Thursday, June 19, 2008

Trip To Austin: May 21st thru 26th

Wednesday, May 21- traveled to Austin- arrived in time for dinner with friends, Charlie Stone, ORCA Executive Director, Bobbie Gerish, Director of Rural Innovator’s Forum, Joe Y. , Texas Workforce Commission, and others who live and work in Austin. They are always eager to hear about what the KCVC, Ogallala Commons, Texas Prairie Rivers and other grass roots organizations are doing. We reviewed the research work Joe had been doing with the Governor’s office and the new Governor’s Competitiveness Council, which Governor Perry formally announced at the training session I was in town for on Thursday.

I’m including a copy of the Governor’s white paper on that for you. While it clearly is focused on our State’s cities and their economic development issues, it addresses many of the same concerns we have in our rural areas. I want to see a Rural Competitiveness Council, appointed by the Governor from rural community, education and industry leaders with agency support personnel from programs like Workforce, TDA, TxDOT, TDHCA, TPWD and ORCA who would identify and address those issues and needs that are crucial to a goal of insuring a sustainable economy in rural Texas. This kind of statewide initiative and government support is I think vital to provide the tools and leverage a group like KCVC needs to have a real impact at home. For instance, if we are going to address through the new Competitiveness Council the “disconnect between school curricula and workplace demands” then we need to consider the workplace demands of rural businesses and the limitations of staff and funding in rural schools in relation to any proposed changes to our educational curricula. Or, if the City leaders are looking at the concerns of resource availability (energy, water) and energy development for our urban population, we also need to consider the effects of their development plans on the rural areas where the resources will come from, energy is generated from. I met with the ORCA staff, Rural Innovator’s Forum and members of the Governor’s policy staff about this idea, concern while in Austin. I will present the idea for their support to the ORCA Board next week.

Thursday, May 22nd - Attended the Governors Training for all appointees to state boards and commissions. While I’ve done the Open Meetings Act and Ethics and Financial Disclosure type sessions that were required in this, I was amazed and honored to be in the company of these leaders and volunteers. I never really realized, and I bet you’ve not thought about it either the sheer number of committed volunteers necessary for our state to function at all. Even when Texas was formed and our constitution written, most people here didn’t trust government. I mean they really didn’t trust government, so much so that not one single, solitary Texas state agency or department is run by the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the Legislature or its Executive Director. So, for the 238 state agencies no matter how big or small, we have in Texas, every single one has an unpaid, appointed Board of Directors or Commissioners who set policy and ultimately are responsible for the programs, money and actions of every employee. YIKES! Knowing how hard it is to get a volunteer for a day, for a speech, to serve on a Community board, it restores my faith in my fellow citizens to imagine 1,500 – 1,800 people willing to take on that kind of obligation, much less file their financial statement as public record and agree to understanding they can go to jail if they get a Christmas present from the wrong person. I’ve met a lot of these people too, and most like me, are not all that impressed with the idea of being important, don’t really get an ego boost from hobnobbing with each other and sure didn’t need anything else to do, they just care. Sometimes we need to be reminded we are not alone; other folks do care and are working for our children’s future too. Even the one’s we might not agree with.

Friday, May 23rd- met with TPWD, TDA and ORCA staff members about community development, planning, infrastructure, park and beautification grant and loan programs for our region. Reviewed new guidelines, new programs to share with our towns, EDC’s, Chambers, County.

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