|Volume 7, Issue 45 · Friday, November 20, 2009|
State teacher shortage turns to statewide glut
Much of blame likely due to economy, says TSTA official
Generations of college students probably remember parents admonishing them when they entered college, "Get a teaching certificate so you'll have something to fall back on." And many did.
It's paying off now. What used to be an abundance of available teaching positions in recent years and an overall teacher shortage has dried up recently like rivers and creeks during the recent drought in Central Texas.
Blame the economy as the major culprit for the current problem, says Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) Public Affairs Specialist Joe Bean (pictured). "The economy has probably delayed some teachers who were thinking of leaving (to either retire or change jobs) from doing so," said Bean, "and teachers are not finding the job market as open in other fields as it has been in the past." Some school districts, too, are facing cutbacks due to budget shortfalls, thus reducing the number of teacher positions at their schools and adding to the increasing number of teachers looking for jobs.
The result? The teacher "shortage" in Texas is no more.
Of course, there are still shortages of teachers in high-demand areas in Texas classrooms - math, science and bilingual education. The areas where much of the "glut" is now concentrated are in the humanities (history, literature, modern and foreign languages, etc.) and elementary education, said Bean. He also noted that on any given day in Texas there are 50,000 classrooms staffed by teachers who are not appropriately certified to teach that subject. "They are certified," he explained, "just not for that particular classroom subject."[more]
House Speaker Joe Straus has released the House interim charges for the 81st Legislature. To view the charges by committee, click here and look under "Recent Reports."
$2B in transportation projects approved by Commission
Projects selected from more than 850 submitted totaling $8.9 billion
Some $2 billion in transportation projects will be funded by Proposition 12 bond proceeds after the Texas Transportation Commission Thursday approved 74 staff-recommended projects from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Proposition 12 was approved by Texas voters in 2007, but only earlier this year did the Texas Legislature authorize use of those bond proceeds.
TxDOT officials note they used some of the same criteria for selection of the projects that were used in determining which projects in Texas would be funded by money from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. TxDOT districts and Metropolitan Planning Organizations submitted their list of projects that fit the criteria. (To view the complete list of projects approved by the Commission, click here and look under "Recent Reports.")
The legislature also included criteria, noting that $2 billion of the bond proceeds could be spent on non-toll projects, with $1 billion expended by September 2011. The projects approved this week address safety issues, pavement rehabilitation, expansion of highway corridors and reduction of traffic congestion in Texas communities.
"We worked with our partners around the state to establish a prioritization process that would help meet transportation needs statewide," said Deirdre Delisi (pictured), Texas Transportation Commission chair. More than 850 projects were identified with a combined price tag of more than $8.9 billion.
Criteria considered to determine which projects would be funded include: corridors of statewide significance, recommended based on traffic density and crash rates; rehab and safety projects, recommended based on pavement improvement index and safety improvement index; and mobility projects, based on the amount of delay reduced relative to their ranking in the "Top 100 Most Congested Segments of Roadway."
Chris Wallace, president and CEO, Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
Career highlights and education: Since October 2004, president and CEO of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, the fourth largest chamber in North Texas and the first national Five-Star Accredited Chamber in Texas. Manage the Irving Economic Development Partnership, serving on the prestigious U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100 as well as on the boards of the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives, Texas Prosperity Project and the Congressionally-commissioned National Multi-Modal Transportation Steering Committee. At the chamber, have been successful in attracting corporations such as Research in Motion (Blackberry), Fluor Corporation, TXU Energy, SanMar Corporation and Health Management Systems to establish their headquarters in Irving-Las Colinas. The chamber has also constructed an award-winning marketing center which showcases state-of-the-art technology to promote Irving as an international community that is home to more than 8,000 businesses, including the global headquarters of four Fortune 500 companies and the presence of more than 30. Former Vice President of Administration of the Las Colinas Association, Irving, and former Director of Business Development, Reese Technology Center, Lubbock. A 1992 graduate of Texas Tech University and a College Outstanding Alumnus in 2008.
What I like best about my job is: Every day is different. It is so rewarding to assist businesses with their growth and development needs.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Do more than is necessary to earn world-class distinction.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Communication, Communication, Communication! Details, Details, Details!
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at a board meeting of one of the nonprofit boards that I have the opportunity to serve.
People would be surprised to know that I: have always wanted to be a conductor of a symphony orchestra.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Chambers of commerce are much more than about events and networking. Every day is about supporting our members' legislative priorities, recruiting and retaining businesses that impact the local and state tax base and ensuring that our communities have the infrastructure to support the growth of businesses - we Create, Advance and Promote economic growth for our members and community.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Design for George W. Bush Presidential Center shown
Plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Center (pictured with former First Lady Laura Bush) were revealed this week in Dallas, where the center will be housed at Southern Methodist University. The modern brick and limestone building will house three components of the center - an archive, a museum and a policy institute.
