News And People

Volume 14, Issue 30 - Friday, August 12, 2016
What will Texas do about transparency in government?
Lawmakers and advocates discuss legislative fix
 Image Credits:Free Press
Citizens and taxpayers have a right to know how public money is spent -- at least that has always been the basic understanding which was codified in the Texas Public Information Act in 1973. 

"The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know." That is a direct quote from the law.

However, a decision last year by the highest court in Texas is calling that premise into question. In a lawsuit brought by a corporation that didn't want the details of its contract with the inland Port of San Antonio made public, the court ruled on the side of the corporation, upholding its assertion that if the information were made public it could give an edge to its business competition. 


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Jeff Walker, Executive Administrator, Texas Water Development Board

Career highlights and education: I have a Bachelor of Science in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University-College Station (TAMU) and a master of business administration from Texas State University. Additionally, I received a doctorate from the School of Hard Knocks working for Baugh Cattle Co. in Brownwood, Texas, after graduating from TAMU. That job taught me that as long as you enjoy what you are doing, you can deal with anything. It also taught me that a 24/7, 365-day job in agriculture was probably not my long-term career. However, it did give me a leg up in my next job, which was in agricultural water conservation at the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).

What I like best about my job is: The thing I like best about my job is that I can learn something new every day. Even though I have been with the TWDB for over 25 years and thought I knew about most of our work, I am still discovering new projects and research underway here. For example, we are studying and creating 3-D models of aquifers in Texas so that water suppliers have better information before investing citizens' dollars in potential water projects. 

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Always strive to do the right thing and never be embarrassed to be dirty due to hard work. 

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: I would advise new hires to find their passion and pursue it. It may not be what you are doing now, so examine your career path and find a way to get there. Also, never take a different job just for the money. In the end, enjoyment is always more fulfilling. 

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Watching baseball, trying out a new restaurant, listening to music or heading out of town for a quick road trip.  

People would be surprised to know that I: I am an avid reader and learning junkie. I always have at least two books going at a time, one by my bedside and an audio book for walking my Chihuahua and making the commute time more tolerable. I am wide-ranging in my genres but tend to lean toward mysteries, history and science. Currently under perusal are a Clive Cussler adventure, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and The Gene: an Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. 

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: I wish more people knew about the wide variety of information we have to offer and that we are truly focused on customer service. For example, we have data available on over 140,000 water wells and over 2,000 springs in Texas. We also have up-to-date information on all reservoir conditions in Texas including current and historic levels available on www.waterdatafortexas.org. The TWDB has over 1 million frames of aerial photography going back decades in our Texas Natural Resources Information System division, as well as numerous other physical and digital maps. Of course, this is all in addition to the low-cost financial assistance we have available for almost any type of water-related project. Finally, we are a state agency and here to serve the people of Texas. Our staff is here ready to assist with any of your water-related needs.

Texas consolidates agency data
Todd Kimbriel
The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) has hit a major milestone in consolidating computing services for agencies statewide into data centers. The goal of DIR's Data Center Services program to move 75 percent of state computing services into the data center has been met.

"This milestone represents the reality of the Legislature's vision and is the result of much hard work on the part of the program team and, most importantly, the agencies that participate in the Statewide Technology Center," said Todd Kimbriel, the Chief Information Officer of Texas. 
The Data Center Services program was created to improve Texas' aging IT infrastructure and provide security position and data recoverability in the event of a disaster. It does this allowing government agencies to buy portions of a server instead of having each agency purchasing individual server hardware.

A significant feature of the consolidation effort is the refresh program which keeps the state's hardware current, rising from 50 percent current in 2006 to more than 90 percent current today. More than 90 percent of software is also current and therefore better supported and less vulnerable to attacks. 
The program includes almost 5,000 servers in two locations, a mainframe and print mail services, said Data Center Services Manager Sally Ward. The next focus is on continued modernization of legacy systems and hybrid cloud services. The center plans to implement state-owned data center automation capabilities. This includes additional services for state customers as well as services for the public, said Ward.
Texas Tech to open Costa Rica campus in 2018 
Texas Tech University officials have announced plans for the school's new international campus, Texas Tech University Costa Rica.

