Sunday, February 24, 2013

Conaway House Watchdog

Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX) is the new chairman of the House Ethics Committee.  His committee polices congressional representatives and House staff and advises and educates them about the right thing to do.  Conaway knows professional standards given he's a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

I thought Conaway would come before the committee for two instances.  The first was the unusual pattern of campaign donations and a Conaway sponsored earmark.  Donations were curiously timed with the earmark's advancement through the House.

The second involved his poor governance for the National Republican Congressional Committee.  One might expect a CPA to tell a consistent story about accounting fraud and embezzlement.  The story changed from Conaway uncovering a sophisticated, complex scheme to Conaway's assistant Jeff Burton outing a simple, five year fraud. 

Conaway's the new House Deputy Dawg, where he has to watch, even punish his friends.  I expect a lot of looking the other way in America's Government-Corporate Monstrosity.  The money's too big and power too heady. 

Update 4-6-17:  Rep. Conaway will head up the House investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential election.  He replaces Chair Devon Nunes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

City Council Meeting on Special Election

San Angelo's City Council held a special meeting on February 11, 2013 to discuss the need to hold a special election to fill Fredd Adams seat.  The minutes state:

Mayor New stated the resignation of former Councilmember Adams on January 18, 2013 allowed the remaining City Council member to appoint another member by February 18, 2013. During the appointment discussion, the Council’s direction was to appoint an individual not running for the office, thereby not endorsing their candidacy in the upcoming election. Also, the Council considered the Charter language stating if an appointment was not made within the thirty days, then a special election would be held within ninety days following the creation of the vacancy. The Council further consulted with the City Attorney and has since been advised the state statute does not require the City to hold a special election other than a uniform election date. Therefore, Mayor New suggested proceeding with the uniform election date and citizens interested in pursuing the Single Member District 4 seat may apply to run for the office of that district.

By not acting, in appointment or motion, City Council violated its Charter requirement, using state law as an excuse.  

SECTION 14. VACANCIES: Where a vacancy in any elective office shall occur, except a vacancy created as a result of conditions contained in Section 13, the vacant office shall be filled by a unanimous vote of the remaining Mayor and/or City Council members for the unexpired term. In the event that a unanimous vote cannot be obtained within 30 days from the date of the vacancy, the vacant office shall be filled by a special election for the remainder of the unexpired term in the same manner as provided in this charter for the regular election of such offices. Such election shall be held on a Saturday within 90 days following the creation of the vacancy; provided however, that where a vacancy occurs within 90 days of the normal expiration date of the office, no special election to fill the vacancy shall be called unless more than two vacancies occur. (Amended 4/29/72)
The Charter later states:

SECTION 23. RATIFICATION OF ORDINANCES: All ordinances and resolutions in force at the time of taking effect of this charter not inconsistent with its provisions, shall continue in force until amended or repealed.
Council did not amend or repeal the special election requirement on February 11.  It chose to ignore it.

This special City Council meeting did not make a press release, nor was it posted on the City's Slideshare page.  It wasn't for lack of effort I didn't find it.

Rallo Record

Dr. Joseph Rallo became President of Angelo State University in June 2007, just as ASU joined the Texas Tech University System. 

Angelo State University will reach 10,000 students the hard way, given ASU's difficulty recruiting true freshmen.  The spate of Vice Presidents and Assistant Vice Presidents of Enrollment Management never got ASU's freshmen class past the first year under TTU spike.

ASU's Graduate Program experienced significant growth from 493 in 2008 to 880 in 2012.  ASU is a tale of two universities under Dr. Rallo, freshmen and graduate.  Which trajectory will win out? 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Surfing MedHab's Interns

LinkedIn listed several MedHab interns, Will Hopper and Balraj Grewal.  MedHab's progress can be seen via Hopper, a TCU graduate business student currently serving as intern.  Here's his version of the MedHab story:

MedHab, LLC

1.  Facilitate focus groups and deliver sales presentation for orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists for MedHab's first device.
2.  Design marketing sales aid and pitch for start-up medical device company.
3.  Research and complete procedure and reimbursement code applications for FDA, AMA CPT codes, and Medicare and Medicaid enrollment.
4.  Compile digital and hard copy database of all necessary documents/applications to get new product to market

These seem to be meaty items for a graduate student, especially one without healthcare experience.  I'd probably refer to "FDA approval" and "Medicare/Medicaid participation" as approval for payment, i.e. not enrollment.

I've found orthopedic surgeons a tough crowd in the past.  I'm not sure how they'd take a graduate business student delivering sales presentations.  Is that why MedHab CEO Johnny Ross plans to contract out the sales function?

Another TCU graduate business intern, Balraj Grewal,  helped MedHab from a financial standpoint.

Intern: Financial Analyst

I helped in evaluating the finances of Medhab and gave recommendations based on these findings. Also I put Medhab's company data on equitynet.

