I. HCC’s Contract with Qatar. The Qatar contract was not reviewed by any lawyer before $43 million of local taxpayers money was committed to help a foreign government while tens of thousands of Houston area residents still need financial help to attend HCC to secure an associate degree or workforce retraining. This happened before I was elected last year - November 2011. I support terminating this contract immediately.
I will be asking the Board of Trustees to adopt a written policy specifically requiring that all HCC contracts be reviewed by the System’s General Counsel before they are signed.
We need to know, now, how many other contracts have been signed in the last five years that weren’t reviewed and approved by the General Counsel’s Office, especially international agreements and contracts of $50,000 or more.
The Qatar government is segregating students by gender, a material violation of the terms of the contract with HCC. I support Title IX and HCC should support and enforce it at home and abroad. I hope Chancellor Mary Spangler and the five (5) women majority of the HCC Board of Trustees agree and will join me in voting to terminate the Qatar contract immediately.
II. Ethics Reforms. I am proposing that the Board of Trustees approve two new ethics policies:
1. Companies owned by Trustees or Senior Staff members or their family members cannot do business with HCC; and 2. Companies that Trustees or Senior Staff members work for cannot do business with HCC. I have asked that the Board of Trustees vote to approve these reforms in April.
III. HCC Foundation. Taxpayers are being required to spend between $600,000 and one million dollars a year on salary and operating expenses for the Foundation staff rather than having the staff raise the money to pay their own salary and operating expenses. I want to end this policy immediately. The Foundation’s staff needs to be paid out of the private donations to the Foundation, not out of taxpayers’ money. The money (tax dollars) being spent out of the System’s budget to support the Foundation staff needs to go into the HCC Rainy Day Fund (Reserve Fund) to help avoid the need to raise HCC’s property tax rate or student tuition and fees.
I have asked that the Foundation immediately begin raising money for the Black History Gala along with all other HCC scholarship fundraising events. That is the responsibility of a foundation.
IV. Potential November 2012 HCC Bond Election. The HCC Board of Trustees is likely to ask voters to approve a $500 million bond proposal during this November’s election. To ensure that these funds, if approved by the voters, will be spent to help our local economy, I’m advocating HCC adopt a “Hire Local Businesses First” policy. I will be releasing the details of this new initiative in the coming weeks. My plan will be modeled after the City of Houston’s “Hire Houston First” program. I will also ask the Legislature in 2013 to require HCC to comply with the State of Texas Historical Underutilized Business (HUB) statute. HCC must improve compliance with our Small Business “Best Effort” program. Everyone must have a fair opportunity to do business with HCC. The more competition there is to do business with HCC, the more services and savings (“more bang for the buck”) the System will get for taxpayers.
HCC belongs to all of us. We must work together to fix these problems. Together, we can ensure that all of us have An Opportunity To Do Better.
By Carroll G. Robinson, Trustee District IV