Mrs. Bush was joined by Architect Robert A.M. Stern and Landscape Architect Matthew Urbanski in unveiling the design. President Bush hailed the structure because it will be both "warm and welcoming" to visitors. The building and landscape are designed to achieve LEED platinum certification and include numerous sustainable design strategies, including locally sourced building materials (several types of Texas limestone, stained pecan interior paneling), 20 percent recycled materials, solar hot water panels, native landscaping to reduce irrigation and a storm-water management system that conveys, cleanses and collects surface runoff and roof rainwater, and will provide 50 percent of the irrigation needed for the site.
The entrance to the building will be through Freedom Hall, a large space that will tie the different aspects of the museum experience together. On one side of Freedom Hall, visitors will be able to tour the Museum's permanent exhibit, which will include a replica of the Oval Office as it was during President Bush's terms complete with an outdoor Texas Rose Garden that mimics the proportion and scale of the White House Rose Garden.
New, lower cost specialty plates made available
Beginning this week, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will re-launch its custom license plate program - and at lower prices. DMV partners with a private sector company (My Plates) that will offer plates with nearly 20 color choices, Texas themes and a combination of up to six letters to form a vehicle owner's name, nickname, a greeting, or message on the plate.
Motorists can design their plates online (we designed the accompanying plates to herald our newsletter moniker, the Texas Government Insider) and check to see if their choice of letters and/or numbers are already taken. The plates come in up to six solid color selections, 10 Texas theme backgrounds and two officially sponsored backgrounds - one a major realty company and the other the Ex-Students Association of The University of Texas at Austin.
The cost of the plates range from $55 to $195 per year, which reflects a decrease of $10 to $200 per plate from previous prices. Prices depend on how many letters and numbers it takes to spell out the combination wanted on the plate. Prices decrease even more if a five- or 10-year plate is purchased. And what's in it for the State of Texas? The state receives revenues from the sale of every plate with a guaranteed minimum return of $25 million dollars over five years going into state coffers.
Texas is the first state to create a public/private program for "vanity" license plates to raise money for the state. In just a few weeks of sales in 2008, some 1,300 Texans bought the plates for their cars, helping the program raise about $170,000 for state programs and services. The company originally awarded the contract for the plates ceased operations last fall, citing the country's economic crisis as the reason. In August, The Texas Department of Transportation awarded a new contract to a joint venture between two companies, one in Dallas and the other in Nacogdoches. For more information, click here.
Powerball game could be coming to Texas lottery
With jackpots that have reached $365 million and $370 million, Powerball could be coming to Texas. The Texas Lottery Commission recently voted to publish a Powerball game rule for public comment. Thirty-one states, the District of Columbia and the U.S Virgin Islands already participate in Powerball,with a total population of approximately 130 million.
"Today was another step towards bringing Powerball to Texas lottery players and generating additional revenue for the Foundation School Fund," said Texas Lottery Deputy Executive Director Gary Grief (pictured) after the commission's action earlier this week. Grief said Lottery officials estimate that adding Powerball to current lottery games could generate an additional $35 million per year for the Foundation School Fund.
Grief said making Powerball part of the Texas games has been under discussion since 2003 when Mega Millions was added to the lineup. Both games are multi-jurisdictional games with the potential to reach extremely high jackpot amounts. Mega Millions is currently played in 12 states, including Texas, with a total population of approximately 161 million.
Mobility authority eyes Manor Expressway contractor
The board of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority recently began the process of finding a contractor to build the first phase of the proposed 6.2-mile Manor Expressway.
Partially paid for with $90 million in federal stimulus funds, the proposed expressway project will build four direct-connect flyover ramps between US 183 and the Manor Expressway, being in an expanded median of US 290 between US 183 and Parmer Lane, said Mike Heiligenstein (pictured), executive director of the regional mobility authority. The completed $600 million Manor Expressway project will link SH 183, US 290 and the Highway 130 toll road and should significantly reduce traffic congestion in the area, he said.
CTRMA acquired a $31.6 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank to buy property and move utilities to prepare for the next phase, a 1.4-mile highway stretch running from US 183 to Chimney Hill Drive. Construction on the first phase should begin in spring 2010 while the 1.4-mile phase two of the project is scheduled to begin in spring 2011 and to be completed by 2013, he said.
"Based on our experience with the 183A toll road, we know the Manor Expressway will speed up travel, improve safety, reduce congestion and carbon emissions, cut fuel consumption and make driving more enjoyable for the people who choose to use it," said Heiligenstein.
Motorists will pay a 50-cent toll to use the initial 1.4-mile section of Manor Expressway and motorists using the direct-connect flyovers between the Manor Expressway and US 183 will pay an additional 50-cent toll. Motorists also will be able to use the non-tolled frontage roads, he said. At full build out, the Manor Expressway will triple the current capacity of the US 290 East corridor.
Game Warden Chris Davis honored by group
Cited for his undercover investigations, cost-cutting and investigative innovations, Texas Game Warden Chris Davis has been named Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar-Safari Club International. The award is presented annually by the worldwide conservation organization to one wildlife officer in each state. Davis is the 30th Texan to receive the award.
