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  Volume 7, Issue 24 · Friday, June 19, 2009
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'Try Parking It' program making a difference

North Central Texas commuters instituting variety of travel options

Try Parking It

North Central Texans can breathe a little easier since they've tried parking it.

Try Parking It - a recent measure implemented by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) designed to increase awareness of transit services and carpooling options - allows commuters in the Dallas-Fort Worth region a chance to rack up "miles saved" while saving on gas costs and curbing harmful carbon emissions caused by traffic congestion. As in the DART photo at left, commuters are using everything from public transportation to pedal power.

The North Texas Clean Air Coalition (NTCAC), an area nonprofit, is even challenging commuters to rethink their single-occupant travel options. Until Sept. 15, the agency is asking commuters to log their miles saved on the Try Parking It Web site.

Ralph Zaragoza

Amanda Wilson

"I commute 11 miles to work," said Amanda Wilson (left), senior transportation planner for the NCTCOG. "If I transit or carpool on a certain day, and my car does not get used, then I log in 22 miles saved," she said, explaining the concept.

"We have close to 2,000 registrants now, and 360 employers participating," said Ralph Zaragoza (right), transportation planner for NCTCOG.

As an added incentive, the NTCAC is offering commuters a chance to win $250 through the 2009 Commuter Challenge. Winners will be announced at the North Texas Clean Air Coalition Working for Clean Air awards event in October.


Federal Highway Trust Fund facing another shortfall

TxDOT payments could be affected if Congress doesn't add funding

Amadeo Saenz

The nation's Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which helps finance roads and bridges, will go broke by late August unless Congress acts to supply emergency funding.

A projected $5 billion to $7 billion will be needed to keep the fund solvent for the remaining fiscal year. If those funds aren't approved, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and other similar transportation agencies throughout the country could face increasing delays in reimbursements for ensuing projects.

That process will impede payments to state agencies "while they (federal officials) figure out how to fix the hole in the Highway Trust Fund," said TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz (pictured). "Eventually - and quickly - you hit rock bottom, and payments stop."

The problem is the same as last year, according to Saenz, when the Highway Trust Fund faced a similar fate: gas receipts are not "hitting their marks."


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

Brooke Boston

Name, Title: Brooke Boston, Deputy Executive Director for Programs, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs

Career highlights and education: I am a graduate of Florida State University with a Master of Science in Urban Planning with a specialty in Housing and Community Development. I have worked in a variety of public and private sector affordable housing positions in Florida and in Texas, spending the last eight years at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). I started at TDHCA in an entry-level position and over the years have moved to increasingly more responsible positions with greater breadth of program oversight. I currently am focused primarily on implementation of seven different stimulus programs created under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

What I like best about my job is: Helping to actively implement how Texans will benefit from federal stimulus funds.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Always remembering that I am here to serve my employees; they are not here to serve me.

Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Because of the influx of stimulus funds, the opportunities for making a very real and lasting contribution are unique and their response to this opportunity may not only impact how Texans are served, but may also define their career.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: taking my 14-month-old to one of our favorite Austin spots - the Botanical Garden, Zilker Park or Butler Park.

People would be surprised to know that: my notorious organizational skills at work do not carry over into my home life - I am significantly less organized.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: That TDHCA is not only a "housing agency," but also plays a critical role in providing community services, homelessness prevention and home weatherization services.

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

Drama continues at Texas A&M after Murano resigns

Russell Cross

R. Bowen Loftin

Rodney McClendon

In the latest move in the ongoing upheaval at Texas A&M University, outgoing TAMU President Elsa Murano's chief of staff, Dr. H. Russell Cross (left), has resigned. Cross was serving as executive vice president for operations at A&M under Murano, making him and the provost the second administrators in command behind Murano. Cross is expected to return to the TAMU faculty, where he was previously head of the Department of Animal Science and the Meat and Muscle Biology Section.

The resignation came less than a week after Murano submitted her resignation prior to a regents meeting at which her job performance was expected to be discussed. Murano had received a less than flattering job performance review from TAMU System Chancellor Mike McKinney after rumors of the possibility of combining the chancellor's job and the president's job.

In a whirlwind of events, Murano resigned on Sunday, the regents met on Monday and accepted her resignation and named Dr. R. Bowen Loftin (middle) as interim president. Loftin is vice president at TAMU and chief executive officer of the school's Galveston campus. Regents also named Dr. Rodney P. McClendon (right) as acting vice president and CEO of Texas A&M University-Galveston.


Henrich appointed president of UTHSC-San Antonio

William Henrich

William L. Henrich, M.D. (pictured) has been appointed president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Henrich has been serving as interim president since February when former president Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., resigned to become chancellor of the UT System.

Henrich is the former vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Health Science Center's School of Medicine. Cigarroa called Henrich "an outstanding individual" who is "sensitive to the needs of South Texas and addressing health care disparities."

Henrich, who also holds the John P. Howe, III, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Health Policy at UTHSC-San Antonio, previously was chair of medicine and held an endowed professorship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also was physician-in-chief at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He held a number of positions at the UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas as well. Henrich holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia College and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine.

Olige appointed new assistant commissioner at TDA

Angela Olige

Angela Olige (pictured), who previously served as deputy assistant commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture's (TDA) Food and Nutrition Division, has been named assistant commissioner of that division.

"Angela brings a wealth of experience that will help lead the agency in its commitment to encourage healthy lifestyles for children and fight our state's obesity epidemic," said TDA Commissioner Todd Staples in announcing the promotion. Olige will be responsible for business operations, nutrition education and outreach, program compliance and oversight of administrative and operational budgets for all nutrition programs.

Prior to her work with TDA , Olige was finance and budget director for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston in Clear Lake.

