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Monday, October 26, 2009

A $6.45 million slush fund for Sam the Tram

This looks like trouble waiting to happen: The City of Portland's transportation bureau, managed by our illustrious mayor, is going to set up a list of folks that the bureau can call on and toss some work to from time to time. The nature of the work, the amount of money that the jobs will entail, and just what it takes to get on the list, are all pretty mysterious. But they are advertising for proposals, and here is the document they're showing around.

Some highlights, if they can be called that:

PBOT anticipates that over the next three years, certain projects will require miscellaneous professional services. Projects include those with currently undefined scopes and generally include work with short deadlines, scopes that may need to be developed quickly, and/or requiring expertise currently unavailable in-house. Individual projects will be assigned to successful Proposers as project needs are identified under these flexible service contracts. The scope of work, schedule and compensation for each project will be consistent with the proposal.... The intent of these on-call contracts is to target smaller projects, however, PBOT may choose to use these on-call services contracts for projects up to $75,000 per Work Order ($250,000 for Street Design Contracts) or may choose to issue a stand-alone RFP for the project. There is no guarantee that there will be any work performed under these contracts and PBOT has no obligation to order work under these contracts.

The City has not determined the anticipated cost for the requested services, but may award up to 32 contracts for a total dollar value of $6,450,000.

In other words, we may not want to put this work out to bid. Get on our list and we'll send you work without ever looking around for someone cheaper or better... if we feel like it.

The areas in which these "friends and family" lists will be set up run the gamut of bureau work:

There's no way of knowing at this point who will wind up getting these contracts, but I'd bet a dollar that some of these hundreds of thousands will be put aside for some unqualified sweet young things whom Mayor Creepy takes under his wing. Particularly under "transportation planning." Wink, wink! It's the Portland way.

I wonder if our city auditor thinks this is a good way for city bureaus to do business. If she does, she may be in the wrong job.

Comments (14)

This process and "On call" contracts are common; they're a way to streamline getting essential work done (I don't know if this work is "essential"). Cities and municipalities do them all the time.

Sometimes, these go to folks who have done good work before, especially if it's a highly technical project that requires both experience and specific expertise. It can actually save the city or municipality money.

Of course, it's another process, and so could be abused.

Or another means to pay off his blackmailers?

Is it fair to assume that no one who gets one of these contracts signed the recall petition.

I wonder how much they will pay per pothole filled. Or will there by analysis to determine scope (aka size) that will have to be reimbursed too. Oh, this is just $$ waiting for abuse.

All 'planning' and 'design' and absolutely no 'doing'.

On call contracts may be a good idea for maintenance and repair (emergencies don't wait for bid process) but for planning and design? The mere defition of the word "planning" should preclude such a process.

But will any of it be green, besides the money?

The mere defition of the word "planning" should preclude such a process.

"planning" can mean a lot of things, like "planning for stormwater systems" or "planning for rerouting of street drains". It doesn't just mean "urban planning".

It can also mean helping the city itself by analyzing conditions in the field and reporting on them--decision-making support. This is especially useful for engineering/science-heavy things like "Geotechnical services".

I agree with Dean and RJBob's input. "Short deadlines", "developed quickly" don't fit the suspicious goals of this program. They are all "planning" contractors that aren't doing the "doing".

Open, public bidding should be the process as required by law. This is ripe for paybacks, favors, nepotism, kick backs, and hate lists.

Yet they can't pick up the leaves anymore?

WOW! Sorta hard to believe isn't it?

We're drinkin' my friend,
to the end,
of a brief episode.
Make it one for my baby,
and one more for the road.

I got the routine,
so drop another nickle
in the machine....

Fred Astaire - One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
(Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer), from "The Sky's the Limit" (RKO Radio Pictures, 1943)

Yeah, $6 million is a lot. But I'd rather have this money go out the door faster and get potholes et al. fixed than have work pile up (and consequently traffic). Plus, putting out an RFP for regular work is a waste of city staff and bidders' time.

get potholes et al. fixed

This money sure as heck isn't going to be used to fix potholes. What little of that the city does any more, it does with in-house crews.

No, a lot of this is for "design" and "planning," including $250K contracts. That kind of stuff, if it can't be done with the city's bloated personnel, ought to be put out for bid.

Little if any of this money will go to fix potholes or bottlenecks in the roads.It will go to bike infrastructure, traffic islands, couplets and other things to delay or discourage car drivers. You're going to have to work near your home, even if it's flipping burgers. Unless of course you're among the affluent...

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