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Friday, March 19, 2010

Ring it up! Now Portland needs consultants for "planning"

How many "planners" are on the Portland city payroll? A hundred? Two hundred?

Then why does the city have to pay an outside consultant $75,000 to do "strategic planning" for the housing bureau?

Oh, and the housing bureau needs that special somebody to help it build a "brand." Are we running public housing here, or a chain of submarine sandwich shops?

Here's the money paragraph from the official amalgamation of bureacurat psycho-babble surrounding the bid invitation:

The City of Portland, Portland Housing Bureau is seeking proposals from individuals, firms, teams or consultants, hereafter called “Proposer(s),” with demonstrated experience in Strategic Planning and proposes to engage the successful Proposer for the following services:

Analysis: Review and synthesize data, planning work and community and stakeholder input gathered to date towards setting a community housing needs framework to guide the development of PHB’s strategic directions, goals, priorities and direction.

Public Participation: Conduct needed community and stakeholder engagement to fill informational gaps, validate assumptions and set a standard for PHB’s public process.

Strategic Plan Development: Facilitate with staff and stakeholders the development of a 3 year PHB Strategic Plan that will include the following:

- PHB Mission, Vision, Values and Priorities
- PHB’s Impacts:
- How will the community benefit from the formation of PHB?
- How will the new organization measure its improvement from past models and going forward?
-PHB goals, objectives, strategies, performance measures and deliverables.
- Programs: defined outcomes, goals, strategies and deliverables for our direct community investments.
- Influence: Strategies and outcomes for resource development, legislative agenda, community engagement and intergovernmental work that serves PHB’s mission.
- Community Equity: complete the process underway to define PHB’s vision for community equity and to set corresponding goals and strategies to achieve the vision. Proposed structure for PHB public involvement and advisory bodies.
- An organizational development critical path to achieve change.
- PHB Business functioning and community relationships: optimized to meet and exceed new objectives and performance measures.
- PHB Communications: Identify key strategies for establishing a PHB Communications Plan, including PHB branding work and Strategic Plan marketing and distribution.

We don't need to "market" public housing for the poor, any more than we need slogans and "branding" for Fireman Randy's water and building permit empire. And if we did, we have plenty of city employees sitting around blogging and Tweeting who ought to be required to get the work done. City Hall has gone so far off the deep end, it's gotten really hard to fathom.

Comments (20)

They are hiring 'Pro-posers' because the current city government is made up of 'Posers'

I wonder how many consultants it took them to create the proposal for more consultants. Perhaps I can be a consultant to review the consultants proposals that come in. This is just crazy.

Staff often hire consultants to cover their butts. Instead of putting your neck out there with some proposal, you get an "expert" to say it. Then you point to the report: "Well, this expert says we should...."

(It should be illegal for governments to run any PR campaigns on the public. "The WES is a success!" No it's not, and you shouldn't be able to spend my tax dollars targeting such a lie back at me.)

This is just insane. There are already agencies involved in this work. This new proposal isn't going to help them or even consolidate or get rid of them and absorb their work. What IS the "mission" and "vision" of this newly proposal boondoggle that makes it any different or efficient?

I see nothing but a lot of buzzwords - sound and fury signifying nothing other than that we are once again going to spend a lot of money to decide how to spend a lot of money.

Don't get me wrong - we need a sensible, affordable homing system that will cover the problem and we don't have anything close at the moment. This doesn't sound like a solution, at least as described.

So stupid. Especially considering that bureau (and others) may be facing layoffs.

Back-n-fill. Next argument is that PHB is so busy with farming out make-work that they really need to hire more people.

Hayek was right about planners - It is the end of freedom.

Snards doesn't want the government to tell us anything, ever.

Good plan.

We were suppose to have a chance to vote on "voter-owned" elections this year, that would be 2010. But I haven't heard one peep out of cityhall about following up on this verbal committment. Water and Sewer rates include funding of some $150k, or there abouts, for "voter owned" elections. The funny thing is Fritz got elected with the aid of these funds, and then turns right around and effectively stabs water and sewer ratepayers in the back by approving more use of water and sewer bills for "pet projects" as Tracy of PURB (Portland Utility Review Boad) called them last night.

Sounds like good work if you can get it. How does one become a city consultant? I mean other than via the Mayor's pants.

Part of the housing bureau's job should be to keep some parts of the city seedy enough so that the housing stays affordable. It's not as exciting as dealing with consultants, but it would help fulfill the mission.

Looks to me like the bureaucrat who wrote the request for proposals could do the job.

I wonder if anyone thought of that?

There could be several available to do the job and they talk around the office.
Joking about how stupid management is to be subbing this out.

But none of them feel compelled to say or do anything, so they just follow orders and go home at night as happy bureaucrats.

Or Prodophobes: People who are afraid of production.

