Monday, August 18, 2008

3-2-1 Contracts

Saw this in the Trib, which a couple people are commenting on. Let me pull out something a bit disingenuous from Jeremy Boren:
Matthew McTish, president of the company that bears his surname, gave $10,000 to Ravenstahl's campaign in December 2006. It is one the few five-digit contributions the mayor received between September 2006 and December 2007, the latest campaign records available.

Six Wilbur Smith executives, including company president Hollis Walker Jr., gave Ravenstahl a combined $7,500 between January and October last year, the records show. Wilbur Smith won three engineering consultant contracts worth $1.12 million in 2007.
The folks over at 414 Grant Street go a little further:
The head of the engineering firm McTish, Kunkel & Associates that, according to yesterday's Tribune Review article, won a URA bid for work at the Technology Center after being the highest bidder gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to URA Board Member and PA State Senator Jim Ferlo on March 9, 2008. It should also be noted that Senator Ferlo also happens to be URA Board Chairman Yarone Zober's former boss.
Of course, no mention is made of Trumbull's contributions to anyone... probably because they slyly run their contribution through their own political action committee, TC PAC... and, of course, that PAC gave generously to CAPAC (Constructors Association PAC), along with such names you might recognize like Ferlo, DeWeese, Roddey, Frankel, Stevenson, Orie, Wheatley, etc.

So, without delving into more specific records, I find it hard to believe that somehow Trumbull missed the payment on their yearly bribe to the Ravenstahl Administration and was, therefore, "disqualified" from the bid in question. There's plenty of money floating around, so this is just a red herring.*

The other error, speaking as a Bureaucrat, is that the general public somehow erroneously believes that contracts should go to the lowest bidder. That's just plain stupid.

Contracts are supposed to go to the lowest responsible bidder, to use the jargon. *I* could have bid on this contract and I could have said that I could have done it for $1, but only an idiot would have accepted my bid, based on the fact that I have little or no experience in road paving, utility line relocation, or landscaping. The result would have been me out in the middle of Second Avenue with a pick axe and a shovel, trying to avoid the on-coming traffic. I would not have been a responsible bidder.

Still, there's more than just experience.

Some of you may recall back in the 90s when Sala Udin tried to mandate that a certain percentage of work that was done with City money be given to contractors from the City of Pittsburgh. While that decision was defeated, if it had passed, the above referenced contract would have had to have gone to the contractor (all other things being equal) to the contractor that was from the City. If two of the contractors had no representation from the City whatsoever, the URA would have had to have given the contract to the remaining contractor, even if the cost was higher. Again, those who fail to meet this threshold would not have been a responsible bidder.

Finally, Zober, insisting that the URA move away from using the same firms repeatedly, shows, what I would consider, a lack of knowledge regarding the practicalities of public bids. The public bid process, of course, requires some initial effort on the part of the bidder; there is always an up front hurdle in getting your foot in the door. Once you go through the public process, as it is with nearly any process, you know what to expect for next time and you can refine your proposal so that you do better next time.

Of course, if you either (a) decide that this is too much work or (b) repeatedly can't make the grade, you'll probably give up, leaving the contracts to folks who are willing to work through the process and fulfill the qualifications of a responsible bid. Success, in this case, begets success... unless Zober is comfortable with using failure.

I appreciate Mr. Boren, et. al.'s attempt at controversy, but sadly, I think there's less going on here than meets the eye.

Sort of like a reverse Transformer.

* Like Communism, Mr. Green.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sorry, drunk, but you're wrong this time. i knew pat ford. i know what he was directed to do.

john coyne was disturbed enough that he resigned over it.

really? the URA no records as to how a half-million dollar decision was made? it looks to me like someone destroyed the evidence.