The campus will be located in San José and offer undergraduate and graduate degrees pending approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The campus plans to open for Spring 2018.
Spring ISD bond panel urging $330M bond election
A bond steering committee for Spring Independent School District urged trustees to schedule a $330 million bond election in November to pay for new facilities and renovations to existing facilities.

Committee members recommended building three ninth-grade campuses and two middle schools to address overcrowding at existing middle schools. Each of the new middle schools is estimated to cost $80 million and the three ninth-grade campuses are estimated to cost a total of $112 million.

Also included in the recommendation is a new $38 million stadium, $38 million to upgrade technology throughout the school district and $18 million for safety and security projects. Board members have until Aug. 22 to decide whether to schedule a bond election in November and select the projects to be included on the bond ballot.

Sunset meeting set for Aug. 22
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Aug. 22 to hear public testimony and report findings on agencies under review. Findings will be presented to the Legislature, which must pass a bill in the upcoming session in order to continue each agency under review.

At the upcoming meeting, the commission will hear public testimony on the Board of Trustees of Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) and the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC).

The commission will report decisions on the following agencies: State Bar of Texas, Central Colorado River Authority, State Board of Dental Examiners, Board of Law Examiners, Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners, Palo Duro River Authority of Texas, Texas State Board of Pharmacy, Executive Council of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners, Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, Sulphur River Basin Authority and Upper Colorado River Authority. 

Visit sunset.texas.gov for more information.
Charles Schwab regional campus coming to Westlake
Gov. Greg Abbott announced a $6 million Texas Enterprise Fund grant for The Charles Schwab Corporation, which is planning a new regional campus in Westlake.

"By expanding their facilities, pouring millions into the Texas economy and creating more than a thousand new jobs, Charles Schwab is investing in the North Texas community and bringing more opportunities for our world-class workforce," said Abbott.

The planned 70-acre development will anchor a proposed mixed-use project. It will include 500,000 square feet of commercial office space with structured parking. The total capital investment is projected to be $100 million. An estimated 1,200 new jobs will be created. 
Comptroller to distribute $769 million in sales tax revenue
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has announced $769 million in local sales tax allocations for August. The funds will be distributed to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts. The figure is 1.2 percent higher than allocations from August 2015.

The comptroller's office reported noticeable increases in sales tax allocations for the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Arlington, Plano and Irving. However, "energy-centric cities" such as Houston and Midland continue to see decreased in allocations.

Cities were allocated $505.2 million, up 1.8 percent from the same period last year. Counties will receive $43 million, down 7.1 percent. Transit systems will receive $174.4 million, up 1.4 percent. Special Purpose taxing districts are getting $46.8 million, up 1.8 percent.

Eagle Pass U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint to expand
Eagle Pass city officials praised a decision by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to expand a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint that now causes long waits for vehicles leaving that city.

While the state is funding the project, the city also has about $1 million in cross border infrastructure funding that could be used to help pay for expanding the border crossing, a spokesman for the city said. The environmental assessment for the expansion of the checkpoint should be completed within the next two months, he said.
  
Greenville seeking bids to build new fire station
Greenville city officials recently requested contractors to submit bids to build a new fire station to replace Fire Station No. 1. City officials will accept bids for the fire station until the end of August. 
El Paso ISD bond panel urging $668.7 million bond proposal
The Facilities Advisory Committee of El Paso Independent School District recommended trustees schedule a $669.8 million bond election in November to renovate several campuses and purchase laptop computers for all students and teachers.

Voters last approved $230 million in bonds in 2007, but district facilities must be upgraded, the president of the board said. Included in the recommendations are a $79.8 million project to rebuild Coronado High School, a $32 million project to renovate Austin High School and a $21 million project to renovate El Paso High School.

Board members expect to vote on the bond proposal on Aug. 15.
Athens approves $8M renovation
Athens city officials approved spending about $8 million to renovate the former Cain Center after reaching an agreement with the board of the center that calls for the city to assume control of the facility beginning in January 2017.

The agreement calls for the center to temporarily close on Dec. 31 and the city to begin to renovate the facility to house city offices. City officials also are considering upgrades to the pool and improvements to other recreational uses of the center using up to $8 million in certificates of obligation to pay for the upgrades to the former privately operated center.

