Thursday, February 28, 2008

Chief Candidates Forum

We now have the videos of the candidates presentations up on our BLOG. These are from the February 26th, 2008 forum at the River Terrace. Each candidate has a separate post, and each video is about 5 minutes long.

If you have a problem watching these videos, we will be making a DVD available this weekend as well. Leave a comment or contact me if you need one.

This is a first for San Angelo.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Candidate Bruce Burkett Presentation

Candidate Bruce Burkett's presentation at the Feb 26th Forum.
video
Be sure to check out all the candidates presentations. They will be up soon.

Produced and Copyright by ConchoInfo and MDR under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Candidate Ed Cunningham Presentation

Candidate Ed Cunningham's Presentation at the Feb 26th Forum.
video
Be sure to check out all the candidates presentations. They will be up soon.

Produced and Copyright by ConchoInfo and MDR under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Candidate Jeff Davis Presentation

Candidate Jeff Davis' presentation at the Feb 26th Forum.

video
Be sure to check out all the candidates presentations. They will be up soon.

Produced and Copyright by ConchoInfo and MDR under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Candidate Ed Kading Presentation

Candidate Ed Kading's Presentation at the Feb 26th Forum.
video
Be sure to check out all the candidates presentations. They will be up soon.

Produced and Copyright by ConchoInfo and MDR under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Candidate Steve Mida Presentation

Candidate Steve Mida's presentation at the Feb 26th Forum.

video
Be sure to check out all the candidates presentations. They will be up soon.

Produced and Copyright by ConchoInfo and MDR under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Candidate Tim Vasquez Presentation

Candidate Tim Vasquez's presentation at the Feb 26th Forum.
video
Be sure to check out all the candidates presentations. They will be up soon.

Produced and Copyright by ConchoInfo and MDR under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Monday, February 25, 2008

To the Board on the Bond

Last Friday's news article on the new fieldhouse at Bobcat Stadium got me to thinking, Heaven knows that can be dangerous. I was at the meeting when the motion was approved. I had no comment then as I agree this is money we need to spend. The current condition of the dressing rooms is deplorable, a real downside to an otherwise beautiful facility.

The part of the S-T article that caught my attention was "To be fair, the project was delayed much of that time by last year's bond election." As a leading opponent of the last bond, I became fairly familiar with it, I can almost guarantee there was no $4 million item in it for a new fieldhouse at the old stadium

Now one of the many things that helped defeat the last bond, Question 18(e) promised, "as none of the money will go to athletics, except for basic needs." Then we found out the "new Central" was budgeting almost as much for fields, pools and tennis courts as had been spent on a post-fire total rebuild of Lakeview.

Now let's examine the notion that the delay in moving on this item was somehow related to the last bond. Is it possible that the "new" Central was intending to play its UIL varsity games at the new location? In that case the new fieldhouse expenditure might have become a low priority since "only" the Lakeview students would continue to suffer the deplorable fieldhouse at the existing stadium.

The other option would be that the last bond really had nothing to do with the delay in moving on this expenditure, it was just one more example of this board moving at its usual glacial speed. I recall opining satircally that the board might, on being informed the building they were meeting in was on fire, task it to staff, defer to the next pre-agenda meeting, and table any immediate action on possible evacution routes pending further study.

Sadly, neither option makes the board look good. I recognized last year that SAISD does need a bond for capital improvements. The last bond did not fail because voters are stingy, we had never voted down a bond before. It did not fail for lack of understanding or low voter turnout. We had near record turnout and most voters understood the issues all to well. They did not like the bond, they were insisting on an entirely different direction for a bond.

I have expressed to Dr. Bonds and the board that I would love to see a bond issue for about the same sum with new direction that I could get behind and help sell. The last meeting of the new facilities committee didn't happen. I am hearing word that the early appearance is that this committee is heading toward putting a new shine on the old boots the voters booted last year. If that turns out to be the case, you will see the next bond go down in flames again.

