil and family courts. Five locations now being evaluated by commissioners. 

The citizens advisory group inspected 20 properties during the past eight months and identified five possibilities for a new courthouse facility. The current facility is located on Guadalupe Street in Austin. 

Commissioners also approved a resolution in support of the Texas Legislature authorizing the creation of two new district courts in Travis County.


Abilene unveils $28M master plan for park
Abilene city officials unveiled their first draft of a $28 million master plan for Grover Nelson Park located in the southeast area of the city. The proposed master plan prepared by a consulting architect includes long-term development of the park once a planned $7.5 million youth facility is built by Abilene Youth Sports Authority. 

The preliminary plans for expanding the park include a $10.8 million project to build a soccer/flex field complex with concession stands, restrooms, a walking trail, pavilion and other amenities; a $6.5 million project to build baseball fields with lighting, a trail, restrooms and a concession stand; and a $2.4 million project featuring a festival garden with a dog park, facilities for volleyball and basketball, a playground and restrooms. Also included in the master plan are $2.5 million for a lake and fishing area and $2.1 million to improve the access road to the park.
Houston ISD performing arts high school receives $7.5M gift  
Houston Independent School District officials received a $7.5 million donation from the Kinder Foundation to build a new campus downtown for the high school for performing and visual artsHISD school board members agreed to accept the gift from the foundation and rename the school Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. 

Voters in 2012 approved $80.2 million in bond funds to build the new campus. Budget cuts and increasing costs, however, prompted district officials to seek another $10 million in private donations to move forward with building the new campus. 

Plans call for building a 168,000-square-foot facility featuring a theater seating 800, a smaller theater that will seat 200 and a black box theater with seating for 150. The facility also will feature a recital hallstorage area, costume shop and underground parking.
I-35 could transform into double-decker highway
San Antonio and Austin officials are backing a plan to add a second deck of roadway on Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Georgetown in order to reduce traffic jams and delays caused by heavy congestion on that 75-mile stretch of highway. 

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff compared that part of I-35, which has been identified as the busiest freight corridor in the United States, to a parking lot.  

The plan promoted by city and county leaders could include four lanes of toll road and possibly high speed rail to be built on the upper level. Planning organizations in Travis and Bexar Counties are studying strategies for the multi-billion dollar project.
San Antonio park project boosted by $1M donation
The city of San Antonio announced a private donation of $1 million to help fund the redevelopment of Lincoln Park. The park is located on the east side of the city. 

City staff members have proposed that the city match the donation to redevelop the park as part of the proposed bond election in 2017. Current plans are to ask voters to approve bond funds in May for work on upgrades to the park to be completed by mid-2018, in time for the celebration of the city's 300th birthday.
Huntsville outlines $128M bond proposals 
Huntsville city officials at the 2016 State of the City Address outlined three propositions to be decided by voters in a $128 million bond election in November. 

The first proposition asks for approval of $31 million to pay for a new fire station and a police facility, while the second proposition seeks $24 million to expand and renovate city hall and the city service center.  The third proposition asks for approval of $73 million to upgrade the city's water and wastewater systems to meet the demands of a growing population and meet state and federal water quality standards.
Rey Arellano, Assistant City Manager, City of Austin
 
Rey Arellano
Career Highlights and Education: I was appointed Assistant City Manager in September 2013 and currently oversee the Public Safety service group that includes Police, Fire, Austin-Travis County EMS, Office of the Medical Director, Austin Code, Homeland Security & Emergency Management, and the Downtown Austin Community Court. I also serve as Chair of the City's IT Steering Committee that oversees the strategic use of technology in the City, as well as Chair of the City's Open Government Board that focuses not only on increasing access to the City's data sets, but actively creating opportunities between departments and between the City and constituents to create meaningful applications that can have a positive service impact on the lives of Austin residents and businesses.

My previous assignments include Deputy City Manager & Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the City of Tacoma WA and the City of San Diego CA. I completed a 22-year career as a U.S. Navy Officer, serving as a nuclear-trained Submarine Officer on various submarines and other staff assignments. I received a Master of Science in Information Management from Marymount University, Arlington, VA; and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.

What I like best about my job is: The work I'm doing and the people I'm doing it with, both in the City organization and in the community.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Bring your best self to work every day in pursuit of being a best managed city.
 
Advice you would give to a new hire in your office: Bring your best self to work every day in pursuit of being a best managed city.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: At home spending time with my wife Rowena and Sofie, our mini Australian Shepard.

People would be surprised to know that I: Am older than I look. I attribute that to being assigned to submarines and being under water away from the sun, although I'm not sure how to explain the effect of being in close proximity to a nuclear propulsion plant. I guess it's just good genetics (thanks Mom and Dad!).

One thing I wish more people knew about my association: We care deeply about the work we do in providing services to the residents and businesses in Austin. There are many needs in the community. We do our very best to meet the City Council's prioritization of those needs within the limited resources available to the City.
Calendar of Events

Jan. 23-25, 2017

The Water for Texas 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas, will showcase innovative scientific, planning and financial solutions to water challenges; interactive data and technology; and compelling conversations on water issues that affect all Texans. Panel discussions, workshops, and exhibits will offer the opportunity to network and engage with industry leaders, elected officials and TWDB Board members and staff. A conference agenda is available. Register here.

