News And People

Volume 14, Issue 36 - Friday, September 23, 2016

Houston's Furr High School is helping redesign secondary education in America. The school was recently awarded a $10 million Super School Project grant from the XQ Institute.  Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, chairs the institute's board of directors and guides its mission to overhaul the public school system.

Furr's principal, Dr. Bertie Simmons, said the key to
the school's plan to rethink education is providing personalized instruction for students based on their passions.

"We are offering more opportunities for students to assume responsibilities for their own learning," said Simmons.

TWDB approves $10M for water

The Texas Water Development Board has
 approved financial assistance totaling $10,485,000 for four water system projects.

The Town of Anthony will receive $980,000 for water system improvements. Projects will include designing and constructing a new water well.  

The Coryell City Water Supply District will receive $2 million for a waterline replacement project. The district will replace approximately 10 miles of waterlinewhich will be designed to maintain required flow and pressure and will help to reduce water loss in the district. 

The City was Troy was awarded $2.1 million. The city will be able to construct a new water well to supplement its current water supply. The project also includes constructing a ground storage tank, pressure tank, pump station, disinfection system and water main to connect the well to the existing distribution system. 

The City of Edinburg will receive $5,405,000 to expand the West Water Treatment Plant from 8 million gallons per day to 16 million gallons per day. The city will also be able to upgrade the plant's reservoir system and meet the new raw water requirements of the plant's expanded treatment capacity.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

Danny Miller, 
System Chief Information Security Officer, The Texas A&M University System

Danny Miller
Career highlights and education: I received a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering from Lamar University in Beaumont and hold multiple certifications, including ITIL, CRISC, CGEIT, CISA and the C|CISO certifications. I started in banking as a programmer, then went into computer security and computer auditing at various entities. I eventually became chief information officer of a group of companies scattered across Europe with its headquarters in London. In addition to my CIO duties, I worked in a homeless ministry with a great pastor in London. After 9/11, I came back to the States and was Dell Computer Corp's Global IT Audit Manager. I then helped build up a consulting firm that was eventually sold to Grant Thornton, LLP and I became the national practice leader for Cybersecurity Consulting for Grant Thornton. I decided to come home to Texas to be with family and I joined Texas A&M University System as its first System Chief Information Security Officer. I've also had articles published in a number of magazines in print and online and was co-author of a book on fraud using technology. 

What I like best about my job is: The ability to influence strategy and direction of the cybersecurity program. I also find it very gratifying that I'm asked for advice on a broad spectrum of technology issues, even those outside of cybersecurity. My consulting background has been extremely helpful in building relationships among the members and helping to solve problems. 

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Build relationships with all members of the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS). Use the position you have to garner support for the direction and strategy you set and be inclusive in determining strategy and direction. So far, it's worked very well. We've made significant progress in improving cybersecurity across the membership. 

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Realize the scope, diversity and size of the membership. Right now, there are approximately 166,000 technology users across all of the universities, state agencies and the health science system. This is a large institution made up of a number of piece-parts. Also realize higher-education, as a culture and working environment is completely different from any other kind of organization. It requires highly developed skills in collaboration. 

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Likely building or re-finishing furniture. I have a shop in my house for projects (more than I care to think of). Otherwise, I'm doing research on farming techniques or writing for some project I'm involved in that I'm usually behind on. 

People would be surprised to know that I: I also have a farming background. Our family land in Bleakwood, Texas was previously a farm, but before I was born it ceased in being a working farm. Two years ago, I restarted the farm with family help and am slowly building it back up. The plan is to have an operating U-Pick blueberry and blackberry farm in a few years. It's currently too small to be considered much of an ongoing concern as yet. 

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: The size, scale and scope of the A&M System. It has many moving parts, is involved in so many efforts that it is truly a wonderfully diverse and productive organization. It is involved in education, research on many fronts, transportation, agriculture, forestry, medicine and many others. It is a great force for good and positively affects many across the world.
Hands-on workshop to demystify basics of digital accessibility

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) is hosting a free, half-day "Accessibility of Things" workshop for government staff on Oct. 11. Digital accessibility - required for federal and state government entities, including institutions of higher education - makes content perceivable to persons with disabilities. 

"Government publishes a wide variety of content delivered over a plethora of different devices, from web and printed documentation to online training and applications for desktops and mobile," said presenter and Microassist Chief Technology Officer Hiram Kuykendall. "The easiest way to grasp accessibility concepts in this multi-channel world is to understand how the same foundational standards apply in common-sense ways across all devices and content types. It greatly simplifies how to think about accessibility when publishing content, no matter the format, whether for internal or external audiences." 