Board has already put itself in an electoral hole by setting the issue for an election that will almost certainly set records for turnout on the Presidential election. Bonds should be scheduled for elections when they will be the headline ballot item. One thing you want to avoid is getting voters in the habit of voting "no" on school bonds. That really is a rarity, I think something close to 90% of all Texas school bond issues pass, people really do care about their kids' education.

The last two meetings I have attended, discussion of the bond is nearly the last item on the agenda, and then it gets a wink and a pass unless I rise on my hindlegs. You need to understand, this bond is the single most important thing you are dealing with from now to November and act like it!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Change...What?

I listen to a lot of National Public Radio while driving for a living. During the week, they really do make an effort to at least appear even-handed. Come the weekend NPR really lets its hair down, relaxes and indulges its liberal bias unabashedly. A fine example is the "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" program. It is a humerous quiz show format putting to contestants questions on the week's headlines.

Overheard there, a line from panelist Paula Poundstone, "I haven't even asked a clerk to break a dollar in the last month, I am so tired of hearing the word 'change'".

"Change" as a campaign slogan is really a no-brainer. If any candidate for any office didn't want to change something, they could have saved themselves a lot of time and expense by re-electing the incumbent. Typically, it is used as a stand-alone term, and as such it is devoid of useful information. It taps into general dissatisfaction. The voter response it seeks is "Hey, I want to change things too, this guy is on my side". Note that that voter is often heard on sound-bite interviews declaring his support because "I feel X wants change, so do I". Shame the voter was never taught to "think" rather than "feel". Feelings are for Valentine's Day, thinking is for election day.

Ms. Poundstone was, of course referring to the Presidential campaign. Obama has had such success with "Change" that both Hillary and McCain are calling him to task for it. As even an Obama supporter, Juan Williams called it this morning, it has been "eloquent, but empty" rhetoric. Tactically, it is hard to fault Obama; goes to the axiom, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. As long as he can be all things to all people and still win, why would he want to paint himself into corners?

The problem is, once any candidate states any position, for a certainty there will be voters on the other side of any issue who will think (or feel) "Whoa Nellie, I didn't know you were for (or against) THAT!" Why alienate any voter before one is forced to?

I'm really not here to discuss the Presidential race, it has become so rich an example of my main point I had to use it. We are going to see candidates for several local offices tell us they want "change". Here is where your job as voter starts. Don't let them get away with it. If the press fails to "press" them, do it yourself. These are local people, they have phone numbers, they show up at forums, ask them, "What exactly are you going to change, how are you going to get it done, and if you can, what will you change it to?"

Personally, I am more likely to support a candidate with honest differences on specifics than I am to support some tap-dancing master of the art of ducking the question. I don't ask for 100% agreement, heck, I don't agree with me all the time. I've had the experience of looking up old essays, and tripping over something I penned a few years back I had forgotten. I end up sitting slack-jawed and thinking, "Oy vey, had a bad hair day then, eh what?"

Your vote really is important, if it weren't candidates wouldn't spend so much time and money trying to get it. Don't give that vote up for a firm handshake or pretty dental work. Make the candidate earn it. If you get a straight answer you don't totally agree with, consider whether the candidate is still worthy of support overall. If you get a dance-of-the-seven-veils, look for another candidate.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Attaboy" Time

At last week's Council session on the CG/CH zoning changes, I addressed Council asking once again for a zoning/permits/development ombudsman, something I have regularly advised for several years. Last week, in a comment to JWT's article, "What We Have Here", I said, "As JWT told you, I gave Mr. Lewis my card, asked him for some details, and promised that I was just as glad to give the city "attaboys" in public as to criticize. Have not heard yet, but if I do, and this is for real, I'll be the first to acknowledge it here."

