News And People

Volume 14, Issue 29 - Friday, August 5, 2016
Answering questions on open carry and campus carry
Gun laws make waves on university campuses
Photo by Lucio Eastman - Creative Commons
Questions and challenges have arisen recently regarding Texas' handgun laws due to two pieces of legislation enacted this year known as open carry and campus carry. Campus carry in particular has received widespread attention due to public debates over regulations at the university level.

The open carry law (House Bill 910) went into effect Jan. 1. For those handgun owners who already possessed a concealed handgun license the only change might be how they wear their gun as holstered handguns are now allowed in public view. One notable exception to this law is on the premises of public or private institutions of higher education. Open carry is not allowed at colleges but concealed carry is allowed at some institutions, the rules of which are defined under the new campus carry law.

Campus carry (Senate Bill 11) went into effect Aug. 1. It authorizes licensed handgun owners to carry a concealed handgun on the campus of a public or private institution of higher learning. However, it also authorizes the institutions of higher education to establish reasonable rules regarding the carrying of concealed handguns.

Most private universities in Texas have opted out of campus carry. Many universities are banning guns in dorms. The University of Texas at Austin President Gregory Fenves addressed some confusion between the open carry and campus carry laws in a press conference this week.

"Open carry is against the law and continues to be against the law," he said about the carrying handguns on campus.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Nicole Conley, Chief Financial Officer, Austin Independent School District

Career highlights and education: Serving as the chief financial officer for the sixth largest school district in Texas, overseeing both financial and operational functions after a professional career that spans nearly 20 years leveraging experience from urban cities like New York City, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

What I like best about my job is: Being able to use the best of my skills, abilities and talents in an industry that satisfies my personal commitment to support education. As one of the first college graduates in my family, I know how education enables opportunities and choices in life.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Do not underestimate the need to engage. Teamwork and collaboration win every day.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Don't be afraid to ask questions, be collaborative and seek innovative solutions. Strategic and bold thinking can help change the trajectory of an organization. You could have the right idea at the right time.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Cooking an early dinner for my sons.

People would be surprised to know that I: have two sons with learning disabilities and as a result, it has made me a much more insightful CFO. I have a better understanding of the necessity of how to allocate resources to serve students and their differentiated needs more effectively.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Austin ISD is the single largest payer into the state's Robin Hood school finance system. This means that nearly 40 percent of the tax revenue collected from Austin taxpayers to fund our school district's operations is sent to the state because Austin is considered property wealthy - even though nearly 60 percent of the students and families we serve are economically disadvantaged.

Loebenberg joins SPI marketing, communications team
Priscilla Loebenberg, a veteran print and online media journalist with more than a dozen years of experience in writing and editing, has joined the staff at Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI). Loebenberg has been named editor of SPI's two weekly newsletters, Texas Government Insider and Government Contracting Pipeline, and will also serve as a social media strategist and member of the SPI marketing and communications team.

Prior to joining the SPI team, Loebenberg was publications editor for the Texas Press Association, where she was responsible for the association's newsletter and served as social media manager.

She is a former staff writer for the Carroll County Times newspaper in Westminster, Md., and the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. While at the Sun Herald, Loebenberg was part of the team that won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Reporting.

Loebenberg holds a bachelor's degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. 

Don't be left out - legislative conference filling up quickly

The next session of the Texas legislature is only months away. Start the year off fully prepared.  Register now for the Biennial Legislative Communication Conference at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 13. The conference has historically been sold out weeks before it occurs so securing a place now is advised.

The conference, sponsored since 1998 by the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, Inc., will offer fact-based predictions for the 2017 session. Hear about the issues statewide elected officials expect to champion. Get tips on working successfully with elected leaders in the Texas House of Representatives and Senate and network with your government friends.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar will be one of many statewide elected officials on hand to discuss budget issues. More speakers will be announced soon. Complete details at

Ott announces changes to city of Austin leadership posts
Austin City Manager Marc Ott this week announced filling a number of leadership positions in Austin city government. Dr. Mark Washington, who has served as interim assistant city manager for more than a year, has been named to that post full-time. He will continue to oversee Building Services, Communications and Technology Management, Convention Center, Fleet Services, Human Resources, Labor Relations, and Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs departments.

