Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 35 - Friday, September 16, 2016

As part of the San Antonio's 2.5 billion budget approved this week, $7.9 million will be set aside for smart cities initiatives. Free wireless internet in parks, solar benches with charging docks, community kiosks and app development are some of the projects now in the works.


"The city of San Antonio is building a smarter city focused on increasing access to public Wi-Fi, enhancing transportation along congested corridors and giving residents better options to interact with local government. Smart City projects help improve the quality of life for San Antonio residents, attract business, enhance educational opportunities and demonstrate our status as a technologically progressive city," said Jose De La Cruz, the city's chief innovation officer.



Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, speaks to innovation leaders during a visit to Capital Factory, Austin, Texas, Sept. 14, 2016. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Release
The U.S. Department of Defense announced it will establish a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, in Austin. The Austin hub for innovation will be the DOD's third DIUx site, with offices already existing in Silicon Valley and Boston.

The goal of the initiative is to link the DOD with leading innovators to address national security challenges. The Austin DIUx will initially be located in the technology incubator, the Capital Factory. It will be led by Christy Abizaid, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia and on the staff of the National Security Council.

"I created DIUx last year because one of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to build, and in some cases rebuild, the bridges between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon and America's wonderfully innovative and open technology community," said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. "Austin's commitment to innovation, access to talent and academia, as well as the department's longstanding ties to Texas, make this an ideal next location for DIUx."

Officials said DIUx has signed five agreements for $3.5 million to date. Another 22 projects are reported to be in the pipeline for a total of $65 million. More information is available here.

high-ed-summit More than 75 leading industry experts and specialists will gather in San Diego on Oct. 3-4 to participate in one of the nation's largest gatherings of higher education leaders and public-private partnership (P3/PPP) development experts. The Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit will allow those industry officials to share their experiences in having used P3s in the delivery of projects in the higher education arena.


P3s on the nation's higher education campuses are not just for dorms and residential housing anymore. This summit will bring together university officials and development professionals who are pursuing campus P3s for other endeavors such as labs, sports facilities, academic buildings, parking facilities and more. A unique offering at the summit is "University Row," where higher education institution officials will share information with representatives of private-sector firms regarding upcoming campus development projects.


The summit will feature numerous panel discussions, workshops and keynote addresses by both industry and P3 experts. Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) and a nationally recognized expert in P3s, will lead one of the roundtable discussions.


Rep. John Otto State Representative John Otto will discuss the priorities of the 85th legislative session at the Biennial Legislative Communication Conference at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 13. Attendance is limited and those wishing to attend should register now at lbj.utexas.edu/legislativecommunication.


Otto was named the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee during the 84th legislative session by Speaker Joe Straus. He was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2004. Over the past six sessions, he has served on both the Appropriations Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.


A certified public accountant with forty years of experience, Otto has been praised for his sensible approach. He was named one of Texas Monthly Magazine's ten best legislators from last legislative session for his work on the budget. As chair of appropriations, he also serves on the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislative Audit Committee.


Ken Price, Chief Commercial Officer, Lower Colorado River Authority


Career Highlights and Education: I have a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, and I'm a licensed professional engineer in Texas. I've spent my professional career in the wholesale side of electric power companies. My jobs have included planning new transmission lines to grow the power grid; working in a power plant; doing cost analyses and fuel planning for power plants; evaluating the economics of large capital projects; buying, selling and leasing power plants; and managing gas and power commodity exposures. Now I'm running LCRA's wholesale power business, which includes most of those things.


What I like best about my job is: I really like working in an infrastructure business. It's fascinating because of the large amounts of money and technical expertise needed to make everything work successfully. I like the fact that I need to use almost everything I've learned in my 35-year career to do my current job well. The best thing I like about my job is the degree to which I can help to get a group of people with different backgrounds and expertise striving together to achieve a common, difficult goal.


The best advice I've received for my current job is: Always spend a lot of effort to hire the right people, always spend a lot of effort in figuring out what you actually want them to accomplish, give them the tools they need (and a little more) to get their job done, and then let them go do it.