Balraj may have evaluated the impact of San Angelo Mayor Alvin New's equity investment in MedHab.  His internship ended before the City of San Angelo officially extended its $3.6 million incentive package in January 2012.  However, Balraj may have gotten early wind of the scope of the package.  I wonder how San Angelo's economic generosity fit with Balraj's financial evaluation findings. 

Equitynet is an angel investor/crowdsourcing website, similar to Gust.  MedHab has gotten alot of help from many places and people.  It needs a big boost from the FDA and CMMS to take any next step.  Are there any FDA interns with LinkedIn pages? 

MedHab & UT-Arlington

Finally, a sign of life for MedHab appeared on the web.  It came from the University of Texas-Arlington's Research Institute and their recently released strategic plan:

Biomedical Technologies

UTARI’S Biomedical Technologies Division focuses on developing clinically relevant devices and systems that can be utilized by health care providers as well as patients to enhance diagnostics, treatment, rehabilitation, and assisted living. Based on our core technologies and expertise, we are focusing on the following broad areas: tissue regeneration and wound healing, diagnostics, drug delivery, assistive and preventive care, remote monitoring and telemedicine, rehabilitation, pandemic and bio-threat detection, and medical training and research systems. UTARI is able to work with partners on projects at any stage in order to transition basic research to prototypes to low volume production for clinical trials.

Strategic Partners

Our current partners include the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, the Institute of Surgical Research at US Army Dental and Trauma Research Detachment, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at University of Pittsburg, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the South Carolina Research Association, Dartmouth University, Dallas Veteran Affairs, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, UT Southwest Medical Center, Texas Health Resources, Ampcare, and MedHab.

Will the next sign come from the Standard Times, Angelo State or the City of San Angelo?  The City has a Strategic Planning session set for February 26.  Will the session be Medhabulous?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Angelo State's Record Dropoff

Angelo State University losses roughly 10% of its students in the transition from Fall to Spring semesters. This year's loss reached a record 739 students.  ASU's enrollment history as a part of Texas Tech University is below:

    Fall   Spring   Delta Percent 
2007-2008 6240 5596 -644 -10.3%
2008-2009 6158 5482 -676 -11.0%
2009-2010 6387 5895 -492 -7.7%
2010-2011 6856 6191 -665 -9.7%
2011-2012 7084 6379 -705 -10.0%
2012-2013 6888 6149 -739 -10.7%

The percentage loss is the second highest in the last six academic years.  It's not clear how many of the 739 were freshmen.  That statistic might shed light on the Freshman College's early impact.

Graduate school enrollment continues to grow, even without the Masters of Public Administration degree.    Yet, retention clearly remains an issue.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Our Fracking Future

Surprising San Angelo is about to be fracked up.  Local leaders met to discuss four areas:  workforce availability and assistance, education and training, housing and lodging, and economic development.  Who's working on roads, water, health care and public safety?  It's hard to tell, but here are my thoughts

Roads - negative
The State of Texas and San Angelo under invested in roads the last decade, which each will readily admit.  Heavy oil field equipment will accelerate asphalt breakdown. 

Public Safety - negative
DPS Officer Shawn Baxter said Midland/Odessa had been added to his responsibilities.  He noted the magnitude of issues DPS officers face in the area.  He cited frequent, major traffic accidents and safety situations he termed "absolutely bizarre."

Water - mostly negative
San Angelo already has a precarious water situation.  Adding water heavy fracking to this load is concerning.   Also, where will drillers dispose of toxic frack water?.

The owner of the brine sea of groundwater around Mertzon is excited about fracking.  This is the same salty water  the City of San Angelo once pondered desalinating. 

Healthcare - negative
San Angelo's physician capacity is as precarious as our water situation.  A major increase in population will stress health care access.  Many physician practices aren't taking new Medicaid patients.  Others won't take new patients of any kind.  This sends people to area Emergency Rooms for care. 

Major traffic accidents in the Cline field will send more trauma to those same Emergency Rooms. 

While the Cline Shale Boom smells like money to many, it's the very thing that could destroy San Angelo's unique attractiveness. 

MedHab Talk at Texas Tech

MedHab founder Johnny Ross spoke at Texas Tech University's CEO Roundtable in March 2012.  He spoke of his company's plans to bring their product to market.  Ross stated StepRite is a Class II medical device, thus it needs no clinical study.  It does need FDA approval and permission from Medicare and Medicaid to bill the $2,250 fee per patient.  However,Medicare/Medicaid does expect the company to show StepRite's value, i.e. clinical efficacy, before approving the device for payment.

Ross stated he expected to bring his product to market in October 2012. That didn't happen.  Soon a year will have passed since Ross' TTU talk.  There has been no news from MedHab or the City of San Angelo since they inked the $3.6 million economic incentive package in August 2012.

Ross is a noted salesman who promotes himself as a "C Suite Rainmaker".  Oddly, MedHab will have no sales department.  This function will be contracted out.  The company sold San Angelo Mayor Alvin New, a MedHab investor and board member, before it sold City Council.  Representations were made.  An update seems in order

Monday, February 04, 2013

West Texas Oilfield Developments: China Stake & Permian Tank Redux

Two recent developments in the West Texas oil sector may be instructive.  One, a Chinese company purchased a significant chunk of Pioneer Natural Resources stake in the Wolfcamp Shale for $1.7 billion.  It seems domestic sources could fuel China's energy needs.