Joya Hayes will lead the city's Human Resources Department after serving in an interim capacity for the last year. Ott has appointed Rosie Truelove, currently director of the Capital Contracting Office (CCO), to interim director of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development. Filling the CCO director spot on an interim basis will be Rolando Fernandez, current assistant director.
Rebecca Giello, who has been on special assignment with the Intergovernmental Relations Office, will return to NHCD as assistant director. Former deputy budget officer Kim Springer-Olivares will serve as the new chief performance officer and Cora Wright, current assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department, has been named interim director of the Austin Code Department. 

Floresville to use $2.55 million loan to upgrade city hall, parks

The Floresville City Council approved a $2.55 million loan from a local bank to pay for upgrades to city hall, parks and other capital improvement projects.

An estimated $800,000 will be used for improvements to city hall, said City Manager Henrietta Turner. The upgrades are necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and qualify for funding the city is seeking from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a wastewater project.

City officials are adding fire alarms and sprinkler systems, repairing the roof and some exterior walls, replacing plumbing fixtures and installing a door and fire-rated wall to the council chambers, Turner said. City officials expect the park improvements and other projects will cost a little more than $1 million.
McKinney airport seeking private developers to expand operations

After the defeat of a bond proposal last fall to upgrade McKinney National Airport, McKinney Economic Development Corporation officials asked for proposals from private developers who would be interested in working with the city in a public-private partnership (P3/PPP) to expand airport operations.

The airport has 42 acres of undeveloped land at its 750-acre site. Officials hope to expand the airport to more than 1,100 acres if the city acquires more land. The request for proposals is open-ended with few guidelines or proposed plans that could limit potential development, said Ken Weigand, executive director of the airport.
Martin to retire as city manager in Carrollton
City Manager Leonard Martin informed Carrollton city officials he is retiring in January, 2017, after 15 years with the city and 42 years in municipal government.

Beginning his career as an analyst in Wichita Falls, Martin worked in municipal government in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. He became city manager in Carrollton in 2001.

Council members plan to discuss the search process for hiring a new city manager at their next meeting.

Austin seeking input on proposed $720 million mobility bond
Austin city officials scheduled a meeting for Aug. 11 to gather public comment on a proposed $720 million bond election to fund mobility projects.

The proposal calls for dedicating $101 million for regional road projects, $482 million to implement seven corridor plans and $137 million for other projects such as sidewalks, bicycle paths and urban trails.
Bellaire weighing $18.2 million bond election
Bellaire City Council members will hold a public meeting on Aug. 15 on a proposal to schedule an $18 million bond election in November.

Among the projects being considered for the bond ballot are $7 million for street and drainage projects, $3.5 million to replace existing water lines, $2 million for new sidewalks and an additional $5.6 million to add to the $13 million in bonds voters approved in 2013 for a new municipal complex.

New Braunfels allots $3.5 million to buy land near Gruene
New Braunfels City Council members approved a recommendation by their economic development board members to buy 13.8 acres of land near Gruene for possible commercial development.

City officials are using revenue from economic development funds to pay for the property.
State's annual Sales Tax Holiday is this weekend
The state's annual Sales Tax Holiday is this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 5-7. The event allows consumers to save sales tax on most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced below $100.

The State Comptroller's Office estimates that shoppers will save approximately $92 million in state and local sales taxes. 

Visit for a complete list of apparel and supplies exempt from sales tax during the three-day holiday.
Columbus agrees to $3 million in bonds to repair water system
The Columbus City Council agreed to issue $3 million in debt to begin work this fall on a water filtration upgrade to its water system.

The mayor, however, estimated the city would need to spend at least $10 million to upgrade the entire water system and address the need to replace metal underground water pipes with PVC piping as recommended by a recent study indicating high levels of iron in ground water sources.

The water filtration system is expected to cost about $2.2 million and the remaining funds will pay for improvements to gas utilities, paying for professional services provided for upgrades to the filtration system, said City Manager Donald Warschak.
Bond panel backs $450M bond election for San Antonio ISD
Members of a task force appointed to study a possible bond election urged San Antonio Independent School District trustees to ask voters to approve $450 million in bonds on Nov. 8.