Advice you would give to a new hire in your office: You're hired to learn all of the details of your job and do it well. Others are relying on you to know and do your job, because you'll almost always be working with others to get something done. I expect you to share your opinion, and I expect you to question anyone if something is not clear or something doesn't make sense.


If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: I would probably be at home, working on some project or enjoying time with my family.


People would be surprised to know that I: I'm very proud to be a fifth-generation Texan. Anyone who knows me wouldn't be very surprised to learn I have deep roots in Texas. I'm also very proud to work for LCRA. When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother (who lived in Austin) talking about how wonderful it was that LCRA built dams to stop the Colorado River from flooding and help prevent people, including her, from drowning during those floods. I thought, "Wow, you can use science to do stuff like that?"


One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Not only do we indirectly supply about 1 million people with electricity, own one of the largest transmission grids in Texas and manage the water supply in the lower Colorado River basin, we also have more than 40 parks and recreation areas up and down the basin that are great for getting away during the day, boating or overnight camping. LCRA provides a wide variety of services - essential power, water and community services - all aimed at enhancing the lives of Texans. 

Mesquite Independent School District board members agreed to move forward with construction of a new $53 million middle school near West Mesquite High School and Memorial Stadium. Trustees allotted $25.5 million to renovate older facilities with a goal of housing all sixth-grade students in middle schools.


Board members also agreed to spend $18 million to build a two-story, 62,000-square-foot addition to house 1,000 students at Mesquite High School and $7.5 million to build a 57,000 square-foot office to replace the district's current administrative offices.


Trustees for Pflugerville Independent School District approved $100,000 to buy 2.75 acres of land along Hodde Road to straighten two dangerous "S" curves on the increasingly busy roadway.


Development of new subdivisions and construction of a new middle school in that area have increased traffic and caused safety concerns for motorists using the two-lane road previously surrounded by farmland.


Travis County officials are asking voters in November to approve bond funds for the project. Once the design phase is completed, county officials plan to provide a cost estimate for the project and provide optional design plans for improving the road.

Converse city council members approved plans for a new city hall.  The project will use a portion of the existing municipal complex as part of a $3 million project.


Proceeds from a bond election in 2015 will pay for the project that involves demolishing the administrative side of the existing municipal and police complex to provide more parking. Then new structures will be added to the location on Seguin Road, city officials said.


Reacting to heavy flooding in April and May, Bastrop city council members are developing plans improve drainage in the Gills Branch area. Council members previously discussed issuing up to $2 million in certificates of obligation to pay for the drainage improvements as well as asking voters to approve bonds.


Projects discussed include improving ditches along three major streets and restructuring a detention pond to handle a 100-year flood event. Council members also discussed deepening and widening a creek, a project that most likely would require approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Deepening the creek and adding concrete at the edges would cost an estimated $3 million in addition to another $5 million to pay mitigation fees if the project impacts environmentally sensitive areas.


City officials plan to make a recommendation on projects once a drainage study being conducted by the Public Works Department is completed.

Cedar Park city council members agreed to spend $1.2 million for a contract with an engineering firm to design the first phase of a project to redevelop Bell Boulevard. The road is the primary north-south corridor and oldest commercial center in that city.


City officials approved a redevelopment master plan to complete the project in several phases. Plans include rejuvenating the roadway by realigning Bell Boulevard, the old US Highway 183, from Buttercup Creek Boulevard to Cedar Park Drive to improve traffic flow and safety.


The Leander City Council authorized the city manager to negotiate a contract for architectural and engineering services for a project to rebuild and relocate an existing fire station. Current plans are to design and build a new fire station on city-owned property near San Gabriel Parkway to improve response time to the area. The current fire station will be used for another purpose once the new fire station is operational, city officials said.


Council members must still approve a final contract, however, before work can begin on the new fire station facility.


