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Friday, August 16, 2013

Creeping Charter progress

Showing respect – or not.

The Charter Committee meeting Wednesday evening featured as the main course an outstanding presentation by our Public Services Director and offered some heated resistance to discussion as a side dish. It was seasoned with a touch of rudeness.

The Director teaches well

Ernesto Munoz outlined the procedures the City uses in issuing public works’ contracts. His presentation was a model for professional presentations. It was clear, concise and accurate. Mr. Munoz taught a low-fat, high-value class. He explained that:

Costa Mesa adopted a version of contracting regulations more stringent than State law. And, the City adheres to even more stringent policies and ordinances.

His department uses a formal bidding procedure for all contracts even though the laws governing the bids don’t require formal bidding for contracts below $175,000. He cited two reasons:

First, formal bidding of all contracts makes administration of all contracts similar, so standard procedures can be used. Formal bidding is more laborious and demanding but he said it saves money and time in the long run.

And second, so many projects get some part of their funds from sources that require full bids that it just makes sense to process all contracts as if they were going to get restrictive grants.

Council influence on contracting?

He was asked if anyone had ever tried to influence the contracting. He said no, not in the twenty years he’s worked for the City. On a question about “no bid” contracts, he said the city requires at least three bids for public-works projects worth more than $1,000. “There haven’t been any (no-bid contracts)” during that time, either.

He summarized his presentation as “everything is working very well.” Legal counsel noted that if contracting weren't specifically changed by the charter it would continue to operate exactly like it does now.

What was the problem?

One committee member wanted to explore the contracting provisions of the rejected charter to discover what was seen as objectionable and what was acceptable.

This was vigorously opposed by the committee member who earlier chose not to support the moment of silence after the Pledge. Instead, he sat down and rustled through his papers. The rest of the committee observed the moment of silence. Courtesy and respect for others’ views are apparently not his strong suits.

Last fall he opposed the charter because, among other complaints, “it’s dangerous” (because it) allows Council members to give no-bid contracts to their friends. (Mr. Munoz refuted that criticism in his explanation, since the charter wouldn’t have changed the contracting procedures.)

Wasn't alone in making the error 

He shouldn't feel embarrassed though. Many voters opposed the charter then, perhaps convinced by scare mail showing gangsters cutting deals (about Costa Mesa). Or they may have been influenced by the out-of-context “analyses” and near-hysterical warnings that were published ( Detailed discussion).

Learned and concerned 

Lessons learned (or relearned):  manners are a matter of respect, not a matter of choosing the proper fork. Public Works contracting is safely controlled. Work on the charter is starting to focus and progress.

August 14: starting to focus and progress.

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