Nearly a Million Dollars Saved on Insurance Will Be Added to Residential Street Fund

Corpus Christi, Front Page

City Hall

      Some may remember the October 27, 2015, Council meeting because of some very tense moments in selecting the members of the Ad hoc Residential Street Committee.  But, how many remember a motion made immediately after that by Councilman Chad Magill where he pushed for a more competitive insurance vendor?  That motion, seconded by Council member Lucy Rubio, passed unanimously and opened the door for what became nearly a million dollars in savings.

     “By doing something different – and adding into the language that our Broker of Record is expected to save tax dollars on what we pay for insurance premiums –  we saved $951,450! We couldn’t have done it without Carlisle Insurance being aggressive and getting us better coverage at such a low cost,” said Magill after this week’s Council meeting.

Chad Magill portrait

     To make this deal even sweeter for the taxpayer, Magill made the motion to appropriate this onetime windfall to Residential Street Reconstruction. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn, and supported unanimously by the full City Council.  “Every single dollar in, especially what we save in our current budget, means less we have to depend on potential property tax increases this summer as property tax rolls come in from the Appraisal District,” said Magill.  “The solution isn’t always raising taxes and more money out of your pocket; we should do everything possible to SAVE tax dollars and prioritize savings to fund our highest priority needs, residential street reconstruction.”

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Chad Magill Seeks Re-Election to At-large Council Seat

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics

Chad kick off 2

     On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, Chad Magill formally announced that he is seeking re-election for the at-large council position.  Magill held his campaign kick-off in Council Chambers in Corpus Christi City Hall where he spoke to a packed house. After opening with prayer and the “Pledge of Allegiance,”  long-time friend and avid supporter, 84-year-old Joan Veith, spoke in support of Magill.  Veith, who was sporting a t-shirt from his last campaign, said, “I’ve been around a long time.  I’ve gotten to know a lot of council members.  One who stands out is Chad.  Chad listens to the citizens.  He does his homework and does it well.”

Joan Veith
Joan Veith with Chad Magill

     Hugo Berlanga introduced Magill by talking about the man, his leadership skills, the work he has done, and his commitment to the taxpayers of Corpus Christi.  Berlanga praised Magill for representing every district in the city and not taking the “to each their own” approach of being an at-large council member.  “Chad wants to be there for those other districts so that everyone works together to solve the problems,” Berlanga said.  He then commended Magill for bringing zero-based budgeting into the picture as a way of increasing accountability and trust and for initiating the formation of the residential street committee.  “Chad cares about the taxpayers, is transparent in his dealings, puts everything on the table, and is not afraid to challenge staff when they’re wrong or show appreciation for them when they’re right.”

Chad kick off

     Magill took the floor and thanked several members of the audience, including his family, all veterans, fellow council members, his boss Mona Baen, state and county officials, CCPOA, CCPFFA, and members of city boards.  He then discussed how he is looking forward to continuing to focus on needs over wants,  improving the infrastructure, implementing zero-based budgeting, increasing residential street reconstruction, securing viable water sources, improving wastewater, supporting police and firefighters, and practicing leadership by multiplication.

Chad kick off 3

Magill ended with this statement:  “There are over 1200 cities in Texas.  Corpus Christi is in the top eight.  We need to stop behaving like we’re at the bottom of the 1200.”

A reception was held at Taqueria Garibaldi on Staples following the kick-off.

Chad kick off 4

Related article:  Chad Magill: Leading Corpus Christi in a New Direction

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Keep Up with the Corpus Christi City Council

Corpus Christi, Front Page

City Hall

This page is for those readers who want to keep up with what is happening at City Hall but can’t make the council meetings.  Below are links to the agendas, minutes, and videos for each meeting.  Contact information for the mayor and council members was taken from the City of Corpus Christi website.

January Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Videos

February Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Videos

Contact Information for:

Mayor Nelda Martinez

(361) 826-3100
1201 Leopard St. 78401
P.O. Box 9277 78469

neldam@cctexas.com

Fax: (361) 826-3103


Chad Magill, Council Member At-Large

Work: (361) 826-3105
Business Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Chad.Magill@cctexas.com


Lillian Riojas, Council Member At-Large

Work: (361) 826-3105
Cell: (361) 765-1499
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Lillian.Riojas@cctexas.com


Mark Scott, Council Member At-Large

Work: (361) 985-2004
Home: (361) 814-9220
Business Address: 5324 Holly 78413

markscott338@gmail.com

Carolyn Vaughn, District 1

City Council Offices
1201 Leopard St. 78401
Main Line: (361) 826-3105
Cell: (361) 877-0148

carolyn.vaughn@cctexas.com


Brian Rosas, District 2

Work: (361) 826-3105
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

brian.rosas@cctexas.com


Lucy Rubio, District 3

City Council Office
1201 Leopard St. 78401
Main Line:(361) 826-3105
Cell: (361) 774-0465

Lucy.Rubio@cctexas.com


Colleen McIntyre, District 4

Work: (361) 826-3105
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Colleen.McIntyre@cctexas.com


Rudy Garza, District 5

Work: (361) 826-3105
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Rudy.Garza@cctexas.com

 

 

 

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Takin’ It to the Streets: CC Streets Program Headed Down a Better Road

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

SPMPsignage

It appears that Andy Taubman and the other members of the ad hoc street committee are making a difference in changing the status quo down at the street department. At Tuesday’s council meeting,  Valerie Gray, the city’s executive director of public works for the past year, presented a plan that sounds almost identical to what Taubman and his “A Team” have deemed necessary in order to get the runaway street problem under control.