Davis, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department special operations sergeant, has worked with Operation Texas Shuffle, an 18-month undercover investigation of black-market white-tailed deer trading in Texas that led to felony charges for the illegal importation of the deer as well as numerous Class B misdemeanor charges, all deterrents to illegal commercialization of hunting and wildlife.
Davis graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in 2001. Initially stationed in Polk County, he later was transferred to Burnet County before his promotion to the Special Operations Unit in 2007. He is the field coordinator for all undercover investigations by the Special Operations Unit. In the accompanying TPWD photo by Chase Fountain, Davis (left) accepts his award from Osborn Barrett, Shikar-Safari President from San Antonio.
Texas Department of Rural Affairs awards $3.6M
The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) has announced it will award $3.6 million to support public works projects in 14 rural Texas communities. The funds will be allocated from the department's new Rural Sustainability Fund.
Grants ranging from $200,000 to $350,000 will be awarded to the following communities: Belton, Concho County, De Kalb, Henrietta, Livingston, Medina County, Olton, Pampa, Scottsville, Seadrift, Silsbee, Taft, Walnut Springs and West Tawakoni. The awards will "significantly improve local infrastructure and promote long-term economic development," according to Charles S. Stone, TDRA executive director.
To view the complete list of awards and their descriptions, click here and look under "Recent Reports."
Opportunity Online Broadband Summit draws crowd
Broadband was the talk of the town in San Antonio this week for the state's second Opportunity Online Broadband Summit hosted by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). More than 270 public library leaders, community members, broadband providers and local and state leaders attended to discuss access to high speed Internet through Texas public libraries. In the accompanying TSLAC photo, former Texas Governor Mark White (left) talks with William Ladin, Chairman and CEO of Internet American, and Peggy D. Rudd, TSLAC director and state librarian.
The summit provided those attending an opportunity to understand the importance of community partnerships in ensuring the public has access to Internet connectivity. Today, more than 200 public library systems do not have Internet connections fast enough to meet the most basic needs of library users. And in many cases where the library provides the only technology access for families in their communities, inadequate Internet speed is also a problem. "Today's public libraries continue to provide traditional services, but a growing number of patrons depend on library Internet access to apply for jobs, further their education, run businesses or stay connected with families and friends," said Rudd. "This summit and grant program will help meet these increasing personal and community needs better by improving library connection speeds."
Keynote speaker was Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who discussed the importance of public/private partnerships at both the state and local levels to ensure improved connectivity for public libraries. TSLAC is currently working with an advisory group to develop a strategy to increase and sustain broadband connections in all Texas public libraries." For more information, contact email@example.com.
TxDOT moves up project to widen I-45 near Conroe
Officials of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently began plans to resume widening Interstate 45 north of 336 near Conroe to FM 830 after proposed construction on the $181 million Grand Parkway failed to qualify for some of the $2.25 billion in federal stimulus funds received in Texas.
Officials plan to double the capacity of I-45 to eight lanes from north of Loop 336 to FM 830 at an estimated cost of $94 million, while the second project will increase the freeway to six lanes from FM 830 to north of Calvary Road. TxDOT officials held one public hearing on the I-45 widening project in October and another hearing in Willis this week, where they presented an environmental assessment study. TxDOT officials estimate the cost to widen the remaining eight miles of I45 to the Walker County line to be $147 million, but have no estimate yet on the cost of the section from FM 830 to Calvary Road.
TxDOT officials plan to award contracts for the projects in spring 2010 if no bumps in the road occur, said a spokeswoman for the Houston Regional Office of TxDOT. The two projects should take about three and one-half years to complete.
Laura Bush to speak at TSLAC dedication
Former U.S. and Texas First Lady Laura Bush (pictured) is set to speak and present at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission's (TSLAC) dedication ceremony of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building as a National Literary Landmark next month. The event will take place Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. on the front steps of the building located at 1201 Brazos Street in Austin.
Peggy D. Rudd, Texas State Library and Archives Commission director and state librarian, said it was an honor to have TSLAC's flagship building recognized, adding Laura Bush's presence at the event "is really icing on the cake."
"1909 - 2009: A Century of Service to Texas" is a part of a yearlong celebration recognizing the act creating the Texas Library and Historical Commission - renamed the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in 1979 - which is celebrating its centennial this year.
TCEQ accepting applications for emissions rebates
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is accepting applications for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) Rebate Grants program. Deadline for applications is 5 p.m., March 31, or until all funding has been exhausted.
Grants are available for diesel on-road and non-road replacement and repower projects only. This equipment must last five to seven years and be operated at least 75 percent of their annual usage (within eligible counties) to qualify for funding. Small businesses are encouraged to apply.
For more information and eligibility requirements, click here.
St. Mary's board reappoints university president
Charles L. Cotrell (pictured) has been reappointed president of St. Mary's University, a post he has held for nine years. He was last reappointed in 2006. His current term is set to expire in 2012.
