Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ASU's Christmas Cat Massacre: The Survivors

It can take bad press to get people's attention, but over time minds change and better solutions can be found.  That's the spirit of the Standard Times piece on ASU's feral cat solution, the initial and the eventual.

I applaud ASU's change of heart, but thought readers might enjoy pictures of Cat Massacre survivors. Donate your time, energy and money, whichever works best.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keeping San Angelo Citizens Informed

After finding the City Council agenda for February 21 on Saturday, I searched for the agenda packet, which often runs into hundreds of pages.  I checked both the City web site and SlideShare for a document to peruse.  As of Monday evening, I felt shut out.

The next day I questioned if the City posted the packet on a "Council Live" story by Matthew Waller.  He responded:

Something went wrong, and the city didn't get the packet released until I requested it Monday.
With the leadership change, I can be patient as kinks are worked out.  I expect Interim City Manager Michael Dane to pick up the openness, given his award-winning transparency in the CFO slot.

I followed up with Ty Meighan, Public Information Officer, on the late posting issue.  He wrote:

It was posted on there Monday. I know because my office posted it this time for the city clerk and the Standard-Times accessed it. We did not use Slideshare  because they now want to charge us for posting items that take up significant space.
Here's SlideShare's pricing, $19 a month:

I'm not saying the City should spend $228 a year on SlideShare, but they should make it clear to the interested public the ways they can locate the agenda, its supporting packet and any presentations made at the Council meeting.  

The City had an RFP out for a website overhaul last fall.  They might wish to house documents there vs. SlideShare.  While change is in the works, please give the public a chance to be informed.. That means more than the day before.

Update 3-2-12:  The City posted the March 6 agenda on its website and the meeting packet on SlideShare   That gives people the weekend to peruse the material, a distinct improvement/return to form.

Update 4-28-12:  The new website vendor is an agenda item for the May 1 meeting.

Update 5-5-12:  The City's free Slideshare account is now restricted to 10 MB uploads.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sen. Hutchison Shoots for ASU's Center for Security Studies

The Standard Times reported:

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison visited Angelo State University on Thursday to get a firsthand report on the Center for Security Studies, one of the projects she helped launch.

Hutchison, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was able to help get Department of Defense grants of $2.8 million and $3 million during the past three years to launch the center.
Taxpayer in Texas posted the following on this blog last year:

Federal Earmarks are the sole source of funding for the CSS. So now ASU picks up the tab for what Rallo created with the help of Uncle Sam to the tune of $1.7 million in new salaries alone (not including benefits).

Here's the breakdown:
-Director & Deputy: $220,000
-8 new Professors: approx $650,000 (several are so new that they are not in the public salary database; three who are in the database are getting 91K, 71K, and 70K)
-6 new support staff positions: $296,849
Grand Total: $1.169 million each and every year.
Back to Senator Hutchison:  "I am going to try to get one more year (of funding)," she said in a news conference. "I'm going to try to see if I can help at least in that year, so they can be able to sustain what has been started."

Did Taxpayer in Texas meet with Senator Hutchison today?  If so, I'd love to have been an insect shaped drone on the wall.

Update 2-28-12:   ASU's CSS added a new online Master's Degree which can be achieved in 18 months.  I wonder how many aspects of America's Declaration of Independence America's security behemoth tramples on daily?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MedHab Commits to San Angelo, Agreement Pending

Nothing is official until the parties sign on a dotted line, but MedHab is San Angelo's to lose.  City of San Angelo Development Corporation is working on an agreement.  When that's hammered out the City will make an announcement.  At least that's the word from one city official.   

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Consultant Heavy Agenda Faces City Council

The City of San Angelo posted the City Council agenda for February 21.  It lists a number of consulting firms under various agenda items.

1)  CLEAResult Consulting, Inc. for the 2012 Score/City Smart Program

2)  Gateway Planning Group for the formulation of a targeted Lake Nasworthy sub-district plan

3) Wolf Consulting for consulting services and preparation of a study for the assessment of current resources and future recommendations for facilities and enhancements in the Cultural District (a shared expense with SAMFA, SAHF and Barrow Foundation)

4) Presentation and discussion of the Economic Development Strategic Plan compiled by Angelou Economics

5) Accept proposals and interview executive search firms for the recruitment of the City Manager position

This agenda doesn't include Texas Outdoor Consulting, currently working on a parks master plan for Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir.