Brown retiring from DPS Driver License Division

Judy Brown

Judy Brown (pictured), chief of the Driver License Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) since 2002, is retiring after 25 years with the agency, effective July 31.

During her tenure with DPS, Brown oversaw the commercial driver license program, the digital driver license project, the six-year driver license program and Internet-based license services. In 1999, she was named deputy administrator of the Driver License Division before being promoted to chief in 2007.

Brown started her DPS career as a clerk in the Crime Records Bureau, joining the Driver and Vehicle Records Bureau in 1980, where she eventually was responsible for accident records, was special projects manager and license issuance manager. Brown holds a bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University.

TDHCA's Brooke Boston recognized for leadership

Brooke Boston, an eight-year veteran with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has been named to Affordable Housing Finance magazine's list of 2009 Young Leaders. Boston serves TDHCA as Deputy Executive Director for Community Based Programs and also leads the department's Office of Recovery Act Accountability and Oversight.

The magazine each year singles out 12 individuals under age 40 who serve for-profit and nonprofit developers, financial providers and policymakers in the affordable housing community.

Boston's housing career has been in both the public and private sectors in Texas and Florida. She began her career with TDHCA in an entry-level position, but has increased her responsibilities and now focuses on the implementation of stimulus programs under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Her duties include examining stimulus funding issues to streamline reports, share guidance and identify and mitigate risk in program development and operations. Boston holds a master's degree from Florida State University.

State agencies earn award for TexasSure campaign


The Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Insurance and the Department of Information Services all share an award presented recently by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

The Pace Award recognizes public relations, public affairs and consumer education excellence among the motor vehicle, law enforcement and traffic safety agencies across North America. The four Texas agencies share the award for the TexasSure campaign, the state's vehicle insurance verification program.

The agencies together compiled a database that connects registered vehicles in the state by license plate, vehicle identification number (VIN) and liability insurance policy. State law requires all vehicles must carry liability insurance. The program is aimed at reducing the number of uninsured motorists.

Texas collects $1.77B in sales tax revenue

Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs recently announced the state collected $1.77 billion in sales tax revenue in May, a 5.2 percent decrease from last year's monthly figure. She said further declines are expected this year.

Local sales tax allocations to cities, counties, transit systems and special-purpose taxing districts are down 3.9 percent, totaling $441.1 million for June. Meanwhile, city allocations from sales taxes are down 3 percent at $297 million for the month. Combs sent Texas counties sales tax payments totaling $26.4 million, down 6.9 percent compared to last June. Additionally, 150 special-purpose taxing districts received $17.1 million and 10 local transit systems garnered $100.4 million in sales tax allocations for June. Those figures are down .9 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

To view the allocations by city, click here. To view the allocations by county, click here.

UTSA names new university architect, facility planner

Doug Lipscomb

James "Doug" Lipscomb (pictured) has been named director of facility planning and development in addition to university architect at The University of Texas San Antonio Office of Facilities. His new charge begins June 29.

Lipscomb, a registered architect with more than 20 years experience, has worked for a San Antonio firm for the past five years as well as other firms in the city and Massachusetts. In his new role, he will provide recommendations and help ensure consistency with the new UTSA master plan and architectural standards.

Lipscomb holds a bachelor's degree from UT-Austin and a master's degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Harris County Flood Control District nets $1M grant

The Harris County Flood Control District has been awarded a $1 million grant under a pilot program that pays for permanent staff and equipment carrying out debris-related work during regular hours. The grant will reimburse the state 100 percent of the flood control district's costs as well as for rental and dumping fees for debris removal related to Hurricane Ike last year.

The management of the funds, including disbursement to local governments and organizations performing services, is the responsibility of the state. The obligated funds are a portion of more than $1 billion in total Public Assistance disaster funds sent to the state since September 2008.

UNT home to $2.2M, high-powered computing facility

Vish Prasad

A new $2.2 million, high-powered computing facility at the University of North Texas will increase the university's computational power by 10 times and will stand as one of the premier facilities of its kind in the country. The facility will provide scientists and researchers with tools needed to conduct research in fields ranging from aeronautics to carbon sequestration.

Vish Prasad (pictured), vice president for research and economic development, said the facility marks a "huge step forward for the university," allowing the institution to apply for the largest, most competitive grants. He said only a few universities across the country "have this sort of computational power."

The facility, purchased with state incentive funds and some internal resources, is set to be installed this summer and be operational by the fall semester.

TxDOT, Texas AgriLife Service honored by TCEQ

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service were recently honored with 2009 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards. Each year for the past 16, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has awarded the state's most outstanding waste-reduction and pollution prevention projects in various categories.

TxDOT has created a number of initiatives the past 16 years to address environmental needs, ranging from the protection of bat habitats to wetlands preservation. The latest initiative includes an employee-sponsored measure that enables workers to monitor their impact on air quality as they reduce environmental impact. The agency has also reused more than 11 million tons of roadway materials and boasts a vehicle fleet of more than 3,300 vehicles that use either compressed natural gas or propane.

Meanwhile the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has sponsored educators to teach growers in the Rio Grande Valley how to use and restrain the use of fertilizer, improving water quality and saving farmers $2 million in fertilizer costs in the process. The program has reduced the harmful use of nitrogen by more than 2 million pounds and slashed phosphorus use by 3 million pounds to date.

West Texas A&M names director of Teaching Center

Amy Andersen

Dr. Amy Andersen (pictured), assistant professor of education at West Texas A&M University, has been named director of the university's Teaching Excellence Center (TEC). She said the center, which she helped design, aims to nurture and strengthen "teaching effectiveness and student learning."

As the director of TEC, Andersen will be charged with scheduling guest speakers and adding links to the center's Web site with topics ranging from effective outlines for different courses of study to student engagement in large lecture classrooms.