 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. Event and registration information is available on the DIR Calendar.
State leaders to discuss expectations, preparations, delivery at conference

Three chiefs from the offices of highest elected officials in Texas will present "Working with the State Leadership Offices - Expectations, Preparation and Delivery" at the Biennial Legislative Communication Conference at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 13. 

Daniel Hodge, chief of staff of the Office of the Governor; Logan Spence, chief of staff of the Office of the Lt. Governor; and Patricia Shipton, chief of staff of the Office of the Speaker of the House, will provide their perspectives on the 84th legislative session in an afternoon panel. The opening keynote for the conference will be delivered by Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar. He will discuss the state's economic outlook. Attendance is limited and those wishing to attend should register now at

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. Attendees will 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 government executives. 

Other confirmed presenters include State Senator Kirk Watson, State Representative John Otto, Budget Director for the Office of the Lt. Governor Mike Morrissey, Director of Budget and Policy for the Office of the Speaker of the House Andrew Blifford, Legislative Budget Board Director Ursula Parks, Executive Director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas Porter Wilson, Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Charles Smith, Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Director Whitney Brewster, Texas Monthly Senior Editor Erica Grieder and The Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey. Additional speakers will be added to the agenda as they are confirmed.
Austin music venues to be preserved with $10M minibond

Mayor Steve Adler
Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced an innovative method of protecting culturally significant music venues throughout the city. Community members will be able to invest directly in a $10 million minibond which will allow the city to purchase and preserve iconic venues.

"Importantly, this will require no investment, risk or obligation of the taxpayers. Instead, this presents regular folks with an investment opportunity," said Adler.

The city was one of five entities chosen by a bond broker, which ran a nationwide challenge to identify public agencies with projects suitable for minibonds. For the challenge winners, the broker waived bond issuance fees and offered additional support.

Concurrently, the city's economic and development department has been working with the Urban Land Institute to find ways to preserve cultural venues in the Red River Cultural District. A technical assistance panel will study the needs of venues, musicians, citizens, land owners and other stakeholders to help preserve the identity of Austin as a live music destination.
Comptroller lowers revenue estimate 

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has released a review of the Texas economy. Due largely to a decline in energy prices and associated tax revenue, the comptroller's office has lowered its biennial revenue estimate for FY 2016 and 2017 by $2.7 billion.  

However, the economic stabilization fund, also known as the rainy day fund, is expected to be nearly $9.7 billion at the close of FY 2016. Texas has perhaps the largest rainy day fund in the country. It is approximately 20 percent of the state's annual general revenue expenditures compared to an average of 6 percent in states with similar funds. If left untouched, it would reach $10 billion by the end of FY 2017.

The Legislature may make appropriations from the fund in the event of a budget deficit during a biennium or a projected revenue shortfall in an ensuing biennium with a three-fifths vote. The Legislature may appropriate funds for any other purpose with a two-thirds majority.  

The Legislature has made seven appropriations, all approved by two-thirds votes, since the fund's inception. The purposes for these appropriations have included water projects, disaster relief, public education, economic development and health and human services. One appropriation of $3.2 billion in 2011 was made to cover a budget gap. 
Click here for more details. 
Fort Worth weighing request for $16.5M to improve botanic garden

Forth Worth city council members are weighing a request by the director of the parks and recreation department, Richard Zavala, for approval of a new strategic master plan for Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. He is calling for $15 million to repair and improve infrastructure at the city-owned facility.

The proposed strategic plan also requests $1.5 million annually to pay for staff to maintain and operate the garden. Also discussed was the possibility of adding an admission fee to help pay for the garden.

Council members are expected to vote on the proposal by the end of September.
Waco ISD officials urge approval of $1.9M for maintenance projects

Waco Independent School District official urged board members to revise the 2017-2017 budget to set aside $1.9 million from the general fund to pay for several maintenance projects. The projects include $678,000 to pay for two phases of renovating the Child Nutrition Services facility.

Board members also will consider a request by district staff to approve $415.502 to install artificial turf at an athletic field, $345,000 to renovate the vocational technical education building at Waco High School and $209,000 to replace asphalt at four campuses and the district warehouse. Staff also recommended spending $185,000 to improve lighting in gymnasiums at 10 campuses and $170,000 to upgrade the electrical system in kitchens at three schools.

