Tag Archives: Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Parker Announces Restored Hours for Libraries

Well, this is good news.

After getting hit by budget cuts because of the recession, extended and Saturday hours have been restored to Houston Public Libraries. 41 HPL sites are now open on Saturdays and the Central Library will be open seven days a week.

The restored service hours are made possible by $3.1 million added to the HPL budget. A portion of the additional funding is expected in the current budget year from a General Appropriation request in April 2013, and full funding will be included in the HPL FY14 budget. These funds will be allocated to the hiring of 109 new staff members at HPL, making the restored service hours possible. The first wave of postings for these positions were added to the City of Houston website today. The restoration of service hours will take place in phases, as new staff is hired and trained, beginning April 1, 2013.

Mayor Parker cited the recovery, as well as HPLs management during the crisis, as reasons for bringing services back to where they once were. “We have emerged from those tough times and are now able to celebrate another major milestone in our recovery.  Not only are we restoring public services, we are adding staff, which means jobs for our community.”

And for your FYI:

Locations that will have restored Saturday hours are:
Carnegie Neighborhood Library
HPL Express Southwest
Lakewood Neighborhood Library
Looscan Neighborhood Library
Mancuso Neighborhood Library
Moody Neighborhood Library
Morris Frank Library, a HPL Express Location
Pleasantville Neighborhood Library
Ring Neighborhood Library
Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library
Shepard-Acres Homes Neighborhood Library
Smith Neighborhood Library
Stanaker Neighborhood Library
Stimley-Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library

 

Mayor Annise Parker Reports on Hire Houston First

Mayor Annise Parker reported the results of the City’s contracting efforts to ensure Houstonians are hired first. Back when Parker was first talking about it in 2009 as a candidate, DosCentavos really liked the idea. Here are the results, thus far:

As of September 30, 2012, more than $139 million of city business had been awarded to designated Hire Houston First firms, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs.  This encompassed 895 formal bid contracts for construction and purchasing contracts as well as informal non-contract purchase orders.  81 percent of the time, HHF companies won the formal bid contracts because they submitted the lowest bids.  The other 19 percent of the time the city utilized the local preference component of HHF to award the work to the local firm.  The majority of these formal bid contracts were for construction work.

“My goal was to encourage the use of local companies and workers on taxpayer-funded projects to maximize the economic impact of our governmental spending,” said Mayor Parker.  “I knew our local firms would be competitive.  Now we have the numbers to prove it.  As the program moves into its second year, I want to see more Houston area companies designated to benefit from the local preference when the bid competition warrants.  Our tax dollars need to stay here where they are supporting local businesses and the jobs they provide.”

HHF allows the city to consider a vendor’s principle place of business and to grant preference to local businesses in awarding certain city contracts.  For contracts under $100,000, the city may select the local firm’s price if it is within five percent of the lowest bid from an out-of-town company.  For contracts exceeding $100,000, there can be no more than a three percent difference between the out-of-town low bid and the next highest offer from a local vendor.

The total number of HHF designated firms is 617, an average of 51 new approvals each month.  322 of these companies have never been awarded contracts by the city.  The remaining 295 have had at least one city contract.  Out of 68 prime contracts awarded to HHF firms, 61 went to firms that had previously been awarded city contracts.  The remaining seven contracts went to HHF firms that have never worked for the city prior to their HHF designation.   Their contracts totaled $2.7 million.  532 of the 617 approved applications are in Harris County. The numbers are expected to grow as the city’s Office of Business Opportunity steps up outreach to get more companies registered in the second year of the program.

To qualify for designation, businesses must meet at least one of two requirements:

  • Be headquartered in the incorporated city limits or the eight local counties of Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller, or
  • Have 20 percent or more of the entity’s workforce and a substantial part of its operations regularly based within the city limits or the eight counties.

Sounds great, but I immediately wondered about how minority- and women-owned firms benefited, especially Latino and Latina-owned firms. Still, hiring locally is still quite important and a great source of local buying-power. 

Give Me The 311!

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the 311 Department announced today that there is a new 311 Smartphone app ready to take your service requests for stuff, like garbage container issues, traffic signal maintenance, water line break, dead animals, etc. My favorite in SW Houston will be the Road Maintenance one since I’ve driven through some kidney-busters recently.

Prior to 311’s transformation, the 311 Call Center provided telephone Service Request and information service 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Due to budget-required layoffs in FY2012, 311 had to stop offering service on the weekends. As of August 15, 2012, 311 Help & Info launched 24 hour a day, seven day a week service.  Additionally, 311 installed a labor model that more closely matches the demands of Houstonians. Furthermore, the service extension was implemented at an operating cost to the City of $600,000 less per year than the former 311 Call Center model.

In addition to expanded call-center hours and the new Smartphone app, 311’s redesigned website,www.Houston311.org, enables Houstonians to easily submit a request for service online. For example, the 311 website only received 2,144 “hits” in January 2011. In January 2013, following its redesign, the website received more than 13,485 “hits.” Over the past week, 311 has also launched a new interactive mapping tool that allows Houstonians to track the progress of their request and view other requests in the area.

Learn how to use it here. And to download the app, you can find it on Google Play or the Apple one.

Mayor Parker Launches Parental Involvement Campaign

“Is My Child Ready?” was launched this week by the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives. The program’s work is to engage parents so that they may get more involved in their children’s education.

The campaign coincides with the release of students’ STAAR test results by area school districts scheduled for this spring.  The STAAR exams are part of the state’s new standardized academic accountability system.  The campaign will target “hard to reach” parents to encourage them to ask their schools key questions about their children’s performance on the STAAR test.

The commitment I liked most was this.

The campaign will promote parents’ long-term involvement in their children’s education with an emphasis on post-secondary readiness.  Currently, more than half of Texas freshmen in two-year colleges and nearly a fourth in four-year schools require remedial courses.  Deficient academic preparation also leads to low rates of college completion.

While Texas legislators are seeking ways of blaming college advising and student services offices as a means of cutting their budgets, it is good to see Mayor Parker promoting a solution, rather than some punitive measure, like I expect the Lege to do. It seems she knows one of the roots of the problem, so, hopefully, the Lege will follow suit and commit to these types of programs, too.

And it’s bilingual, too.

The multi-media campaign will deliver messages in various formats, including billboards, signage on METRO buses, electronic communications via SMS texts, emails and campaign websites and posters at libraries, multi-service centers and schools throughout the Houston region.  Public information sessions for parents will also be held.

TEXT “READY” or “LISTO” to 91011
The campaign invites parents to text “READY” to 91011 or visit www.ismychildready.org for key facts and specific questions to ask schools about their children’s STAAR test scores.  Spanish-speaking parents can text “LISTO” to 91011 or visit the campaign’s Spanish language website www.estalistomihijo.org.

“We want parents to talk with teachers and counselors and become informed on what they can do every day to help their children do well in the classroom,” said Mark Cueva, Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives division manager.  “Asking questions about a student’s performance on the STAAR test and what parents can do to help that child do better is a good starting point.”

For full information about the campaign, visit www.ismychildready.org.

Way to go, Mayor! Every bit counts in this effort! Perhaps partnering with local higher education institutions is a good next step?