"We want to help make it easier for faculty to engage students to be lifelong learners," Andersen said, adding the TEC will be available "to support and enhance those efforts."

Freeport approves funding for transit system link

Freeport City Council members recently joined with Angleton, Clute and Lake Jackson officials to approve $19,000 in funding for a bus system to serve southern Brazoria County.

The transit system, to be operated by a private company, will offer a four-city shuttle line in which federal stimulus funds will pay almost half the operating costs and most likely cover the cost of bus stop shelters, said Lake Jackson City Manager Bill Yenne. The cities will be required to pay about $114,598 in operating costs with each city's share of the cost based on its percentage of bus miles. For the first year of service, Angleton approved $35,000, Clute approved $21,000 and Lake Jackson approved $45,000.

Designed to benefit the elderly, economically disadvantaged and persons with disabilities, the proposed bus system will operate 12 hours a day on Monday thru Friday and include four routes. The buses will offer routes around Angleton, Clute and Lake Jackson, and a line from Angleton to Brazosport College and another through Freeport, Lake Jackson and Clute. Fares will be $1 for a one-way fare for adults and 50 cents for students, senior citizens and people with disabilities.

UT-Austin picks dean of Jackson School of Geosciences

Sharon Mosher

Sharon Mosher (pictured) has been named dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin. She has acted as the William Stamps Farish Chair of the department since 2007. She replaces Eric Barron, who left to become director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Mosher previously served as president of the Geological Society of America and chair of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. She is a current chair and founder of GeoScienceWorld, an international journal aggregation for geoscientists. Since joining the UT-Austin faculty in 1978, Mosher has supervised numerous graduate students and directed the university's geology summer field camp - the largest undergraduate summer field course in the country - for 15 years.

Mosher received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana and her master's degree from Brown University.

UT-Austin announces two new nursing programs

To help alleviate the critical pediatric and neonatal nursing shortage, The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing is partnering with a private children's hospital and medical group to establish two new graduate nurse-practitioner programs. The Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program (ACPNPP) is set to begin this summer and the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program (NNPP) will offer its inaugural session this fall.

The ACPNPP, established in response to the need for more acute care pediatric providers, can be completed in less than two years for nurses seeking a master's degree. Students with master's credentials can complete the program in about a year. The NNPP, designed to train nurses to care for a rapidly growing group of high-risk infants, including those born prematurely and those born with life-threatening illnesses, can be completed in about the same amount of time.

The demand for neonatal and acute care nurse practitioners has grown steadily over the past few decades, said Marlene Walden (pictured), professor of clinical nursing, due in part to the "rapid technological advancements in neonatal care and increased survival of more preterm babies."

Lone Star College-Montgomery announces new president

Austin Lane

Dr. Austin Lane (pictured), vice president for student affairs at Tyler Junior College, is set to become the new president of Lone Star College-Montgomery.

Lane began his tenure at Tyler Junior College in November 2005. He has also served in a variety of roles at The University of Texas at Arlington, beginning in 1996, including charges as lecturer, dean of students, assistant dean of students, director of student judicial affairs and counseling specialist.

Lane holds a bachelor's degree from Langston University, a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma-Norman and doctoral degrees from both Walden University in Minneapolis, Minn., and the University of Alabama.

Texas to get $139M in preparedness grants

Texas is in line to receive $138,991,478 in Fiscal Year 2009 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preparedness grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The grants, which were announced this week by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, will provide direct support for regional preparedness, urban security and medical response efforts. The State of Texas will receive more than $60 million in State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) funds. In addition, the following five Texas urban areas will receive funds through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program: Austin ($2,922,600), Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington ($19,305,700), El Paso ($5,389,900), Houston ($39,555,450), and San Antonio ($6,229,550).

Additional Fiscal Year 2009 FEMA preparedness grant program awards were finalized in April 2009.

To view the preparedness grants funding available to Texas, click here and look under "Recent Reports."

Tech center cites Geriatric Medicine fellowship program

Steven Berk

As baby boomers continue to age, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine is hoping to change the increasing shortage of geriatricians in the country. (With approximately one geriatrician per 2,500 older American patients in the United States today, the ratio is expected to leap to one-for-every-4,254 Americans by 2030.) To combat the geriatrician shortage, the TTUHSC School of Medicine's Geriatric Medicine fellowship program has been granted approval by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Dr. Steven Berk (pictured), dean of the TTUHSC School of Medicine, said the physicians who graduate from the Geriatric Medicine program will "meet the needs of the growing elderly population by caring for the elderly in clinics and hospitals, teaching other physicians about the special needs of older patients and conducting research to improve care in the future."

The fellowship-training program will encompass acute hospital and outpatient clinic practices, long-term care, hospice and home care and assisted living settings.

TCEQ recognizes M.D. Anderson in Clean Texas program

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) Clean Texas program, designed to honor organizations whose environmental performance goes beyond compliance with state laws, has awarded The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston with a platinum-level membership.

Brian Christian, director of TCEQ's Small Business and Environmental Assistance Division, said the Clean Texas program recognizes organizations for creative approaches "in resolving environmental challenges and setting goals that exceed compliance levels under existing regulations."

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center was recognized for its management of hazardous and nonhazardous waste, reduction of water and energy usage and local litter-cleanup efforts.

Angelo State University postpones new residence hall

Joseph Rallo

San Angelo State University recently postponed construction of the new Plaza Verde residential hall and moved back the expected opening date until fall of 2011, said President Joseph Rallo (pictured).

Officials decided to postpone the project because the construction budget for ASU and other schools in the Texas Tech University System will not be approved until August, which doesn't leave time to open the facility by early August 2010, Rallo said.