Bay City Independent School District board members agreed to ask voters to approve $124 million in bonds in the November election. The bonds would fund construction and renovations to the junior high, three elementary schools, a multi-purpose facility at the high school and technology improvements.

Trustees for Mission Consolidated Independent School District are reviewing plans to construct a $1.2 million swimming pool at Mission High School. The plan calls for the new pool to be completed by the fall of 2017.

Board members also are considering a committee recommendation to spend $260,000 for new intercom system and $150,000 to fund lighting for tennis courts.


The Humble City Council has allotted $1.2 million in the 2016-2017 city budget to fund a new senior activity center on the site of an existing center. Current plans call for demolishing the existing facility, sealing the concrete slab to prevent oil sludge from seeping through the concrete and constructing a new building.


Council members also approved $250,000 to build a parks building near the senior center to store equipment and provide office space to parks and recreation staff members who perform most of their work at that site.

Calendar of Events

Sept. 28, 2016

The Alamo Area Council of Governments and the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott will host the Inaugural Governor's Business Forum for Women at the Whitley Conference Center, Oblate School of Theology, 285 Oblate Drive, San Antonio, TX 78216.


Doors open at 8:00 a.m., followed by an 8:30 a.m. welcome from San Antonio Economic Development Foundation President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera. There will be presentations by the Governor's Office, Texas Workforce Commission, Workforce Solutions Alamo, and panels including Women Entrepreneurs, Women in STEM, Women in Leadership, and Women in Finance/Real Estate. Small Business Awards will also be presented at the luncheon, and the forum will end at 2:00 p.m. with a keynote by an Austin-based business owner/entrepreneur, Geneva Grainger entitled Build Your Empire.


Oct. 11, 2016

Accessibility of Things is a free, hands-on digital accessibility workshop for public-sector staff. This half-day event will provide foundational knowledge for making websites, documents, e-learning and mobile applications perceivable by people with disabilities as required by Title 1, Chapters 206 and 213 of the Texas Administrative Code. Jeff Kline, program director of Statewide EIR Accessibility at DIR, and Hiram Kuykendall, Microassist Chief Technology Officer, will show participants how various types of content are perceived on different digital devices. While not required, attendees are encouraged to bring their own tablets and smartphones (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.,) for the Desktop vs. Mobile exercise portion of the program. Accessibility of Things is hosted by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) and will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, in Austin. A course outline and registration information is available on the DIR Calendar. Seating is limited and registration is required.


Oct. 11, 2016

Started seven years ago by San Antonio Clean Technology Forum, the annual Water Forum brings together municipal, educational, economic and political interests for engaged, informed discussions regarding regional water issues. This year's event, Water Forum VII: A Legacy - Edwards Aquifer Authority at 20 Years, will feature the fifth annual Water for Life Award, presented by the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum. Click here for details and registration.


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.

The Great Recession may be over, but fiscal issues in many states are still dire. Public officials at every level of government are also struggling to meet budgets that have not expanded in years.

Even after seven years of recovery efforts, more than 20 states still collect less tax revenue than they did prior to the recession. And for most of those states, there has been no opportunity to build up reserves. Some have increased taxes and fees just to maintain programs related to health care, education, transportation and public safety.

Sheri Blankenship has been selected by trustees for Hereford Independent School District as the lone finalist for superintendent. She will replace the former superintendent, Kelli Moulton, who resigned to serve as superintendent of Galveston ISD.

Most recently an assistant superintendent for professional services for the Hereford school district, Blankenship joined the school district in 1996. She has a bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University and a master's degree from West Texas A&M University.

A retired Nacogdoches ISD superintendent, Rodney Hutto, has served as interim superintendent for the district since July.

City Manager Clay Phillips of Coppell informed city council members he plans to retire at the end of March 2017. Phillips, who has worked in municipal government for 35 years, joined the city in 1991 and won appointment as city manager in 2008.


The mayor thanked Phillips for giving council members ample time to find a new city manager.

