June has been a busy month for TxA advocacy, including three legislative hearings, one dealing with the profession’s response following Hurricane Harvey and two others dealing with safety in Texas public schools. We also had a Texas Architects Committee (TAC) conference call (6/6), a meeting of the Government Affairs Steering Committee (GASCOM)(6/13) and the appointment and initial meeting of the TxA School Safety Task Force (6/15).
Connie Rivera testified before a House County Affairs Committee Meeting on June 6 to give a first-hand account of conditions on the ground immediately following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, including professional frustrations that were the result of disconnected emergency coordination efforts. She also put into the public record TxA’s successful effort to train and certify Safety Assessment Program volunteers, as well as the deployments where TxA volunteers were utilized.
Following the tragic shooting at Santa Fe High School on May 18, Governor Abbott held three roundtable discussions with stakeholders May 22-24, the first of which included past TxA (2004) and AIA (2012) president Jeff Potter, FAIA. In response to what he learned, the Governor issued a proposed school safety plan on May 30 followed almost immediately by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick naming a Senate Select Committee to address the topic. The committee, chaired by Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, held its first public hearing June 11, at which TxA School Safety task force chairman Chris Huckabee testified alongside Potter. The House Public Education Committee subsequently set a June 27 hearing and invited Potter to testify, both as the professional representative to Abbott’s roundtable discussions and as a TxA task force member.
(In addition to Huckabee and Potter, other members of the TxA School Safety Task Force are: Dan Bankhead (Houston); Debra Dockery, FAIA (San Antonio); Steve Ellinger, FAIA (Abilene); Frank Kelly, FAIA (Houston); Liz Lonngren (Lubbock); Brad Pfluger (Austin); Craig Reynolds, FAIA (Dallas); Robert Rollo (Lubbock); Nicola Springer (Houston); Leesa Vardeman (Fort Worth); and Bill Wilson, FAIA (Corpus Christi). Also participating are TxA president Mike McGlone and president-elect Mike Hellinghausen, plus TxA staff and lobbyists.
Since the Lt. Gov. has charged the select committee with producing a report of its findings by the first week of August, our task force will attempt to be equally fast in producing specific recommendations to make Texas public schools safer. “To be a constructive component of this critical effort we need to work quickly as well as thoroughly,” TxA executive vice president James Perry said. “By being an honest broker for best practices and broad community involvement, we can be a trusted advisor with the experience and expertise to know who should be involved in developing the most appropriate local response.”
Thank you to all these very committed architect advocates. They are ensuring that we are seen as respected, involved—and critically important—participants in the public arena. Isn’t it time you became one, too? There are spots currently available.