Sunday, August 04, 2013

Mayor New's Other Accomplishments

The Standard Times provided former San Angelo Mayor the opportunity for reflection on his four years in office.  I expect many people have recollections of the Mayor's accomplishments.  City employees remember Alvin New for changes in the city's health benefit.

Mayor New clearly stated there was "no new money" to help with draconian health insurance increases, 34 to 58% increases for retiree and employee dependents.  Nearly 200 people dropped city sponsored coverage.  Council made this decision knowing the City had been approved for Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) funding.  They did not allocate a penny of the expected proceeds to ease this burden.  In dealing with higher premiums the City paid 25% and employees/retirees shouldered 75% of the increase.  That same year Council increased the fee to be seen at the Employee Health Clinic to $100 per visit for those without insurance.

Mayor Alvin New and City Council again targeted health insurance   The City sought bids for an exclusive provider arrangement.  Aetna and San Angelo Community Medical Center won with an expected budget savings of $483,000.  The City passed 25% of this amount to employees, keeping the other 75%.  This arrangement's eventual savings totaled over $1 million.  Employees acutely felt the impact of this exclusive deal given over 70% had Shannon physicians.  Oddly, the city dragged its feet in updating health insurance budget numbers after this major change.

MedHab Board member Alvin New benefited from City Council changing its ethics standards for economic development awards.  New was in Australia on behalf of MedHab on January 3, 2012 when council lowered its standards.  The old rule would've required New to step down as Mayor, given his significant investment in the company, and for MedHab to wait six months to receive economic development aid.

City staff presented Alvin New as an advisory board member for MedHab. That assertion was patently false.  New served as a full fledged, fiduciary bound Board of Directors member.  New filed two affidavits with the City clerk on his MedHab stakes.  Neither were produced for the public to see.   The end result was Alvin New didn't have to make a choice, Mayor or MedHab investor/board member.  MedHab received a $3.6 million economic development incentive to eventually provide up to 220 new jobs.  Council gave the company a six year window to access funds per the agreement.

Citizens needing immunizations or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases may or may not know the role Mayor New played in drastically cutting availability for treatment.  During 2012-13 budget preparations New publicly shook down a Texas Department of State Health Services physician.  The City cut $138,000 from the budget, closing the STD and Immunization clinic.

Under New's Mayorship the City applied for a federal grant that would reinstate the STD clinic, including the purchase and renovation of a building.  The Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver grant criteria clearly state the service requested must be new and that funds not go toward an ongoing service.  The City asked for federal funding beginning October 1, 2012, having closed the clinic September 30th, the day before.  In addition, city staff are on record, in newsprint and at council ,as saying the city was still treating some citizens for STDs, i.e. the city was providing an ongoing service, albeit severely limited.

Mayor Alvin New's term, like President George W. Bush's, will be associated with several fiascoes.  Bush had Hurricane Katrina and the Financial Crisis, while New had the aforementioned MedHab and the Furniture Fiasco, the unauthorized ordering and installation of over $100,000 in Water Department furniture without Council approval.  The Furniture Fiasco contributed to Water Chief Will Wilde's resignation under an ethical firestorm, already fueled by citizen complaints regarding outrageous water bills and the hiring of Will's son Blake by Carollo Engineers for the HIckory Pipeline project.  Blake had been fired by the city and deemed not eligible for rehire.

Despite Will Wilde's numerous ethical lapses, Alvin New and three other Council members voted against an outside investigation into the Water Department, preferring it remain an inside job.

Mayor New takes pride in his impact on water.  In the midst of his term as Mayor, citizens experienced a 47.5% increase in their water bills.   Alvin New's service as Mayor is memorable in a number of ways.  Some may not recollect so fondly.

Update 10-10-13:  New is the winner of ASU's Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2013.  

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