Note that the purpose of community engagement is to "validate assumptions," rather than "challenging assumptions." This is what happens when agencies get so caught up in process that there are no competent employees to do real work. I feel like I'm paying for a big social experiment where my local government hires incompetent women, black people, pretty people, and gay people, and then nobody in the whole ship knows what the heck is going on. All they do is come up with extraordinarily wasteful ways to blow money, or lame pleas like this for outside help. Psychobable screams incompetence. I read this as "please let us pay you to screw us over."

Nothing new -

Rod Blagojevich
Timothy Geithner
Dan Saltzman
Henry Paulson
Warren Harding

are/were all straight, white men who were major f... ups. Gender, race, orientation have nothing to do with competence. Quit whining and ponder this. Within 50 years, Hispanics will be the majority in this country so lose your attitude while you can.

nothing new - Excellent point re: the distinction between "validate assumptions" and "challenge assumptions." As you mentioned, it reveals something significant about the mindset at the CoP.

Jack's comment:We don't need to "market" public housing for the poor, any more than we need slogans and "branding" for Fireman Randy's water and building permit empire.

Well, suppose they think they may need to “market” public housing not just for the poor, but for the middle class now too.

The reason I bring this up is that years ago after a meeting in Central Library, I had a talk with Rex Burkholder about my dismay regarding some “affordable housing units and density”. He said to me that this is not just about housing for the poor, but will be for my children and grandchildren. I answered that I did not think that this is what we had in mind for the American dream! Apparently though, it must have been be on the mind of some. I remember this as it was jolting for me to hear this especially years ago. It now makes me wonder how far ahead some were planning and deciding how and where we should all live.

Consultants may be needed then to brand this so we will think it is a fine idea. After all is done, who will be able to afford housing "as we knew it" especially if the council drives us over the cliff financially? Citizens may be taxed out of their homes and moved into these public housing units. Subsidized housing for the masses and why?

I sure hope I am wrong about this, but one has to wonder what they are up to after what so many of us have witnessed.

By the way, pay attention to the words on the subject of housing and how they are arranged. Housing that is affordable is not the same meaning as when the city advocates for "affordable housing". It is confusing when city says we need more affordable housing when if what they are saying is that we need more public subsidized housing. The trend then has been to replace housing that was affordable with "affordable housing". . and here is where I began - with what are the plans, to put more and more people out of housing that was affordable into "affordable housing"?

Shore, I agree with you, but you picked the wrong word in your sentence. Instead of "may", you really meant "should," didn't you?

A bit more seriously, there's actually a tiny bit of light at the end of this tunnel. As a general rule with state and city government, you only start seeing this sort of stunt when the mayor or governor realizes that s/he's screwed up so badly that there's nothing to lose. Sam's got, wha, another 2 1/2 years left before the electorate finally boots his butt out of the mayor's office? Then that's two and a half years where he can hire as many college buddies, high school classmates, and political sycophants as he can. That's two years of blogging and tweeting for all of them, and maybe more if they do a good enough job of hiding that nobody notices them for a while.

At this point, Portland becomes a real city, just like Chicago or Dallas. Barring a real recall effort, or criminal charges where Sam's frogmarched in handcuffs by the FBI, it's going to be nearly impossible to get rid of these parasites quickly. Even with a citywide audit pointing out the number of employees who "work from home", you have to figure that someone will have to make the decision to let the little darlings go, and their superiors won't want to take the hit for not saying anything sooner. The new mayor in 2013 probably come in knowing that Sam's stripped out everything that wasn't nailed down, stripped out everything that was, stole the nails, and managed to lease out the nail holes. If someone else points out that one department has no clothes, then that person is immediately subject to attack from others wishing to distract from their own overhiring issues. Best of all, not only will all of these consultants get anywhere from three to ten years on the payroll, but they'll then have a great reference on their resumes from "The City That Works".

Don't think that I don't have sympathy. I really do. We in Dallas are currently facing the likelihood of half of the city's residents having to buy flood insurance: while our previous mayors were bending over for Ray Hunt of Hunt Oil and the A.H. Belo Corporation in financing a new stadium and new bridges and that horrible 2012 Olympics bid, the levees that keep the Trinity River from flooding the city were allowed to get into such disrepair that the federal government probably won't cover any damages when the levees fail. We're in exactly the same boat, with a mayor who's too busy showing off for television cameras to do his damn job. $6 billion in debt versus getting washed into the Gulf of Mexico: that's a tough call as to which is worse.

Jack - PDX needs consultants for everything - their leadership is a group of idiots...I'd rather have competent private sector consultants calling the shots than sam and randy....could the private sector actually do worse?

Erik Sten never "branded" the Housing Bureau. Nick Fish is all about Nick Fish. Better to spend the money providing actual services to the homeless.

Texas Triffid Match --

No, I didn't mean "should." Not for staff anyway. The insane ratio of managers to staff... that's a different story. Ditch some managers and keep the workers going.

Never seems to work that way, though.

Sorry. *Ranch, not match.

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