 

Sept. 20-21, 2016

Buyers, contract administrators and project managers interested in earning a construction purchasing certificate can do so through The University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. The program aids in understanding and using new terms, remaining compliant with unfamiliar laws, developing control plans and schedules and staying on budget. The LBJ School's Construction Purchasing Certificate Program consists of four core courses and one elective to be completed over a period of two years. The goal of this certificate program is to provide participants with the skills and knowledge to ensure that their organization's construction projects are well managed and secure the intended results and value. The courses are complementary in nature, and each course repeats annually. The next available course is Basics of Construction Purchasing and will be held Sept. 20-21. 

By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

America's colleges and universities are turning out an army of warriors! But, these warriors are not your typical soldiers...and they don't carry firearms. These are cyber-warriors. 

Nationwide, colleges and universities are rushing to offer research and academic programs, workshops, classroom instruction and degrees - all related to cybersecurity. Some are even creating what they call "cyber ranges," where future cyber-warriors train and test their skills. 

Cyber ranges are not unlike shooting ranges. Users are trained in the use of weapons, operations and tactics. However, the cyber range is a virtual environment that is used for training and development of cyber technology. The ranges are places where cyber-warriors and IT professionals work together to develop technologies and security strategies.






Tidwell selected as new president of UT-Tyler
Michael Tidwell has been selected as the lone finalist for president of The University of Texas-Tyler. Once the required 21-day waiting period expires, the selection will become official. He will replace President Rodney Mabry, who is retiring at the end of the year. 

Now serving as dean of the business school at Eastern Michigan University, Tidwell also was employed at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and Clayton State University in Georgia.


University investment chief resigns 
Bruce Zimmerman
Bruce Zimmerman resigned as the chief executive officer and chief investment manager of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, or UTIMCO, a nonprofit investment corporation that operates under the authority of the University of Texas System Board of Regents. 

Among the funds managed by UTIMCO are the Permanent University Fund, benefiting the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University system, which was most recently valued at $17.9 billion.  
Since Zimmerman became the chief investment officer for UTIMCO, total assets rose from $23.5 billion in 2007 to a current estimated value of almost $37 billion. His resignation is effective immediately.


San Antonio ISD wins $46federal grant 
San Antonio Independent School District officials won a $46.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to attract and retain top teachers and principals to boost academic achievements at 15 of the district's low-performing schools. Part of the funds will be used to redesign the district's Human Capital Management System. 

The Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) Project grant will be used over a five-year period to identify, attract and retain highly qualified and effective educators, said Toni Thompson, associate superintendent for human resources.
Mental health programs granted $10M for veterans
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission approved $10 million in grants to be distributed to 14 community groups in Texas to offer mental health services to Texas veterans and families.  

The grants are part of the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance program of HHSC that received a legislative appropriation of up to $20 million in state funding to be spent during the 2016-2017 biennium. The grants will require some matching funding from the local community groups.  

In the past year, HHSC spent $1 million of the funding to pilot programs in five locations across the state. For more information about the grant program, click here.


Bastrop weighing options for downtown property
Bastrop City Council members are weighing four options for the future of city-owned property adjacent to the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center. The city now leases the property for $1 a month to the 1832 Farmers Market, which has held the lease since 2008.

City council members instructed Main Street program staff too submit a business plan for the property on Chestnut Street for consideration. Several options are being studied. The city could develop an events center for concerts, weddings and other activities or build a hotel on the property to support the adjacent convention center. City officials could also choose to simply renew the lease to the farmers market or sell the property.
McKinstry

Austin seeking public input for Bull Creek Park plan
Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) officials are staging two community meetings on Oct. 27 and Nov. 17 to gather public input to help develop a master plan for the Bull Creek District Park to guide future renovations and development.

PARD officials plan to use up to $750,000 in bond funds approved in 2012 to fund the development, design process, permitting and first phase of construction for the 48-acre park that offers water recreation as well as walking trails, water fountains, picnic areas, a sand volleyball court and three parking areas At those meetings, PARD staff plan to present preliminary design concepts for improvements and upgrades to the park that were developed using an on-line survey and stakeholder interviews.


League City considers parking garage
City council members in League City are considering paying a consultant to assist the city in applying for federal funding for a new downtown parking garage and transit station.

About $2.5 million of a proposed Main Street Project could be eligible for matching grants from the Federal Transit Authority, city officials said. But to qualify for the grant funding, the city must submit studies, results from hearings and other information. The consultant will help ensure the city has the necessary information to qualify for the federal funding.

Current plans are to be a parking structure with about 300 parking spaces and from 30,000 to 45,000 square feet of additional space for retail establishments.
Two join SPI's business development and marketing team
Strategic Partnerships, Inc., has added two new employees to its business development and marketing team. Lara Kennedy will lead marketing efforts as director of marketing and Jeremy Warren will serve as the director of business development. 

Lara Kennedy
Kennedy has more than 20 years of marketing, public relations and communications experience. She founded and operated a firm specializing in communications, marketing, branding and crisis communication that was later acquired. She previously worked a director of public relations and marketing for the chapter of a national marketing association. 

Kennedy was a communications director, press secretary and legislative correspondent in the U.S. House of Representatives and was a media liaison and senior communications adviser to two members of Congress. 

Jeremy Warren
Warren has a solid foundation in both the public and private sectors and more than a decade of experience in the political arena. He most recently served as president of a public relations and public affairs business that he founded. 

Prior to that, he was employed by The Greater Houston Partnership, an organization of businesses in the Houston area that promote the city's growth. He also served as the director of communications and press secretary for numerous elected officials including press secretary for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Priscilla Loebenberg 
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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