The new residency hall is planned to have about 100-250 new beds and may be designed to attract students who are over 21 years of age, married and graduate students, said John Russell, director of facilities, planning and construction. The college will hold focus groups with students to determine what type of residence hall Plaza Verde should be as many students have expressed interest in dorms that resemble apartments. Residence halls for upper-level students generally require less group space and do not require as many resident assistants as dorms for freshmen, he said.

Texas Tech University System picks new vice chancellor

Russ Bookbinder

Russ Bookbinder (pictured) has been named vice chancellor and chief marketing officer of the Texas Tech University System. In his new role, Bookbinder will work in tandem with Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Angelo State University to develop integrated marketing and communication techniques for each institution. He replaces David McClure, who was named Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Commercialization.

Bookbinder previously served as executive vice president of business operations for the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. He retired after more than 20 years with the NBA franchise.

Bookbinder holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida.

Dean appointed for UT-Arlington's College of Science

Pamela Jansma

Dr. Pamela Jansma (pictured) has been appointed dean of the College of Science at The University of Texas at Arlington. Her new charge begins Aug. 15.

Jansma is the former dean of New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences. Her resume includes posts at the University of Arkansas and the University of Puerto Rico. She has also published work in the field of microplate tectonics and strain partitioning, according to Provost Dr. Donald Bobbitt, who said Jansma's chair-level experience and "considerable talent" make her a perfect fit for UT-Arlington.

Midland native named director of Laura W. Bush Institute

Leslie Chupp

Dr. Leslie E. Chupp (pictured) has been named director of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health at the Permian Basin in Midland. The virtual institute is a collaborative effort between several campuses, headquartered in Amarillo.

Chupp has served the past six years in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Prior to that charge, she served at a private practice in Houston.

Chupp, who holds a bachelor's degree from Houston Baptist University and a medical degree from The University of Texas Medical Branch, will also help run the Jenna Welch Center, named after the former first lady's mother. Additionally, she will teach at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and begin seeing patients in July.

S. Texas deputies get new tool to fight immigrant crime

Deputies in five South Texas counties recently received a new federal tool to better identify illegal immigrants with criminal records.

The new Secure Communities Program began linking county jails in Bexar, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb and Zapata counties with the Department of Homeland Security's biometrics database so that deputies are able to examine immigration records to ensure criminal non-residents are not released into the community.

About one-third of all deported non-citizens are convicted criminals, said a federal official. Priority will be given to immigrants who have been convicted of drug crimes, murder, rape, robbery or kidnapping. Federal immigration authorities will take the appropriate action with immigrants identified with criminal records after inmates have served their time in the county facility, he said.

Chair of neurology appointed at UTHSC-San Antonio

Robin Brey

Dr. Robin L. Brey (pictured) has been appointed chair of Neurology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in addition to being named to the Edna Smith Dielmann Distinguished University Chair.

Brey, a professor of neurology, also treats patients at the UT Medicine San Antonio and South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Audie Murphy Division. She specializes in the study of a set of proteins called antiphospholipid antibodies, which hinder the normal function of blood vessels, resulting in anomalies such as blood clots. She joined the Health Science Center faculty in 1989.

Brey earned her medical degree from the University of Arizona and completed her residency in neurology from Oregon Health and Science University.

EPA awards $3.7M to North Texas clean-diesel projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $3.7 million to the North Central Texas Council of Governments for clean-diesel projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The funds, part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, were awarded to maximize economic impact while reducing emissions. In addition to retaining and creating jobs, the funds will be used to upgrade and replace diesel vehicles, verify emission-reducing technologies on long-haul trucks and replace or repower heavy-duty diesel vehicles operating in the region.

A total of $88.2 million has so far been provided to states for clean diesel projects as part of ARRA's State Clean Diesel Program. To see how ARRA funds have been distributed, click here.

Houston superintendent to step down in August

Abelardo Saavedra

Abelardo Saavedra (pictured), who has led Houston Independent School District since 2004, has announced he will step down as superintendent by Aug. 31, several months earlier than expected. He will continue to draw an annual salary of $327,000 through March, per his contract.

Board President Larry Marshall said the board would appoint an interim superintendent if one is not named by the time Saavedra leaves.

Saavedra, who has experienced a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the Houston ISD school board the past year, ends his tenure on a high note. Later this summer the state is expected to announce that HISD includes a record number of top-rated schools.

Austin approves new health care district board member

The Austin City Council has approved the appointment of Anthony Haley to the Travis County Healthcare District (TCHD) Board of Managers.

Haley, an attorney, founded a consulting firm that provides economic development and communication services in areas of energy, health and human services, education, legal issues, transportation and municipal affairs, among others. He has also served as a consultant for Baylor Health Care System since 2003. Prior to those roles, he served as Vice President for University Relations at Texas Southern University.

Travis County Commissioners Court members jointly approved Haley's appointment as ninth board member of the TCHD.

Laredo CC looks at $96M renovation plan

Juan Maldonado

Laredo Community College (LCC) is eyeing a $96 million, multi-year plan to overhaul its campus in "dire need of retrofit and rejuvenation," according to college President Juan L. Maldonado (pictured).

Funding for the venture - which would include 90 improvements, ranging from a $15,000 upgrade for the president's residence to $11.3 million for a new performing and visual arts building - could involve a tax increase of up to 6.5 cents per $100 valuation phased in over four or five years. The school could also issue revenue bonds raised by tuition and fees expected to be bolstered by enrollment increases.

If trustees were to approve the tax increase, the measure would bring in about $83.5 million in revenue, a conservative estimate according to Robert Tijerina, senior vice president of an investment banking company LCC hired as financial advisors.