St. Mary's Chairman Robert L. Elizondo said Dr. Cotrell's commitment to the university is evident "in his tireless dedication to enhance the University's long-established academic quality and oversee the building of new programs."
Prairie View A&M buys $8.9M campus in NW Houston
Officials of Prairie View A&M University recently purchased a former Lone Star College campus at Willow Chase for $8.9 million. Prairie View A&M has an agreement with the Lone Star College System which allows students to begin their studies with LSCS and transfer to Prairie View A&M to obtain a bachelor's degree.
After the purchase is final, Prairie View officials plan to close a satellite campus they operate on Stuebner Airline Road that served about 500 students a year. The former LSC-Willow Chase campus can accommodate up to 3,000 students, said a spokesperson for Prairie View A&M.
TIME says Garcia among 10 best for 2009
TIME Magazine has named Juliet V. Garcia (pictured), president of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, among its list of the Ten Best College Presidents for 2009. Garcia ranks ninth. Mark Yudof, president of the University of California and former chancellor of the UT System, ranked 10th on the list.
Garcia said UTB-TSC strives to "send a very clear signal that the Latino human capital in this country simply needs access to the same opportunities that have been present for other people." Echoing that sentiment, TIME Editor-at-Large David Von Drehle said the college president list proves especially relevant during trying economic times.
Other leaders singled out for the performance this year include: Gordon Gee, Ohio State University, Columbus; John Sexton, New York University, New York City; Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Michael Crow, Arizona State University - Tempe; Scott Cowen, Tulane University, New Orleans; Ronald Liebowitz, Middlebury College - Middlebury, Vt.; Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland - Baltimore County; and Eduardo Padron, Miami Dade College - Miami, Fla.
TAMU-Central Texas interim president steps down
Texas A&M University - Central Texas Interim President Dr. Garry Ross (pictured) has resigned from his post, citing health reasons. He will continue to serve as a faculty member in the Division of Arts and Sciences.
Ross had served as interim president and executive director of the university since January 2008.
UTSA appoints head of renewable energy project
Les Shephard (pictured) has been appointed head of The University of Texas at San Antonio's Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy (ICARE), part of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering. Shephard, an expert who regularly addresses the U.S. Congress on water and energy issues, will assume his new charge on April 15, 2010.
ICARE will combine representatives from the private industry, government and academia to explore alternative energy sources under the guidance of Shephard. Every college at UTSA and the university's Center for Water Research will take part in the initiative, which aims to conceptualize, develop and commercialize technologies to meet San Antonio's current and future energy challenges.
Five universities partner to form higher ed center
Five Collin County-area universities are partnering to form the Collin Higher Education Center, which will offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. The agreement - recently formalized at a signing ceremony at Collin College's Central Park Library - marks a joint effort between A&M-Commerce, Dallas Baptist University, Texas Woman's University, The University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas and is set to open in January. Each institution will offer different degree programs at the center.
Dr. Cary Israel (left), president of Collin College, conceptualized the idea with Texas A&M University-Commerce President Dr. Dan Jones (right) just over a year ago. Jones said their blueprint closely matched what A&M-Commerce was striving for in terms of a new higher education model, the main benefit of which will be lessening the time it takes students to earn their degrees.
Construction on the facility is under way in McKinney at the intersection of Central Expressway and Highway 121. The center is set to open in January.
THECB awards UTHSCSA more nursing funds
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has awarded the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio $210,688, following a recent gift of $300,000, to train more nursing students for the workforce. The 81st Legislature authorized both awards, conveyed through the coordinating board's Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction Program.
"The large baby boomer generation is becoming older and will need more nurses to care for them in the future," said School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin (pictured). She said the school's goal is to bring more nursing graduates into a rapidly shrinking workforce because of the number of retiring nurses.
Pearland nets $777,000 with three grants
Pearland city officials recently received notice that the city will receive $777,000 in grants to help law enforcement, pollution control and emergency planning.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice awarded a $12,861 grant from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Fund for a laser software program for simulated weapons training and to buy crime prevention education materials. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality grant for $31,673 will pay for bulb-crushing equipment for the recycling center, new recycling bins for parks and other public places and for producing educational materials to encourage recycling.
A $42,243 grant from the Texas Division of Emergency Management will provide funding for emergency organizational development and long-term recovery training funding.
Mansfield approves plan to build school auditorium
The Mansfield City Council has approved a measure it hopes will persuade Mansfield Independent School District to build a $39 million auditorium at a proposed major retail complex. The school board will consider the proposal this week to keep the auditorium project on track for a March 2012 opening.
The city is willing to fund $2.3 million for access roads, utility lines and other infrastructure which, according to officials, would allow the district to build without any additional costs.
If the measure is not approved, trustees will move forward with their plan to build the facility in its original location behind the Ben Barber Career Tech Academy.