Andy Taubman 1
Andy Taubman, Ad Hoc Street Committee Chairman

Currently the Street Preventative Maintenance Program has completed less than half of the projects that were slated for completion by 2016.  From the data collected by the street committee, it appears that the department created its own roadblocks by creating an environment of “We will continue to do today what we did yesterday” even when it wasn’t working well.

This outdated way of building and maintaining streets worked extremely well for a handful of big contractors, especially one who claims to have made over a billion dollars off city street jobs.  This comment was made when contractors were invited to attend the third meeting of the committee to address what is working and what is not working in the current SPMP program.

One of the committee members, Alan Guggenheim, who has lived up to his description on Linked In as “highly experienced in reorganizing, streamlining, and strengthening business to maximize delivery performance, customer satisfaction, profitability, and shareholder value across operations,” asked a simple question of one contractor.  “What are your criteria for measuring success?”  It was a reasonable question, a good question, a question asked by private business owners all the time, but one that amazingly hasn’t been asked of the contractors until now.

Guggenheim
Alan Guggenheim, Committee Member  (LinkedIn Photo)

The contractor’s answer?  “Make an obscene profit.”  Well, that’s great for the businessman, and certainly that’s how capitalism works.  But, what does that say about the way the City has been spending our hard-earned tax dollars? Maybe now there will be some accountability within the system.  It’s amazing how new eyes on an old problem can lead to solutions.

In today’s Caller-Times article, Mayor Nelda Martinez is quoted as saying, “There’s no question of the unprecedented construction work underway on our streets. This is the most bullish we’ve ever been on streets, and I know we’re going to get better — there’s always room for improvement — but I can’t tell you how proud I am.”  Perhaps the Mayor and the other three council members who were adamantly against the formation of the committee in the beginning are starting to see the good that has come from this group of concerned and knowledgeable citizens .  Surely they have made the connection between what has come out of the committee and this sudden change in the “business as usual” attitude of City staff.

Councilman Chad Magill, who initiated the creation of the committee, is at every meeting and is often seen seated next to Carolyn Vaughn, a savvy business owner and council member who supported the creation of the committee and nominated Alan Guggenheim to serve on it.  The five who were in favor of the committee from the start (Magill, Vaughn, Rubio, Garza, and Rosas) should be proud of their efforts in taking the first step to fixing a broken program. Magill told the Caller-Times, “I’m more confident in our seal coat process than I ever have been.”  He went on to say that he anticipated even more improvements to come from the recommendations of the street committee.

Magill FBBACarolyn Vaughn

Next week Council will hear the full plan that includes the City being more small-contractor friendly so that work on the projects can be sped up to meet the December 2016 deadline.  Using more than one contractor for these projects has been a discussion item at many of the street committee meetings.  This kind of collaboration among City staff, the committee of concerned citizens, and the Council gives us hope that our streets will improve and that our tax dollars will be spent wisely.  In the words of John Hannibal of the television series The A Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

John Hannibal (Isotech.com Photo)
John Hannibal (Isotech.com Photo)

Clarificaton:  Council member Colleen McIntyre pointed out to the editor that the final vote for the ad hoc street committee was a unanimous one (9-0).

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Takin’ It to the Streets: A Man with Questions

Corpus Christi, Front Page

Andy Taubman 4

     Voltaire said we should “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”  Asking the right questions is what Andy Taubman, Ad Hoc Residential Street Infrastructure Advisory Committee chairman, sees as the main role of the group of nine citizens charged with addressing the problem of failed residential streets in Corpus Christi.   Taubman made it clear an hour and 50 minutes into the October 20 City Council Meeting that the questions he and the other committee members  have about engineering, accountability, contracting methods, and information sharing are designed to assist City staff in evaluating the existing program to identify successes and areas in need of improvement, not assign blame.

     At this meeting, Taubman’s Infrastructure Committee Plan came under fire from Mayor Martinez and Council members McIntyre, Scott, and Riojas, who were opposed to the plan and ultimately voted against it.

     Council member Lucy Rubio spoke in favor of the plan:  “What are we afraid of?  We have a group of people who want to help us get this right.” Rubio voted for the plan, as did Council members Vaughn, Garza, Magill, and Rosas.

     At the October 27 City Council Meeting, Taubman was nominated by Councilman Magill who said: “He’s got the mind and the will to actually produce something that is tangible and actionable.”

    In a November 1, 2015, Caller-Times editorial, Taubman proved Magill’s assessment when he wrote:  “Understanding the current situation is a necessary precursor for improving it.”  By posing the right questions, Taubman believes the committee can facilitate change in the existing system, and perhaps even in the existing culture.  “We started the process by looking at an existing program because you get two benefits by doing that. We get to ask: What happened in the existing program? Do we think it is efficient? Well-run? Did the money get spent right? Are we happy with it going forward in its same incarnation?”

     These questions prompted the committee to invite contractors, consultants, and outside engineers who help the City with street work to the meeting on December 1, 2015.  “We think that any problems and any solutions that exist are probably going to come from the people who are doing that work every day.  That’s why we are seeking out feedback – because the goal is not necessarily to be judged on making mistakes.  However, we will be judged on repeating or not repeating the mistakes.  We are looking at the Street Preventative Maintenance Program (SPMP) as a model for what will ultimately become the Street Reconstruction Program.”

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     At the December 16 Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee meeting, Taubman shared “A Private Business Person’s Perspective on a Governmental Process,” a 19-page report co-authored by fellow committee member, Chris Duff.   The committee concluded that the SPMP can be labeled a success because “money got spent” and “roads got fixed.”    Below is a list of some of the information included in the report:

  • An overview of the SPMP Program including current funding sources;
  • A program underfunded by $5 to $10 million per year in comparison to the natural aging of the streets;
  • The high price tag attached to ADA requirements;
  • The cost of seal-coats and overlays;
  • Possible funding sources, including RTA funds;
  • Observation that seal coat is one year behind while overlay were 23% complete at fiscal year end;
  • A method for bidding and awarding contracts that may not lead to the best value and is not small-contractor friendly;
  • A terminology used by City staff to relate information to the citizens that is confusing and rarely allows for real transparency;
  • A lack of feedback to evaluate efficiency in the City system;
  • A need for the use of technology to determine the condition of a street;
  • Staff responses to the committee’s observations and recommendations.

 

Did the committee learn anything beyond that?  In an interview from December 31, 2015, Taubman offered his thoughts on how current street maintenance practices affect the whole program:

      “The seal coat program is one year behind schedule. In two years they’re one year behind. That’s not a little miss; that’s a big miss. The reason the seal coat exists is to preserve the streets. Being behind isn’t just an inconvenience, it has a real cost. Cities don’t do a very good job of measuring opportunity costs. Everyone complains about the $100 being spent in a place somebody doesn’t like. If by not getting the seal coat work done you’ve lost a million dollars in value of the streets, nobody says anything because you can’t measure opportunity costs. If projects are managed well, there are three variables that really get managed: time, quality, and cost. Those are the three variables that get managed in a private situation. The goal is to balance the three. In a city setting time goes out the window. This discussion doesn’t happen because the three types of years (program year, fiscal year, calendar year) don’t match up. So, no one asks the question. Nobody really knows.”

     When asked if City staff has the ability to adjust that, Taubman responded:  “Excellent question. No one asks if the city can ramp things up to meet a deadline. The money is already allocated through our fees, so it isn’t a question of funding. The way they contract for these services is that they wind up in an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery / Indefinite Quantity) with only one provider for each service. In private business, the owner will hire extra contractors and get the work done. If the question is never asked of City staff, then it can’t be addressed. And, since there’s only one provider, the question can’t be asked at all.”

     Taubman believes another question must be asked: “How and why does the money get spent?”

     “If people are concerned about how the money gets spent and why the money gets spent, then it’s important to have a street committee. I’m not convinced people care how or why the money gets spent. I think that businesses that are very well run ask this all the time,” said Taubman. “I’m not saying anything bad about City staff, but they don’t care if the question gets asked or not.  The City council members feel they need to ask the question out of a sense of duty or obligation, but do they really care if the question gets asked or not? Some do.  Some don’t.  Do the voters really care whether the question gets asked or not? I don’t get an overwhelming sense that that’s an important part of what people think about.  The paper definitely doesn’t care about the question. When you think about the role of media in society where they’re supposed to be asking the question, that’s where I say the biggest deficit in dereliction of duty happens.   Do I really think anybody cares? No. So why are we doing this? I don’t really know.”

     When asked why he is driven to lead the committee and continue to ask the question, Taubman said, “Part of why I’m doing this is because that’s not the way governments operate, but it is the way people operate.  In my experience personally and professionally, I think it’s an important thing to do.  Should we as citizens come together and ask that of government? I would otherwise in a vacuum say yes. I just don’t see any evidence that’s the way the world really works, so I don’t know.  People in their own lives and businesses do it, so come hell or high water we’re going to do this on behalf of the citizens in the context of good government.”

     Like the little boy in Han Chrisian Andersen’s “The Emperer’s New Clothes,” Taubman’s questions are opening doors, eyes, and minds to the possible need for change in the status quo.  “Is there a need or willingness for change within the current system?” Taubman asks.  Time will tell.  For now, the committee members continue to take the road less traveled by the average citizen in their quest to “get it right.”

 

(This is the second of several articles covering the work of the residential street committee.)

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