Written by Phil Cerroni
The Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) Alumni Association recognized Irving City Manager Tommy Gonzalez with the 2012 Outstanding Alumni Award. Gonzalez accepted the Outstanding Alumni Award at the ENMU Foundation 37th Annual Breakfast held Sep. 29 in Portales, NM.
In presenting the award to Gonzalez, ENMU Alumni Association President Sandi Black recognized Gonzalez’s service as a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and lauded him as a trailblazer in city management. Since assuming the City Manager post in May 2006, Gonzalez is credited for introducing the City of Irving to Lean Six Sigma and helping the North Texas municipality with a population of more than 215,000 save more than $43 million despite the recession without resorting to furloughs or layoffs.
“It seems like yesterday when I left for college and first set foot on Eastern’s campus, so to come back almost 30 years later and to be recognized as an outstanding alum is a tremendous honor … I’m grateful, I’m humbled,” said Gonzalez.
Under Gonzalez’s leadership at the City of Irving, resident satisfaction has increased significantly and the municipality earned the prestigious Texas Award for Performance Excellence from the Quality Texas Foundation.
“Eastern New Mexico University is proud to recognize Mr. Gonzalez for his innovative leadership,” said ENMU Alumni Affairs Coordinator Robert Graham. “The City of Irving has blossomed under his direction; it became the first municipality in Texas to receive the Texas Award for Performance Excellence from the Texas Quality Foundation. Mr. Gonzalez was a great leader at Eastern and is a great leader today.”
Gonzalez attended ENMU on a full sports scholarship and served as a quarterback for the Greyhounds. After completing undergraduate studies at ENMU, Gonzalez later earned a master’s degree in public administration from Texas Tech University in his hometown of Lubbock.
Source: City of Irving
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 14:05
Written by Phil Cerroni
Eddie Robles, who teaches world cultures and social studies at Austin Middle School, attended the U.S. Constitution organized by Humanities Texas, which offered teachers the opportunity to work closely with leading scholars, studying major aspects of the U.S. Constitution. Fifty teachers from around the state participated in the Sep. 13 event.
The distinguished faculty included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood of Brown University, Michael Les Benedict of The Ohio State University and Kenneth Stevens of Texas Christian University.
The workshop was held at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
“We were delighted to hold this program in Fort Worth,” said Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette. “Bringing teachers together to learn from leading scholars and from each other is an effective way to ensure that Texas students continue to receive the best possible educational opportunities.”
The workshop was made possible with support from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, as well as from State of Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities We the People initiative.
Source: Humanities Texas
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 14:05
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
“I think we all understand how expensive health care has become,” Texas State Representative Linda Harper-Brown told audience members at the Irving Health Care Summit held Sep. 21 at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas. Sponsored by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI), the gathering was the first of three to be held across the state to solicit debate and discussion about Medicaid and the changes faced under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”).
TCCRI will focus on three key goals according to Harper-Brown, who is President of the non-profit coalition.
“I think we have the right idea in Texas, about not expanding Medicaid,” Harper-Brown said. “In the current state budget, Medicaid is the second-largest expenditure, behind education. That is just not sustainable, not only for us, but for other states around the country. If you advocate for this, you are in fact advocating for increasing the national debt.
“Second, we must redouble our efforts to pursue cost containment, such as [creating] a block grant of Medicaid funds, removing the strings attached, so that we could be innovative with our Medicaid program. Wouldn’t it be nice if each individual state could determine on their own how to spend their Medicaid dollars, and determine that based on the needs of each state, versus what the federal government tells you that you have to do?
“Clearly there is a great deal of fraud within Medicaid and the cheaters are skimming substantial resources. We’ve all seen reports about the abuses in billing for dental care in Texas - paying out more than all of the other top ten states combined.
“Lastly, the free market must play a greater role in health care delivery. Private enterprise has developed ideas and systems that increase access to healthcare. Two promising examples are ‘telemedicine’ and the urgent care plans that make healthcare so much more accessible, affordable and available.”
Harper-Brown was followed by Merrill Matthews, Resident Scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation who spoke of the “explosion” in Medicaid beneficiaries.
“The Affordable Care Act provision of the President’s health care bill is going to expand that by 16 million more people,” Matthews said.
“Right now, 40 percent of the births in America are paid for by Medicaid. In Texas, it’s about 56 percent. Something’s not right about that.”
Figures provided by Matthews indicated that Medicaid spending growth in the past decade has outstripped the growth of the economy, creating a welcoming environment for fraud. “One government official, quoted in a newspaper study a few years back, estimated that 40 percent of the spending on Medicaid in New York City was fraud,” Matthews told the group. “They finally prosecuted one dentist there when he claimed he’d done 991 procedures in one day.”
A panel discussion followed, moderated by John Colyandro, TCCRI Executive Director, and featuring Doug Wilson, Inspector General of the Health and Human Services Commission, Troy Robb of Rescare Residential Services, LeAnn Behrens of Amerigroup Texas, and State Representatives Cindy Burkett and Kelly Hancock. The group picked up on the theme of identifying and controlling fraud.