San Antonio lawyer new trustee for Alamo Colleges
Blakely Fernandez (pictured) is set to replace Charles Conner as Alamo College's District 7 trustee. Conner resigned in October.
Fernandez, a partner with a local legal firm, has served on the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the San Antonio Mobility Coalition. Texas Monthly magazine featured Fernandez as a "Rising Star" in the field of public finance in 2006. She has also been honored by the San Antonio Business Journal as a "Top 40 Under 40" business leader.
Fernandez graduated from St. Mary's University School of Law.
TWC invests $1M to expand student robotics
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has announced plans to invest $1 million to expand statewide student participation in robotics education programs. The program's aim is to meld science, technology, engineering and math in Texas classrooms, preparing students to work in an increasingly competitive global economy.
The FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge - supported by businesses throughout the state - champions students through competitions to design, build and program robots using engineering principles while engaging a teamwork sensibility.
More than 130 Texas teams have registered to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge this upcoming tournament season. That number is expected to increase to 250 new teams and more than 2,500 students with TWC's investment.
Alvin proceeding with plans for new convention center
Alvin City Council members recently authorized the purchase of land for a new convention center located near the SH 35 bypass. Purchasing a site now makes is possible for city staff to develop specific plans for the proposed facility to attract and host conventions and trade shows. A portion of the 7 percent state hotel occupancy tax returned to the city will fund the activities and facility, city officials said.
City officials have formed a focus group with members from the Alvin school district, the Alvin Community College and the Economic Development Corporation and several council members to develop ideas for potential uses for a convention center.
BexarMet hires Mercado as new general manager
Victor Mercado (pictured) has been named Bexar Metropolitan (BexarMet) Water District's new general manager. The company has been without a permanent general manager since Gil Olivares' employment was terminated last year.
Mercado previously served as president and CEO of a utility company that provides water and wastewater services in Hobe Sound, Fla., near West Palm Beach. Prior to that charge, he served six years as director of water and wastewater for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
Fire departments encouraged to apply for DHS grants
Fire departments across the state are urged to apply for available funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program. The program's goal is to increase the number of frontline firefighters and ultimately attain 24-hour staffing. The $210 million in funds will be used to hire new firefighters and retain volunteers.
SAFER is part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants under the Grants Programs Directorate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of Grants and Training.
The deadline for application submissions is Friday, Dec. 18, at 5 p.m. EDT. For more information, click here.
UT-Austin pharmacy professor awarded NIH grant
Dr. Andrea Gore (pictured), professor of pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a two-year, $841,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to research the transgenerational effects of environmental contaminants in neurological and reproductive development. NIH officials are looking for the research to yield public policy and prevention and wellness programs.
Gore will study how the brain controls reproduction and the links between the environment and reproductive development in males and females using rats as models.
Gore said the containments she will be looking at include "very low levels of exposure to pesticides that can occur in a mother's day-to-day activities," and how this exposure affects future generations.
UNT names director for new art institute
University of North Texas officials have named Herbert Holl director of the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts as well as UNT on the Square, a 2,400-square-foot building on Denton's historic courthouse square. In his new role, Holl will oversee the Institute, launched this fall to support faculty members and professionals in the creative and performing arts.
Holl previously served as coordinator for the arts for Texas Woman's University and as executive director of the Greater Denton Arts Council from 1987 until 2005. He has also served as an adjunct professor at UNT, TWU and the University of Houston at Victoria.
Holl earned a bachelor's degree from George Peabody College and master's and doctoral degrees from The University of Texas at Austin.
LBJ School's Sasse named president of Nebraska college
Benjamin Sasse (pictured) has been named president-elect of the Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Neb., a 126-year-old liberal arts college.
Sasse works as assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he also serves on the executive committee of the LBJ School's Center for Health and Social Policy and as a fellow at the School's Center for Politics and Governance. He previously served as assistant secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS).
Sasse holds a doctoral degree from Yale University.
El Paso eyeing $5M in state funds to expand bike lanes
El Paso City Council members recently agreed to seek funding from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to create bicycle and pedestrian paths on the east side, the lower valley, and downtown areas of the city.
The plan calls for construction of eight bicycle paths on the east side and lower valley areas of the city, adding bicycle paths and pedestrian amenities in the Saipan-Ledo Park area, and installing pedestrian signs and benches in the downtown area. City officials hope the Transportation Enhancement Project of TxDOT will award a grant to fund the $1.5 million cost of building bicycle lanes on eight major thoroughfares.
City officials also are asking for $1.7 million to create walking paths near University Medical Center and to connect it with other green spaces, including the El Paso Zoo, and another $2 million to pay for downtown signage to direct pedestrians to government offices, the international bridge and other important downtown destinations and install benches in the area. If approved by TxDOT, the state funding will require the city to contribute 20 percent of the total cost of the projects.
Marble Falls EDC, city council pledge $2.5M
The Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation and city council have jointly approved pledging $2.5 million in sales tax revenue for the issuance and sale of bonds to finance the transformation of a former candle factory into a regional vocational school.
The EDC plans to utilize about $350,000 in sales tax revenue each year until 2018 to repay the bonds, according to Margie Cardenas, city director of finance. A bank in Marble Falls has been awarded bonds on the project.
About $500,000 will be needed to bring the facility up to code with city compliance.
Kostelnik wins group's support for port commissioner
Robert "Bob" Kostelnik (pictured), a former refinery manager, recently won support from a local industry group to be appointed to the next available position as commissioner of the Port of Corpus Christi.
Port Industries, a 17-member organization of companies located along the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, held the vote after its previous choice for the position withdrew his name from consideration. So far, 38 candidates have submitted their names as candidates for port commissioner.
The city of Corpus Christi makes three appointments to the seven-member board while Nueces County commissioners appoint three members and San Patricio County commissioners appoint one member.
Kerrville to get results of convention center study
The Kerrville City Council will get its first look on Dec. 17 at a $30,000 feasibility study for a proposed convention center
The company conducting the feasibility study met with members of the public, the Kerrville Improvement Corporation, the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau of the Chamber of Commerce to determine the market feasibility of the proposed convention center. The study will explore how to fund the project, possible locations and the long-term impact of a convention center on the community.
A 10-member committee formed to explore whether to build a convention center recommended the city form a public-private partnership to build a 45,000-square-foot, city-owned facility costing between $11.2 million to about $15 million to accommodate approximately 2,500 persons.
Longview police awarded federal grant to fight crime
The Longview Police Department recently won a $469,342 federal grant to help locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children on the Internet or in person.
The Community Oriented Policing Services Program of the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the grant, which includes other partners such as the Tyler Police Department, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas, the Texas Attorney General's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Postal Service.
Funding from the grant will pay for the city to hire an investigator and a computer forensics examiner to assist in the prosecution of technology-based sexual exploitation crimes against children. The funding also will allow the city to acquire computer hardware, software and training for staff for the program. The grant is part of the Project Safe Childhood program begun in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Petition delivered to force vote on Comal Justice Center
Organizers of a petition drive to force a vote on a proposed $36 million justice center in New Braunfels recently delivered a petition with 6,500 signatures to the Comal County Clerk's Office. The petition asks county commissioners to schedule a vote on the proposed facility rather than issue certificates of obligation to build the facility.
County Clerk Joy Streater (pictured) will verify the signatures with the help of the voter registrar to determine if more than 3,300 of the 6,500 signatures submitted are registered voters in the county. The verification process should take about two weeks, Streater said. County officials argued at several town hall meetings that the 127,000-square-foot facility needs to be built as soon as possible rather than waiting until after a bond election is held in May 2010 to take advantage of lower construction and financing costs currently available. Although commissioners were scheduled to issue the certificates of obligations this week, the county clerk said the court is not permitted to vote on issuing the debt during the verification process.
Cleburne to apply for $4M grant for museum project
Cleburne City Council members recently authorized city staff to apply for a grant to pay for $5 million in renovations and repairs to the Layland Museum, housed in the city's historic Carnegie Building.
If awarded, the grant will provide $4 million for repairs and renovations to the building opened in 1905. The facility houses the Lowell Smith Sr. History Center. The grant requires the city to provide $1 million of the funding for the project.
Council members also agreed to accept a grant of up to $91,709 to help pay for a park-and-ride facility. The Rural Public Transportation Program of the Texas Department of Transportation is awarding the grant, which may be used to build sidewalks at the park-and-ride site or to pay administration and operating costs for the park-and-ride facility. Council members authorized city staff to determine which amount of the grant to accept for sidewalks and for administration and operations funding.
Dayton agrees to study of communication needs
Dayton City Council members recently authorized the city manager to enter into a $10,000 contract with an engineering services firm to determine what communications equipment is needed for a new community center and library.
City officials had reviewed four proposals for such items as cabling, computer network firewalls, wireless Internet and data and voice transmission, but rejected all proposals and requested new bid proposals be submitted to the city by Dec. 1. The agreement with the engineering firm calls for their assistance in rewriting performance specifications for the communications equipment and suggesting the type of equipment needed to match the city's needs.
City leaders are not familiar with all communications technology available and felt they needed professional expertise to select the best technology for the city's needs, the city manager said. The technology will include WiFi Internet access throughout the community center and library and a telephone system that easily can be expanded.
Wichita Falls to pay $3.9 million for water park
Wichita Falls council members recently agreed to use $3.9 million in funds from the city's 4B Sales Tax Corp. to pay for a water park that was threatening to close because of financial difficulties.
Owners of the water park requested the city to pay $4.3 million in debt obligations to obtain the water park, but council members proposed paying $3.9 million and providing the developer with 49 acres of adjoining undeveloped land adjacent to the park, said City Manager Darron Leiker (pictured). The water park should generate enough revenue to pay operating and maintenance costs, but may not raise enough revenue to pay the $4.3 million in debt obligations, Leiker said. The 4B group could borrow funds to repay the debt over a 15-year period, with payments of about $385,000 a year during that period. There would be no expectations of the debt being repaid, Leiker said.
