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Hospital managers choose Young

Friday, February 11, 2005 by

Selection prompts angry response from union representative

After a nationwide search, the Travis County Hospital District decided to stay at home for its first executive director, as the Board of Managers voted unanimously last night to hire Austinite Trish Young. The board deliberated for almost two weeks over its decision, after going through 88 applications and interviewing the final four candidates in person on January 29.

Young is currently the chief executive officer of the city’s Community Care Services Department (CCSD), which operates the clinics under a contract with the district. She was named to that position in 2000. She also serves as president of the Indigent Care Collaboration, a group of hospitals and health care organizations that provide indigent care services. Young is a certified public accountant. Prior to joining CCSD, she worked for the Seton Healthcare Network.

In her capacity with CCSD, Young has met regularly with the district board, giving progress reports on the agencies’ activities, and consulting with them on some of their programs.

Acknowledging that it had been a difficult choice for the board, Young was very enthusiastic in accepting the $175,000-a-year offer. “I am so looking forward to working with you,” she said. “It's been great working with you since last summer, and I'm really excited about the vision that we can create together. This is really a dream to be able to bring together a system of care that we all know can do more and be more for the citizens of our community.”

She also praised the board for the work it has done up to this point. “You’ve proven to be such an outstanding board, and I'm very grateful to both the City Council members and County Commissioners for appointing you. I'll give you my best.”

Several board members praised Young for her knowledge of indigent health care and her management skills.

“I’ve been very impressed with what I have seen of the Community Care clinic program, and the progress it has made,” said Manager Tom Young (no relation). “It’s a model operation and it is pointed to around the country. It’s the manager that creates the environment in which those kind of good things take place.” He said Young is credited with taking over an organization with a demoralized and unproductive staff in 2000 and turning it into a first-rate program,

Manager Rose Lancaster agreed. “Prior to 2000, we had a consultant report that said the facilities here in Travis County were some of the best he had seen, but the clinic staff was performing at a very low level,” she said. “I have seen a major difference in the operations over there since she came on board. I am looking forward to working with her for her vision and her abilities.”

Chair Clarke Heidrick said Young has a unique set of qualifications. “I appreciate her leadership of the indigent care collaboration, and her ability to integrate and coordinate all the providers,” he said “Each of the candidates we discussed had tremendous strengths, but the job description best fit Trish’s skills. I’m excited about having her serve with us.”

Manager Frank Rodriguez said Young seemed well-suited for the hard work ahead of her. “One thing that stands in my mind about Trish is that she's worked in the private and the public sector, and I think there's going to be a lot of demands about services,” he said. “We're going to look to Trish to guide us towards putting in place an intelligent, compassionate system of delivery that I think will be responsive to the community. She's got a big challenge ahead of her, but I think we're all going to be supportive of her efforts.”

There was at least one dissenting voice about Young’s appointment, though it wasn’t from the district board. Jack Kirfman of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union reacted angrily upon hearing the news. “It was a cooked deal from Day One to give the job to her,” he said. “In our opinion, she is the worst candidate they could’ve picked. If they don’t protect the employees there’s going to be a serious ass kicking in this town.”

Kirfman said he regrets that the union agreed to support the Health Care District. AFSCME criticized the board for its choice of finalists when they were announced, noting that the other three had lost or stepped down from their previous jobs. At that time, the union believed that Young had the inside track and they were worried. “So much for consensus.” He said the board had selected “the one person we know is anti-employee. She wanted it fixed up so she would have ‘management flexibility’—to hire and fire anyone. It just confirms that we should’ve never signed on,” he concluded.

The other three finalists for the position were Norman Andrews, a nurse and a consultant with Arthur Shorr & Associates of Lancaster, Calif.; Robert Prehn, consultant with Cawley-Johnson Group of Atlanta who lives in Mandeville, La.; and David Small, health care consultant with his own Connecticut company, D.R. Small & Associates, of Meriden, Conn.

Young will replace Jim Collins, who has served as the district’s interim director since it was approved by the voters and began meeting last spring. Collins, who is a lawyer in the Travis County Attorney’s Office, will continue to serve as the district’s legal counsel.

Heidrick and Vice Chair Richie thanked Collins for his role in getting the district off the ground. “The entire board owes you a debt of gratitude for stepping into an impossible job. You were kind of like Superman, so we appreciate that. There was no kryptonite that could keep you down,” Richie said.

There was no immediate timetable for Young to assume her full-time duties, but it is expected there will be a transition over the next few weeks. However, Collins says he’s ready. “I look forward to being Trish’s lawyer,” he said.

Block 21 proposals revealed

Council to hear Seaholm proposals next week

The three groups bidding on the city-owned Block 21 just north of City Hall laid out their proposals for the site for the City Council yesterday. Each of the three vowed to include space for ground-floor retail, residential uses, and a major cultural institution as required by the specifications of the city's Request for Proposals (RFP). While each group's proposal had unique design features, the amount of money offered by each company for the downtown city block could also play a role in the Council's eventual decision.