Former A&M official misses U of Central Arkansas post

Texas A&M's former Vice President of Student Affairs Dean Bresciani - named one of four finalists for the position of president at the University of Central Arkansas last month - has been taken off the short list of candidates.

Allen Meadors, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, has been named to the post instead. Bresciani resigned from A&M in June 2008.

Sam Houston State names head of ROTC program

David Yebra

Lt. Col. David Yebra (pictured) has been appointed Sam Houston State University's military science department leader. He will head the school's ROTC program for the next three years in his new role.

Yebra has served 19 years in the U.S. Army having been stationed in Germany, Hungary and Croatia, among others. He was stationed six years at Fort Hood in the 4th Infantry Division, with which he toured three times to Iraq.

Yebra earned his bachelor's degree from West Point and a master's degree from Long Island University.

A&M picks director of Integrated Ocean Drilling Program

Bradford Mark Clement, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University in Miami, has been named director of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) at Texas A&M University.

In his new role, Clement will lead a staff of 110 scientists, technicians and other personnel who provide administrative, fiscal and scientific support at the Texas A&M campus in College Station and on the program's drill ship, the JOIDES Resolution.

Clement holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia and a master's and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Sul Ross University Center to be renamed for Morgans

Vic Morgan

The Texas State University System board of regents has passed a resolution renaming the Sul Ross State University Center in honor of retiring President Dr. R. Vic Morgan and his wife, Mary Jane.

The new moniker - the Vic and Mary Jane Morgan University Center - will recognize contributions Morgan made to the institution during his 34-year tenure, as well as those his wife made to the community as a teacher of mathematics at Alpine High School for the same number of years.

Morgan was named the university's 10th president in 1989. He joined the Sul Ross faculty in 1975 as a mathematics professor. He was named director of the Division of Science in 1975 and executive assistant to the president in 1985.

Killeen reviews downtown church redevelopment plan

The Killeen City Council recently took its first look at plans for the First Baptist Church Redevelopment Project proposed to revitalize downtown by increasing foot traffic and changing the look and feel to a more welcoming atmosphere. Preliminary estimates are that renovations, demolition and construction costs to upgrade the 79,181-square-foot complex will be $3.6 million.

The project includes relocating several city departments, including code enforcement, community development and volunteer services as well as providing a new home for county facilities such as an annex or space for federal housing assistance programs. The project may also house a performing arts center, a canopy-covered farmer's market in the courthouse, as well as adding more crosswalks and lighting to encourage more visitors to downtown, said Project Manager Beverly Zendt.

City Manager Connie Green said the city expects to earn about $251,000 in annual lease and rental revenue from the project and eliminate about $100,000 annually in rent expenses by moving city employees out of leased space. Green cited possible funding sources for the project as federal community development block grants, federal grants, certificates of obligation, hotel occupancy tax revenue and interest earnings. City council took no action on the proposed plan.

University of Houston regents elect officers

Welcome Wilson

Jim Wise

Nelda Luce Blair

The University of Houston System Board of Regents has elected new officers for the coming year.

Houston real estate developer Welcome Wilson Sr. (left) has been selected to serve a third term as chairman. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston.

Jim Wise (middle) has been named vice chairman. He was appointed to the UH System Board of Regents in 2006. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business.

Nelda Luce Blair (right), an attorney and president of her own law firm, has been elected secretary. She holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

UH-Victoria receives $410,000 grant for instruction

The University of Houston-Victoria recently received $410,000 in grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to help improve the quality of science education.

A $210,000 Teacher Quality Grant was awarded to Nora Hutto of the School of Education and Human Development and to Sandy Venneman of the School of Arts & Sciences to allow 18 middle school science teachers from the Wharton Independent School District and other rural districts to take graduate-level science education courses this summer and next summer to learn more about environmental earth science in the areas of biology, chemistry and physics, said Hutto, a professor who co-conducts the project.

A $200,000 grant to Roy Foley, a professor in the School of Education and Human Development Program, will be used to provide 22 middle school science teachers in Victoria ISD and surrounding school districts to learn better methods to teach physics and to attend a three-day conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers.

El Paso gets $5.4M federal grant for emergency planning

John Cook

El Paso recently received a $5.4 million grant to help area law enforcement agencies improve emergency response during a terror attack or natural disaster.

Because the city of El Paso is spearheading a regional effort to improve emergency planning and communication, Mayor John Cook (pictured), said the funding will be used to improve communications between various law enforcement agencies in the region, institute a tactical "fusion" center to allow city, state, county and federal law enforcement officials to share intelligence and to provide and coordinate standardized breathing equipment to all local fire departments.

The grant also will be used for regional planning on how to respond to a disaster or attack, for a regional medical operations center to allow direct communication with local hospitals and for public education. The regional planning will include officials of the Tigua reservation, smaller municipalities, unincorporated areas of the county and school districts, colleges and universities with police departments, Cook said.

Dallas committee backs bonds for convention hotel

The Economic Development Committee of the Dallas City Council recently recommended that the city council approve $514 million in revenue bonds to build a city-owned Convention Center Hotel. Council members are expected to vote on the recommendation today (Friday), but have not yet indicated when the bonds will be sold.

Huntsville approves $90,000 library expansion contract

J. Turner

The Huntsville City Council recently approved a $90,000 architectural contract to design an expansion and renovation of the Huntsville Public Library.

Following objections by some council members over spending money for a project included in a bond referendum not yet approved by voters, Mayor J. Turner (pictured) told council members the schematic design is necessary for programming where needs are necessary.

Current plans call for an 18,000- to 20,000-square-foot, two-story addition linked to the existing 7,000-squar-foot building. The plan also calls for the existing library building to be renovated and one-half of the new building to be finished on the interior while leaving one-half of the interior of the new addition an unfinished shell. The estimated cost of the facility, furniture, fixtures and equipment is between $2.5 million and $3 million.