Staff determined the park would not be a drain on the city's general fund and believe the water park will continue to attract more visitors to Wichita Falls, which could increase sales tax revenue to the city, Leiker said. The next step for city staff is to seek bids for the certificates of obligation in December and for council to approve a bond sale in January 2010. The plan calls for California-based owners of the water park to maintain winter staff and operations at the facility until the city acquires the water park.
Stephenville reviews plan for new fire station
Stephenville City Council members recently reviewed plans for a new $5 million fire station.
A Dallas-based architect presented plans for the proposed 16,000-square-foot fire station estimated to cost more than $5 million for construction, planning costs and other expenses. The site, currently used by Fire Station No. 2, will adequately accommodate the proposed building and parking and will allow for future expansion, the architect said.
The proposed design calls for three double bays to handle six vehicles, space for EMS storage, decontamination equipment, bunker gear rooms, a shop and storage space for other equipment. The living quarters will house a staff of eight firefighters and a captain on each shift and includes a kitchen, dining area, weight room and a laundry area while the administration wing will feature six offices for the fire chief, training officer, fire marshal, fire inspector, administrative assistant, a training and conference area to accommodate 35 and the potential for expansion, he said. Construction should take between 18 to 20 months to complete once council members approve a final plan.
Huntsville to form group to study arena/expo center
Huntsville City Council members recently requested the Hotel Occupancy Tax board to form a committee to explore the cost and scope of a feasibility study for a proposed indoor arena/expo center. The council will vote on committee members once tax board members submit the names of their selections, said Mayor Pro Tem Lanny Ray (pictured).
Several residents submitted the idea of building an indoor arena/expo center after observing how Glen Rose, McGregor, Crockett and other small cities used revenue from the motel tax to build indoor-covered facilities to sponsor rodeos and other events such as gun shows, boat shows, auto shows and home shows, Ray said.
The proposed steel building would not compete with the Veterans Conference Center, he said. The new committee will be asked to decide whether to pay for a feasibility study that could take several months to complete. The city, which receives about $500,000 a year in revenue from the Hotel Occupancy Tax has a "substantial" amount of funding for a project, Ray said.
Panhandle drivers may look further for picnic areas
Officials of the Panhandle regional office of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently revealed they are studying the possibility of closing 32 of 46 picnic areas located on highways in the Texas Panhandle. No rest stops with restrooms are proposed to be closed, only rest areas with picnic tables, a parking area and trash receptacles are included in the proposed closure.
The cost to maintain each picnic area is about $9,000 annually, said a spokesman for the regional office in Amarillo. Shutting down the rest stops will allow the agency to shift the $9,000 saved from closing the 32 picnic areas to projects such as widening a roadway or maintaining highways, the spokesman said.
Many of the picnic areas pose a safety risk because they are too close to the road or few people are using them because other picnic areas are located nearby. TxDOT officials are speaking with county leaders before making a final decision to close the 32 picnic areas, the spokesman said.
Smith Co. to seek grant for energy conservation
Smith County commissioners recently agreed to seek a $120,000 grant to pay for new heating and air conditioning units for county facilities. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provided the grant that the State Energy Conservation Office will award.
Terry Phillips (pictured), Precinct 3 commissioner, noted the county already has replaced the courthouse windows with more energy-efficient windows and installed motion sensor light switches to reduce energy use and costs. The grant will assist in county efforts to continue reducing its use of energy and save taxpayer money, he said.
South Texas group receives $10M for energy projects
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs recently awarded $10,789,991 to the Community Action Corporation of South Texas to help families reduce the cost of energy used in their homes.
The federal Weatherization Assistance Program provided the funding which will help residents replace old windows, insulation, weather stripping, and repair or replace inefficient air conditioning and heating systems. The funding should help about 1,200 households located in Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg and San Patricio counties.
Levelland moving forward on $8.6 million rail park
The Levelland Economic Development Corp. recently began construction on an $8.6 million, 300-acre industrial rail park.
The rail park project is funded with $3.3 million in federal stimulus funds, $1.5 million in cash reserves of the economic development corporation and a $4.5 million loan funded through bonds sold by the city of Levelland. The rail park is expected to be completed in 2010 and is expected to create 1,000 jobs during its first 10 years of operation, said the executive director of the economic development corporation.
Transportation dollars are flowing throughout Texas
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Of all the projects being funded by the federal Recovery Act, the most visible are those involving the state's transportation infrastructure. Orange barrels, traffic cones and workers in hard hats and orange vests can be seen on many roads. Lots of work is being generated as stimulus funds flow to communities throughout Texas.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently announced that 10,000 transportation projects throughout the country have been spurred by Recovery Act funding. And with the growing population in Texas taking its toll on the state's infrastructure, the funding is especially welcome.