One might expect more internal work from a city with a full time manager and two assistant city managers. That said, I've worked with leaders who didn't trust the capabilities of local staff.  Mayor New gives me that impression, which this agenda confirms. . 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Abilene Announces Economic Development Packages: No MedHab

The City of Abilene's Development Corporation announced two economic support packages, one for a Colombia cookie company and the other for a wind energy firm.  Conspicuously absent was an incentive package for MedHab, a medical rehabilitation company.

Abilene and San Angelo are vying for MedHab's production facilities.  San Angelo's Development Corporation and City Council approved a $3.6 million package for MedHab on January 3rd.  A decision is overdue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 40: No MedHab Decision

San Angelo and Abilene nervously await MedHab's decision on where to locate its production facilities.  CEO Johnny Ross gave a 40 day window for his decision.  Valentine's Day was Day 40. Who will be heartbroken?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Minutes Miss COSA's MedHab Elephant

Consider San Angelo City Council's January 3rd minutes, where Council eliminated a ban on city officials receiving economic development funds until six months after they leave office.  The minutes of that decision reflect:


How did Council amend guidelines for job creation assistance?
Development Coordinator Robert Schneeman presented background information. A copy of the presentation is part of the Permanent Supplemental Minute record.

Council member Morrison expressed his concern regarding the amendments to the application eligibility criteria noting that the current criteria rules have been styled to prevent elected and appointed officials from receiving funds from the City of San Angelo Development Corporation. He expressly spoke in opposition of the amendment. Council members Alexander, Hirschfeld, and Adams spoke in favor of the amendment and proposed MedHab incentive (item immediately following this item).

Motion, to approve the amendment to the Guidelines, as presented, was made by Council member Hirschfeld and seconded by Council member Alexander. AYE: Alexander, Adams, Hirschfeld, and Farmer. NAY: Morrison and Silvas. Motion carried 4-2.

Minutes usually show the old language vs. the new.  That omission aside, why don't the minutes state Mayor Alvin New's substantial conflict of interest in MedHab, via a more than $15,000 equity interest in the company?

Council member Morrison explicitly stated the change was proposed to make Mayor New compliant.  Otherwise, he'd have to sell his MedHab stake or resign as Mayor and the company wait six months for development aid.  MedHab doesn't have six months, given its June 2012 Australian product launch.

City Attorney Lisa Bowling holds two affidavits from Alvin New regarding his conflict of interest in MedHab.  An open and transparent administration would've produced these documents. 

Council approved lowering the ethics bar on city officials garnering economic development funds.  Next, it tackled the $3.6 million package for MedHab.

Once again, City leaders did not come clean on the Mayor's MedHab holdings, much less his position on MedHab's Board of Directors.  Here's their summation:

Community and Economic Development Director Shawn Lewis and Economic Development Coordinator Donna Osborne presented background information. A copy of the presentation is part of the Permanent Supplemental Minute record.

Councilmembers Hirschfeld, Alexander, Silvas, and Mayor Pro Tempore Farmer spoke in favor of the incentive.

Motion, to authorize the incentive, as presented, was made by Councilmember Adams and seconded by Councilmember Hirschfeld. AYE: Alexander, Silvas, Adams, Hirschfeld, and Farmer. NAY: Morrison. Motion carried 5-1.

The minutes fail to indicate the total incentive approved for MedHab.  Once again, there's no mention of Mayor New's stated conflict of interest from filed affidavits.

While Mayor New visited Australia, possibly on MedHab's behalf, an elephant wandered freely in Council chambers.  Few would talk, much less write, about it.

I shouldn't be surprised the City Clerk scooped up it's offal.  Otherwise, how could Council minutes be so pristine?

I've seen sparser sets of minutes, but none on such a weighty decision, ethically and financially.  Surely, San Angelo's leaders can do better.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

San Angelo with MedHab from Start

The decision date looms for MedHab to choose where to locate its production facilities.  San Angelo and Abilene wait nervously for a decision, expected in the next week.

