Tuesday, September 11, 2012

City Improves its Contracting Practices, err, sort of

The city has handed out its lucrative tree trimming contract to the same contractor, without competition for just about ever. Two years ago some pesky residents, and a council candidate who is for open government contracting, highlighted the problem using the tree trimming contract as an example.

Side note: There are way more services and vendors the city hires in questionable ways, but just about nobody asks the questions and only 4 ask and follow up. Only one is a council candidate.  

Tomorrow, the council is asked to approve awarding West Coast Arborists another contract. Yes, these are the guys that cut down the wrong trees and seem to like to do a lot of billable busy work.

Yes sir, the city is carrying out a "competitive" process this time for the big contract. Unfortunately, it comes off as a total bogus charade. On the plus side, the city is getting a little less obvious about being phony. They are working harder at it

Now you have to look a little deeper at the substance of what they are doing. The scoring and requirements for the tree contract sure the hell looks like the specifications were written for a specific contractor in mind and at least 3 arborists think the whole thing stinks.

Here is the RFP. Have a read for yourself. Ask your friendly neighborhood council candidate what they think about the city's business practices and what they've done to improve it.

Warning: DO NOT WASTE TIME WATCHING THESE VIDEOS

9 comments:

  1. City is corrupt, because Jerome Stocks put in place corrupt leaders. You pat my back, get it.

    NCtimes just sold to Manchester.... the blog just become that much more valuable.

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  2. I have experience dealing with contractors on a smaller scale (condo HOA) but it seems relevant to this.

    Finding good vendors on a tight budget is a lot of work. Often you just go with who you used last year, for many reasons (fair price, reliable, etc).

    I can see some good reasons for being pissed off about this:
    (1) Council not adhering to policy
    (2) No policy exists
    (3) Current policy is unsatisfactory

    Did I miss something?

    Regarding WCA's (horrific) mistake of removing the wrong trees, a local arborist (Brian Bishop of Bishop's Tree Service) told me that he believed it was an honest mistake, not egregious.

    "...and seem to like to do a lot of billable busy work."
    Statements like this undermine everything you say.

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  3. I agree with content. Why are they hiring an LA firm.... there are plenty of local companies that don't have to drive 200 miles per day. This is a scam and all about the kickback to the leaders of City Hall.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. (sorry about the caps)

    ROB,

    DID YOU TALK TO BISHOP ABOUT THIS RFP AND IF IT WAS BLATANTLY WRITTEN TO ENSURE WCA WOULD GET THE CONTRACT?

    I AGREE, IT IS SOME WORK TO FIND A VENDOR (YOU HAVE TO WRITE AN RFP, BUT THIS BASICALLY SHOULD TO BE DONE ANYWAYS FOR GOV CONTRACTING, AND THEN READ THE PROPOSALS). WE COULD HAVE SAVED STAFF TIME FROM READING THE SMALL NUMBER OF PROPOSALS IF THEY HAD JUST ADMITTED THAT THEY WERE GOING TO REHIRE WCA.

    THEY OBVIOUSLY THOUGHT THE PUBLIC WOULD NOT ACCEPT AWARDING THE CONTRACT AGAIN WITHOUT (REAL) COMPETITION, SO THEY FAKED IT.

    THE CITY DID NOT ARGUE THAT IT WAS TOO MUCH WORK TO FIND A GOOD VENDOR. INSTEAD THEY NOTICED A RFP, SO I’M NOT SURE HOW ALL YOUR COMMENTS APPLY, HERE. ARE YOU SAYING THE CITY SHOULD NOT HAVE REQUESTED PROPOSALS?

    ONE VIEW IS, IF THEY ARE GOING TO SPEND THE TIME, THEY SHOULD DO IT HONESTLY. I DON’T THINK YOU ARE JUSTIFY A PHONY PROCESS, NO?

    ROB, GIVEN WE HAVE HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES, I ALSO DON’T THINK WE HAVE TO GO HOG WILD TO BE CONFIDENT THAT ARE CITY CONTACTING IS NOT A CRONY’S SYSTEM.


    1. MISTAKES HAPPEN. IT IS WORTH POINTING OUT BECAUSE THE CITY TRIED TO CLAIM THEIR CONTRACTOR HAD DONE NOTHING BUT A GOOD JOB. THAT WAS NOT A GOOD JOB AND IT WAS AVOIDABLE. ASK BISHOP IF HE OPERATES WITH A SYSTEM DESIGNED TO AVOID HAVING LESS EXPERIENCED CREWS SHOW UP AND CUT THE WRONG TREE.

    2.ITS BEEN LIKE A DECADE SINCE THIS CONTRACT HAS BEEN ISSUED WITH ANY REAL COMPETITION.

    IS THAT OKAY FOR A GOVERNMENT CONTRACT?

    THE CITY SHOULD BE RUN EVEN MORE OPEN AND TRANSPARENTLY THAN A PRIVATE CORPORATION, HOWEVER AN HOA IS PRETTY CLOSE. I ALSO HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH HOAS AND HAVE SEEN MANAGEMENT COMPANIES PUSH FORWARD INFERIOR AND MORE EXPENSIVE CONTRACTORS ON THEIR BOARDS. UNTIL ONE HOMEOWNER BROUGHT FORWARD EVIDENCE OF THIS, THE BOARD BELIEVED(SAID) THEY WERE GETTING THE MOST RELIABLE AND BEST VALUE FROM THEIR CONTRACTORS. WHO ADMITS OR KNOWS THEY ARE PAYING MORE FOR POORER SERVICE AND CONTINUES ON?

    IF YOU DON'T SHOP AROUND FROM TIME TO TIME, YOU HAVE NOT VERIFIED THAT YOU HAVE THE BEST VALUE BY CONTINUING WITH YOUR CURRENT VENDOR.