Corpus Christi weighing $214.9 million in capital projects
Corpus Christi Photo by Terry Ross
Corpus Christi City Council members have begun reviewing a recommendation from the planning commission to allot more than half of its proposed $214.9 million capital improvement budget to upgrading the city's water and wastewater systems rather than street improvements.

The proposed 2016-2017 capital improvement budget calls for spending about $55 million on upgrades to the wastewater system and about $52 million on upgrading its water system. The upgrades include about $12 million to install new pipes to minimize sewage overflows, which have caused the city to issue three "boil water" notices in the last year.
Dallas eyeing purchase of historic state jail site
Dallas city officials will consider purchasing the Dawson State Jail on Commerce Street when officials of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice release a recommended price on Sept. 1.

State officials closed the jail in August 2013 to cut costs. Dallas city officials look at the jail's location as an important link between the central business district convention center and the Trinity River Corridor and plan to purchase the building if the price is within the city's means.

If the city does not buy the property, city officials also could issue a request for private developers to submit a proposal to build a hotel or residential tower on the property, officials said.

Whiteside ISD to ask voters to approve $94.8M bonds
Trustees for Whiteside Independent School District scheduled a bond election in November asking for approval of $94.8 million to pay for two new buildings and upgrade the high school.

The bond ballot will feature two propositions, with the first proposing approval of $87.6 million to replace the junior high campus and an elementary campus. Also included in the first proposition are a new warehouse and upgrades to the transportation system as well as installing a new roof, heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the high school.

The second proposition will ask for $7.39 million to build a multi-purpose facility to use as an indoor practice facility for sports and extracurricular activities and upgrades to the football stadium.
Palmview begins second phase of construction for new city park
Palmview city officials announced plans to build a new city park located on land donated by the La Joya school district in two separate phases.

The first phase, expected to cost about $500,000, includes a new pavilion, a running trail, an area accessible to those with disabilities and an area with barbecue pits. The second phase will include a splash pad and a technology center, said City Manager Ramon Segovia. The Community Block Grant program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing funding for the new park.

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Fort Bend ISD selects 65-acre site for new career, technical facility
Trustees for Fort Bend Independent School District selected a 65-acre plot of land on University Boulevard as the location to build a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) facility estimated to cost about $59 million.

The location provides easy access to several major highways to help make the location more accessible from all 11 high schools in the district, trustees said. Current plans are to open the new CTE center in August 2018.

Amarillo sets $340M bond election
Amarillo City Council members have scheduled a $340 million bond election in November to pay for street improvements in addition to upgrades to municipal and athletic facilities.

Council members agreed to ask voters to approve $89.5 million for street projects, $41.5 million for municipal facilities, $66.6 million for athletic facilities and $83.4 million for the civic center. Other projects included in the proposition are $22.2 million for parks, $16.3 million for fleet upgrades and $20 million for public safety projects.

Bellaire weighing $40.6M bond
The Bellaire City Council is likely to decide on Monday whether or not to schedule a $40.6 million bond election in November to pay for several capital improvement projects.

Street and drainage projects totaling $20 million top the project list and a water line replacement design project totaling $11 million also is being considered for the bond ballot. Council members are reviewing a proposal to spend an additional $5.6 million for a city hall complex and allotting $4 million for sidewalk upgrades.

Pearland ISD seeking voter approval of $220M bond
Pearland Independent School District board members have scheduled a $220 million bond election in November. The proposal includes 35 separate projects.

While the bond proposition does not include any funding for new campuses, the proposals include several renovations to campuses, adding classroom space at some campuses and upgrading technology, said Superintendent John Kelly.

Members of the bond committee included 45 community members, business leaders, parents and teachers who met for six months studying demographics and touring facilities. 
Harris County considers $105M Astrodome renovation
Harris County commissioners are considering a proposed $105 million plan to repurpose the Houston Astrodome into an events venue with an underground parking garage large enough to accommodate 1,400 vehicles.

The proposed plan calls for raising the floor of the 51-year-old domed stadium to ground level and creating an underground parking garage that could be used by those attending events at NRG Stadium. The renovated dome also would have spaces that could potentially be leased by restaurants and retail establishments as well as some office space.

Funding for the renovation could come from parking fees, hotel occupancy taxes and general obligation bonds, but will not require an increase in property taxes, according to the county budget officer.
Calendar of Events

LBJ School offers Construction Purchasing Certificate Program
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. 
Lots of money available for any, all types of infrastructure projects  

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

While hundreds of infrastructure projects languish for want of funding, experts say that last year alone, the top 30 global infrastructure equity funds raised enough capital to finance $724 billion dollars' worth of these projects. Funding is not a problem! 

Interestingly enough, the United States was home to five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 20 largest global infrastructure equity funds in 2015. U.S.-based institutions also ranked first among the top funds for capital raised - $71.9 billion - and first in percentage of the total capital raised collectively by the funds - nearly 40 percent.

According to the Reason Foundation, in the decade ending in 2015, approximately $350 billion was raised by infrastructure equity funds - enough to support $1.4 trillion in projects. In spite of all the available funding, most large public projects are either languishing or moving so slowly most people wonder if anything will ever happen.




Albright named state budget director
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Steven Albright will be the new budget director for the governor's office. He replaces Ky Ash, who accepted a position in the private sector.

"Steven brings a wealth of experience in state government that will be instrumental in our mission to ensure the State of Texas remains a good steward of taxpayer dollars," said Abbott.

Albright currently serves as the governor's deputy policy director. Previously, he served as a chief of staff in the state Senate and House of Representatives. He was policy director for the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation.

Dallas County Community College names Hill to lead public safety
Lauretta Hill
Dallas County Community College officials named Lauretta Hill to serve in the newly created position of commissioner for public safety and security. Her duties include public safety operations, risk management, campus policing, emergency responses and preparedness while managing a staff of 150.

Most recently a deputy police chief in Miami Beach, Hill also served as deputy chief for the Arlington Police Department where she led security for the 2011 Super Bowl and the 2010 NBA All-Star game.

Hill has a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington and a master's degree from Texas Christian University. She also graduated from the FBI National Academy.
Save the date!
The 2017 Legislative Communications Conference is set for Oct. 13 on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of The University of Texas at Austin. More information will be made available as we get closer to that date.
City of Dallas executive appointments announced
Dallas City Manager A. C. Gonzalez announced four executive appointments effective Oct. 1. The staff changes are part of a plan to "innovate from the top down and re-energize from the bottom up," said Gonzalez in a memorandum to the mayor and city council.

Stephanie D. McHenry is now the assistant director of aviation. She is being reassigned from the sanitation department. Dennis Ware will become the assistant director of sanitation. Previously, he was assistant director of streets services. Jeanne Chipperfield will be chief of ethics and compliance. Rick Galceran has been reappointed as director of mobility, streets and transportation. 
Shannon selected as interim TSC president
Mike
Mike Shannon
Shannon has agreed to serve as interim president of Texas Southmost College (TSC).

Most recently the vice president of student services for TSC, Shannon replaces Lily Tercero, who was placed on administrative leave. He has 20 years' experience in higher education.

Sherman leaves Ferris for Hutchins
Carl Sherman
City Manager Carl Sherman of Ferris is resigning effective Aug. 18. He accepted the post of chief administrative officer for Hutchins beginning Sept. 6.

Prior to becoming city manager in Ferris in July 2015, Sherman was a mayor in DeSoto. Council members have not yet selected an interim or acting city manager to replace Sherman.
Wendler tapped for West Texas A&M president
Walter v. Wendler
Walter V. Wendler, a former vice chancellor at Texas A&M University, won selection from a field of 70 applicants as the sole finalist for president of West Texas A&M University.

When he begins his new duties, Wendler will replace James Hallmark, a vice chancellor of academic affairs for the Texas A&M System who has served as interim president.

Wendler was a chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and director of the school of architecture from 2001 until he retired in 2015. He also served as an executive assistant to the president and dean of the College of Architecture.
Lee selected for superintendent at Millsap ISD
Deann Lee
Deann Lee recently won selection as the lone finalist for superintendent at Millsap Independent School District, where she has served as interim superintendent since the end of June. She replaced former Superintendent David Belding, who resigned to take over as superintendent for Aubrey ISD.

Beginning her career in public education as a teacher for Arlington ISD, Lee also was a teacher and administrator for Paris ISD.
Lee earned a bachelor's degree from Southern Nazarene University and a master's degree from Texas Woman's University. She also has certification as a superintendent.

