Monday, July 25, 2011

Power Play in City Government

The City Council's Fiscal Committee wants to approve city contracts over $25,000. Councilor Anderson wants to bring transparency to the public. The city budget is over $300 million. It is not practical to expect the administration to seek approval on every contract over $25,000. Do you have any idea how many contracts over $25,000 there are each month? City staff is right when they say this will bog down the ability to do city business.

 City Charter clearly sets out the role of the Mayor and the City Council. The City Council is governing body and is not responsible for the day to day operation of the city. They are treading on territory that is not within the realm of their responsibility according to city charter.

Article II, City Council, Section 2.01. General powers and duties
All powers of the city shall be vested in the city council, except as otherwise provided by law or this charter, and the council shall provide for the exercise thereof and for the performance of all duties and obligations imposed on the city by law. The council shall act as a part-time, policy making and legislative body, avoiding management and administrative issues.

Article III, Mayor, Section 3.01. Executive power.
The executive and administrative power of the city shall be vested in a mayor.

City Charter, Article V, Financial Procedures clearly spell out appropriation and revenue requirements for conducting business. The City Council approves the budget. Each October, the council approves an appropriation ordinance that sets appropriations by fund and by department for the ensuing fiscal year. City Charter spells out procedures for amendments to the appropriation ordinance after adoption for such things as supplemental appropriations or transfer of appropriations.

Clearly, contracts are an an administrative function. If the City Council wants to know more about a project or a budget appropriation they approved by ordinance, then they should ask the administration for a report at an Information Meeting. To pass an ordinance that requires the administration to bring every contract over $25,000 to the City Council for adoption is pure minutiae and inefficient government.

The City Council has more important things to worry about than this administrative issue. The finance department puts out mountains of financial information. It is all there, you just have to read it and review it. Ask questions of the administration regarding contracts if you want to know something specific. To just throw all this information on an agenda for approval is not good government. This is not big picture thinking and should not be adopted by the full City Council.


  1. It's a power play pure and simple by the City Council all of whom want to be mayor the longer they serve there. They get elected to the city council and then power goes to their heads. The city charter has been so trampled on by council and administration alike that it's worth is questionable. We need a new form of government in this city.

  2. I'm pretty sure they do not All want to be Mayor. Some, yes. Watch how this proceeds. My guess is it will fade away.

  3. The city charter is just that, a charter. The state constitution and the US constitution trump it. The city council can make ANY changes they want to it. Several lawsuits against the city have proven that the city charter is unconstitutional on many levels. So while I appreciate Jen's knowledge of the city charter, I must remind her it is not written in stone, and not always legal or right.

    This really isn't about approval, this is about transparency. The public should have a weekly / monthly update of WHO is getting city contracts, big and small. There is some favoritism going on. This became all to clear when the city put out a RFP for the new windows at the Pavilion. The company originally selected to do the job was $200,000 above the company that got awarded the contract in the long run. This only came about because the Pavilion screwed up on presenting the numbers and the public became aware of it and it went to re-bid. TRANSPARENCY SAVED TAXPAYERS $200,000! And this is just one example.

    Sorry. Secrecy sucks. This is a welcome change, and I don't think this will fade away into the night. A majority of the council approves of this change.

  4. If the city charter is unconstitutional how did it get implemented and how has it stayed as a a form of governmnice since 1995. Just saying..... Why has it never been challenged then? South DaCola, you seem to think you have all the answers to just about everything, so enlighten us about this please.

  5. This really isn’t about approval, this is about transparency. The public should have a weekly / monthly update of WHO is getting city contracts, big and small. There is some favoritism going on.

    Agree totally with what l3wis has said. The River Greenway Project comes to mind. Jennifer has said, "It seems funding for this project is all over the place. Is this project still being worked or is it in limbo?" Well, IF there were checks and balances in contract awarding and cost overruns, and less secrecy, perhaps it would not be so easy for the city to hide that little bean in the shell game they play on the taxpayer.

    Polly Amalo

  6. Did you read my above post, or for that matter the newspaper over the past few years? I didn't say the entire charter was unconstitutional, only parts of it, in reference specifically to code enforcement and the red light cameras. Basically it's constitutionality has been challenged on many LEVELS. In this case the council is simply asking to be a part of an administrative process. That's it. They have a right to do so. And they have a right to change it. I don't have the answer, but this is a good step forward. You have to remember, Jen is a past member of the 'director's club' a group of 'Un-elected' city managers with too much power IMO.

