Monday, November 17, 2008

We was Played by Ray - Again

I watched the infamous Garbage Hearings from end to end on Cox 11/17/08.

It was interesting. The news reports only scratched the surface of the weirdness that happened.

The hearing started calm enough. Veronica White made the obligatory Power Point presentation covering her department and budget. The Budget Committee listened, probably bored and waiting for the chance to ask questions.

Her presentation was followed by a fairly professional presentation by the consultant hired for $250,000 to determine how much the garbage contractors should be paid. They are apparently building a database of every household in the city of New Orleans, using tax records, voter records, utility billing Sewerage and Water Board billing and other data. It seems like serious overkill. One of the major Sub-Consultants is GCR, Greg Rigamer's company.

There were few questions. Apparently everyone was warming up for the Main Event.

After the presentation Veronica White took the mike again. She was immediately asked about news reports that Jefferson Parish was paying far less for garbage pick up than Orleans Parish. White almost giddily exclaimed "I have that". She pulled out a piece of paper and passed copies around. She presented her analysis of the differences as a series of bullet points.

Here are the ones I remember;
  • Jefferson pays $13 + up to 5% CPI Adjustment + fuel surcharge.
  • Orleans pays 3 contractors $18, $22 or $32 with no fuel adjustment or CPI.
  • Jefferson is 10 miles from the dump Orleans 20 miles.
  • Jefferson uses manual collection New Orleans Semi Automated collection.
  • Orleans provides cans, Jefferson doesn't.
There were a a lot of other things which were included in the list, but almost all of them applied only to the French Quarter and CBD (the area serviced by SDT) , for which we pay a substantial premium over Metro and Richards.

This is where it started getting weird. As Veronica White read the list she became increasingly animated, louder and the pitch of her voice rose. Almost as if she were delivering a summation or was becoming more and more stressed by the presentation, or the confrontation she expected. It was very odd.

If it shows up on Cox again watch the whole thing it's very enlightening.

When she finished her recitation Jackie Clarkson began working through the detail to try to make sense of it. As Clarkson tried to point out that many of the costs applied only to the CBD and French Quarter, White kept referring to the total budget and how they couldn't be compared. They were talking past each other and White was becoming more emphatic.

There was a discussion of why we should pay to have semi automated pickup, when Jefferson gets manual pickup so much cheaper. Garbage Guru Veronica White said she could go on and on about the advantages ot the city, but only really came up with a few items including fewer complaints and better sanitation. Jackie Clarkson disputed that and attributed the reduction of complaints to the new city supplied cans.

Next up was an exchange not usually shown on TV. Stacy Head quoted the contract and asked why we weren't getting the lists required by the contract. Veronica White insisted that the contract was being followed. White was becoming progressively more and more animated. Then Veronica White dropped the bombshell. She announced the City had got a list every month and could send them to Stacy Head to prove it. There was a shot of Stacy Head's reaction, her jaw dropped, she was speechless, for a few moments.

Then there is the part we've all heard.

Next there was a break between rounds.

One of the striking things about White's performance was her disjointed use of language. Clakeson and Head, the two active questioners obviously had trouble following her. She jumped for phrase to phrase, barely connecting a thought or finishing a sentence.

After the break Jackie Clarkson said the Department Head out of order. Jackie Clarkson reiterated the need for apology. She also confirmed that the Council had asked for the garbage information repeatedly.

Mr. Cary Grant danced around Stacy Head's questions for a while, including reference to meeting minutes from April 2008 where White had said no system is in place. The Council was given binders in paper form as the only record available.

The oddest thing (besides Veronica White) was two rows of guys in orange jump suites. I wonder who paid for them to be there and who queued the applause.

No substantive questions were ever answered nor were any commitments made to provide additional information. Nagin's incendary email permanently ended any constructive engagement.

The question I'd like answered is "Why is New Orelans paying at least $5 per household more than Jefferson Parish?"

Some of the reasons offered by Veronica White make some sense. Like the distance ot the dump and the lack of price escallation provisions. Although it doesn't seem these are worth cost. (5% CPI escallation is only $0.65 increase per year)

There are other, unstated reasons. The burdensome special requirements placed on all city contracts are also part of the reason. DBE requirements escalate cost, with benefit for only a few favored "Disadvantaged" Business Enterprises. You have to question how disadvantaged two African-American millionaires are in a city that is predominately African American. There are prescriptive requirements for new equipment, which escalate cost when a performance standard would be a more effective. Unmaintained new equipment will eventually fail to perform and well maintained old equipment may perform well.

No comments: