Volume 17, Issue 43 - Friday, November 8, 2019tional Link
TEA announces takeover of 3 districts
Wheatley High School
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath mailed letters on November 6 to three independent school districts - Houston, Shepard, and Snyder - informing them the state would be taking over the districts due to poor academic performance.

In the case of Houston ISD (HISD), Morath wrote of his plans to appoint a new superintendent and a board of governance to replace the elected school board. He cited a "failure of governance" and poor academic performance of Wheatley High School as reasons for the decision. HISD is the state's largest school district and comprises more than 270 schools and student enrollment of more than 200,000. 

Morath wrote Shepard and Snyder officials that he would appoint boards of governance to replace their elected school boards.

A 2015 state law requires the Texas Education Agency commissioner to sanction a district in which a school has failed more than four consecutive years. Wheatley received its seventh consecutive "improvement requirement" rating this year. Snyder Junior High School and Shepherd Elementary and Intermediate schools failed for a fifth consecutive year.

State conservators will attend board meetings, take control of district operations, and report to the state monthly. District officials have two weeks to challenge the decision, according to TEA officials.

A state investigation report recently recommended Morath replace the HISD school board based on its findings the school board violated Texas open meetings law, exerted undue influence on contract awards, and acted as individuals on district matters without communicating with fellow board members.

HISD is suing the state to prevent a takeover and is seeking a federal injunction to prevent state control regarding selection of a new superintendent, replacing elected board members, or taking other actions as a result of the state investigation.
Texas voters approve billions in bonds
Houston highways
Voters across Texas passed more than $12.2 billion out of a total $13 billion in bond propositions November 5.

Of the 84 entities that had bond propositions on the ballot, 66 of them had propositions that passed or a portion that were successful. Fifteen of the 20 highest-dollar measures were for educational organizations, most of them public school districts.

Houston voters green-lighted the $3.5 billion METRONext bond referendum, which will fund expansions to light rail, bus-rapid transit, and automated transit services.

Arlington ISD voters backed the district's $965.93 million bond package that includes $413.5 million for priority condition needs such as security system upgrades, ADA improvements, and lighting enhancements among various capital projects.

Voters supported Tarrant Community College District's $825 million bond that will fund numerous campus redevelopment projects.

Conroe ISD's successful Proposition A will support $315.8 million in construction of new campuses and additions and $239.2 million in renovations among other bond items. The district's Proposition B will finance the $23.8 million artificial turf installation at high school athletic fields.

A need for increased elementary education capacity drove the passage of Forney ISD's $623 million bond. Midland ISD's $569 million bond measure passed by 12 votes, but results were unofficial as of November 7 because provisional and military ballots had yet to be tallied.

Williamson County's $447 million in bonds will go toward $412 million in road and drainage projects and $35 million in parks and trails initiatives. Ysleta ISD passed a $425 million bond for new campuses and renovations of existing schools.

City of El Paso citizens showed their support for public safety by passing the city's $413.12 million bond that will fund the construction of new headquarters for police and fire departments, new command centers, and new stations in addition to a public safety training center.

For more information on these bond items and more, see SPI's Texas Bond Election Report for Fall 2019.
Disaster recovery funding, state income tax prohibition among props that pass
Courtesy of KUT
Texans passed nine out of 10 constitutional amendments on November 5 with several propositions that support funding for disaster recovery and mitigation.

Proposition 1, which would have permitted elected judges to hold more than one office as a municipal judge, failed by a 30 percent margin. Appointed judges are allowed to hold more than one judgeship.
 
Sixty-five percent of voters supported Proposition 2 that enables the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to issue up to $200 million in additional general obligation bonds to provide financial assistance for the development of water and wastewater projects in economically distressed areas.

Tax exemptions for disaster areas earned 85 percent of the vote for Proposition 3. The new law allows the state to exempt a portion of the appraised value of properties damaged by disasters from property taxes.

The prohibition of a state income tax was reinforced by 76 percent of voters. Proposition 4's passage now requires a two-thirds vote of the Texas House and Senate instead of a simple majority before the measure could go to voters.

Proposition 5 passed with 88 percent of the vote to dedicate sales tax revenues on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to acquire, manage, and improve state and local parks and historic sites.

Cancer prevention and research funding drew 64 percent of the vote on Proposition 6, which allows the Legislature to increase the maximum bond amount allowed for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute by $3 billion. The available school fund will be eligible to receive $300 million more up to $600 million a year after 74 percent of voters approved Proposition 7.

Passage of Proposition 8 by 78 percent of voters automatically moved $793 million from the state's rainy day fund to a new Flood Infrastructure Fund. The state-run bank account will be used to award grants or issue low-cost loans to local governments for drainage, flood mitigation, or flood control projects.

Proposition 9, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, authorizes the Legislature to exempt depository-held precious metals from ad valorem taxes.

Handlers or caretakers of law enforcement animals that are retiring will now be able to take ownership of them after 94 percent of voters approved Proposition 10. Prior to the amendment's passage, state law required these animals to be auctioned off as state property.
McLennan County Courthouse and Jail
McLennan County commissioners are turning to a Pennsylvania architectural firm as they look to repurpose a five-story downtown Waco building that once served as the county's jail.

The building has not held prisoners since 2010, when Jack Harwell Detention Center opened nearby, and has been used only occasionally since then.

The county originally considered utilizing the space for more parking availability in the growing city, but structural weight and cost were strong factors in pursuing an alternate route.

With the hope of finding a use for the building that doesn't increase traffic in the area, the county is now looking to turn the old jail into a criminal justice center and relocate some of the courts that are currently packed into the courthouse. Currently, the 10th Court of Appeals, district courts, county court at law, and justice of the peace courts are all housed in the overcrowded building.

It is estimated that renovating the building will cost millions, but officials say the expense will be less than many of the alternatives. Aside from the criminal justice center, the space is large enough to also provide for records storage for the district clerk's office and fifth-floor office space.
Corpus Christi forms 3-year street plan
The city of Corpus Christi is developing a three-year plan to repair area streets. The plan, which will be presented to City Council by the end of the year, will inform the community on what streets are going to be repaired.

By October 2020, the city will begin preparing street design construction plans internally and drafting procurements for the street projects. 

In the 2020 budget, the city included $128 million for street projects, around $25 million of which would be allocated for 64 residential street reconstruction projects and more than $70 million to be for arterial and collector street reconstruction projects.

The list contains more than 106 street projects in total.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
George Rios, IT Division Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

George Rios
Career Highlights and Education: I graduated from Texas State University with a degree in computer science and began my career in private industry working for various technology companies in the Austin area in the mid-1980s. Those jobs gave me the skills and experience I needed to come to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in 1994. I have held a variety of positions within the Information Technology (IT) Division at Parks and Wildlife, including Desktop Services Manager, Network/Telecom Manager, and Operations Manager. These jobs gave me good exposure to the agency and a good foundation before moving into my current role as the IT Director/CIO for the department. I received the Texas Public Sector CIO Academy CIO of the Year award in 2018.  

What I like best about my public service is: Whether it is a help desk analyst, a game warden, a research biologist or state park superintendent, I am constantly blown away by the work ethic and commitment from the staff at this organization. It is truly an honor to work with people who work so tirelessly to steward the wonderful resources Texas has to offer. It's challenging work and it inspires me to try and make a difference every day. I've been at this for over 25 years and still feel a great sense of pride when I tell people that I work for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: I have been fortunate to have several great mentors at TPWD. Among the best advice I got was to continue to be a servant leader, stay engaged, and know the people you work with. Even though I am in the technology field, at the end of the day, I work with people, not systems.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Something that my parents instilled in me is that there is no substitute for hard work and that we live by the decisions or choices we make. Learn your job, don't be afraid to ask for help and always be willing to give it. Also, never underestimate the value of building relationships inside and outside your organization.

