Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Standard Times to Go with Journal Media Group


E.W. Scripps, the parent company of the Standard Times, announced it would undertake a two stage deal with Journal Communications, a Wisconsin based television, radio and newspaper company.  Stage one has the pair combining their television and radio properties.  Next the firms will join their newspapers, spinning them off into a new company, Journal Media Group.

Scripps and Journal Communications will spin off newspaper holdings into Journal Media Group, a new public company headquartered in Milwaukee and generating revenue of $500 million a year. Its holdings will include the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and the Ventura County (Calif.) Star, among others.
 
Scripps shareholders will own 59 percent of the new newspaper company, Journal Media Group, and Journal Communications shareholders will own 41 percent.
The newspaper company will not have any debt, nor will it be saddled with pension obligations.  Management will hold a call on the deal tomorrow morning.

I read the Standard Times piece on the deal and found it confusing and uninformative on deal details. Fortunately other articles provided basic information on the merger-spinoff plan.  The deal has a financial machination feel.  It will be interesting to see who benefits more, current shareholders or newspaper employees?

The deal seemed like an abrupt change from the company's digital strategy and their plans to leverage sales across various media platforms.  That said, a debt free, pension free newspaper company may be able to survive longer.

I feel for the Standard Times and the many machinations they've endured as their industry and management upheaved.  I hope this one works out well for our local paper.  I've traditionally been a fan and hope the paper returns to its former glory.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Water Rate Structure Study RFQ


The City of San Angelo is soliciting proposals for a study on its water rate structure.  The city wishes to:

Identify and engage the most qualified consulting firm to assist the City in achieving sustainable water and water reclamation rate structures that: adequately fund:

1) operations (water, sewer, stormwater)
2) debt service (now and in the future)
3) capital improvements (West Texas Water Partnership, Reclaimed water study)
4) meet debt service ratio and bond covenant requirements (current and projected)
5) ensure that each service is operating on a self sustaining basis  (Water currently subsidizes general fund)

Expected time to project completion is 90-180 days from the date of contract approval.

Consultants have the opportunity to highlight their qualifications to conduct such an analysis.  Proposals are due in a month.  As I read the study several thoughts came to mind:

1)  The Reclaimed Water study, approved in May, may take as long as a year to complete.  How can these consultants take that study into account if it isn't finished?

2)  How will the city give guidance to consultants on future water projects, likely to be very costly?  The Hickory project was $120 million.

3)  How will the city prioritize replacement of water and sewer pipes and what is the impact of prior underspending on infrastructure maintenance and replacement?  Replacement of old iron mains in North San Angelo are projected to cost over $100 million.

4)  Will the consultants look at the city's water rights to Lake Spence and assess the cost of reestablishing a functioning pipeline?

Council waited years for staff to bring back conservation incentives.  A local committee offered free consultation on water conservation and ways to encourage citizens to continue doing their part.  I expected city staff and this committee to bring back water conservation and rate recommendations.  Instead the city may hire another consultant.

Reading between the lines, it looks like another hired gun.  The RFQ stated:

Develop strategies for implementing significant rate changes in order to reduce the adverse impact on specific customer classes.
The City raised rates in 2007 and 2011.  The average user's bill in 2010 was up 74%.  The city raised rates another 47.5% in 2011.  Another significant rate change is on the way.  Consultants will likely provide political cover. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

MedHab's Promise: Twenty Eight Jobs Short


Flashback to January 2012 when San Angelo's City Council voted to approve a $3.6 million incentive package for MedHab, a medical device maker.  The incentive was to ensure San Angelo served as MedHab's production site.

San Angelo Live ran the latest update:

MedHab CEO Johnny Ross said the main components for the product are currently manufactured in South Dakota and Rhode Island, but hopes to move some of those operations to San Angelo at some point in the future.

January 2012 had MedHab raring to go.

Donna Osborne, the city's economic development coordinator, said if it takes the deal, the company plans to start operations in San Angelo in March, creating 11 jobs in the first year and 23 the following year.
Actual performance has been more sparse, according to Ross.

So far we have created six jobs here in San Angelo.

That's 28 short from a man who advised ASU students "Don't miss your milestones."  A city official said at the January 3, 2012 meeting.  "We are confident they will hit their job creation goal." It's not even close.

FDA approval repeatedly lay just around the corner for MedHab.  It started as "later in 2012" before leaking to numerous future dates.   