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Stimulus funding moving slowly...but other federal funds flowing into Texas!

Mary Scott Nabers

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

Although stimulus funding is being committed each week...and some of it has started to flow into Texas...most projects have not yet begun. And, the bulk of stimulus funding has not yet been committed. Some contractors are frustrated with the slow pace.

In transportation projects alone, a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) report showed that the agency's $151.8 million stimulus outlay represents only 1 percent of the $15 billion it has obligated for transportation projects. DOT officials announced last week that some projects will receive accelerated funding. These funds will result in hundreds of contracting opportunities - when they get here.

Not to worry - millions of new dollars are flowing into Texas each week that are not related to the stimulus. Opportunities for contracting from those funds are abundant throughout the state.

Texas has already received more than $1 billion in disaster recovery funds. The disaster money is being used to repair damages incurred from Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. Opportunities for contracting are related to infrastructure repair, bridge work, construction on public buildings and cleanup in public parks and recreation areas. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) received more than $100 million for continued repair of buildings and replacement of equipment.


Hubbard picks O'Brien as lone superintendent finalist

Randy O'Brien

Trustees for the Hubbard Independent School District recently selected Randy O'Brien as superintendent. O'Brien, who currently serves as a high school principal for Blooming Grove ISD, will replace Walter Padgett, who resigned to take the position of superintendent of Schulenburg ISD, and Lance Johnson, who had served as interim superintendent this spring until accepting a position with another school district.

O'Brien, who previously was employed by Tarkington ISD, has a bachelor's degree from East Texas Baptist University and a master's degree from Sam Houston State University.

Baytown extends circulator bus service agreement

Baytown city council members recently extended a $75,000 interlocal agreement with Harris County Transit to provide circular transit service to the city for another year.

Deputy City Manager Bob Leiper (pictured) also reported that the city is seeking a grant to help pay to add covers to 10 benches at the circular stops and for solar lighting at the transit sites. City staff is also working with Lee College on the possibility of amending the agreement to add a third route, he said. Harris County Transit also provides Baytown with county-wide taxi service for elderly and disabled passengers and a park-and-ride service to downtown Houston.

Vandiver to retire as interim city attorney for Lubbock

Interim City Attorney Don Vandiver recently announced his retirement from that position at a meeting of the Lubbock City Council. Vandiver served as an attorney for the city for 37 years and was appointed as interim city attorney in August 2008. His retirement is effective on June 30.

Council members plan to continue the search and selection process for a new city attorney, but have not yet named a new interim city attorney to replace Vandiver.

Shepherd rejects federal grant for new police officers

The Shepherd City Council recently rejected a proposal to accept a four-year federal grant that would have paid the salary of two police officers for three years and required the city to pay the salaries for the fourth year.

Police Chief Chris Simmons asked council members to accept the grant to allow police to patrol the streets from 8 a.m. until midnight. The request for the city to apply for the federal grant died from lack of a motion after several council members complained that the city would have to pay the salaries of the two new officers during the fourth year of the grant.

Hardin retires as deputy superintendent for Lubbock

Fred Hardin

Fred Hardin (pictured), the deputy superintendent for secondary education, recently resigned from his position with the Lubbock Independent School District. Hardin, who worked for the Lubbock school district for 29 years, previously was employed as a teacher and band director for the Amarillo ISD. His resignation was effective immediately.

Alamo Colleges - headed for consolidation?

Talks about the possibility of merging the five independent Alamo Colleges is not being discussed on friendly terms by faculty and staff. Administrators from the colleges have been asked by the trustees to form a committee to discuss a possible merger. Each of the colleges currently is individually accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Trustees are discussing if it would not be better to have one accreditation for a single system of the colleges. A consolidation would make accreditation simpler for Northeast Lakeview, the newest of the colleges, since it has been working on accreditation since December 2007.

However, such a consolidation of the various colleges would result in standardized curriculums, degree plans and learning outcomes for each campus. While that process is already in the works, some argue that the identities of the individual colleges will be affected. In what some see as a first step toward consolidation, the recent budget proposal recommended consolidation of admission, registration, student financial services, continuing education, teaching certification programs, printing services and copying services.

Del Rio names new economic director

Fabio E. Angell has been named Del Rio's new economic director. Angell previously worked as an urban planner with the City of Edinburg and has been involved in projects related to urban development for the United Nations. Since 2001, he has served as downtown manager for the City of Pharr, where his efforts led to the Texas Senate's Triple Crown City designation.

Angell holds a bachelor's degree from the City University of New York and a master's degree from Rutgers University.

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.

Babe Schwartz

A.R. "Babe" Schwartz served in the Texas House for two sessions, from 1955-1959. He was then elected to the Texas Senate, where he served from 1960-1981. He is currently a lobbyist.

Zeb Zbranek

Zeb Zbranek was elected to the Texas House for the 735d session in 1992. He came back to be re-elected in 2000 to serve in the House during the 77th Legislature. He currently practices law in Liberty and Winnie.

North Texas Tollway group chops $108M from budget

Confronted with declines in traffic and a projected 10.91 percent decrease in revenue, staff of the North Texas Tollway Authority recently recommended cutting the transit authority's budget by $108 million.

The NTTA staff recommended that reductions come from the authority's capital improvement projects, reserve maintenance and feasibility funds. NTTA officials also announced the tolls will be increased almost immediately.

Fort Worth to add 10
more red-light cameras

Bill Verkest

Fort Worth city officials recently approved adding 10 more red-light cameras to six intersections this fall. The addition of the 10 new red-light cameras will bring the total number in use by the city to 35, said Transportation Director Bill Verkest (pictured). Accidents are down 19 percent at targeted intersections, he added.