Council's giving MedHab $3.6 million in economic development incentives surprised many citizens. Little did they know MedHab's longstanding relationship with San Angelo.  MedHab's web site stated:

The company was launched in December, 2008,

San Angelo's Economic Development Coordinator Donna Osborne said the city began working with MedHab in 2008. San Angelo helped birth MedHab.  Will it be our trust-fund baby or Abilene's?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

COSA Development Corp to Revise Incentive Guidelines Again?

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation revised its Incentive Guidelines on December 14, 2011.  Another revision is on the agenda for February 8, 2012.  Two revisions in less than 60 days?

The first set the stage for City Council to hear MedHab's $3.6 million incentive package.  It involved deleting three requirements.

The minutes reflected the Development Corp's action, which occurred in two stages on December 14:

Mr. Brooks recused himself from this item. Development Coordinator Robert Schneeman presented staff recommendations for changes to the current COSADC Job Creation Incentive Guidelines. The first recommendation would change Eligibility of Applicants (page 9) to be consistent with State laws. The second recommendation would update contact information for the COSADC and Chamber of Commerce staff (page 10).
Motion, to table item until more board members were present, was made by Mr. Cornell and seconded by Mr. Villarreal.
Motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Brooks rejoined the meeting.
After the Executive/Closed Session, where the Board approved a MedHab offer, they revisited the tabled item.

Community and Economic Development Director Shawn Lewis reviewed the recommended changes and clarified that the recommendations for changes to the Eligibility of Applicants language was to ensure COSADC guidelines were in compliance with State laws. Mr. Villarreal clarified the change would not affect
any companies currently under consideration for incentives
Motion, to approve, as presented, was made by Mr. Bariou and seconded by Mr. Cornell. 
Motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Brooks abstained from the vote.

I consider Tony Villareal's representation as false.  Had this change not been made, MedHab's incentives could not go forward under COSADC or City Council, not given Mayor Alvin New's and COSADC Board member Randy Brooks' equity stakes in MedHab.

Mayor New recused himself from Council's vote on the $3.6 million MedHab package by crossing the Pacific.  New was in Australia, where MedHab's product is set to launch in June.

MedHab received Concho Valley Angel Network support, beginning in 2008.  AngelouEconomics had this to say about CVAN in their COSADC strategic plan:

Concho Valley Angel Network (CVAN)
The CVAN is a not-for-profit angel investment network with 13 paid members (as of December 2010), and is a member of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN) in Austin. CVAN works in collaboration with CTAN to identify the most viable investment opportunities for CVAN members and to invite companies to present these opportunities to CVAN members in San Angelo. CVAN held 8 presentation meetings between June 2009 and December 2010, in which 27 companies presented investment opportunities to the CVAN membership. 14 of these companies have received funding from the CVAN membership in the form of 38 different investments. In 2009, CVAN members invested $620,955 in seven companies, in addition to a second round of funding for one company. In 2010, CVAN members invested another $625,000 in seven more companies, representing a total investment for the first two years of $1,245,995. All of these companies are located in Texas, but outside of the San Angelo region; however, two of these companies are currently exploring opportunities to establish operations in San Angelo.

MedHab is the first or how many $3 million nondebt, nonequity capital injections?  How might the next change in Incentive Guidelines help Angel Network Company #2?  How many local city leaders hold an equity stake in it? 

Streamlined, transparent and well understood?  That might be true for equity stakeholders.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Development to Address Gun Club Walkers?

San Angelo City Council revisited runners and walkers use of Gun Club Road and Hillside Drive.  The Standard Times reported:

The council did not take any action on an item that Councilman Paul Alexander spearheaded calling for a committee of various people with interest in the safety and recreation in an area around Gun Club Hill near Lake Nasworthy, where people frequently jog and walk.

Council members Fredd Adams, Kendall Hirschfeld and Charlotte Farmer said they would prefer to have people who live in the area or elsewhere take their own initiative and not have the city address the issue, and Mayor Alvin New wanted to let development projects already in place for parks and recreation and Lake Nasworthy address the issue.