The RFP required a minimum bid on the lot of $9.2 million. After a quick discussion with City Manager Toby Futrell and Assistant City Attorney Marty Terry about when the Council might receive bid information, Council Member Daryl Slusher asked representatives of each group whether they would be seeking any development incentives or fee waivers from the city. Although the advice from staff was that the price information could be kept confidential until the list of finalists was narrowed even to one or two, Taylor Bowen, Vice President for Development with AMLI Residential Properties, offered up his group's bid in open session. "We have offered a full price of $9.2 million dollars. If there is a cultural entity involved, we have asked that the cultural entity pay a cost allocation for their space," he said. "Per the RFP, if there is a cultural entity involved, we could ask for some city incentives like SMART growth, if available."

Bowen's public declaration forced representatives of the other two bidders to make a quick decision on whether to disclose their offering price. "We're not seeking any incentives whatsoever," said Howard Yancy, President of Zydeco Development Corporation. "We too are offering the full price asked for in the RFP ($9.2 million), but we'll pay a dollar more if that's what it takes!" The third bidder, Stratus Properties, is offering significantly more money for the block. "Ours is $15 million, no incentives," Stratus President and CEO Beau Armstrong stated.

The financial offer is only one component of each bid, and the Council could select a company based on its proposed design for the site or the cultural entity it plans to house without regard for the pricetag. Stratus Properties, partnering with Trammel Crow and The Gables Residential, is planning three separate buildings on the site, possibly up to eight stories tall. Their project would include 50,000 square feet of retail, 180,000 square feet of office, 75 apartments totaling 100,000 square feet, and condominiums totaling 160,000 square feet. Architect Arthur Andersson told Council Members his plans also called for two plazas and extensive open space on the block. "All of that will be a kind of gift that's necessary to give back to the city, because these kinds of gifts make public spaces that are really used by people," he said." We don't need to fill this block out in order to accomplish the goals for development."

Attorney Steve Drenner, representing Stratus, said their plans had enough room to accommodate the Austin Museum of Art as their major cultural partner, but that they would present more information at next week's meeting about the possibility of two other institutions, KLRU and the Texas Music Hall of Fame, locating at the old Seaholm Power Plant.

Zydeco Development Corporation wants the Austin Museum of Art to be part of its development on the site. The group is proposing a large public plaza to tie the development to City Hall, along with two towers, one a 260-room hotel, the other a condominium development with 130 residential units. The plaza, said Spanish architect Juan Miro, would contribute to a vibrant streetscape and the overall success of the 2nd Street Retail District. "We believe that the construction of this new City Hall has opened the door for an historic opportunity for the City of Austin," he said. "If you think about it, there's a new Austin that is literally emerging around us…the 2nd Street district is a new Austin that is going to be defining the characteristics of the city for years to come."

AMLI Residential, which is partnering with Endeavor Real Estate, wants to build a single tower on the site. The ground floor would be reserved for retail, with the second and third floors devoted to a major cultural institution such as the Texas Music Hall of Fame, a museum, or KLRU. The subsequent 25 floors would be condominiums, with approximately 200 units total. The key to the project, explained AMLI's Taylor Bowen, would be the retail tenants. "Endeavor is a local leader in Austin in retail development, and Endeavor will bring the retail development expertise to our team such that we can create and execute the amount of pedestrian-oriented ground floor retail and additional retail space," he said.

While the Council will not make any decisions about the three proposals until March 3 at the earliest, some Council Members gave hints about the criteria they would be using to make their determination. "All the designs were good designs,” said Council Member Danny Thomas." (But) the thing is…what are you bringing to Austin? Are you going to bring jobs? The jobs are very important."

For Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, design will play a larger role. ”Part of the RFP was to complement City Hall," she said. "Only one has what I would consider to be an expected sort of design and centering, which was Zydeco."

Next week, the Council will receive briefings from the four entities that bid on redeveloping the old Seaholm Power Plant, and the Council could be posted for action on the two sets of proposals at its first meeting in March. "Personally, I'm going to need a lot of time to absorb this," said Mayor Will Wynn. "I know what I'll be doing late nights for the rest of the week."

Futrell must decide how to deal with Knee

Report concludes immediate changes required

City Manager Toby Futrell will spend the next few days reviewing a report from City Attorney David Smith that is critical of some of the practices of Austin Police Chief Stan Knee. That report, prepared after a review the chief requested, concluded that there are "significant management issues within APD which must be addressed immediately."