    10 YEARS?

    ACCORDING TO MY ARBORIST CONTACTS, THE RFPS WERE OBVIOUSLY RIGGED FOR WCA TO WIN, SO SOME VENDORS DIDN'T WASTE THEIR TIME WITH THIS.

    3. AUTHORITY. YOU SHOULDN'T DEFER TO THE AUTHORITY OF A PERSON OR, CERTAINLY, A BLOG. INSTEAD DEFER TO EVIDENCE. THERE IS A LINK TO AN RFP IN THE POST. READ IT AND COMMENT ON THAT.

    THE BUSY WORK: YES, SEVERAL ARBORISTS HAVE POINTED THIS OUT TO US AND WE HAVE OBSERVED A LOT OF ACTIVITY BY WCA THAT WAS NOT NECESSARY, AND INDEED, SOMETHING THAT SLOWS THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR CITY TREES (WE'VE POSTED ABOUT THAT IN THE PAST BUT I DON'T SEEM THEM, AND ILL LOOK AGAIN WHEN THERE IS MORE TIME). MY FAVORITE EXAMPLE IS TURNING OUR COAST LIVE OAK SAPLINGS INTO SHRUBS, SOME LOLLIPOP SHRUBS. SIGH. IT IS NOT NECESSARY OR BENEFICIAL.

    ROB, WHY WAS THE STATEMENT INCORRECT?

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  6. Why has flaming Democrat Jerry Brown even address Pension Reform and every other City in Southern address pension reform while Encinitas and San Dieguito Water District continues to pay pensions 35% over most other CA agencies?

    Is it because the Unions OWN Jerome Stocks and Mark Muir?

    Jerome Stocks was the one along with other corrupt City Council member like Dan Dalablaber who voted for the 35% increase in pensions and a 14% raise for all City Employees back in 2005 without any real public notice or input?

    When will the papers run a story on this corruption at City Hall, clearly showing how the people who are being trusted to guard your tax dollars are stealing them for personal fortune?

    When will the voters wake up and realized they have criminals on City Council who are stealing their children's future?

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  7. Actually the all-caps is quite fitting since my main gripe is that this sounds like an overreaching blustery rant.

    Please just be specific: how *exactly* were the rfps rigged for WCA? And how can you demonstrate that this was done intentionally to guarantee WCA the job?

    Regarding the specific kinds of "busy work" you mention being not necessary or beneficial -- is there a consensus among arborists that your claim is true? Is there something you can reference to prove this?

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  8. I don't mind all caps. But some people get so offended/distracted by them. People are really using them for emphasis, not to shout. Sometimes, they're used to differentiate between one person posting, and another . . .

    I was at the Council Meeting, but left before the West Coast Arborist agenda item. Thanks for sharing the RFP.

    I did watch part of the discussion when I got home. I also felt as though it was a "done deal." I noticed that Tony Kranz brought up that at least it shouldn't be a three year contract, but should be reviewed again, next year. That sounded SO REASONABLE to me. But no, that question or request was NOT addressed by Council, who voted unanimously, with Stocks absent, to renew the WCA contract for three years . . . A few token questions were asked. But the most important question, why do we have to renew a contract for three years, was not!

    It's so discouraging going before Council, because one has the overwhelming impression that we are not really being heard, for the most part. I know that locally a tree was trimmed so heavily, on the street side, that when a storm came, it blew over onto the home. Fortunately, no one was injured. The property owner was afraid to do anything, as the City has such a horrible reputation for "pay back," when it comes to anyone with rental properties . . . The vast majority of people try to handle it through their own insurance company, NOT even considering fighting city hall.

    The tree didn't fall because it was dead. It wasn't a Eucalyptus tree, don't worry. It fell, in my opinion, because it was improperly "butchered" when it was trimmed. The City did have to replace the sidewalk, which was destroyed when the tree fell over.

    The last time WCA went up for contract renewal, a lot more people spoke against their being rehired. They have made a lot of mistakes. But the biggest mistake is the City's. Apparently, they are paid on a "per tree cut down" or per trimming job basis. So that is where the "billable busy work" comes in. Some trees that are NOT dead or dying have been removed, with so little notice that residents have little or no say in the matter.

    I think this time, there was an attempt made to demonstrate the appearance of taking other bids. or seeking other proposals. But I agree, the request for proposal seemed to be tailored to fit the parameters of WCA's work history with the City. And it wasn't really a "bid" because the total amount of work is unknown.

    Once the "wrong tree" is removed, or a tree is incorrectly trimmed in a manner that is unsightly and/or unsafe, it's "too late." No one has said that the mistakes were intentional. But "honest mistakes" add up, and should be investigated and also documented with respect to reconsideration of the responsible party's contract renewal!

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  9. Great arborist fail videos! Fortunately no one was killed in them from negligence. And just to reiterate, in 1992 under Mark Wisnewski; President of People for Trees, 200 volunteers planted 101 trees on 101 in 2 hours. I think 40 some have survived and those have thrived! Thanks Mark! They're nearly as tall as the Eucs now and provide great covering for the corridor (not to mention their indigenousness. Opps, I mentioned it.)
    Since then however, all 6 of the ones planted in the median of the 1200 block quickly disappeared. I replaced a few only to later find them butchered, then later removed as well. The city and some friends threw a couple more in and they're doing fine right now, sort of. A drunk wiped out 2 of them at the north end of the median (it was a hit and run, but there was no chase). The two trees are survivors and began again to grow well. So well that the BILLBOARD company is trimming them now into bushes. Neat. If anyone catches anyone trimming them further please call the police and report them. There is a $10,000 fine for each tree illegally trimmed / removed by billboard folk. But they are very stealthy.

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