I've been out of town this week and this is my first chance to follow up on that promise. I am here to give the city a big "attaboy", and eat a healthy portion of crow. If one looks to the comment following mine to last week's article, it is entered as anonymous, for ease of access I suppose, as it is signed at the bottom. I cannot recall when last I was more politely, thoroughly, and deservedly chewed out. For that matter, the embarrassment aside, I don't recall being so glad to admit, "Got me!"

The author of that comment, Amanda Fawver, is the city's Development Coordinator, a position created last April which comes so close to the "one person, one phone number" job description I have been requesting as not to be worth quibbling over details. The position she holds, complemented by the new Development Review Committee, will make the path from "bright idea" to final approval substantially smoother for business investors. As she points out, it has already helped 30-some projects.

Development Coordinator Fawver was so diplomatic, she even deleted from her public comment an especially embarrassing-to-me section of the e-mail she sent. I not only saw, and should have recalled, the April 21, 2007 Standard-Times article announcing this position, I commented favorably on the gosanangelo site. Not only do some folk downtown read my stuff, they sometimes remember it better than I do! Seriously, that was a deft touch which should serve well in a "first-contact" position.

This new approach is truly substantive. Unnecessary zoning/permits hoops to jump through are not only inconvenient for a prospective business, they cost real money in time and effort. To a business, the money saved on that end is just as real as the money on the cash-payment economic incentive end. From this forgetful author, a great big "attaboy" all 'round to staff and Ms. Fawver in particular. Talk about your economic multipliers, whatever the pay scale for this position, it is money well spent.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What We've Got Here

One of the most memorable lines ever from a movie was delivered by Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke. That line started playing over and over in my mind last Tuesday, because “What we've got here is failure to communicate.” By the end of the day, I was convinced that City Hall continually fails to communicate.

The most obvious example was in Rep. Darby's statement to the joint City Council / Planning Commission meeting. His first words were about how few people in the Real Estate community knew about the meeting or what was being proposed. This was shortly after Planning Staff had asserted they physically visited every property affected by the CG/CH rezoning plan. How can you have City Staff visiting hundreds of properties and not have the owners and tenants know why?

The movie line was again brought to mind as Jim Ryan and I were leaving the meeting. Jim had made another of his periodic calls for an Ombudsman to serve as a single point of contact between city hall and people trying to navigate the red tape involved in any business and construction venture. Shawn Lewis, director of the development services department, wondered why we were still asking for an Ombudsman, when that position was now in existence and had been since a recent reorganization. Neither Jim nor I could remember hearing that, and we both try to pay attention, but we could have missed it. Just to make sure, I asked one of the council men later if he was aware of the Ombudsman, and he was as surprised as I was. We also gave Mr. Lewis a business card and asked for more information. Nothing yet. Look at the development services web page, and find the Ombudsman. The job title is less than informative. I also wonder why neither the City Manager or Mr. Lewis took the opportunity to point out this long needed addition to the city organization chart. Deja Vu. What we've got here is failure to communicate.

City Hall, like most government bureaucracies, needs an effective communications strategy. This strategy needs to be grounded in the basics. First they need to know that effective communication isn't in just one direction. You need to put the information out but there has to be feedback. Every time you put out a message, you need a way to ensure it was received. In radio communication, you have the ”rodger” acknowledging success. In personal communications, there are active listening techniques. In public speaking, there are ways to judge the crowds response. If the snores are getting annoying, you might not be communicating. City Hall can and must employ feedback techniques in any communications strategy. They must identify and actively use feedback mechanisms.

Personal contact is also part of an effective communications strategy. Any time a city employee comes in contact with the public, something is communicated. Everyone realizes that work crews, whether busily fixing a water leak or lazily leaning on a shovel, communicate an image of the City Hall. We must remember that every time a staff member interacts with the public, that is communications. The planning staff was in the field for considerable time studying the CG/CH rezoning. What an opportunity for communication. What would have happened if they had taken the time to hand a one or two page letter to available business and property owners while they were there. Such communications with businesses and property owners would have been a giant positive leap.

In conclusion, it is time for City Hall, and all local government organizations, to develop a communications strategy. “Failure to communicate” needs to be relegated back to movie trivia.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

To Dr. Bonds on the Bond (corrected)

The following was originally sent to Dr. Bonds, Dr. Brian May, chair of the new Facilities Advisory Committee, and SAISD Board members. The magazine mentioned is "District Administration. The article url is http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=119&p=1#0 I held this to allow for comment by any recipient to be included. I have received polite "Thanks for the input" from Dr. Bonds and Dr. May.

We publish this in the hope it will encourage others to offer their opinions to the Committee. This Committee met last Wednesday, I do not have their next meeting date yet. For those unable to take off workdays, Chairman May's e-mail is brian.may@angelo.edu mail is Box 10888, ASU Station, San Angelo, Texas 76909, Phone: 942-2027 x 283.

Open Letter to Dr. Bonds;

The link here is to an article from an educrat (pardon the term, I do not intend it to be negative) trade magazine we forwarded to the Board last time around. In case it has been forgotten, I think it worth another look. Mr. Vogel makes some great points and a lot of his advice carries over into ANY election, I pass this to candidates I support.

Point Four, the new Facilities Committee is a good start. The last one self-destructed publically and cost that bond more votes than our underfunded S-PAC dreamed of. I remember telling our first STEER meeting that defeating the bond would be a good start, but "if we knock it back by 10 points or more we will have the Board's undivided attention when we next speak to them." As I later said in my post-election autopsy of the bond published May 24, S-T "Doomed to fail", our opposition S-PAC was so much "flatulence in a hurricane", the voters simply were not going to buy that lump of coal. Dr. May's committee is small enough to be functional; I know many members by reputation, if not personally, strikes me as a good, representative body.

I think the decision not to hire another consulting firm is wise. Huckabee came in with a perfect track record, but frankly, looking over their prior clients, they had mostly represented districts where the bond would have passed with or without them. Presented with the company's first real challenge, they were, if anything, counter-productive. The Bond Awareness Survey poll was so transparently a "push-poll" that it worked against the bond. You may recall, I warned the Board about push polls, told them they resulted in candidates waking up on the first Wednesday past the first Monday in November and wondering "How did I lose?"

On the other hand, going back to the "How to Get Your Bond Passed" article, it emphasizes repeatedly, do polling. If you recall, when you met with Mr. Turner and myself, as we were walking from your office to your "wall of comments" I suggested that if you could convince the Board to fund it, you should put a genuine poll in the field ASAP. I repeat that now. Turner and I were discussing this yesterday, what about a joint venture having a good poll be a class project for some bright ASU statistics class? It is not that hard to put together an honest opinion-gathering poll. The tricky part the pros get paid mega-bucks for is "spinning" or "shading" polls tailored to the candidate paying the bills. Ask Hillary how much bang-for-the-buck she got out of South Carolina polling.

Point Three of the article; Motivate Your Friends, Ignore Your Enemies (and BTW I hope you know I am really not your enemy; more on that later). as this has wound out, SAISD is proposing to put this on ballot in November. I can hope this is not a fatal mistake, but politically, demographically, Poli-Sci 101, this is bad timing. Unfortunately, unless we can afford to wait for May 2009, it is what it is, no way we can be ready for this May. November is going to be unique in my lifetime. For the first time since 1952, we have a Presidential election with no incumbent, no heir-apparent VP running. I was on record six years ago predicting this as the most "interesting" election of my life. Now we are facing an economic "hard landing" (aside here, I think San Angelo will fare better than much of the country), never mind this little war in Iraq, forget the feminist/race split which may yet allow the Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, for purposes of this bond we will probably see the highest turnout of my life INCLUDING a lot of, pardon me, geezers looking to protect their often fixed incomes. The money, the ads, the attention will be on anything BUT this bond...which should be the headline driver in its election cycle.


