Thursday, February 5, 2009

Veronica Escobar Headlines Susie Byrd's New Line-up of Public Meetings

Susie Byrd started her 2009 public meetings today and her new location really made a difference! She now has her monthly Thursday meetings at Tierra del Sol restaurant at 4201 Alabama. The number that attended was triple those who met for a long time on Hondo Pass.

Another plus to her new meetings is a pre-announced schedule of speakers. Her staff worked hard on the scheduling and should be applauded.

Today, our County Commissioner, Veronica Escobar, was there. (Another big draw I'm sure.) Always ebullient, Veronica talked up her shared services initiative - a program that allows local governments, school districts and other organizations to share resources. There are 3 principal areas: purchasing, facilities, and information technology.

Any organization can demand a better price if it buys as part of a larger organization. The more you purchase, the lower the price. So, if the County, the City, Thomason General, EPISD, etc. all buy together, they get this advantage.

Over the next 5 years, governments and agencies will see how they can share facilities.

Already started is sharing IT services between the City and the County.

Ms. Escobar also spoke about health care concerns. We all know that Thomason is strained by the extraordinary events going on in Juarez - the war between the drug cartels that has cost thousands of lives and sends victims to seek medical care at Thomason. There is about 65% reimbursement from the federal government for treating Mexican citizens who are victims. When asked for more, Congressman Reyes expressed that Thomason is there to help those people - which is true by law but how about 100% reimbursement. (This is not the place for me to get on my soap box about how poor Reyes is as a Congressman and how a City/County without a viable two-party system gets stuck with these incompetents and their arrogant, uncommunicative staff. No, this is not the place for that soapbox.)

The State requires counties to treat mental health patients. Yet, the State provides little or no funds. The result is a drain on our 911 system and our jails.

Finally, and this should make everyone mad, when the Federal government hands out health dollars, they look first at the poorest states. The State of Texas uses stats from its border counties to show how needy it is. When they get the money, they switch formulas. The State bases handing out those federal health dollars on which counties have the most utilization of services – i.e., the counties with the most hospitals, clinics and so forth. Obviously Dallas, Houston and Austin dominate and not the border counties and they get the most bucks. We come up on the short end of the stick.


Matthew Venhaus said...

What is the effect of a shared services agreement on small business owners who may compete for government contracts?

Veronica Escobar said...

Hi, Matthew. (This is Veronica Escobar responding.)

Here's how we're hoping the purchasing will change as a result of our shared services. Right now, each taxing entity bids out things like paper, gasoline, vehicles, etc. The idea will be for taxing entities to "piggy-back" on the big ticket items (like gasoline -- one of our first goals) so that whichever entity gets the best deal will take the lead for all of us. This, we hope, will reduce costs for the taxpayer. Our challenge will be to ensure that small businesses get their opportunity to bid, and that might be a bigger challenge if we ever start collaborating on the non-big-ticket commodities. We are just starting our purchasing alliance, and so if you have ideas, suggestions or concerns, please let me know (email is and phone is 546-2111). Thanks!