Two, a new tank manufacturer will locate in Harriet, between San Angelo and Miles.

Kelly Womack, owner of the company, bought 51 acres of farmland and will build the facility on 6 acres, leaving room for expansion. The plant will first manufacture steel and fiberglass storage tanks and later produce additional equipment used in the oil and gas industry, such as separators, heater treaters and gunbarrels.

Womack’s late father, Glen, started Permian Tank & Manufacturing in Odessa in 1975 and sold the company in 2007. Now Kelly and Curtis feel like it’s time to get back into the business. 

“We’ve got good connections and friends in the industry and we know a lot of people,” Pittman said. “This factory has a lot of possibilities to grow.”
The Carlyle Group and joint venture energy partner bought Permian Tank for $50 million.  They also own Three Rivers Energy.  Carlyle withdrew its registration seeking to take the company public

I wonder how Hirschfeld Steel will take the competition from Womack Tank & Manufacturing, given both aim to be steel manufacturing facilities for the oil and gas industry  Like Permian Tank, Hirschfeld has private equity ties.  Hirschfeld's owners see major growth in tanks.  Might Womack garner Insight funding or an eventual buyout?

Rep. Darby Assigned Key Committee Seats

San Angelo's Representative Drew Darby received three committee assignments in the Texas House of Representatives - 83rd Legislative Session,

Speaker Appointment:
Higher Education
House Energy Caucus
Darby's selection for Budget and Higher Education place him squarely in the position to advocate for Angelo State University, Howard College, area healthcare providers, area public schools and the San Angelo State Park.  San Angelo is lucky to have representation on such key committees.

So far Darby is out front on the issues regarding energy, water and transportation.
Redistricting may garner Darby added political capital.  That could give him the kind influence of San Angelo once had with Representative Rob Junell.  How will Rep. Drew Darby use it?  Hopefully to address local and citizen concerns.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Hotel Occupancy Tax Bonanza

The oil boom means full hotel rooms, which means a dramatic increase in collected hotel taxes.  City Council will wrestle with what to do with the bonanza, potentially an excess $900,000 for 2013. 

I haven't seen that sized contribution to fund balance since the last two years' health insurance.  Maybe Mayor New can now buy that fire truck or the city can put it toward fixing/maintaining roads.

If it were budget time, this council might've used it to roll back tax rates a penny or two.  A dramatically different council, maybe Mayor, will have that task.

Encore for Furnituregate Star?

Former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff played a major role in the unauthorized purchase of over $100,000 in furniture for the Water Department.

City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer nominated Grindstaff to serve on the City's Airport Advisory Board for a term ending October 2016.  Do citizens want someone deeply involved in an illegal purchase, one which ruined Daniel Valenzuela's debut as City Manager, to serve on an important public board? 

Grindstaff misrepresented her role in the Furniture Fiasco in that very meeting. I chronicled her statement to Council (which can be verified by video recording):

The furniture budget Council approved for the project was over $200,000.   At some time "they" decided to change the furniture in their suite.  At no time did Mr. Wilde and I have a discussion over new furniture for the Water Department.  Another city employee worked with Will on this.
City e-mails tell a different story.  New furniture for the Water Department arose in early March.  Interim City Manager Michael Dane and Grindstaff chose not to present this item to Council in March.

Grindstaff cheered the order in May in an e-mail discussion with Water Chief Will Wilde.

The public got a series of "they's" from Grindstaff and Will Wilde.  Neither made clear who "they" were.  As there has been no release of the internal investigation, one can only go off the e-mail record obtained by the Standard Times

Charlotte Farmer's nomination of Elizabeth Grindstaff is troubling.  Surely another representative from Texas Pacifico can be found to serve, one who didn't undermine public trust with her actions..

Saturday, February 02, 2013

ASU's Interim Appointments

An Angelo State University press release stated:

Angelo State University President Brian J. May has named Angie Wright and Dr. June Smith to interim administrative positions at the university.
Wright, associate vice president for finance and administration, will become interim vice president for finance and administration on March 15.  She will succeed Michael L. Reid, who has resigned, effective that date, to accept a position as vice president for administration and finance at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Smith, professor of communication and member of the graduate faculty, will serve as interim dean of the College of Graduate Studies, effective Feb. 1.  She succeeds Dr. May, who held that position simultaneously with his post as provost and vice president for academic affairs until November when he was appointed ASU president. 

May said neither interim appointee will be a candidate for the permanent position when each is filled.  

Did anyone else notice the gap between November 2012 and February 2013 for Graduate Dean?  Was the role completely unfilled or did someone perform the job anonymously? 

Certainly a new President would want somebody in that role, especially given graduate studies major role in ASU's growth.  Who was the mystery Interim before the current Interim?