Who told you this was a good date? Gallegos, who still thinks more voter education and higher turnout would have sold the last Edsel? I play politics at at least a semi-pro level. I tell you now, the election date itself puts us in a 5-10 point hole before the starting gate opens, and I don't need a poll to tell me that. It can be overcome, but only if we are selling the customers (voters) something they are inclined to buy.

Going back to the Bond Awareness push poll; the last legitimate question on it was money, question 9. The breakdown was b) $100 million to $125 million, then c) $125 million to $150 million, then d) $150 to $175 million. The break point was (d) at which point the approval line graph glides like a brick into single digits. If you recall, I told the Board money was not the problem, recession or not, I don't think it will be the big item on next bond. Angelo voters are not that stingy, they had never turned down a bond before. Remember that old promo we dug up originally promoting Central as "America's First Ageless, Campus Style High School"? A visionary Board sold that bond in the middle of drought and hard times. Dr. Bonds, Dr. May, I tell you now, present a vision the voters will see as a good plan for the next 50 years, it can be sold, I'd love to get in there and help you sell a $140+ million bond. And yes, I remember, as Phase One.

I give you a couple other points I get from the last true poll, I think we called it an "election" . Board did at least break the issue into elementary and secondary spending. I knew the latter was dead, but I thought the elementary bond had a chance. Oops! It is obvious voters prefer the smaller, neighborhood model elementary school. The Holiman/San Jacinto/Bradford consolidation model did as much as the Crockett proposal to kill that Prop. Lamar works, the population there is dense enough it is still "neighborhood" at 600+, but when it comes down to shipping 6 year olds half way across north Angelo to Bradford, thank you very much, we'll pay a bit more to keep the kids in walking range. San Jacinto is my area, I am old enough to remember when that field on Pulliam was "Bobcat Stadium". I remember when Holiman was a state-of-the-art new school. BTW, the feature there of every classroom opens to the outdoors was a selling point used all over America then, it was going to make evacuation easier in case of fire or nuclear attack! Of course these schools need money and work, let's make sure we get it done.

I don't know the range of Dr. May's committee. I hope it is open to more than putting a new shine on the boots that got so badly booted last election. For a start, I advise you set up a link on the SAISD website for voters to offer their opinions to the committee. For the next few months, make a point of emphasizing at every opportunity that this is a committee open to public comment and make it easy for the public to comment. Yes, you will hear from all the tinfoil hats still camping out on the grassy knoll, but you will also hear from the good people whose wallets you are asking them to open. Remember the first point in my "Doomed to fail" autopsy; trust, the two edged sword. More than anything else it is incumbent on SAISD to regain that trust. Fail to do that, I don't care what the final package looks like, the voters are not going to trust you with 9 figures of their money.

It is not a deal breaker, but this Committee needs to give the three 4A high school model a good look. I'm far from the first person to suggest it, this has been out there for at least 20 years. Population has shifted southwest, that's definitely where young families and next generation's students will be coming from, we need to consider this demographic reality. The objection that 4A schools cannot offer the variety of courses available in a 5A school can be overcome IF we treat the district as a single entity rather than separate stand-alone campuses. One campus might offer the Voc-Ed curriculum, another perhaps the G-T program, perhaps Arts & Drama at Central with its lovely Bernhardt theater. Of interest to those who live and die by athletics, last year, UIL ruled that even if a student physically attends all classes in a "magnet" school outside the normal attendance zone, for extra-curricular purposes, that student may play football, tennis, swim or cheerlead or whatever where he/she lives.

OK, that ends my letter to Dr. Bonds. I have been promised the Committee is open to and desires public input. The schools still do need money for renovation and certainly some new construction. They will have to put together a proposal by August to make the November ballot, and the earlier they get it, the more likely any idea can be worked into that bond. Voters and parents, the ball is in your court, speak up.