Doug Wilson, whose role with HHSC focuses on orthodontics, said that his division prosecuted 12 cases of suspected in fraud in 2011, and that number had jumped to 108 so far in 2012.
“We just don’t know how much fraud is going on out there,” Wilson said. “But we know we can do this better.”
Still others found reason for concern in the strictures that would be imposed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“I did some research that really surprised me,” said Hancock. “There are faith-based organizations out there, and just the way that they’re set up, they’ve had physicians volunteering their time and their services to the indigent, in order to provide health care at no cost to individuals who couldn’t afford insurance.
“They tell me that the minute everybody in the United States is forced onto a Medicaid-type program, they will no longer be able to provide those services. The ACA will actually cause these organizations to discontinue programs that are actually working.”
For Hancock and other panel members, though, the most pressing issue was the size of government.
Hancock was met with a chorus of nods when he said, “the larger government gets, from a revenue standpoint, the larger it has to get from a personnel standpoint. So the more dollars we push through the system, the larger the role that government takes on. Several of us would like to reduce that role and put it back in the hands of the consumer.”
For more information about TCCRI and additional Summits to be held in Houston and Austin, visit www.txccri.org .
Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2012 14:06
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
After close to two hours of discussion, the Coppell Planning Commission voted to make some changes to the City’s sign ordinance.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously for the changes after modifying some of the amendments recommended by a sign ordinance review committee.
Discussion about the ordinance started in July 2011 when businesses expressed to the Coppell Chamber of Commerce that the sign regulations were “too restrictive,” Tony Moline, president of the Chamber, told the commission at a meeting on Sep. 20.
“Restrictions regarding size, trademarks and color are perceived throughout the business community to be obstacles to doing business in Coppell,” a 2011 letter to the City Council said.
But planning commissioners disagreed, pointing to the public hearing that drew only one person.
“We don’t have specific examples of businesses upset,” Commissioner Craig Pritzlaff said. “Our ordinance is designed to ensure aesthetic harmony in Coppell.
“If it was a huge concern, then people would’ve been here to tell us how many sandwiches they weren’t selling because of the sign ordinance.”
Moline said per the request of businesses, he could not name the businesses that had decided not to open in Coppell because of the sign restrictions.
“I can say they do exist,” he said.
“My brain sees color,” Moline said. “Green is Starbucks. Yellow and white is Subway. It’s not from reading it but from seeing those colors, I know what’s there.
“It’s up to these businesses if they want to locate in a place that’s more restrictive or to a place that allows their brand.”
Commissioner Anna Kittrell said she couldn’t vote to allow “any color” to dominate business signs and was not worried about deterring prospective businesses.
“If someone wants to be here, they will come,” Kittrell said.
Among the changes, a logo may cover 100 percent of the sign if that sign consists only of a logo. Also, if the sign only contains words and no logo, it may occupy 100 percent of the sign, but must use black, white, ivory or neutral color.
If a sign has both a logo and words, the logo must only cover 20 percent of the sign and the letters must be black, white, ivory or neutral.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2012 14:05
Written by Phil Cerroni
Black Hawk pilot shares life’s lessons she learned while achieving goals in the U.S. Army
By Sissy Courtney
Black Hawk pilot and entrepreneur, Elizabeth McCormick, who received the 2011 Congressional Veteran Commendation, spoke at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber’s Women’s Alliance luncheon Sep. 19 at La Cima Club in Irving, taking her audience through a high-flying adventure on how to increase, influence and improve their leadership skills.
During her years as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and Chief Warrant Officer for the United States Army, McCormick flew air assaults, transported VIPs, worked in Command and Control, and gathered military intelligence. In 1999, she supported the UN peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.
Following a career ending injury, she was released from the military and is an advocate for disabled veterans. She is a founding member of the John Maxwell Team of speakers and an award winning sales consultant. She was recently filmed for a segment of 20/20.
Following her introduction McCormick said, “All that buildup, and I have to tell you, I almost failed flight school.” Then she told the rest of the story.
She said she had a degree in art, a minor in mathematics and an associate’s degree in engineering and was living in Fort Polk, LA with her Army husband, and the only job she could find was working in a pizza place.
“After all that college,” she said. She decided, if her husband could be in the military, so could she.
“I took that ‘why not attitude’ and decided to join the Army.” McCormick said. “I had a college degree, so I could do anything (in the Army).”
But she was not sure what she wanted to do, so she interviewed soldiers at Fort Polk and asked them how they liked their jobs and what they would have done differently. Over and over, she heard being a helicopter pilot was the best job.
“I had never even considered it before,” McCormick said. So she went to the flight line and asked the lieutenants and captains, “If you had it to do over again, what would you do? If you could do ANYTHING, what would you do? And they said, ‘I would go with warrant officer pilot.’”
She said that officers – lieutenants, captains, generals – who are helicopter pilots, are leaders first, pilots second. Warrant officers are part of a special corps that receives their appointment based on technical skill.