To date, the USDOT has funneled $48.1 billion into the states for highways, transit authorities, bridge and airport construction and repair projects. Although initially most of the stimulus-funded projects were repairs and roadway resurfacing, now the work involves larger construction projects.[more]
Texas Government Insider
The Colony selects Johnston as interim city manager
The Colony City Council recently selected Assistant City Manager Tony Johnston (pictured) as the interim manager to replace former City Manager Dale Cheatham. Johnston, who began serving as assistant city manager in 2001, also held positions with the cities of Carrolton and Dallas. His appointment as interim city manager is for a term to expire no later than 2011.
New Braunfels ISD picks Moczygemba as finalist
Trustees for the New Braunfels Independent School District recently selected Randy Moczygemba (pictured), the assistant superintendent for business and operations for the district, as the lone finalist for superintendent. Moczygemba will replace Superintendent Mike Smith, who resigned after serving three years in that position.
Moczygemba previously served as a principal and assistant superintendent at Lamesa ISD and a superintendent at Medina ISD. He became assistant superintendent in New Braunfels in June 2007. He has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas Tech University. The board is expected to vote on the appointment on Dec. 14, after the required 21-day waiting period has expired.
Robstown ISD selects Obregon as its interim
Trustees for the Robstown Independent School District recently selected Alfonso Obregon to replace former interim superintendent Tony Morales, who resigned last week. Obregon is a retired school administrator who served 11 years as superintendent of Charlotte ISD near San Antonio. He also worked as an administrator at the Asherton, Progresso and Dilley school districts.
Board members are expected soon to announce a timeline in their search for a new superintendent.
Rosebud to seek $20,000 energy conservation grant
The Rosebud City Council recently authorized city staff to pursue any funding available from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grants are available to pay for projects to improve energy efficiency, reduce fossil fuel emissions and create and maintain jobs in communities.
The State Energy Conservation Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has estimated Rosebud is eligible for about $20,000 from the grant program, the city administrator said. He suggested using the funds to install energy-efficient windows in city hall.
Lujan resigns post as superintendent at Kermit
Superintendent Santos Lujan (pictured) recently announced he plans to retire as superintendent of the Kermit Independent School District to accept a new position as superintendent at Pecos-Toyah-Barstow ISD. Lujan plans to assume his new duties on Feb. 16, 2010. School officials said they plan to appoint an interim superintendent at a later date.
Clute to hire designer for court, parks/rec building
Clute City Council members recently authorized $3,000 to pay an architectural firm to design a new municipal court facility and parks and recreation building and to provide city officials with an estimated cost for the two projects.
The proposed projects include restoring the building's interior and exterior, installing an elevator for access to the second story, landscaping and buying additional land for parking. The parks and recreation facility was destroyed during Hurricane Ike.
McKenzie to retire as city secretary in Friendswood
Deloris McKenzie recently announced her retirement as city secretary in Friendswood effective in February 2010. McKenzie worked for the city for 33 years, including 26 years as city secretary. Council members have made no decision on finding a new city secretary to replace McKenzie.
Where are they now?
Where do folks go when they leave state government? Some go to work in the private sector or for nonprofits. Some transition to executive-level positions in higher education while others may seek elected local government positions. And some just retire and spend a lot of time with their grandkids at the fishin' hole. This column focuses on where former state government officials and employees are now.
Arthur "Buddy" Temple, III was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1972 and served four terms - from 1973 to 1981. He served on and was chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission from 1981 to 1986. He currently chairs the board of a locally owned bank headquartered in Diboll, is a member of the Board of Directors of Temple-Inland and chairs the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.
Ellen Temple served on the Texas Committee for the Humanities from 1983 to 1989 and served a six-year term on The University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1991 to 1997. She is also a former trustee and president of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. Temple is retired from her position as owner and president of her own publishing firm.
Abilene ISD selects Burns
Executive Women in Texas Government plan conference
The Executive Women in Texas Government 23rd Annual Professional Development Conference will be Monday, Nov. 23, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Lost Pines, Texas. Hailed as a meeting of "ideas, solutions and connections," this year's event will feature keynote speakers and workshops relating to development of executive-level management skills, expanding leadership capabilities and networking and mentoring. The event will begin with a 7:30 a.m. registration. The first keynote speaker, Dr. Wanda Thompson, will be heard during the opening general session at 8:30 a.m. followed by the EWTG Woman of the Year presentation and one morning workshop. The second keynote speaker, author Sara Laschever, will speak during lunch followed by two afternoon workshops. For more information on the conference and registration, click here.
Notary law, procedure seminar offered by AACOG
Current, new and non-notary participants who would like to earn their Texas notary public commission can attend the Alamo Area Council of Governments' upcoming three-hour quarterly Notary Law and Procedure seminar. The seminar is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 from 9 a.m. to noon at AACOG, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 165 (Classroom 6, 1st Floor) in San Antonio. Dixie Lucey, director of education for the State Notary Commission, will teach the seminar. For more information on the seminar and how to register, click here.