Council members also approved the hiring of a collection agent to pursue the 44 percent of violators who have not paid their tickets. Of the $1.2 million in fines recorded since the cameras began operation in 2008, $765,000 was used to pay expenses, including payments to the operator, $221,000 was sent to the state and $221,000 was retained by the city, Verkest said. About $950,000 in fines has not been collected.

San Antonio Youth Centers wins $687,500 federal grant

The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded a $687,500 grant to San Antonio Youth Centers to educate and train at-risk young people.

The funds will be used for the Alamo City YouthBuild program, a nine-month program targeting those from age 16 to 24 who have dropped out of school. Under its Construction Corps, participants spend half their time earning a GED or high school diploma and the other half working toward a certification in construction. Program participants will learn to build and rehabilitate affordable housing for low-income and homeless families.

League City narrows search for interim city manager

League City official have narrowed their search for an interim city manager to two candidates, Robert "Bo" McDaniel, a former city administrator in Friendswood and Seabrook, and John L. Pape, who retired as an administrator for the Village of Angel Fire, New Mexico. Pap also served as a city manager or administrator in Bellaire, Arcola and Ada, Oklahoma. The new interim city manager will replace former City Manager Chris Reed, who resigned last week.

Llano approves agreement for broadband Internet

The Llano city council recently approved a $461,000 agreement to enter a partnership with a Marble Falls-based business to help pay for fiber optic broadband equipment for the city.

Under the agreement, the firm will run fiber optic cable from Cherokee to a tower on top of the North Llano water tower and then run the cable across the river to the top of the South Llano water tower. Those living within five miles of the cable should receive good broadband reception when the project is completed within about 180 days, said City Manager Finley deGraffenried. The company will pay 17 percent of the installation cost and eventually the company and the city will each own half of the service, with an option for the city to buy the entire installation, the city manager said. The company also will pay the city a $500-per-month rental fee for the use of the two water towers.

New Braunfels ISD to br> apply for grants for buses

Trustees for the New Braunfels Independent School District recently agreed to apply to the U.S. Department of Energy for two grants to help pay for the purchase of four propane buses.

The Department of Energy offers grants of about $15,000 per bus for school districts that make the change to propane buses, said Randy Moczygemba, the assistant superintendent of business and operations. A propane bus will cost around $60,000 with the grant while most diesel buses cost about $83,000, he said. The Texas Railroad Commission also offers a rebate on propane fuel to bring down the cost to about 46 cents per gallon compared to almost $1.90 a gallon that diesel fuel now costs, he said.

Galveston ISD wins $500,000 federal grant

Lynne Cleveland

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the Galveston Independent School District a $500,000 grant to improve literacy through school library programs. The grant will help create a model library program by replacing books lost to Hurricane Ike and updating and improving the library to meet school library standards, said Superintendent Lynne Cleveland (pictured).

Splendora ISD to receive $164,000 grant for labs

The Splendora Independent School District recently received notice it will receive a $164,000 Science Lab Cycle 2 Grant to renovate an existing classroom into a combination lecture/science lab. The additional lab will accommodate the increase in student enrollment as well as upper-level science courses, district officials said.

Gainesville ISD group urges upgrade to Leeper Stadium

The Facilities Committee of the Gainesville Independent School District recently recommended that the district renovate Leeper Stadium for use in the 2009-2010 school year. Board members discussed the possibility of building a new stadium to replace Leeper Stadium, which has safety issues.

Some parts of the stadium may have to be closed off for safety reasons this fall, said Mike Schmitz, chairman of the Facilities Committee. This option will give school board members more time to study whether a new football stadium should be built, he said. Board members said they plan to hire an engineer to make an independent safety inspection of Leeper Stadium before making a final decision on the recommendation.

Medina voters favor
hospital taxing district

Voters in Medina County recently approved creating a taxing district to support financing of the Medina Regional Hospital in Hondo. The district will be able to levy up to 10 cents per $100 valuation to support the hospital. The hospital recently underwent $13 million in renovations. Opened in 1964 as a joint ownership by the city of Hondo and Medina County, a hospital authority was formed in 2002 ending the joint ownership.

Hospital authority board members say they will cap the tax rate at 4 cents for the first year.

Kerrville ISD approves security cameras for buses

Dan Troxell

Trustees for the Kerrville Independent School District recently approved $57,204 to purchase and install security cameras on all 28 of the district's school buses.

The cameras, along with the assignment of aides on board to monitor student behavior, should ease the minds of parents concerned after police reports were filed alleging students were assaulting other students while aboard district school buses, said Superintendent Dan Troxell (pictured). The cameras should be installed by the beginning of the new school year, he said.

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Volume 1 - 7 Archives · 11/7/03 - 6/12/09

El Paso County alters deadline for projects

El Paso County commissioners recently pulled back on a self-imposed deadline to finish several projects costing about $45.3 million by Dec. 15 and decided the Dec. 15 deadline could include architectural, construction or other services that move forward with unfinished projects approved in a $70 million bond referendum in 2007. The county also has about $1.7 million remaining from a 2001 bond referendum and about $4 million from a 2002 bond election, the county's budget and finance manager reported.

While some commissioners complained that the deadlines were not strict enough, Commissioner Anna Perez said while she, too, is frustrated by the delays, she has observed a shift in the attitude of county officials to move more quickly on delayed projects. The December deadline and monthly updates will keep commissioners more accountable, she said. The 15 projects approved in the 2007 bond election include courthouse renovations, expansion of the Juvenile Center, several park improvements and a new county annex in the northwest area of the county.

