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Local Control Key to Transparency Trend

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Describing the task of chairing the San Antonio Area reminds me a lot of describing highway contracting in general: it is meaningful work with measurable accomplishments. We have an excellent network of members here and a strong, reliable partnership with our TxDOT District personnel. District Engineer Mario Medina is at every meeting, along with Director of Construction Gina Gallegos. With them there we can tackle almost every issue and resolve it before the doors open for lunch.

Lately, we’ve had a lot of member input regarding TxDOT’s intention to outsource inspections. The contractors are rightly concerned that if the decisions are left to inspectors who don’t share in the pride and responsibility of ownership, it adds another layer of bureaucracy that will probably slow down our jobs. In an era in which politicians at all levels are calling for faster project delivery, we think the issue itself requires closer inspection.

More pressing at the time of this writing is the upcoming bond election. We have been busy gearing up for the San Antonio 2012 bonding initiative, a $596 million initiative for capital improvements. Election Day is May 12, 2012, so we’ll know the outcome long before this article comes out. It is a great investment in San Antonio, and more work for the contractors.

The City of San Antonio did a great job advocating for this bond package by involving the public all the way from planning to execution. Local control and increased accountability seem to be an effective response to the public cry for transparency, and San Antonio has done a great job marketing the bond election to stress the public citizens’ role and deemphasize the government’s.

The literature they created to advertise the bond election had five succinct points:

All projects funded from the bond proceeds were selected by the community. Each project was identified beforehand so voters know exactly what they are getting with a “yes” vote;

Taxes will not be raised to construct them. The bonds will enable the city to build necessary infrastructure and still have a balanced budget;

Thousands of local jobs will be created. The investments will also improve the quality of life for the people of San Antonio and further entice businesses to invest and relocate here;

A Citizens’ Oversight Committee will ensure all funds are spent properly. The committee was successful in during the last bond program, in which all projects were completed on time and overall $47 million under budget;

Most of the bond money—$465 million, or 78 percent—will be spent on urgent infrastructure needs. This includes streets, sidewalks, bridges, and improved drainage. The other 22 percent will go to fund new and improved fire stations, libraries, parks, and other community and public safety facilities.

Again, the results will be long over by the time this article comes out, but we certainly commend the City of San Antonio for their efforts to appeal to their community. If transparency is the goal, then they have succeeded—not just with the community, but with the contractors, as well.

As the attention of the bond election wanes, the San Antonio Area will continue to develop its vigorous PAC initiatives. We always need new participants, and Associate Vice Chair Bob Luton of ROMCO is with us at every step. He’s doing a great job to make sure our local associate members are in the forefront of our PAC activities. The Associates have been an exceptional source for ideas, and Lee, Bob, and I make sure to ask them what events they would be interested in participating in. So much so, that we are currently considering adding another PAC event later in the year. If we can plan it with enough time, we expect it to be a fresh, new idea, and one that will draw a lot of support.

For the San Antonio area communication is vital. Just like the citizens of San Antonio call for meaningful and measurable accountability before they vote for a bond package, the contractors and associates, the city, county, and TxDOT all expect that same level of transparency. Our local government representatives are always on hand to inform the contractors about changes or updates to our work program. And within the membership, we make sure to keep the associate member informed regarding the effect of their support to the PAC and all our other AGC efforts. It is in this way that the San Antonio area shows off its greatest strengths.

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