“They are the ones that run the nuclear program; they’re the ones that are helicopter pilots and fixed winged pilots for the military,” McCormick said. “Would you rather fly with a warrant officer, whose only job is to be tactfully and technically proficient in their job, or a commanding officer who only does it once in a while? No question, right? The warrant officer.”
So she went to the warrant officer’s lounge area.
“They’re all sitting around studying with their flash cards and note cards,” McCormick said. “I asked them, ‘If you could do anything different, would you do anything differently?’ They all said, ‘No,’ and I said, ‘That’s the job for me.’”
She said the first step in the process was going to the recruiter, who she told she wanted to go into the warrant officer flight training program, but he immediately told her, “You can’t do that. You have to have perfect eyesight.”
“Got that,” McCormick told him.
“You have to be in perfect physical condition,” he said.
“Yeah, I got that,” she said.
“You’d need a college degree,” the recruiter said.
“I said, ‘Ha, ha. I’ve got two and a half,’” McCormick said. “And he goes, ‘Well, you need leadership.’
“So, I go, ‘I started an honor society on my college campus, was president for two years, and my last year served on their national board. Does that count?’”
When she went for her flight physical, the flight doctor said, “Little girl, do you know how hard it is to get into the flight program? Are you sure you’re not wasting my time?”
After passing the physical, McCormick passed other entrance hurdles and then had to take a flight aptitude skills test called the FAST test, and numerous other tests, and at every turn, there was somebody trying to convince her she was not good enough, strong enough or smart enough to be a helicopter pilot. But finally, she made it. She found out later that there were only two slots available in the entire nation when her packet went to the Pentagon. She said it was belief in herself that helped her prevail.
McCormick taught her audience what she called her five lessons to Soaring to Success.
Lesson 1: Believe in yourself.
“You get to choose,” McCormick said. “Choose to believe in yourself.” She was Number Two in her basic training class; she finished at the top of the Warrant Officer Training School; she almost failed flight school.
Lesson 2: You don’t have to be first to win. Only compare yourself to yourself. McCormick said she was last in her flight class, but it did not matter because she passed and became a pilot just the same as the person who was first in her class.
“I went from being first to last, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about anything,” she said. “When we compare ourselves to someone else, we’re the loser, so why even bother? All comparison does is suck the joy out of our lives. You get to choose what success looks like in your business and in your life. Why let comparing ourselves to somebody else steal our joy?”
Lesson 3: Take care of yourself.
McCormick told her audience, “If you work at peak level, you will have ups and downs, but if you keep yourself at your optimal level, you will perform at your best all the time. If we don’t take care of ourselves, who takes care of us? You have a responsibility to take care of yourself first, so that you can be there for everyone else; so that you can be your best self; so that you can perform at your optimal level every day. It’s not selfish. You’re giving your family and your business your best self. They deserve that, so take care of yourself.”
Lesson 4: “C.A.N. is an aviation term,” McCormick said. “There are three things as a pilot that you have to do. If you always do these three things, it will transform you.”
C: Communicate. McCormick said not to assume people know what you want.
“Communicate what you need,” she said. “Giving proactive, positive communication will make a difference in your life.”
A: Aviate. “Aviating is action,” McCormick said. She said most aircraft accidents happen when the pilot becomes fixated on a problem and forgets to fly. “In a helicopter, there is no autopilot. Your life is the same way; you cannot check out; you have to be proactive and present in your actions. Don’t fall into analysis paralysis, where you get stuck analyzing a situation but end up doing nothing.
“Any step is better than none, and if it is wrong, you can learn from it and move on. Sometimes you have to take a risk, step outside your comfort zone, and learn something new. That’s what makes amazing things happen. Aviate it. Take the actions.”
N: Navigate. McCormick made the point that now with GPS and gas prices, most people know where they are going when they get into their cars.
“In a helicopter, it was intense,” she said. “We had to do a flight plan with the FAA, risk assessment, safety brief, preflight, check our map, fuel check, operations briefing, crew briefing, passenger briefing. We did two or three hours of planning for a simple training flight. If we were flying a Congressman or the Secretary of Defense, we would actually plan three days in advance and fly a full rehearsal day to make that mission happen. We navigated; we knew where we were going.
“Do you know where you are going in your life?” McCormick asked. “Do you know where you are going in your business? Do you have a vision? A mission? Do you know what your legacy is going to be for your family?”
McCormick encouraged her audience to spend some quiet time alone to figure out the answers to those questions, and she said that without doing that, they are missing the clarity to reach their goals.
“You’re using somebody else’s flight plan if you’re not navigating it yourself,” McCormick said. “Do you want to spend your life on somebody else’s flight plan? You get to choose your actions…your communications. No one else is riding those controls but you.”
Lesson 5: Lead from where you are.
“You have a responsibility to lead,” McCormick said. “Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait to be appointed. You have the ability, the capability, but most importantly, the responsibility to lead from where you’re at right now, every day, and when you do, you can make a big difference. And isn’t that what we’re here for? To make a difference? To make things better?
“Choose to lead from where you are.”
McCormick is a Best Selling author for her book Succeeding in Spite of Everything and her new book Soaring Further will come out this year.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2012 14:05