  7. Saying this is about transparency is extremely naive.

    I support transparency, but all I see happening here is council members with "friends" applying pressure to get contracts awarded to them.

    Most work gets awarded to the lowest bidder (per state law), what we'll see is a lot of rubber stamping except for contracts where a council member has a "friend" with an interest.

    Then what will happen is a lot of behind the scenes pressure to inappropriately award a vendor a contract. Which you and I will never see or hear about. So much for transparency.

  8. "but all I see happening here is council members with "friends" applying pressure to get contracts awarded to them."

    You seem to be the one who is naive. This has been happening for the past 9 years under the current structure, that is why they want to change it and put these contractors names out in the open. Yes, you are correct it must go to the lowest bidder, but the Mayor has the power to trump that card.

  9. "You seem to be the one who is naive. This has been happening for the past 9 years under the current structure,"

    Really? Can you provide specific examples? I didn't think so.

    Nice job regurgitating Kermit's rhetoric. Other than that, you've got nothing.

    Instead of engaging in conspiracy theory, I've attended bid awards and called the city finance office, and here's how $25,000+ contracts were handled before last Monday:

    - The department puts together their specifications and submits it to finance.

    - Finance reviews them to ensure state law is followed and there are no proprietary items.

    - Finance requests and receives sealed bids, that are opened in public. Anyone can attend who wants to.

    - The department gets to review the bids and either tells finance to award to the low bidder, or has to submit justification as to why they want to award to the next higher bidder.

    - Finance decides if the justification is valid, sometimes involving the city attorney's office.

    - If the low bidder isn't selected, in some cases they call their city councilor and complain.

    - The city councilor calls Finance and receives and explanation and either is satisfied with it or contacts their internal auditor to investigate.

    - The person in finance I talked to said there has never been a complaint investigated by the COUNCIL's auditor that was found to be justified.

    So the finance dept, public works, (sometimes the attorney's office) and the Council's auditor are all in cahoots to award contracts to friends and they have been for 9 years and have never been caught?

    Apparently Kermit serves Kool-Aid at your meetings and you drank it all.

  10. Phillips to the Falls was a 100% cost overrun ($1.5 million) approved in the middle of the night by mayor Munson. Would you like more examples? I don't take much weight in someone who cannot identify them self. As far as I am concerned you called God and asked him what he thinks. Doesn't matter, if you sign your name ANON, you are just that NOTHING. AND BTW, does the general public have time to just show up to bid awards? Why not just put it online in the council meeting agenda? Why does transparency anger you so? Kinda sounds like you are a contractor for the city. Why else would you be hanging out during bid awardment? LOL!

  11. Cost overruns are a different problem with the system all together. But of course you're a zealot, and zealots don't concern themselves with the facts.

    You claim to be informed about city government, but when someone else is more informed, you attack them instead of responding to the facts (who has time?, I don't know your name, if you think that - you must be a contractor, why else would you, etc). Do you know what ad hominem means? Apparently not, otherwise you would have realize your response just lost this debate for you.

    That was an emotional, non-fact based response. If you actually have any facts, try using them next time.

    I support transparency and the idea doesn't anger me, I just don't support changes that will add to the bureaucracy and will not fix the problem.

  12. I love the objections and attacks on those using ANON to comment. I see no difference whether you use anonymous or some made up acronym when signing a blog. Neither "name" identifies the commentator. There is just so much bullshit, name calling, outright fiction, and comical stuff being written on blogs, newspaper comments etc that no longer require anyone to use their actual identity. It fires up the nut cases and the commentary soars. "Doesn't matter if you sign your name ANON, you are just that nothing." There are quite a few other acronyms you could have added to your quote because they are just as "anonymous" and they also make your stated point. You are all just nothing. So in the spirit of being a nothing I sign off as..........nothing! LOL

  13. This is Vernon's power play but he is too naive to realize that this proposed ordinance will slow down government. This is sad! I am sure the administration would like to show him the challenges of this ordinance and what effects it would have on daily operations but I am guessing he does not care! As a contractor who does business with the City it takes long enough to get our contracts awarded! If my bid gets rejected because the City cannot get their work done within the 30 day timeframe to award the bid then I am going to be upset!

    On Monday Vernon said that the City is in violation of State Statute. Why has this not been a concern in the past? The City has had a supreme court justice who was the City Attorney and he did not have a concern with the City that the City was violating State Statute?

    Vernon you have to trust what your City Attorney is telling you it is his job to keep you out of trouble! I think transparency is good but there are better ways to get it rather than slowing down government.