Ed Drain, who has served as interim police chief in Amarillo since early July, has been selected as the permanent police chief in that city. Drain replaces Robert Taylor, who retired as police chief. Council members are expected to finalize the selection of Drain on Sept. 20. If approved, he will begin his duties as permanent police chief on Oct. 15.


Drain previously served as assistant police chief in Plano before joining the police department in Amarillo.


michael-horneMichael Horne has been named the new superintendent of KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth Public Schools (KIPP DFW). 


Horne previously served as the charter school system's head of schools overseeing the academic performance of its middle schools.

KIPP DFW plans to open five new schools to serve a total of 5,000 students in ten schools in southern Dallas.


Katy city officials are in negotiations to buy property south of Interstate 10 to build a new fire station. A previous site chosen for the fire station was heavily flooded in April, causing city officials to seek higher ground for a new fire station.


Scheduled to open in April 2017, Fire Station No. 2 will be designed to accommodate 15 firefighters, EMS personnel and a new fire truck.


Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week:  

  • City of Missouri, Texas - Public Works Director/City Engineer (open until 9-26-16)

  • Alamo Area Council of Governments - Lead Manager (open until filled)

  • Brownsville Public Utilities Board - NERC Compliance Coordinator (open until 9-27-16)

  • Texas Legislative Council - Document Processing Technician (open until 9-30-16)

  • Texas Military Department - Accountant III (open until 9-26-16)

  • Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

    The mayor and city manager of Huntsville are meeting with media and community members to encourage support of a $128 million bond proposal containing three propositions to improve public safety facilities, city services facilities and upgrade water and sewer infrastructure.


    The ballot will feature three separate proposals, but city officials described the proposition to upgrade the city's water and sewer facilities as a priority item on the bond ballot.

    Blanco city council members approved upgrades to a water treatment plant that was flooded and heavily damaged in May 2015. The repairs are needed to meet state standards, increase capacity and to protect employees from unsafe conditions. The planned upgrades include raising the plant to above the flood plain, dredging to remove sediment left by the flood, installing intake screens, rehabilitating the existing ground storage tank and building a water-tight concrete basin to protect the water during flood events.


    Once the upgrades are completed, the capacity of the plant will be increased to 3 million gallons per day and serve up to 9,000 customers. The plant now serves 1,000 customers. 

    Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald of Fort Worth has included two new police stations in the department's five-year strategic plan. He recently presented the plan to the community and hopes to win approval from the city council.

    Fitzgerald said a new police station would be needed in the far south, near a new campus of Tarleton State University; and another should be built near a new development on the west side of the city.


    Keene city officials are considering a proposed $3.7 million city hall and community center. The existing city hall is located in a 1,500-square-foot building owned by the Southwestern Adventists University and city officials must move out of that facility by March 2017 to allow the university to use the facility.


    Preliminary plans call for a 30,000-square-foot building on three acres of land on Old Betsy Road with one side designed for a city hall with a council room, as well as areas for the municipal court, administrative offices and waiting areas. The other side of the building could serve as a community center with a capacity of up to 250 people and an outdoor patio.


    On Our Website 

    Washington County commissioners approved an agreement with Burton Independent School District to permit the school district to hold an $18 million bond election on the same date as the general election in November.


    The agreement calls for the bond proposition to be on a separate ballot at four voting sites within Burton ISD. Proposals on the bond ballot include funding for a new football stadium and gymnasium, improvements to classrooms and renovation of the band hall.

    The Texas Tech University System will form a steering committee for a proposed College of Veterinary Medicine at the Health Science Center in Amarillo. Veterinary, agricultural and community leaders will make up the committee, which will focus on a vision for a college to meet a stated need for large animal and rural veterinarians.


    Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
    • Alejandro "Alex" Cestero, Houston, Judicial Compensation Commission;

    • Scott Salmans, McGregor, Judicial Compensation Commission;

    • Bill Strawn, Austin, Judicial Compensation Commission.
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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.   
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