Included in the recommended bond projects are renovations to seven high schools, four middle schools and two elementary schools. Board members are scheduled to vote on the recommendation on Aug. 15.
Marble Falls to issue $7.9 million in bonds for utility projects
Marble Falls City Council members have agreed to publish notice of their intention to issue $7.9 million in certificates of obligation to pay for upgrades to their water and sewer system.

Among the projects to be funded are a $3.95 million project to improve the water plant, $2.5 million to improve a wastewater plant and $900,000 to replace a water tank. City officials also plan to replace several water lines using funding from the issue of the certificates of obligation.

Parker County discussing $55 million to $80M bond election
Parker County commissioners began discussing the possibility of asking voters to approve from $55 million to $80 million in bonds in November to be used for transportation projects.

A priority project would be completing the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway from FM 51 to US180, county officials said. The deadline for commissioners to decide to schedule a bond election is Aug. 22.
Federal grant to help provide sewer service to colonia residents
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded an $11.78 million grant to the North Alamo Supply Corporation to pay for a regional wastewater collection and treatment system to serve residents of a colonia northwest of Donna.

The Border Environment Infrastructure Fund administered by the North American Development Bank provided the grant that will be used to pay for the sewer service to be extended to 400 homes located in six colonias.
Waco hopes to use tax increment zone funding to clean riverfront
Waco city officials plan to ask the downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone to help pay for cleaning a 16-acre portion of property along the Brazos River with a goal of developing that area.

City officials hired a Dallas-based company to create a master plan for the 16-acre site near University Parks Drive that another study indicated has layers of trash, contaminants and polluted ground water.

The cost of the decontamination will depend on details of any development on the property, said Assistant City Manager Cynthia Garcia. Projects that could be developed on the property, which will be owned by the city, include residential, retail, office, hotel or restaurants, said Garcia, who plans to request the funding from the TIF board in August.
Dallas to offer $3M to attract grocery stores to food desert

Dallas city officials allotted $3 million as an incentive to build one or more high quality grocery stores in the southern area of the city where fresh and healthy food is difficult to find.
The funding for the incentive is from the Public/Private Partnership Program included in water bills. The $3 million incentive matches the incentive provided in May to a large warehouse store to open next to the North Central Expressway and the LBJ Freeway.
To qualify for the incentive funding, the grocery store must be at least 25,000 square feet in size and possibly anchor a mixed-use development. 
Arlington to ask voters for $1B in bonds for new stadium
The Arlington City Council will ask voters in November to approve $1 billion in bonds to build a new baseball stadium for the Texas Rangers. A second vote is scheduled on Aug. 9 to finalize the bond election.
Under the proposal, officials of the Rangers agreed to pay half of the estimated cost of the stadium with a retractable roof and city officials agreed to pay half the cost. The city's investment in the stadium, however, is limited to $500 million.

If voters approve the bonds to finance the new baseball stadium, the current plan is for the Rangers baseball organization to lease the stadium from the city, which would retain ownership. The new facility, to be located across the road from the existing stadium, is expected to open for the 2021 baseball season.
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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. 

Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit set in San Diego
Oct. 3-4, 2016
Public-private partnerships are helping higher education officials meet their needs for new and renovated facilities. How this trend is growing will be discussed at the upcoming Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit. The summit is being described as "the premier conference for collaboration between university officers and development professionals pursuing public-private partnerships." The gathering, scheduled for Oct. 3-4 in San Diego, will feature influential decision-makers from throughout the country. Those attending will participate in two days of in-depth learning, business development and networking opportunities with facility planning, finance and business officers who are involved in public-private partnerships across the country. Speakers will show how P3s on college campuses are no longer just for student housing, but have expanded to include classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, athletic spaces and other campus infrastructure. Registration is now open and a program schedule has been released. 

You can put a park there? Really?

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

Every city seems to want more parks. And, when real estate is at a premium and park land is scarce, officials often develop parks in very strange places.

