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    When Sixty Seconds Isn't Enough

    (December 8, 2004) -- In a ribald 1950's R&B tune, a singer boasted of being a "sixty minute man." LB City Manager Jerry Miller may blush, but he can boast of being a "sixty second man"...having completely satisfied nine Councilmembers in one minute to add a total of $3 million to three current contracts already totaling $3 million with construction management firms to manage LB Public Works projects.

    In an article and companion editorial shortly before the Dec. 7 Council action, quoted the text of city management's publicly agendized memo to Councilmembers (our editorial quoted it in full). The memo speaks for itself (link below).

    Shortly before the vote, received a second city management memo to Councilmembers on the subject and we posted it verbatim. The second memo also speaks for itself (link also below).

    To us, the second memo is as unsatisfying as the first.

    Reduced to its essentials, the second memo invites Councilmembers to conclude that they weren't adding any additional money because they'd already budgeted an additional $3 million in approving the Sept. '04 management-prepared budget. And besides, the memo continues, the Council had indicated it wanted public works projects finished sooner so that's why the original $3 million was depleting faster than expected.

    The first part of that explanation reminds us of former City Manager Henry Taboada's technique of putting raises in the upcoming year's budget. When the raises were handed out, he could say (with perfect accuracy) that they'd already been budgeted.

    The last time we checked, after the Council votes to budget something, it can vote to unbudget it. That may not be as easy after City Hall enters into a contract. That's why the Dec. 7 Council vote mattered.

    By our math, if the additional $3 million is spent over the next 18 months that would bring the total taxpayer money consumed for outside management of LB public works projects to $6 million over three years, $2 million a year. That equates to adding roughly 20 additional members to City Hall's "$100,000 club." (Before last night's Council vote, that figure was "only" 10). Not bad, for sixty seconds of Council action.

    So exactly what are LB taxpayers getting out of this? Double the Public Works projects? Public Works projects delivered in half the time? The Council didn't ask for specifics and management didn't tell.

    Instead, management cited its CIP, a list of Capital Improvement projects included in the City's annual budget. But as has previously reported, history shows inclusion in the budgeted CIP doesn't guarantee anything.

    Street grade separations for traffic and safety reasons at the Traffic Circle and Iron Triangle were also in year after year of budgeted CIPs. The projects weren't delivered as promised...and there's no reason for taxpayers -- or their Council representatives -- to accept without scrutiny that CIP projects budgeted now will be treated differently.

    Our editorial urged Councilmembers to send the matter to their Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for fact-finding, but scrutiny was in short supply in the Council's sixty second Dec. 7 action.

    We haven't finished with this story yet; stay tuned.

    As a side note, readers may recall that LB's North Police station was part of City Hall's CIP but only completed after promises to use capital funds and bond funds evaporated. Instead, despite previous public declarations to the contrary, City Hall raided (with North PAC acquiescence) NLB Redevelopment funds to pay for it.

    We wouldn't be surprised if this is how some of those Public Works CIP projects wind up being funded if the Council ultimately votes to make itself LB's Redevelopment Agency.

    Previous coverage:

  • Follow-Up re $3 Million Amendments To Construction Management Consultant Contracts: Council Votes 9-0 To Approve; Mgt. Sends Second Memo Prior To Vote; We Post Memo & Transcript Of Council Proceedings (approx. 60 seconds)

  • City Mgt. Asks Council To Approve $3 Million More -- Double Original Amt. -- For Three Current Public Works "Construction Management" Consultant Contracts

  • Editorial: City Management's $3 Million Christmas Package

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