San Angelo Live reported its current status:

Ross said FDA approval would open the door to sales of the product in doctor’s offices and hospitals worldwide, and he hopes to have a green-light for StepRite to launch in January of next year (2015).

San Angelo Live fulfilled a Development Corporation request for what's going on with MedHab.   This saves face for the parties involved as initial promises vs. actual performance don't need to be discussed.

Update 8-10-14:  Angelo State published a paper with MedHab that clarifies a number of MedHab's relationships.  

Councilman Self's Stinging Defense of Johnny Silvas


One year ago City Councilman Marty Self became the focus of an ethics concern due to a local blogger, Christian Reporter News.  As a result of this experience Self felt the need to challenge a San Angelo Live story which raised concerns about fellow Councilman Johnny Silvas' playing golf with a Republic leader in close proximity to the trash/landfill decision.

Self portrayed the golf outing as a one time event where Silvas showed community leadership by attending a nonprofit fundraiser. 


Would Marty have spoken so eloquently in Silvas' defense if he knew Johnny repeatedly played golf with Republic representatives, both in town and around the state?

Councilman Silvas would have no legal-ethical concerns if he reported any golf outings and associated expenses paid for by Republic.

§ 36.10. Non-Applicable
Section 36.08 (Gift to Public Servant) does not apply to food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment accepted as a guest and, if the donee is required by law to report those items, reported by the donee in accordance with that law. 
I'll venture that no public record exists of Councilman Silvas' Republic golf outings and associated gifts.

Several council members voiced strong support for Silvas and outrage for anyone who'd run such a story.  Yet, Johnny never spoke.  He didn't say who paid for that golf outing, much less the many others Silvas has enjoyed from Republic.

Citizens can look at one golf outing and accept Johnny's silence as innocence.  Others can ask why council offered up nothing but indignation.  The facts, as it stands now, are mostly missing.  That's not unusual in San Angelo's 2014 Trash Saga.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Citizens Speak to City Council's Hand on Trash Situation




Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer asked where were you a year ago?  I smelled something afoot and asked questions in August 2013.


I've written plenty on this topic during this period.  Many members of the public have made their wishes known.  Council finished an obviously tainted process in the face of citizens speaking out.

Ironically, more people participated in the poll and two petitions (1,097) than voted in the SMD #1 City Council race just months ago (1,073).    

The franchisor re-upped with a franchisee that ripped off thousands of commercial customers over a decade.  City staff ran a non-documented investigation to cover for a bid process that favored the incumbent from the get go.


It leads me to believe the only answers the public may get over time will be discovery from the looming court case. 

Citizens spoke broadly, loudly and clearly.  They may need to repeat themselves come election time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Health Insurance Projected to Go Up $2 million

The health insurance slide flashed briefly on the screen in City Council chambers during today's budget presentation.  The projected $2 million increase, which is a 32.5% rise, did not stay up for long.  HR's Lisa Marley needed to update Council on the city's pay competitiveness.  The city is well behind local pay scales and historically behind other cities.

In a prior budget workshop city staff recommended council pick up $750,000 of the health insurance increase (which is now $2 million).  That would have the city paying 37.5% of the increase and employees picking up 62.5%.

Health insurance bids have been in for a month.  City staff acted on trash/landfill bids within ten days of receipt.  The picture, however ugly, is likely clear.  The question is who will pay what, after receiving what size pay raise?

The size of the health insurance fund is considerably less than previously projected.  There's much less of a kitty to lessen the impact of a dramatic one year increase.

The elephant is in the room and as usual, nobody's talking.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Council to Hear about Health Insurance


Health insurance is finally front and center in budget documents for City Council's consideration.  It made the custom spreadsheet used in Council's recent budget workshop but the meeting adjourned before they reached that point.  It was the source of a huge variance to budget in the city's last annual financial report, but auditors and CFO Michael Dane failed to point out the negative change.  I look forward to hearing the presentation and discussion, should it occur.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Council to Dot "O" in Trash Ordinance


Everyone expects trash to stink but many San Angelo citizens don't like the smell of City Council's awarding a ten year contract to a vendor that overcharged businesses for over a decade.  A Standard Times poll found readers voting nearly nine to one against council's move.

Former City Councilman Paul Alexander believes the process needs to start over and launched a petition toward that end.


It has but days to work.  City Council will approve the trash fee ordinance this Tuesday.  It's item #8 on the Consent Agenda.

For the first time I saw what Councilman Vardeman referenced in the trash discussion when he said council members had been accused of being on the take by "a blogger."  It wasn't just a blogger, but a member of the public who served on City Council for three years.  The petition language states:

#5 Republic Services officials have in fact offered at least some council members a perk or perks. Some members have refused, but at least one member has publicly been seen with a Republic official playing golf on the same team just days before the final vote to accept the Republic contract with the City. While no member may have been asked to vote one way or another, there is an implied obligation to vote in favor of Republic when accepting perks.  It is a fact that the same council member did speak very positively in support of Republic and voted to approve the contract.  This is not ethical and we do not approve of this practice. 

I stand by my original suggestion that the new contract be put on hold, the city hire an outside firm to investigate this long term overcharge (under city leaders Will Wilde, Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton) and share the results of that investigation with the public.  What communications occurred between these gentlemen and Trashaway-Republic on unauthorized charges?

Will Wilde's ability to act unilaterally culminated in the unauthorized purchase and installation of over $100,000 in water department furniture without required approvals.  Had he done something similar with Trashaway-Republic on unauthorized fees prior Ricky Dickson's taking over in 2004?

Recently City Council reversed their designated drought level, undertaken in part by advice from Water Chief Ricky Dickson.  Ricky told council he interpreted one section of the drought ordinance as Council "can do whatever y;all want."  The City Attorney did not countermand Dickson's legal prognostication.

Council did what they wanted and reversed it the next meeting, stating they needed to undo an illegal action.   How did Ricky advise Republic on fees under the city trash ordinance?  Was he as cavalier with trash fees as he recently showed with the city's drought ordinance?

A separate track would have the city auditor ask the seven companies who failed to submit a bid why they made their decision.  How many don't want a new $400 million over ten years contract?  Given they all likely desire one, why did they not submit a bid?  What structural aspects of the bid documents favored the incumbent Republic?  

After these investigations council would have appropriate information to act on prior bids submitted or consider undertaking a new RFP process.  The City's rush to approve awarding Republic two contacts, with trash up to twenty year term and the landfill potentially over one hundred years, will be inscribed in ordinance on Tuesday.  Council will dot the "O", which many see as offensive from an ethical standpoint.

Update 7-14-14:  San Angelo Live has information on one City Councilman's  interactions with Republic Services between RFP submission and the final vote on July 1.

Update 1-19-17:   Dickson became aware in 2011 that Republic Services was charging fees outside those allowed by city ordinance.  Rather than investigate the case for wider fraud Dickson had Republic stop billing one account for unauthorized fees.  Documents indicate Dickson was aware of Republic's fraudulent billing and helped sweep it under the rug.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Health Foundation Contract Requires Downtown Master Developer


San Angelo's City Council approved the purchase of the Edgewater Inn property in August 2010.  The proposed contract with the San Angelo Health Foundation was included in the City Council background packet. 


Seven people in the room knew of this requirement in the last city council meeting when they considered engaging Catalyst Urban Development for Phase II of Downtown Master Development.  None said anything about the contractual obligation of the city to employ a Downtown Master Developer for the five year contract period.

4.4  Master Developer. City shall continuously through the term of this agreement employ the services of a master developer who will be responsible for the planned development of the Downtown Redevelopment Zone, including the property.  The Master Developer shall report to the Downtown Redevelopment Commission (since renamed Downtown Development Commission) and his/her responsibilities shall include, but not be limited to, land development issues, environmental issues and marketing of the property to private investors or developers. (page 225 of the 8-17-14 City Council background packet)

Mayor Dwain Morrison, Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer, Councilman Johnny Silvas, Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Michael Dane, City Attorney Lysia Bowling, City Clerk Alicia Ramirez and newly elected City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff all played a role in executing the Health Foundation agreement.



San Angelo Live implied time was running out and the Health Foundation might have to purchase riverfront property back from the city in 2015.  That's not based on the contract's terms which have the effective date commencing upon the hiring of a Downtown Master Developer. 


That means the contract started in late 2012-early 2013, depending on when the Catalyst Urban agreement was officially executed and signed.  The earliest it might expire would be late 2017.


I'll venture this is news to most people who attended or watched the July 1 City Council meeting or prior meetings on engaging a Downtown Master Developer.  This foundational information should've been shared somewhere along the line.

The City's Finance Department received a Gold Level Transparency Award.  It looks rather hollow at the moment, given Dane presented the Health Foundation contract and its requirements to Council in 2010.   Councilwoman Grindstaff cryptically referred to the truth last week, but all were silent on the contract and its requirement that the city employ a Downtown Master Developer for the full five year period.  We have nearly three and a half years to go and I expect Catalyst to be there for the duration.

Postscript:  This story took digging and the findings seemed worth sharing.  My thanks to Jim Turner who provided the 8-17-10 background packet.  It's nice that San Angelo's institutional memory exists somewhere.  The City's website was once a treasure trove of documents.  Maybe it will return to that form, but I have doubts given the city's recent desire not to share documents with the public.  I posted two of those recently, strategic planning documents from the City Council session at Fort Chadbourne and the 2006 Reclaimed Water Feasibility Study.

Update 5-6-17:  City Council's May 2nd agenda for Executive closed session included "Property located on river frontage."  Is it the Edgewater property? 

Downtown Development: Competing for Capital or Historical Mandate?


City Council's decision to go forward with Phase II of the Downtown Master Development agreement with Catalyst Urban Development surfaced a divide between downtown development advocates.

In one corner is the City of San Angelo and its appointed Downtown Development Commission.  The other has Downtown San Angelo which works to revive downtown through restoration of historic buildings, 70 of which sit unoccupied downtown.  

In 2010 the San Angelo Health Foundation and City of San Angelo effectively partnered for North Concho River development.  The Standard Times reported in August of that year:

Tom Early, the foundation’s president, said the foundation has about $500,000 set aside to invest in the river development project when the time is right.

“We’ve been involved in the development of the river area downtown since our inception in 1995,” Early said. “We’re a private philanthropic organization, so we’re not buying (the land) to make money; we’re just buying it to preserve it.”

Early said the foundation is “fully behind” the city’s plans to hire a master developer to coordinate downtown redevelopment and river development efforts. The foundation also paid for a large portion of the updated comprehensive river plan cost.

The City Council approved $920,000 for the purchase of the Edgewater Property at its last meeting. As a financial safeguard of sorts, the contract says the Health Foundation will purchase the property from the city if it hasn’t sold it in five years.

City Manager Harold Dominguez said the purchase was necessary so the city can “fully engage” in the river development discussion. The funds for the purchase will come from $4 million in half-cent sales tax revenue that previously was allocated to the river rehabilitation project.
In October 2010 the city established the Downtown Development Commission with seven board members, one from the San Angelo Health Foundation Board.  The Downtown Development Commission began meeting regularly in July 2011.

Harold's leaving for the Colorado Rockies set back city efforts to engage a  downtown master developer.  It took until December 2012 for council to approve hiring Catalyst Urban Development, which proposed:

Phase 1: Implementation Action Plan - $68,000 (plus expenses) and up to $22,000 for outside groups. 

It took another year for Catalyst to complete Phase 1 and present the results to City Council.  Council gave Catalyst 180 days to generate interest on three pieces of city owned land, including the Edgewater property.

A walk back in time shows Paris Rutherford, consultant from Dallas-based development company Catalyst Urban Development, telling council in late 2012:

Rutherford said the key is to match up specific investments with specific users. The local investors and the commission would need to help the group identify those investors. He then brought Andre Nicholas, with partner NE Construction, for further comment.

"We have the ability to bring investors. We feel San Angelo has what it takes and we are ready to put our money there," Nicholas said.
Not ready enough to bite on three pieces of riverfront property, thus the need to go to Phase II.  Council heard the city spent $11,496 less than the budgeted $90,000 (plus expenses) on Phase I.  That equals $78,504.

Months before approving Catalyst's proposal City Council cut funding for its immunization and sexually transmitted disease clinics.  I found it odd city leaders eliminated public health services due to lack of funds, but were able to later find funds for downtown master development.

CFO Michael Dane said when he knows what the scope for the entire project would be then he would know where the money would come from and put together a packet to set money aside.

Does anyone else find it odd or disturbing that the city cut health services to make downtown healthier?

The 180 day period passed for Catalyst to sell land backstopped by the Health Foundation City Council.  I'd venture Catalyst did nothing with the city's three parcels.  Thus, after six months the subject returned.  City Council approved moving to Phase II in their July 1st meeting.

Phase 2: Horizontal Development Positioning - $10,000 per month for the life of this phase, estimated at six months.  Fee of 3% of purchase price.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff spoke to the city's partnership with the San Angelo Health Foundation.

"But this is a subject that was decided many years ago, I see Tom Early out there, with the purchase of a piece of land and how the city would move forward.  How long have you been working on this?  Three, four years now.  And to change our direction is, is, is bad government, actually." 
Council did not educate the public on the decision Grindstaff described.  Each City Council has to make the best decision they can under the circumstances.  The current Council decided to go forward with Phase II, at least in part due to Catalyst's inability to generate interest in the Edgewater property.  We'll see what happens in six months and $60,000 later (plus 3% fees on any city owned land sales).

Also, would Catalyst will earn 3% on the sale of the land back to the Health Foundation, should that provision be enacted over time?  That seems worth exploring. 

Previewing future Downtown Development Phases (per Catalyst's original proposal):

Phase 3: Vertical Development Positioning - Public-private partnership stake would identify compensation.  Firm will submit a fee proposal for direct sale to outside investor

Phase 4: Construction Management / Project Oversight - 1.5% of improvements

Other On-Going Tasks - Fees developed as services are needed outside the scope above

It appears these fees might be borne by a public-private partnership.  If it's like the West Texas Water Partnership, those fees will make their way back to the city coffers.  Watch for how much.

I detected two versions of "available capital" in City Council's discussion.  First, capital funding is scarce and there's lots of competition.  That's why the city needs Catalyst  Urban Development's knowledge and connections.  Second, there's plenty of capital funding so Downtown San Angelo should not look at this as a competing situation.  Frankly, these two memes are impossible to reconcile.

I would've felt better if Council said we made a promise years ago to the Health Foundation and we're sticking with it.  That at least makes sense

Update 2-21-15:  Phase 2 is complete.  The presentation identified significant subsidies the city would need to provide private investors.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Backfilling Missing MedHab Update


San Angelo Development Corporation President Scott Tankersley asked for an update on MedHab LLC in the May board meeting.  A number of board members also expressed curiosity as to what MedHab was up to. 

As this item did not make the June Development Corporation meeting, I'll offer what I found via internet research.

LinkedIn shows 4 MedHab employees
Gust lists 6 MedHab employees
MedHab's website remains under construction
Work in Texas shows MedHab recruiting production workers for its San Angelo site

MedHab takes advantage of free rent, but is yet to file for any other economic incentives in their $3.6 million package from the City of San Angelo.  Hopefully, a more comprehensive update can be shared with the COSADC board and the general public in the near future. 

Accountant Conaway Drops Congressional Junkets from Annual Disclosure


The Standard Times reported:

The House Ethics Committee, in a manner so quiet as to immediately invite deserved suspicion, has scrapped a requirement that lawmakers report privately funded trips — a euphemism for “junkets” — on their annual financial reports.
San Angelo's Congressman Mike Conaway, CPA, chairs the House Ethics Committee.  Why would an accountant not want vital cost information recorded for the public to easily see?  That's what the Ethics Committee did under Conaway;s leadership.

The committee dropped the requirement that members of Congress report the cost of free trips provided by lobbyists and high dollar supporters in their annual financial disclosure.

A record-low seven percent of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress

I wasn't sure how Congress could fall any further in the eyes of the American people, but CPA Mike Conaway may have found a way.

Update 7-11-14:  Apparently Congress can be shamed as the House Ethics Committee reinstated reporting of free trips. Rep. Conaway challenged the Standard Times editorial with a stinging defense.  Conaway painted the situation as addressing duplication, with either a detailed per trip report or an annual picture of free travel that can be digested for patterns.  His committee eliminated the digestible annual picture until the public demanded it be reinstated.   

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Water Conservation/Rates Seemingly Radioactive


The City of San Angelo's reliance on water revenues remains as strong as ever.  On June 3rd City Council minutes stated:

General discussion was held on the City’s stronger conservation ethic culture, how water sales are tied to the budget and establishing other revenue opportunities, adjusting the rate structure, imposing stronger penalties at all stage levels for excessive use, providing more public education, reviewing the various trigger point time frames, considering forecasts or a broader set of factors to allow flexibility in implementing the stages. 

Motion, to remain in the Drought Stage Level (DSL)II until the first July meeting and to implement the watering schedule once every 7 days, with the understanding of creating a plan regarding the funding, was made by Council member Fleming, seconded by Council member Vardeman. A vote was taken on the motion on the floor. Motion carried unanimously. 

Anyone watching the meeting could clearly hear Councilman Fleming's intent that a revised ordinance be brought back to council July 1 for consideration.  Councilwoman Grindstaff asked that it be comprehensive and include incentives for citizens to install rainwater capture systems and water friendly landscaping, toilets and/or appliances.  The final aspect would be any associated water rate increases to instill the conservation ethic. I heard a three part package requested.

So what came back to Council weeks later?  Not much.  Council had to revert to the ordinance they no longer like, as a new one wasn't ready.  Water Chief Ricky Dickson acted like he needed to be reminded of several council discussions on this issue (June 3 Council meeting and June 10 Strategic Planning session):

"I need y'alls direction on what y'alls desire are, if there is any desire to continue with the excessive use fees we discussed.  Do you want to change that?"

"If we're going to talk rates, I'll need some direction.  I'll just open it up from there and let it go."
The document below contains information Council considered during their planning session.  Several of these relate to water usage and possible fee increases:



On July 1 City Council conducted considerable discussion on prior rate increases.  Dates mentioned include 2000/2001, 2006 and 2008.  Council acted like there hadn't been a water rate increase since '08.

The last two water rate increases occurred in 2007 and 2011.  The 2011 rate increase produced an extra $7 million in revenue the next year. Back to Ricky's comments:

"If I'm going to have to bring back an ordinance at the next meeting I'm going to need some direction."

I watched ex-Water Czar Will Wilde keep City Council at bay on this issue for years.  I'm hoping Ricky isn't pulling a Will.  Frankly, staff could show they've been listening by delivering Council's request or showing the timeline required to do so.  It can't be all new, every time.  Can it?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

City's Legendary Intransigence on Display in Trash Contract


Never underestimate the City of San Angelo's ability to ignore legitimate concerns by citizens in order to maintain the bureaucracy's status quo.  Council ignored public will, two to one in favor of delaying the trash hauling-landfill contracts to complete an investigation into Republic Services' unauthorized charges to commercial customers.  The Standard Times reported:

After lengthy and emphatic discussion, the San Angelo City Council narrowly voted to authorize execution of an at least 10-year trash services contract with Republic Services.

"I've never seen so many constituents get so involved emotionally in a trash contract," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff, who was opposed to the decision.

Two thousand commercial clients, over-billed since 2000, would produce numerous emotionally involved constituents.  City leaders and Council ignored these constituents by approving a long term contract without ensuring a thorough investigation had been completed, legal action taken (if needed) and appropriate restitution made.

I learned San Angelo's ability to ignore legitimate concerns after becoming a resident in 1994.  I was appalled by conditions the City allowed to exist at North Pool of Twin Buttes.  I challenged dangerous trash and poor behavior at the city maintained park with Public Works Director Will Wilde, City Manager Tom Adams and Mayors Dick Funk and Johnny Fender.  This group successfully ignored my concerns for years.  It wasn't until Ken McNease called city leaders did conditions improve, albeit marginally and on a temporary basis.  That's when I learned who complains matters in San Angelo. The City's Convention Center is named after McNease.

My frustration regarding the unresponsiveness of city staff took time to dissipate.  I learned to clean up broken glass in the area around my windsurfing launch and let the rest be.  The City spoke a good game with its Twin Buttes Master Recreation Plan but I've seen no action for years in this regard.

San Angelo Living 2014 maintained the fiction that the city maintained park at Twin Buttes North Pool has electrical and water hookups.  This has not been the case for at least a decade.  The former hookup area is now inaccessible behind pipe railing and overgrown with brush.

In what other ways has the city been insular and unresponsive?  Unexplained, high water bills called many citizens to request an external audit of the Water Department.  Citizens complained about staff's dismissive attitude, yet Council defeated a proposal to conduct an outside audit by a vote of 4-3.

I consider Council's response to the Furniture Fiasco as circling the wagons to protect insiders.  The promised investigation into over $100,000 in Water Department furniture was never released to the public with a full explanation of its findings.  It took this blogger to get a copy of the document, undated, unsigned and absent interviews from two key players, Interim City Manager Michael Dane and former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff.

My advice for people wanting due attention paid to their issue.  Find your Ken McNease.  Who that is today, I haven't the faintest idea.  Without a key insider taking up your issue, the City of San Angelo is likely to remain insular.