If I had the opportunity to leave work early, I could probably be found: When I do get the chance, I enjoy spending time with my wife, going to dinner, a movie, or getting together with family and friends for the evening. For longer breaks, I enjoy anything and everything outdoors to fully recharge.

People would be surprised to know that I: Although I haven't done it in some time, I enjoy shooting a longbow, for the history behind it, the power, the skill and discipline it requires. When I can make the time, I would like to get back into this.

One thing I wish more people knew about Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is: All that we do! Many Texans know about Texas Parks and Wildlife, and I think even those who don't would appreciate our natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation mission. I work with an amazing group of people in our IT division who work with our staff to use innovative technology to further that mission. We have developed some incredible mobile applications and improved our voice and data infrastructure across the state. It's an exciting time to be doing such important work for such a great organization.
City officials survey tornado damage in Dallas.
As Dallas continues to recover from October's rash of tornadoes, its City Council approved $60 million on November 6 to restore traffic signals, clear debris, and repair city facilities.

The spending, which only applies to municipal property, exceeds the city's budget of $35 million for emergency reserve funds this year, and City Council members are looking to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for financial assistance. FEMA's threshold for public assistance is $38.5 million.

According to city officials, the extent of damages to private property does not qualify homeowners for FEMA aid, but the losses should meet the criteria for a presidential disaster declaration.

The Insurance Council of Texas estimated $2 billion in insured losses throughout the North Texas area.
Beaumont weighs shoreline options
Riverfront Park flooding
The future of Riverfront Park in Beaumont lies in the hands of City Council members who are weighing two options for work on the shoreline in the park, which lost a large piece of its embankment during Hurricane Harvey.

The first option is to restore the shoreline to where it was prior to Harvey, which is estimated to cost between $47 million and $49 million, 90 percent of which will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The alternative is to stabilize the shoreline, which would cost roughly $28 million. If the city chooses this option, FEMA would still provide full funding, leaving the city with $19 million for other projects. 
 
One council member offered his support for the latter option, suggesting the leftover funds could be used for a project to extend Dowlen Road, which has been a long-discussed project among area leaders and would cost $33 million to complete.

If the stabilization is chosen over full restoration, councilmembers will then work to decide how to spend the remaining $19 million of FEMA funding.
Addison courts developers for Circle
Addison Circle Special Area
Town of Addison officials are looking for a master developer to guide the future of town-owned land at Addison Circle.

The mixed-use area is the site of a DART Silver Line stop that town leaders see as a prime location for such uses as food halls, markets, offices, and residences.

DART's new stop combined with Addison Airport's growth is fueling interest in the area. The airport is building a new customs facility and administration offices, which are set to open in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Consultants conducted the Addison Circle Special Area Study to propose a future for 8 acres and 9 parcels in the central section and 29 acres in the west of the area under consideration.

The study findings call to extend the Addison Circle urban neighborhood character and maximize the benefits of the new DART station by recommending urban residential with retail ready ground floor and a boutique hotel at Addison Circle West, and a mix of high-density office, retail, and residential towers with a potential grocery component at Addison Central.

Addison City Council adopted the study findings as part of the town's comprehensive plan this year.
Water Development Board to discuss new rules for Flood Infrastructure Fund
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will meet on November 14 to consider proposed rules for flood financial assistance to publish in late November.

In the November 5 constitutional amendment election, voters approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that creates the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) to assist in funding drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.

The 86th Texas Legislature also transferred $793 million from the state's Economic Stabilization Fund, or "rainy day" fund, to the FIF.

Board members will discuss these new funding sources and proposed rules as TWDB collects public input on them through mid-January.

At their December 5 meeting, board members are scheduled to consider publishing proposed regional and state flood planning rules for public comment in mid-December.
Lubbock considers civic center expansion
Lubbock Memorial Civic Center
Lubbock councilmembers authorized a contract November 5 for initial concepts and cost estimates for an expansion and renovation of the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

City officials say an expansion of the 45-year-old center is necessary to meet public demand for more exhibit space and modern meeting venues. The 300,000-square-foot venue also features a lakeside amphitheater.

It is anticipated the pre-design and cost estimates will take six months to complete.
McKinney airport to extend runway
McKinney National Airport
McKinney National Airport was awarded a $15 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Aviation Division for an extension of its runway.

The airport's existing 7,002-foot runway will be expanded to 8,502 feet to accommodate increasing air traffic, especially business jets with heavier loads that need longer stage lengths.

McKinney officials will contribute $1.66 million to the project that they estimate will cost $16.66 million. The airport's plan is to conduct an environmental assessment followed by engineering and design. This stage, which includes other planning activities, will take more than a year with construction of the runway extension set to begin in late 2021.

Airport officials said the longer runway would allow the airport to serve more effectively as a reliever for the Dallas-Fort Worth region's commercial service airports.

Additionally, the current runway disproportionately restricts aircraft that operate for-hire because they are certified under federal regulations that require additional runway length for improved margins of safety.
Midland councilmembers approved $11.84 million for the design and construction of a new animal shelter at their November 5 meeting and authorized staff to advertise for proposals.

The city plans to demolish its current shelter to make way for the construction of the new 18,000-square-foot shelter that will feature a veterinarian clinic, quarantine areas, state-of-the-art kennels, a meeting and training room, and indoor and outdoor runs for all dog kennels.

A non-mandatory, pre-proposal meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. November 19, and the deadline to submit proposals is 2 p.m. November 26. The city is scheduled to award a construction contract on December 10.

Officials said they hope to break ground on the project on January 20, 2020 and finish construction in early 2021.
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Calendar of Events
Executive Women in Texas Government to host 'Women Empowered' conference
November 24-25 / San Marcos, Texas
The Executive Women in Texas Government (EWTG) annual conference is scheduled for November 24-25 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Marcos Hotel Conference Center & Spa in San Marcos.

The conference title is "Women Empowered: Charging Up!" This year, the conference reception will be hosted on November 24, and the conference will be on November 25.

The daylong event, which is held the Monday before Thanksgiving Day each year, brings together about 900 women who serve Texas through employment in state government, higher education, and other professional industries.

EWTG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes leadership by providing educational mentoring and offering networking opportunities for women in Texas government.

Don't miss out! Register now!
Public officials to convene for P3 Government Conference in D.C.
December 3-4 / Washington, D.C.
Join more than 850 public representatives, design-build leaders, and P3 experts at the P3 Government Conference for two days of transportation, water, energy, and social infrastructure project delivery.

The conference is scheduled from December 3-4 at the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C.

The P3 Government Conference invites local, state, and federal project representatives evaluating upgrades and new developments for two days of P3 education and networking.

Please visit the conference website and register today!

Trump announces intent to appoint Hahn as FDA chief
Dr. Stephen Hahn
President Trump announced his intent on November 1 to nominate Dr. Stephen Hahn to be the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Hahn has been chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston since May 2018 and Gilbert H. Fletcher Memorial Distinguished Chair and professor of radiation oncology at MDACC since January 2015.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Hahn would succeed Scott Gottlieb who stepped down in April.

Dr. Brett Giroir
Dr. Brett Giroir, HHS assistant secretary and admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, will serve as interim commissioner until the confirmation. Giroir is former chief executive officer of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center.
Gov. taps Hicks to lead budget, policy
Sarah Hicks
Gov. Greg Abbott named Sarah Hicks as director of policy and budget for the Office of the Governor on November 7.

Hicks began her tenure in the governor's office in 2017 as budget director and later took on senior adviser duties.

She previously served as assistant vice chancellor and director of state relations at the Texas A&M University System and as committee director of the Texas Senate Committee on Finance for state Sens. Tommy Williams and Steve Ogden.
Richardson named to state DMV board
Joel Richardson
Randall County Sheriff Joel W. Richardson has been appointed to the board of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Richardson has served as the chairman of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement since 2011. He is a member of the Texas Jail Association, Texas Police Association, Sheriff's Association of Texas, National Sheriff's Association, and the National Emergency Number Association.
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Whitehouse names new city manager
Leslie Black
The city of Whitehouse selected Leslie Black as its new city manager. 

She will take over on December 2 for interim City Manager Jennifer Lusk.

Black most recently served as assistant town manager of Sunnyvale, Texas. She also served as its interim town manager and town secretary. Prior to her Sunnyvale tenure, Black served in the cities of Kaufman and Belton.
Port Arthur names 4 finalists for city manager position
Ron Burton
The city of Port Arthur announced November 4 its selection of four finalists for its city manager position.

Interim City Manager Ron Burton is one of the finalists along with Terence Arrington, Scott Moore, and DeCarlon Seewood. The city did not provide additional details about the candidates.

All four finalists are invited to a public interview with the City Council on November 13. One Port Arthur councilmember said he anticipates the city will make a decision on the lone finalist by the end of November.

The city has been without a permanent city manager since November 2017 when Brian McDougal resigned from the position.


Bastrop EDC names executive director
Cameron Cox
The Bastrop Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) board of directors recently selected Cameron Cox as the EDC's new executive director.

In his previous role as a senior attorney at a private law firm, Cox served eight economic development corporations and municipal governments.

He succeeds former BEDC Executive Director Mike Kamerlander who accepted a position as the city of Lockhart's director of economic development in May.
McKinney names asst. city manager
Kim Flom
The city of McKinney has appointed Kim Flom as assistant city manager, effective January 2, 2020. She succeeds former Deputy City Manager Jose Madrigal who left the city in September.

Flom, who is currently the development services director for the city of De Pere, Wisconsin, previously served as the planning and community development director for the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

She will provide executive management for several operational departments for the city of McKinney.
  
Temple taps Davis as city attorney 
Kathryn Davis
The city of Temple named Kathryn Davis as its city attorney at a City Council meeting November 7.

Davis has served as the city attorney for the city of Killeen since 2003. She has worked in the Killeen city attorney's office for 24 years.

Her Temple appointment is effective December 9.
San Marcos names Hardwick business development leader
Scott Hardwick
The city of San Marcos hired Scott Hardwick as its new economic and business development manager, effective November 18.

Hardwick currently is a senior business adviser with The University of Texas San Antonio's Small Business Development Center. Before that, he spent 15 years as a tax consultant assisting Fortune 500 companies.


GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced these appointments/reappointments from November 1-7:

Bart Huffman - San Antonio, Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council
 
Justin Koplow - Dallas, Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council
 
Jeanette White - Keller, Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council
 
Lemuel Williams Jr. - Austin, Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council
 
Michael Wyatt - Austin, Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council
 
Mike Arismendez - Shallowater, Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs
 
Ezzard Castillo - Floresville, Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs
 
Ricardo Solis - Laredo, Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs
 
Aaron Demerson - Austin, Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs (chair)
 
Veronica Vargas Stidvent - Austin, Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs (reappointed)
 
Juan Ayala - New Braunfels, Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs (reappointed)

Blake R. "Reese" Braswell - Bronte, Upper Colorado River Authority Board of Directors (UCRA)

Lawrence M. Doss - Lubbock, Seventh Court of Appeals

Meredith Kennedy - Wichita Falls, 78th Judicial District Court in Wichita County

Jesse McClure III - Kingwood, 339th Judicial District Court in Harris County

Geoffrey Puryear - Austin, 460th Judicial District Court in Travis County

Angela Overman - Levelland, District Attorney for the 286th Judicial District of Cochran and Hockley counties
RECENT REPORTS and DATA
Legislative Budget Board - Houston ISD Management and Performance Review

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - State of Texas Annual Cash Report - Fiscal 2019

Texas A&M Real Estate Center - Texas Quarterly Apartment Report

U.S. Census Bureau - Construction Spending - September 2019
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week:


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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: Devin Monk 
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, the SPI Team has developed a national reputation for partnering public and private sector entities.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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