Adams discussed closing it off from walking, and Alexander said he didn't want to interfere that much in the name of not being "big government."

Alexander previously fought for putting in about a $234,000 trail that goes up on Gun Club Hill, but it didn't pass the council.
Mayor New's development strategy is concerning.  I lived in Lake Jackson, Texas when development closed a popular park frequented by runners and walkers.  The long loop went around Lake Jackson's Lake Jackson.

Which development projects will impact this issue?  What development is planned for the Gun Club/Hillside Drive section of Lake Nasworthy?  How might it impact current recreational use?  

I'll give a listen to the Council meeting on Channel 17.  It may answer my questions.  It often provides subtle indications.  Other times it shouts.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

ASU Provost Target is May

The Standard Times reported on Angelo State University's search for a new Provost:

A 15-member committee is in charge of winnowing the applications down to a handful of candidates to present to ASU President Joseph Rallo, hopefully by May.

Brian May, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, has served as interim provost and vice president of academic affairs since June, after the resignation of Anthony Blose.
Here's what Dr. Rallo said about May's interim appointment as Provost:

“Dr. May has led the graduate program to record levels of enrollment, while also playing an active role in the varied initiatives designed to achieve our enrollment goal of 10,000 students by the year 2020,” Rallo said. “Well respected on campus and in the community, Dr. May has been an exceptional partner in our efforts to secure funding at federal level for our Center for Security Studies and in conjunction with our status as a Hispanic Serving Institution. 

“Overall, Dr. May’s skills are perfectly suited for the challenges we face in maintaining a quality academic program in the face of reduced budgets and academic realignment,” Rallo said. 

Besides May's perfect fit for the job, the newspaper story pointed to an internal candidate:

A major responsibility of the position at ASU will be to help integrate the Quality Enhancement Plan into the curriculum across the university.

The QEP is a requirement for re-accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. ASU has proposed a QEP of community-engaged active learning, which would require students to participate in "real-world" education such as internships as a requirement of graduation.

The QEP will also require active involvement with businesses and organizations in San Angelo and the Concho Valley to develop the internships and other programs for the students.

"We need to have someone in place who is able to maximize those partnerships with the local community."
Dr. Rallo noted May's strong community relationships when the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce named Brian Citizen of the Year in 2008.

“Brian is committed to San Angelo and its future,” Rallo said. “He spends a lot of time serving the community and truly enjoys working with people. His enthusiasm is contagious and, on top of that, he is successful at whatever he sets out to do.” 

Those who've lived in San Angelo know what a great community it is, but it runs funny.  Relationships often take precedence over abilities and qualifications.  Leaders aren't always known for their transparency.

As for ASU's Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost slot, May is the target in time-frame and name.

Debra Brown Plea Deal: Public Won't Know Jack

U.S. District Attorney James T. Jacks and Defense Attorney David Guinn worked out the Debra Brown embezzlement plea deal.  For stealing $237,013 over six years, Debra Brown pleaded guilty to one count of theft, when six counts made the indictment.

Each count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Justice. Restitution also could be ordered.
 U.S. Attorney James Jacks oversaw other San Angelo cases:

City/County Health Department Chief Mike Loving for child pornography
Mohammed Fayyaz Hayat's wire fraud (owner of American Halal Meat Processors, Inc.)
Hughes family transaction structuring case
Jonathan Jameson for bank robbery/bomb threat
Members of the Mexican Mafia on drug charges
Dentist James Crow for health care fraud

The dental billing fraud has parallels to the Brown case.

Each of the health care fraud counts carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

At trial Crow got 70 months in prison and ordered to pay over $1.6 million in restitution.  Debra Brown's plea deal means no trial.  However, there will be a sentencing hearing before the same judge that convicted Dr. Crow.

Brown's defense attorney is a master of understatement: 

Asked to comment on his client’s guilty plea to one count, Brown’s attorney, David M. Guinn, said “it’s too early.”  “We need to wait until sentencing to speak,” he said.
It's darned near too late for those wanting information, accountability and justice.  I believe at least one citizen will be disappointed:

This community DEMANDS accountability and full exposure of any CRIME by entrusted persons. No plea bargaining. No sweeping it under the carpet. NO "official (political) influence" upon TRUTHFUL reporting. We DEMAND a FULL investigation and, if indicated, CHARGES against ALL involved followed by PROSECUTION and a TRIAL with a jury of "peers".  IBTenacious May 16, 2011
Thanks to Jacks, we don't get to know Jack.