Smith focused his review on Chief Knee's actions in disciplinary proceedings against an APD officer involved in a domestic disturbance. Initially, the chief signed a letter to the Texas Attorney General's office requesting an extension of the time allowed to discipline an officer. That letter stated that the chief intended to press for an indefinite suspension and asked for an extension from a state-imposed deadline in order to protect the continuing criminal investigation into the incident.

But the chief later offered conflicting testimony during that officer's civil service hearing. The attorney for the officer took his complaint to the District Attorney's office, asking if the chief had committed perjury or some other crime. The answer to that question, said First Assistant DA Rosemary Lehmberg, was no. "While it's apparent to us that there was a misunderstanding what investigation was where, and who had what piece of this, that there was some miscommunication, that this clearly did not rise to the level of criminal conduct," she said. "This may have been a mistake, there may have been some misunderstandings and confusion, but it was not a crime."

While there is no indication of criminal wrongdoing, Smith did conclude that changes need to be made. But his report focuses on policies and procedures, including communication with the DA's office regarding criminal investigations into APD officers, not on specific individuals at the department. "There was a lot of inconsistency in how a decision was made to defer an administrative investigation for the criminal investigation," Smith said. "There were inconsistencies as to when that decision should be made and some inconsistencies in how that decision was carried out."

In some cases, officers who faceinternal discipline from APD may also be the subject of criminal prosecution for those same actions, but state civil service law requires the investigations to be conducted separately. Since the timing of one investigation can affect the other, APD and the DA's office are required to communicate about their timetables and progress. "It is a process, it's not just the city doing their administrative work and the District Attorney's office doing their criminal review," said Lehmberg. "These two interact all the time, and what has clearly happened is that sometimes we need for the administrative action to slow down…so what we need to do is look at how to better communicate about the process and make sure that the right and the left hand know what they're doing."

APD issued a written statement attributed to Chief Knee on Thursday. "As the Police Chief, I accept responsibility for the errors that have occurred," it said. "I will be accountable to the City Manager, police officers, and this community to take immediate steps to rectify the policies and procedures that led to these errors."

The report could also lead to action from Futrell, although it's not clear if that might include an order to change policies, a reprimand for the Chief, or more stringent measures. "We've got to fix whatever processes were in place to ensure that this is corrected, and that is going to happen," said Rudy Garza, Assistant City Manager over Public Safety. "But anything further than that, the Manager has not had ample time to review the report. Any actions will be discussed at a later date when the Manager has had time to review the report completely."

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Business group still pondering Place 3 . . . The self-titled Small Business Group announced this week that it had endorsed Lee Leffingwell for Place 1 on the City Council and Council Member Betty Dunkerley for Place 4. SBG spokesman Roger Chan said Dunkerley and Leffingwell would be champions for local businesses. No surprises there. He said the group wants to hear more from Place 3 candidates Jennifer Kim and Gregg Knaupe before choosing which to back in the May 7 election . . . New blood . . . Greg Smith, who retired from the city housing department last month, is joining the Board of Adjustment and Sign Review Board. Herman Thun, who has served on those two commissions since 1991 and as chair for several years, has opted to become an alternate. After 14 years of monthly duty, he probably deserves a rest . . . Mayor Will Wynn appointed Cristina De La Fuente-Valadez to the Urban Renewal Board. Patricia Calhoun was appointed by a consensus to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs . . . American Youth Works shares award with City . . . American Youth Works ( ) Executive Director Richard Halpin presented Council Members and other city officials with hammers at yesterday’s Council meeting to thank them for the city’s support in the group’s Casa Verde (Green House) program. The national Home Builders Association Research Center gave American Youth Works its 2005 Gold Award of Energy Value Housing for the affordable homes built in a hot climate. Casa Verde is part of the AmeriCorps National Volunteer Service Program . . . Response from a reader . . . In Fact Daily reader Caroline Schultz takes issue with the design guidelines championed by Council Member Brewster McCracken. Her email says: “McCracken’s ideas against drive thru retail pads or end caps do not take into consideration the thousands of mothers who taxi their kids around Austin everyday, necessitating the use of the convenient drive thru. They will not take multiply kids out of their cars. This is a sexist and biased process by the men of our city. Whole industries such as the car industry are built around this fact of life. Mercedes bought Chrysler because of the mini vans. Why can't our city recognize this?”. . Two snakes, or one. . . The T ravis County Hospital District may finally have an executive director (see above), but the board is still grappling with the design of its official seal. Manager Tom Coopwood told the board last night that his committee had narrowed it down two designs, which he recommended they combine into a final version. One version contains an image of two snakes, similar to the Caduceus, while the other contains a single snake, symbolized by the Staff of Asclepius. Both are symbols of the medical profession. Manager Frank Rodriguez wondered out loud why the seal needed any snakes at all, but Coopwood forged ahead, promising a final version of the seal in about two weeks, with a single, and (hopefully) non-threatening snake, along with two people shaking hands, as the official symbol of the district.

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