Governor's appointments

Gov. Rick Perry has made the following appointments:

  • Michael C. Massengale of Houston, justice of the 1st Court of Appeals
  • Capt. Paul F. Paine of Fort Worth, presiding officer, Texas Military Preparedness Commission
  • Dora G. Alcala of Del Rio, Texas Military Preparedness Commission
  • Col. Ralph C. Gauer Sr. of Harker Heights, Texas Military Preparedness Commission
  • Maj. Gen. Alvin W. Jones of College Station, Texas Military Preparedness Commission
  • Ben C. Mazzara of Beaumont, Nursing Facility Administrators Advisory Committee
  • Ziad Haydar of Dallas, Nursing Facility Administrators Advisory Committee
  • Anita M. Nelson of Double Oak, Nursing Facility Administrators Advisory Committee
  • Linda L. White of Magnolia, State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision
  • Willie Belle Boone of Houston, Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission
  • Carmen Francis of Georgetown, Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission
  • Clarence E. Glover Jr. of Dallas, Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission

Wilson to serve new post
at Laredo's United ISD

Roylin Wilson

Roylin Wilson (pictured), who currently serves as principal of United South in Laredo, has been named the United ISD's new executive director of secondary education. Wilson, who has been with the district for 18 years, will begin her new job late this month or early July. She replaces Juanita Lozano, who has been with the district for 24 years, the last four as director of secondary education.

In her new position, Wilson will assist and support secondary-level teachers, help increase students' college readiness with SAT preparation classes and instructional activities and be involved in TEKS in grades 6-12.

Williamson County selects new budget officer

Williamson County Commissioners have appointed Ashlie Koenig the new budget officer. She replaces Dan A. Gattis, who also serves as county judge. Gattis had served in both capacities since February 2007.

Koenig, who previously served as assistant budget officer, has worked for the county for nine years.

SPI opportunities:

  • K-12 consultants

SPI is hiring individuals with subject matter expertise and well-established credentials in the K-12 school district sector. Applicants for K-12 consultants should have well-maintained relationships and a strong background in K-12 administration, such as a former top-level decision-maker, i.e., a superintendent, deputy superintendent or administrative executive (CFO, HR Director, CIO) in one of or several regions of the state - Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso or the Valley. Ideal candidates are retired or seeking part-time consulting along with other existing employment.

  • Houston-area consultants

SPI is also hiring individuals to be regionally based Houston-area local government consultants. Applicants should have expertise and relationships with executive-level decision-makers in the Houston area in one or more of the following: K-12 public schools, higher education, city government, county government, healthcare and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO). Ideal candidates are retired or seeking part-time consulting along with other existing employment.

To apply for these consulting positions at SPI, please send a brief cover letter and a copy of your resume to Anna Cook at and put "Application for K-12 Consultant," or "Application for Houston Area Consultant" in the subject line, or for more information, send an e-mail to the same address.

Gregg County, Longview approve road extension

Officials of Gregg County and Longview recently agreed to move forward with a one-mile extension of George Richey Road to serve as a second entrance north of a new $29 million high school being built by the Spring Hill ISD. The county and city will split the cost of the road extension and the city will manage the project. Keith Bonds, director of public works in Longview, said Texas Department of Transportation officials are working on alignment plant for the intersection with the future Gilmer Road that should be completed by August.

County Judge Bill Stoudt said county crews are clearing the rights-of-way to allow oil companies to move a pipeline now located in the middle of the future campus planned to be open by 2011. Voters in 2007 approved $800,000 to acquire property for George Richey Road. Once the extension is complete, current plans call for TxDOT to continue the Richey Road extension in the next five to six years, Stoudt said.

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West Rusk CCISD agrees to apply for grant for laptops

Trustees for the West Rusk County Consolidated Independent School District recently agreed to partner with Troup ISD for a Vision 20/20 grant to purchase laptop computers during the next school year.

If the grant is approved, the laptops will be distributed to students in the ninth, 10th and 11th grades who will be allowed to take the computers home to offer a new way of learning to keep up with technology, said Superintendent Mike King. The district also is upgrading its computer network to prepare for the updated technology.

The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly e-newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.

Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers

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Texas Citizens Corps Conference dates announced

The Texas Citizens Corps Conference will be held June 30-July 1 at the Omni Houston Hotel, Four Riverway, in Houston. Dr. David H. McIntyre, director, Integrative Center for Homeland Security at Texas A&M University, is the invited speaker for the first day's luncheon. Some of the conference topics will include starting and maintaining a CERT program, using technology to recruit and maintain volunteers, neighborhood watch and fire corps. To view the draft agenda, click here. For more information and to download a registration form, click here.

TPPA hosts June Summer Conference Momentum 2009

The Texas Public Purchasing Association will host its Summer Conference Momentum 2009 Wednesday through Friday, June 24-26, at the Suites at Sunchase Conference Center on South Padre Island. The governmental purchasing seminar is designed for public purchasing professionals with special interest in the latest developments that are essential in governmental purchasing. The event will include approximately 20 speakers who will address issues that include purchasing law, green purchasing, supplier contracts, evaluating RFPs, cooperative purchasing and more. There will be both educational and group sessions. For more information, click here.

TSABAA Summer Conference slated in June

The Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association 40th Annual Summer Conference is slated for Monday through Wednesday, June 22-24, at the Omni Bayfront Hotel in Corpus Christi. Guest speakers Monday will be Meagan Johnson, who will address generation gaps, and Madeline York, who will address personal style. An ERP update will be given Tuesday by a representative of the State Comptroller's Office as will a legislative update and an update on the federal economic stimulus bill. Other session topics are on visual technology, recognition and body language. The Administrator of the Year will be named during the Wednesday session and there will be sessions on direct deposit and State Government Accounting Internet Reporting System (SIRS). To view the draft agenda, click here. For a registration form, click here.