New York City, the nation's largest city, recently announced plans to convert vacant underground space in a subway station into a park. This very strange space, which covers about an acre, has been vacant since 1948.

Dubbed the "Lowline," it is being billed as the world's first underground park. Estimated to cost $60 million, the park will feature a large plaza for events, space for classes and areas that have plants and trees. Some of the track and platforms of the old trolley will be preserved and lighting will be provided by solar technology that gathers sunlight through skylights.

El Paso ISD bond panel to recommend $668.7M election
A bond committee for El Paso Independent School District has adopted a list of projects to include in a $668.7 million bond election to present to the city council. Council members will vote Aug. 16 on whether to schedule a Nov. 8 bond election. Most of the proposals involve remodeling or rebuilding existing campuses in an effort to consolidate some schools.

Projects included in the proposal are $73.9 million to rebuild Coronado High School, $56.8 million to remodel Burges High School and $47.8 million to consolidate an elementary and middle school into a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade campus. Committee members also urge spending $42.3 million to consolidate another middle school and elementary school into a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade campus and $39.6 million to remodel Jefferson High School and the Silva Health Magnet high schools.
Solis takes reins as president of Laredo Community College
Ricardo Solis, an international businessman active in economic development, has won confirmation as the president of Laredo Community College.

His goal as president, Solis said, is to work with local community development organizations to implement programs to strength Laredo's place in the economic sector.
Gee tapped for Yorktown ISD superintendent
Chad Gee won selection as the lone finalist for superintendent for Yorktown Independent School District. He was selected from a field of 20 applicants.

Now serving as an assistant superintendent for Comanche ISD, Gee also has been a teacher, coach and principal during his 22 years in public education.

Commerce ISD selects Alderman as lone finalist 
Trustees for Commerce Independent School District selected Charlie Alderman, who is currently serving as interim superintendent for the district, as the lone finalist for the permanent job. He replaced Blake Cooper, the former superintendent who retired on June 30.

Previously serving as director of curriculum for the Commerce school district, Alderman also served as a teacher and principal at school districts in Sulphur Springs, Melissa and Terrell. 

Eagle Pass considering $50M for water projects
Eagle Pass City Council members are considering allowing rates to increase for gas and water services. The increase in rates is needed to pay for $50 million in water projects, including replacing 20 miles of cast-iron pipes, improvements to elevated and ground storage water tanks and expanding the water plant and the wastewater treatment plant.

Other projects to be paid for by the rate increase are building a new ground storage water tank, buying new equipment for the wastewater treatment plant and acquiring water rights.

Conroe mayor appoints Coon as mayor pro tem
The mayor of Conroe appointed Duke Coon, a city council member representing Place 3, as the new mayor pro tem.

Coon replaced Guy Martin, a council member who represented Place 4, who was appointed to that post in 2011 by a former mayor. Coon previously served on the council from 2002 until 2006 and was elected again to the council in 2014.
Rockport to spend $40,000 for study on proposed sports complex
The Rockport City Council has allotted $40,000 to pay for an engineering study for a new sports complex.

Tentative plans call for locating the sports complex on 40.8 acres of city-owned land purchased in 2015 to build a sports facility that would attract more competitions and tournaments to be held in the city
Round Rock group urges support for natatorium
A group of citizens from Round Rock urged city council members to join with the school district and the YMCA to build a natatorium.

While land for the proposed swim center is to be donated, representatives from the city, the school district and the YMCA are still discussing how to pay for the swim center, its size and who will pay day-to-day operating costs of the proposed natatorium.

School district officials have discussed including a proposition for the new swim center as one of the projects in a bond election that trustees are considering to be held in May 2017.

Harlingen to use tax zone funds for new $14 million convention center
Harlingen city officials plan to use revenue from three tax zones to help pay for a proposed $14 million convention center.

Even though the decision to use revenue from the three tax zones could delay several street and road projects, city commissioners agreed the new convention center is a priority item for the city, said City Manager Dan Serna. The tax zones will generate more funding in the future for other projects, he said.
Fisher selected as city manager in Forney
James Fisher will begin his new duties as city manager in Forney on Sept. 6. He will replace former City Manager Brian Brooks, who accepted a severance package in mid-January.
Fisher resigned as city manager in Murphy in March of this year after serving in that post since March 31, 2008.