The budget revision is needed to complete the maintenance projects and upgrades within this fiscal year, said the chief financial officer for the school district.
Denton approves $11.5M to buy land for new $265M gas-fired power plant

The Denton City Council approved $11.3 million to buy 340 acres of land west of the municipal airport to build a proposed $265 million gas-fired power plant for the city-owned electric utility.

The proposed new natural gas-powered plant will allow the Denton Municipal Electric to negotiate the best rate for renewable energy contracts, said Phil Williams, general manager of the electric utility. The goal is to have the new power plant on-line by mid-2018 using wind and solar farms supplying 70 percent of the electricity to consumers and to phase out the use of power from more expensive coal-powered plants, Williams said.

The city currently is in a partnership with four cities that own and operate a coal-fired power plant in the Bryan-College Station area.

Katy to negotiate new hotel and convention center district

The Katy City Council authorized city officials to negotiate an agreement with a private development company to plan, design and build a new hotel and convention center at the Katy Boardwalk District. Council members requested the public-private partnership agreement be finalized by the end of this year.

Officials are proposing an agreement calling for the developer to build a hotel that will be privately owned and a convention center that will be owned by the city. The Katy Development Authority proposed using Convention and Tourism funding to pay for the convention center. The developer would provide financing for the hotel. Officials also are proposing that the developer design and manage construction in addition to operating the hotel and convention center once the project is completed.
Dallas parks foundation chief requests $35M for four new parks

Robert Decherd, chair of the Parks for Downtown Dallas foundation, urged city officials to approve $35 million in matching funds to help pay for four new parks in the downtown area. Foundation officials have raised $30 million and also support asking voters to approve a bond proposal in November that could provide public funding for the four new parks.

Decherd supports a plan to build a new park on the west end of the city, another beneath the North Central Expressway, another park near a farmer's market and the fourth using an existing parking lot at Pacific Plaza for a park. Proposed upgrades at the John W. Carpenter Park include a skateboard park and basketball courts.

The $30 million raised by the foundation includes the $11 million used to purchase land to be used for Harwood Park near the farmers' market, said Decherd. He also proposed selling the naming rights for each park as a method to raise more funds to create endowments that would pay for maintaining the parks once they are created.

Calendar of Events

Sept. 28, 2016

The Executive Women in Texas Government will host "Realizing the Promise of 10-1, Austin's New System of Geographic Representation" featuring Dr. Alison Alter, Ph.D. on Sept. 28 at the Austin Woman's Club, 708 San Antonio Street, Austin, TX 78701. Click here for registration and more information.

Oct. 3-4, 2016

khleuxaymm2gfukhorus 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.

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.

Oct. 11, 2016

Accessibility of Things is a free, hands-on digital accessibility workshop for public-sector staff. Hosted by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), this half-day event will provide foundational knowledge for making websites, documents, e-learning and mobile applications perceivable by people with disabilities. Jeff Kline, program director of Statewide EIR Accessibility at DIR, and Hiram Kuykendall, Microassist Chief Technology Officer, will present. Visit the DIR Calendar for a course outline and registration information. Seating is limited and registration is required.

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

Think traffic congestion is a pain? Try finding a parking space!

It's a growing problem in America, particularly in cities. Finding a place to park near a commercial building, medical center, college campus or residential housing in a mixed-use development is often impossible.

UT-Permian Basin to study Ector County nuclear reactor
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin officials received a $40,000 award from the Odessa Development Corporation to study the feasibility of building a small nuclear reactor in Ector County to produce electrical and thermal energy.

A privately-owned company based in Maryland is exploring the possibility of building a high temperature, gas-cooled nuclear reactor in that county. The company received a $40 million award from the Department of Energy to develop electric and thermal energy. The proposed facility in Ector County would feature four units that could be built on a site about the size of a football field. Each of the units would produce 80 megawatts of electrical energy daily and 200 megawatts of thermal energy daily. The company is seeking investors to provide $13 million to move forward with the proposed small-scale nuclear reactor project.
Spring ISD holds meetings on $330M bond vote
Trustees for Spring Independent School District are staging a series of public meetings through October to inform the public on district plans to seek approval of $330 million in bonds.

The district plans to use the proposed bond funds to build three ninth-grade campuses and two middle schools along with funding upgrades to several district facilities, improvements to technology, safety and security in addition to buying new school buses if voters approve the bonds.

El Paso may locate new VA Clinic on airport property
El Paso city representatives recommended that a proposed new Veteran Administration Clinic be located on a site located on four acres of airport property east of the city. A research study conducted by the VA indicates the eastside area is the best location for the proposed new VA Clinic, a city official said. 

Blinn College approves $1M for improvements to Bryan campus
The board of trustees for Blinn College approved $1 million to pay for improvements for its campus in Bryan. The upgrades include improving traffic flow on the campus and surrounding areas. Current plans also call for building new sidewalks, adding landscaping, lighting and a storm drain. 
Rosebud-Lott ISD sets $12M bond for school, renovations
Voters in the Rosebud-Lott Independent School District will decide on whether to build a new $10 million elementary school and a $2 million project to renovate the existing junior high school in a $12 million bond election in November. Board members also plan to spend $1.3 million in existing district funds to pay for architecture, management and consultant fees.

Socorro ISD seeking proposals to design new school
Socorro Independent School District trustees are seeking proposals from architects and engineers to design a new school to be located on the east side of the school district. The project is expected to cost between $25 and $28 million.

Board members plan to use the remaining funds of a $297 million bond proposal approved in 2011 to pay the majority of the cost of building the new campus. The plan is to use about $20.6 million from the remaining bond funds and then turn to the general revenue fund to pay the remaining costs of building the new school.

El Paso weighing $4M request for projects omitted from budget
El Paso City Council members are considering a request to approve an additional $4 million from the general fund and other city funding sources to pay for upgrades to street lights and to form a partnership to improve conditions for the homeless.

The largest request for $1.2 million would fund street lights in each district. Other requests are to approve $100,000 to form a partnership with two community-based organizations that work with the homeless and $50,000 to pay for a mural in the downtown area.

Round Rock ISD to form committee for May bond election
Round Rock Independent School District trustees approved creation of a citizens' bond committee to help study upgrades to district facilities and building a new high school. The deadline for calling a bond election for May 2017 is Feb. 17.

Board members have discussed including proposals to build a new high school on Pearson Ranch Road and an indoor aquatics center on the 2017 bond ballot. 

On Our Website 

How safe are our voting systems?

Burnet seeking input on new police station
Burnet city officials are hosting a public hearing on Sept. 27 to gather information from the public on plans to build a new police station and where to locate the new facility.

Two sites under consideration are one at SH29 and another near the fire station on US281, said City Manager David Vaughn. Once the location is decided, architects can complete work on the design of the proposed new police station, Vaughn said.

San Antonio study IDs seven sites for downtown stadium
San Antonio city officials have released a study identifying seven possible downtown locations to build a new baseball stadium. The city currently hosts a Double-A baseball team, the San Antonio Missions. The study urged city leaders to seek the highest level of minor-league baseball rather than pursuing a major-league franchise.

The seven potential sites identified in the city's report show three locations near the Fox Tech campus, a site on Broadway known as "Irish Flats," a parking lot on the southern side of the Alamodome and a site near the University of Texas at San Antonio's downtown campus. 
Amarillo approves $15M for Texas Tech veterinary school
  Amarillo city council members approved a $15 million grant from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation to help Texas Tech University establish a new College of Veterinary Medicine in that city. 

The new veterinary school is expected to cost between $80 million and $90 million. It will be located on the campus of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, said Robert Duncan, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. The new veterinary school is needed to improve rural and large animal veterinary medicine in this state, Duncan said. 

San Antonio budget allots $1.1M for new comprehensive plan
San Antonio city council members approved a $2.5 billion city budget that included $1.1 million to pay for the SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan addressing land use, urban design and policy for the future of the city.

Council members also approved $64 million to fund more than 900 street maintenance projects throughout the city; $13 million to pay for Smart Cities projects including Wi-Fi access, solar benches and smart community kiosks at city parks; and $15 million for 85 sidewalk projects.
Dozens of public sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week:
Click here to see more. Send postings to
State Auditor's Office - An Audit Report on Financial Processes at the Department of Licensing and Regulation Sept. 2016

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.
Texas Government Insider Archives
View our other newsletter,

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. 
Barton Oaks Plaza One, Suite #100
901 S. Mopac Expressway Austin, Texas 78746
Strategic Partnerships, Inc., 901 S. Mopac Expressway, Ste. 1-100, Austin, TX 78746
Sent by in collaboration with
Constant Contact