Ingleside selects Pena as interim city manager
Florencio Pena
Ingleside City Council members selected Florencio Pena to serve as interim city manager. Pena was city manager in Laredo and was recommended by a consulting company for the interim post, city officials said.

City officials have not adopted a timetable to find a permanent city manager, a council member said.
Castillo selected for Donna ISD
Deputy Superintendent Fernando Castillo of Donna Independent School District was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent of the school district.
Board members selected Castillo at a special board meeting to interview candidates for the permanent job of superintendent recommended by a search firm.
Navasota ISD taps Matthews as interim superintendent
Ernest Ray Matthews
Navasota Independent School District trustees appointed Ernest Ray Matthews as interim superintendent to replace Superintendent Rory Gesch, who resigned in July to join Alvin ISD as an assistant superintendent.

Matthews has served as interim superintendent for three school districts in Texas, including Marlin ISD and Iola ISD. Trustees have begun a search to find a permanent superintendent, a board member said.


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Commerce ISD taps Alderman for superintendent
Charlie Alderman
Trustees for Commerce Independent School District named Charlie Alderman, who now serves as interim superintendent, as lone finalist for the permanent post. His duties officially begin on Aug. 24, after the state-required 21-day waiting period.

Alderman replaced former Superintendent Blake Cooper, who retired in June. He also was a director and principal for school districts in Sulphur Springs and Melissa and an assistant principal and teacher at Terrell ISD.
Mission CISD creates PFC to finance admin building
Mission Consolidated Independent School District trustees have created a public facilities corporation (PFC) to assist in financing a new administration building estimated at $13.5 million. The formation of the PFC allows the district to fund the administration building through a lease revenue bond.

Construction is expected to cost about $9 million and the remaining funding will be used to pay for legal and financial services for issuing the bonds to pay for a non-instructional facility. The new administration building is needed to replace its current facility that was built in the 1950s and renovated three times before the school district began using it as an administration building in the late 1980s. Building a new facility is less expensive than renovating the existing building, trustees asserted. 

Texas A&M taps Childs as information chief 
Texas A&M University officials tapped M. Dee Childs to serve in the newly created position as chief information officer and vice president for information technology. She will begin her new duties on Sept. 1.

Currently the chief information officer and associate provost at the University of Alabama, Childs also was the deputy chief information officer and an executive director until her appointment as chief information officer in 2012. She worked as an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University and as a software engineer for a private company performing biomedical research.

Childs has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Indiana University. She also attended Harlaxton College in England. 
Alvin ISD buys land for new sports stadium
Alvin Independent School District board members approved the purchase of 98 acres of land near a new master-planned community to build a new 10,000-seat sports stadium to host football, soccer and band performances.

The new stadium, approved by voters in a 2015 bond election, will be built on Colony Boulevard, south of Houston with easy access to SH6, district officials said. Construction could begin as early as this fall. District officials plan to request competitive bids from contractors to build the new sports stadium in the near future.

The district also plans to use bond funds approved last year to upgrade the existing 7,400-seat, 80-year-old Memorial Stadium.

Plano takes steps to preserve home built in 1860s
The Plano City Council informally agreed to place a $3.5 million proposal to restore the Collinwood House, a home built in the 1860s, on an anticipated May 2017 bond ballot.

Council members asked the city's Heritage Commission to perform more research on the historical value of the home located off of Windhaven Parkway.

The plan is to restore the home at its current location, or move it to another location to restore, and pay future maintenance costs for the historic home if voters approve the bond proposal, council members said. If the proposition fails, city officials plan to demolish the home that is located on the future site of a park.
RECENT REPORTS
Reports on Agencies Under Review for the 2016-2017 Review Cycle
Sunset Advisory Commission
GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Laurie Woloszyn, Longview, Sabine River Authority Board of Directors;
  • Clifton "Cliff" Bickerstaff, Amarillo, Board for Lease of Texas Parks and Wildlife Lands;
  • Nicholas "Nick" Baucum, D.C., Corpus Christi, Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners;
  • Mark Bronson, D.C., Fort Worth, Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners;
  • Gus Ramirez, Tyler, Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners
Texas Government Insider Archives
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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 
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