Interim City Manager Charles Daniels, who has served in that post since February, will continue his duties until Fisher takes over in September, city officials said.

Sherman approves $7 million in bonds to pay for library, street upgrades
Sherman City Council members agreed to issue $7.3 million in certificates of obligation to pay for a $1.5 million renovation of the library, street improvements and other facility projects. Current plans include expanding and relocating the new book area of the library, said City Manager Robby Hefton.
Cleburne mayor urges $6 million bond issue to fund Cleburne Station
The mayor of Cleburne urged issuing an additional $6 million in bonds to help develop the Cleburne Station, which includes a multi-use baseball stadium.
The funds would be in addition to the $25 million in bonds approved by voters in November to pay for the project. The additional $6 million is needed to fund construction of access roads, parking lots, installation of lighting and the purchase of train cars.
Edmonson begins duties as new city manager in Llano
City Manager Scott Edmonson began his new duties on the first day of August as city manager in Llano.

Previously the maintenance director for Llano ISD, Edmonson also was city manager in Mertzon from 2010 to 2013. He also served 14 years as an agricultural extension agent in Pecos, Irion, Guadalupe and Schleicher counties.

Coppell to issue $11.9 million in bonds for drainage projects, streets
The Coppell City Council agreed to issue $11.9 million in bonds to pay for drainage projects and upgrades to two streets.
Construction on the drainage and street projects should begin by this winter, said City Manager Clay Phillips.

Allen approves $1.7 million to purchase school district property
Allen City Council members agreed to pay $1.7 million to buy 6 acres of land from Allen Independent School District in order to expand its municipal complex. The property is located just south of the existing city hall, said city officials. 

On Our Website 

Here's an easy way to create economic stimulus

TIGER grants provide $500 million for transportation
Ross resigns as Mexia ISD superintendent 
Superintendent Sharon Ross of Mexia Independent School District has presented a letter of resignation effective on Aug. 31 to board members for that district. District officials have not yet named an interim or acting superintendent to replace Ross.

Weslaco wins $1.4 million federal grant for new innovation center
Weslaco city officials received notice that the U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a $1.4 million grant to the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco (EDCW) for the city's Center for Innovation and Commercialization.
The EDCW and The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley will jointly administer the new innovation center.

Midland ISD taps Schroder as interim superintendent
Midland Independent School District trustees named Rod Schroder as interim superintendent to replace Superintendent Ryder Warren.

Schroder, who began as a teacher and coach at the Amarillo school district, began his duties as superintendent for the district in 2000 and retired in 2015 after 42 years in public education.

He also was an assistant athletic director, a personnel director and assistant superintendent for the Amarillo school district.
UT-Rio Grande Valley, county partner in ecosystem project
Officials of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and Cameron County have agreed to partner in an estuary, environmental and special projects program as part of a new Laguna Madre Estuary Program (LMEP).
As part of the program, a researcher or faculty member of UTRGV will serve as director of the Estuary, Environmental and Special Projects for the program to be housed in county offices located in San Benito. The LMEP includes Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Star, Brooks and Kenedy counties.

Canyon seeking bids for $6 million family aquatic center
Canyon city officials began seeking bids to begin construction on a new $6 million family aquatic center. City officials are expected to open the sealed bids on Aug. 11.
Among the features in the latest plans are slides, a lap pool and a lazy river. These plans, however, are not finalized, city officials said. The goal is to open the new aquatic center in June 2017.
Tioga to build new high school
In a narrow vote, residents of Tioga Independent School District approved a proposition to allow district officials to move forward with an agreement to build a new high school.

Board members previously planned to complete the new high school in the fall of 2017, but now expect to open the new school in 2018, district officials said.
Audit Report on Financial Processes at the Public Utility Commission of Texas , State Auditor's Office
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointment:
  • Robert E. "Bobby" Bell, Edna, Judge of the 267th Judicial District Court in Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Refugio and Victoria counties.
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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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