Update 6-19-12:  The Standard Times reported Debra Brown was sentenced to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $325,000 to the Children's Advocacy Center and a $10,000 fine.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Council to Entertain Gun Club Road Committee


This item was requested by Councilman Alexander for the discussion of the
formation of a committee composed of members from the City, the public and
special interest groups such as Hillside Drive walkers, Hillside Drive/Gun Club Road Residents, SAISD and San Angelo Road Lizards to study and make recommendations for improvements on and around Gun Club Hill, including Gun Club Road and Hillside Drive.


This item was initially requested by Councilman Paul Alexander and presented to the City Council during the work session at the regular meeting of the City Council on August 17, 2010. After discussion of options during the meeting the City Council gave staff direction to research and make recommendations for increased pedestrian signage around Gun Club Loop. Staff performed the appropriate research and presented options to the City Council on September 22, 2010. City Council approved signage was then erected around Gun Club Loop and remains in place to this day.

During the regular meeting of the City Council on January 17, 2012 Councilman Alexander and City Staff presented an option to construct a pedestrian pathway around the top of Gun Club Hill. The City Council voted 6-1 against pursuing construction of the proposed pathway.

Reviewed by Director:

Shawn Lewis, Director of Community and Economic Development, January 30, 2012

Since the January 17 Council meeting, city staff eliminated parking in the shoulder next to the KOA campground.   At the close of the meeting Mayor Alvin New said Gun Club walker/runner parking, dust and the KOA campground would be on the next council agenda.  The agenda showed only:

18.  Consideration and possible action of the possible formation of a temporary committee to study and recommend improvements to the pedestrian and vehicular right of ways on and around Gun Club Hill, including Gun Club Road and Hillside Drive (Presentation by City Engineer Clinton Bailey)

I hope local runners and walkers turn out to be heard this Tuesday.  I know how hard it is to set aside a morning or two-thirds of a day.

One local enthusiast and fitness writer for the Standard Times commented:

The city will probably spend tax dollars to put a pipe fence around the Gun Club parking area, thereby forcing people to park on the shoulder of Gun Club or Knickerbocker. That would mean more city revenues since the PD could then ticket people for illegal parking. I also suspect that the council’s decision is simply a stalling tactic until city staff can figure out how to charge a user fee for running or walking on Gun Club.
That is, if locals can continue to walk or run there.  I watched a favored walker/runner park be eliminated around the lake in Lake Jackson, Texas.  This has the same feel.

Stoddard Construction Management's Good Day

The San Angelo City Council awarded two construction contracts worth a combined $2 million to Stoddard Construction Management in their January 17 council meeting.  The minutes show:




Purchasing Manager Roger Banks explained the local preference option was not part of the bid process (in relation to the Rio Vista project).

Stoddard received over $2 million in business after council reconvened from Executive Session.  The company already had a virtual lock on city construction projects:

City Hall Renovations - $9.1 million
Fire Station #5 and #7 - $3.9 million

City Hall renovations grew dramatically from the $9.1 million.  For the week ending 7-16-10:

City awarded the $12,979,779 renovation contract to Stoddard Construction Management Inc. 

In July 2011 the City approved a change order.  Council minutes show approval of "Change Order #1, as amended for the total project amount of $1,874,135.96" for HVAC for City Plaza buildings, a central heating and cooling plant, and Auditorium renovations.  This was new work for Stoddard, gotten without competitive bid.

What are the odds that one company would win nearly all of San Angelo's construction projects over a two year period?  That's over $20 million in taxpayer funded business. 

One local citizen believes a potential conflict of interest exists with Stoddard and Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff.  Oddly, two leaders who shepherded City Hall renovations may be gone when the new City Hall opens in April.

Friday, February 03, 2012

San Angelo's Shrinking Social Health

It's been a rough decade: