Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 37 - Friday, September 30, 2016
The decaying condition of much of the nation's infrastructure is seen more and more in the headlines lately. And while some might not be able to envision a day when the country can catch up with long-deferred repairs to aging bridges, roads and water systems; officials at the Texas A&M University system are shining a light on emerging methods and technologies that could provide a remedy.

Earlier this week, system leaders broke ground on the Center for Infrastructure Renewal at the new RELLIS campus in Bryan. The 138,000 square-foot research, testing and training facility is the first building under construction at the new 2,000-acre campus. Researchers there will work in partnership with the university's Engineering Experiment Station, Transportation Institute and the private sector to help solve critical infrastructure challenges.

Rep. Gonzales to discuss prepping new legislators on budget issues
State Representative Larry Gonzales will present "Working with the Legislature: How to Prep New Legislators on Your Agency's Budget and Issues" at the Biennial Legislative Communication Conference at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 13.  

Rep. Gonzales is serving his third term and represents House District 52. He has also worked for members of the Texas House, the Lieutenant Governor's office, the Texas Attorney General's office and  the Texas State University System. 

He serves on the House Appropriations Committee, and was selected to serve as chair of the Subcommittee on Articles 6, 7 and 8; appropriating funds for 42 state agencies. He was also appointed to serve as a House budget conferee, one of five Texas House Members working with five members of the Texas Senate to write the final version of 2016-2017 state budget. He was appointed chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission and served on the Select Committee on General Revenue Dedicated Accounts in 2012 and the Select Committee on Redistricting in 2013. 

The conference is nearing capacity and those wishing to attend should reserve a spot now. Register at lbj.utexas.edu/legislativecommunication 

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 Comptroller Glenn Hegar, State Senator Kirk Watson, State Representative John Otto, Budget Director for the Office of the Lt. Governor Mike Morrissey, 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.

Collin College to schedule May bond election 
Collin College trustees voted on a resolution stating their intention to schedule a bond election in May 2017. Plans are to begin expanding and renovating facilities at the main campus and building new campuses.   

Trustees also agreed to appoint a citizens committee in October to assist in developing priorities for projects to be included in a bond proposal. The committee would also assist in educating voters if a bond election is called.  

A recent study indicated the college needs to enlarge its footprint in growing communities and upgrade and expand existing facilitiesFollowing the recommendations in the study would require the college to purchase land and begin planning for building new campuses as well as expanding instructional programs, especially technical and workforce programs.

In the Sept. 23 issue of Texas Government Insider, it was reported that the Texas Comptroller's Office lowered the revenue estimate for FY 2016-17. The article went on to discuss details of the rainy day fund. The revenue estimate was not a new estimate and was previously announced in October 2015. 
Georgetown moves on $13M civic center project 
Georgetown city council members directed city staff to move forward with the design for a $13 million project to consolidate city offices into a civic center. Council members previously had budgeted $6.5 million for the project, Downtown West, but agreed to increase the budget to $13 million. Officials hope to begin construction in early 2017 and complete the project in a year. 

Preliminary designs call for renovating a former library to serve as city hall, transforming the communications and technology building into council chambers and the municipal court as well as adding green space. A later phase would renovate the historic Light and Waterworks Building. City officials plan to pay for the new civic center using proceeds from the sale of the existing city hall, a city-owned building that once housed a grocery store and buildings now used by the Convention and Tourists Bureau. Additional funding could come from bond funds and other funding from downtown businesses. 
Texas Rangers seek $250M for entertainment district
Texas Rangers Baseball officials are looking to obtain city and state funding to help build a $250 million entertainment district to be located next to a proposed new $500 million stadium in Arlington.  Voters in that city will vote in November on a $500 million bond proposal to help pay for a new Ranger baseball stadium in Arlington near the convention center.  

Ranger officials are now asking Arlington city officials and state officials to each contribute $50 million to develop the entertainment district. Plans call for three different venues for music and other entertainment events. The venues would be developed in the stadium district along with hotels and dining establishments. 
Huntsville seeking $24M for facilities 
Huntsville city officials are seeking voter approval of $24 million in bond funds to demolish the existing 43-year-old city service center, build a new facility on Texas Highway 75 and expand city hall.  The service center project is one of three propositions on the November bond ballot. 

The existing metal building has only three offices and six service bays to service equipment for streetwater, parks and public works employees, said Aron Kulhavy, director of economic development for the city. If voters approve the bonds, city officials plan to add 23 new offices to the city hall to house code enforcement, planning and development, engineering and health inspection and to renovate restrooms in the old city hall facility. 
Amarillo eyeing new TIRZ for $15M athletic facility   
Amarillo city officials are studying the feasibility of creating a new Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ). The plan would help raise revenue to improve infrastructure and build a new athletic facility in the northeast area of the city. 

Building a new athletic facility for volleyball and basketball, estimated to cost about $15 million at the center of the proposed TIRZ, is the city's ultimate goal, said officials. They pointed to the success of a TIRZ in the downtown area of the city and proposed creating a TIRZ east of downtown and north of Interstate 40 to help develop that area.
Austin moves forward with $5.4M women's center project 
Citing the need to meet city codes and comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Austin City Council approved $5,376,528 to expand and renovate the Austin Women and Children's Shelter.  

Current plans are to add a new housing wing with 34 additional beds and a new day care area to double the number of children able to use the facility. City officials also plan to renovate restrooms, community spaces and study rooms of the center now operated by The Salvation Army. The expansion is needed to provide space for the growing segment of homeless women and children, according to a spokesperson for the nonprofit.
Kelley Shannon, Executive Director, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
Kelley Shannon
Career Highlights and Education: As executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, I am putting to use my years of experience as a journalist in pressing for the public's right to know. I've been in my current position since May 2013. Previously, I worked at news organizations in Texas and elsewhere. Upon earning a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985, I began as a reporter at small and mid-sized newspapers and soon joined the Associated Press, first as a newswoman in Dallas then as correspondent in San Antonio, where I covered business, the Texas-Mexico border, the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and all sorts of breaking news for more than a decade. In 2000, as George W. Bush was running for president, I became the AP bureau's supervisory correspondent in Austin and held that position for more than 10 years, writing and leading coverage of politics and the Legislature. I followed that by forming my own "niche news business" and working for The Dallas Morning News as a Capitol reporter during legislative sessions before joining the FOI Foundation.

What I like best about my job is: Helping journalists and other interested citizens exercise their First Amendment rights and use our state's open government laws, while also working to make sure these laws remain strong. We are fortunate to have some of the best transparency laws in the country, primarily the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meetings Act. Making Texans aware of these laws and preventing any chipping away or weakening of them are essential to my job.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Try new ways of doing the job to bring aboard additional groups and businesses that care about open government.Our non-profit foundation has been around since 1978, but we are constantly working on moving forward and encouraging more people to get involved in the growing interest area of transparency. With today's technology, information about our government is in higher demand than ever. That's how it should be in a democracy, where the government is representative of the people and conducts the people's business.
Advice you would give to a new hire in your office: Well, a new hire in my office would be an exciting moment, since we currently have only one full-time employee - me! But we are fortunate to have occasional interns and freelance workers and a very hard-working volunteer board, many of whom have been committed to open government their entire careers. I advise anyone helping to carry out our mission to be bold and always remember we are working for information access for all Texans.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Exercising at Austin's hike and bike trail or the gym, enjoying our neighborhood in the Zilker Park area or going to a fun restaurant or music venue with my husband, Michael Pearson. You'll also find me frequently checking in from afar on our son, Sam, who's in college in New York City. Family is very important to me.

People would be surprised to know that I: Am a sixth-generation Texan. In fact, my roots may go back even further, but we're still working on tracing the family tree. I'm so proud to be a Texan. I want good things to happen and positive attitudes to prevail in our state.

One thing I wish more people knew about my association: That the FOI Foundation of Texas is here as a resource for everyone - journalists, citizen activists, businesses and even government employees. Public employees who carry out transparency laws at state agencies and in local governments are on the front lines of ensuring the people's right to know. It's important that they have good training and answers to their questions.
The top 50 North American infrastructure projects that can ensure global competitiveness and create jobs represent a combined value of billions of dollars. Those projects and the contracting opportunities and prospects for public-private partnerships that they can create will be discussed at the eighth CG/LA Infrastructure-sponsored North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum on Oct. 24-27. Scheduled in Denver, the event features dozens of elected officials, government agency representatives, private-sector professionals and industry CEOs who will share their experiences and expertise with public- and private-sector parties contemplating major infrastructure projects.

Among the presenters will be Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., who will serve on two panels during the four-day event. Nabers, a nationally recognized expert on public-private partnerships (P3s), will serve as the discussion leader on a panel of professionals who will discuss the importance of building trust between the public and private sectors that can lead to collaborative efforts on much-needed infrastructure projects. She will also be part of a panel that will address the significance of bringing infrastructure users into the equation early in a project and incorporating their input into decision-making and problem-solving.

The forum will also feature analysis and discussion of North America's top five strategic infrastructure projects, considered significant because of either their size or ability to be replicated and the impact they have had on increasing national and/or regional competitiveness. Private meetings with project presenters and event sponsors are scheduled, as well as workshops, round table discussions and multiple networking opportunities. Registration is now open for the event. 
Group studies I-10 to I-35 link
The Northeast Partnership for Economic Development, a group representing cities northeast of San Antonio, are discussing developing a regional plan to seek a new, toll-free highway linking Interstate 10 with Interstate 35. This follows previous meetings in which a possible toll road in Cibolo was discussed. 

Schertz Mayor Michael Carpenter said officials of area cities and counties are beginning to view transportation concerns in a different light and are now exploring the feasibility of building a non-toll highway connecting I-35 to I-10  that would serve the entire area, including New Braunfels. 
Calendar of Events

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.


Oct. 20-21, 2016

The South Texas Women Leading Government (WLG) Conference will be held at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Campus in Brownsville. The registration deadline is Oct. 7. Conference topics will include: Tips for a Highly Effective Manager and Leader, Preparing to Take a Leadership Role in Your Organization, The Confidence Code in Your Everyday Actions, Authentic Communication Strategies and Tips to Build Your Social Networks and Roundtable Discussion with five female City Managers.


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.

Local and state government entities could be headed toward a $1.5 trillion financial catastrophe. Public-sector pension programs are hemorrhaging and experts see no relief in sight.

In 2014, the funding gap between promised benefits and funding to pay for the benefits topped $934 billion. The Pew Charitable Trusts, in a recent study, reported that gap is continuing to escalate.

This is a nationwide problem. In 2014, the average increase on state pension investments was 17 percent. In 2015, that rate fell to only 3 percent. And for the first part of FY 2016, state investment returns crossed over into the negative column.

San Antonio considers $850M bond vote 
San Antonio city council members are reviewing $850 million in projects for a proposed bond election in May 2017. About $450 million of the proposed funds would be used to upgrade 59 streets, bridges and sidewalks. Other recommended for the bond ballot are $144 million for drainage and flood control projects, $116 million for parks and recreation projects and $120 million for facility improvements.  

The next step is for members of a citizen oversight committee to review the proposal and present their recommendations on priority projects for the proposed bond in December. Council members in February will decide whether to schedule an election and approve the final projects to be included on the ballot. 

Comptroller's office debuts new website
The Texas Comptroller announced a new look for the agency's website, Comptroller.Texas.Gov.

It is designed to be more intuitive with enhanced search function and to deliver faster and more accurate results. It also includes a responsive framework for phone and tablet users. 

Coble selected as new fire chief in Tyler  
David Coble
David Coble, currently an assistant fire chief in Fort Worth, has agreed to serve as the new fire chief in Tyler following a five-month search.

He also served as the acting fire chief in Fort Worth during 2015, when he managed the Educational and Support Services division that includes emergency management services, supplies, fire equipment services, fleet management and communications.  

Once Coble begins his new duties, he will replace Tim Johnson, who is retiring after serving 35 years in the Tyler Fire Department. 
Rhome selects Love as new police chief  
Rhome city officials selected Sam Love as the new police chief.   

Love replaced Brandon Davis, who resigned in May. During his 40 years in law enforcement, Love most recently worked for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office and previously served as chief of police in Ferris. 

Harris County to begin work on $165M road projects   
Harris County officials are planning to begin work on about $265 million in road projects in the northwest area of the county within the next 12 months.   

About $180 million will be used to expand several two-lane roadways into four-lane boulevards. Also in the works are $85 million in road improvements in the Tomball area to expand two connector roads to Farm-to-Market 2920. 

Houston ISD considers a new site for Bellaire HS  
Houston Independent School District officials proposed reconstructing Bellaire High School on a 28-acre property at 4800 Fournace Place to the school's project advisory team. The project has a budget of $136 million, the majority of which would be used to purchase the property, if approved. The school is currently on a 17-acre property. The proposal may go before the board of trustees in October. 

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

  • Brownsville Public Utilities Board - Pipelayer (open until filled)
  • Brownsville Public Utilities Board - Temporary Web Services Assistant (open until 10-12-16)
  • Brownsville Public Utilities Board - Wastewater Operator A or B (open until 10-13-16)
  • Texas Legislative Council - Document Delivery Assistant (open until 11-4-16)
  • Public Utility Commission of Texas - Programmer V (open until filled)
  • Brownsville Public Utilities Board - NERC Compliance Coordinator (DOQ) (open until 10-12-16)
  • Alamo Area Council of Governments - Alamo Local Authority Lead Crisis Intervention Assessor (open until filled)
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board - Program Director, Workforce (open until filled)
  • Texas Military Department - Program Supervisor IV - Deputy Garrison Commander (10-7-16)
  • Texas Military Department - Maintenance Supervisor V - Camp Swift (10-6-16)
  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - Contract Development Team Lead (continuous)
  • Texas Ethics Commission - Administrative Assistant II (open until filled)

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

    New Braunfels ISD creates facilities planning panel
    New Braunfels Independent School District board members are creating a facilities planning committee to study the need for new schools to meet rising enrollment. Trustees are seeking 30 volunteers from the community to serve as members or alternates to the special committee.

    During the period between 2001 and 2015, district enrollment grew by 41.5 percent, or by 2,471 students. A majority of elementary schools in the district are approaching capacity, officials said. The citizens group would visit the oldest and most crowded campuses and come up with a list of priority projects.

    Midland update on improvements to I-20 
    The Midland City Council recently received an update from the Metropolitan Planning Organization on plans to improve a 13-mile stretch of Interstate 20 between Odessa and Midland.  

    A $5 million study assessing a 40-mile portion of I-20 is planned and Texas Department of Transportation officials are already working on a preliminary design plan to improve safety on an almost 13-miles stretch of the highway between the two cities. One of the projects being considered raises a portion of Crane Avenue in Odessa, where multiple trucks have hit the overpass in past years.     

    Athens to build new road with $1M grant 
    Athens city officials approved the budget for the Athens Economic Development Corporation, which includes a $1 million Texas Capital Fund grant. The grant will be used to build a new road to provide more access to a proposed industrial park in development. 

    The new road is expected to cost about $1,484,000. The remaining cost of the road project will be paid from EDC funds.

    On Our Website 

    National resiliency initiatives announced


    House Research Organization - Texas school finance system survives latest Supreme Court review Sept. 2016


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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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