Saturday, November 17, 2012

ZAP! #105: 'Green' Partying

ZAP! #105

     Never will so few, spend so much, to receive so little that could be forensically documented.*  And that, dear reader, pretty well summarizes all the years the council has played the “Good Ol’ Boy Shuffle” with their Dean International consulting contract.

     For those not familiar, Dean International holds consulting contracts (three parts: Water, Transportation and Transportation Summit) with the city to the tune of around $1.3 million tax dollars per year.  Actually, it is probably a misnomer to call this a consulting contract.  When boiled down to its lowest element, it is more of a lobbying contract.  As with most lobbying efforts, there is always a lot of ‘skid greasing’ required.  And in politics, the skids always require a lot of ‘green’ grease.  Would these skids qualify for ‘green energy‘ stimulus funds?  

     The primary purpose of the city’s agreement with Dean International, for the present, is to consider what to do now that the water portion of the agreement expired on October 31, 2012.  Even though the agreement expired, the CCR understands that expense vouchers for “services” are still being processed by Dean.  Is this optimism on their part that the agreement will be renewed (retroactively?) and that the “Good Ol’ Boy Shuffle” will continue without missing a beat?  If the agreement has expired, then why is Dean apparently providing invoices for current services?

     Here’s how all this “consulting” seems to work: the city pays large sums of money to Dean International who directs contributions to state legislators, or other elected officials with the anticipation that these campaign offerings might influence thinking (read: voting) on a particular issue that should or could be relative to the city of Irving.  Of course, Dean International, the ever gracious host, also provides ‘seminars,’ lavish parties, exotic travel and other amenities for elected officials...including some of your local council persons.  All this insures that Dean’s consulting ticket for their lobbying-gravy train of benefits remains punched and valid.

     When the time to demonstrate achievements for the $1.3 million in payments to Dean is required, there will be beautiful PowerPoint presentations, enough weasel verbiage to deflect concerned citizen-snooping and assurances that without Dean International’s lobbying, none of these “achievements” would have been possible.  (Documentable facts for the city’s actual benefits seem to be rather fuzzy in these presentations.)  Couldn’t other firms lobby for the city’s water rights and special legislation just as effectively and at a lower cost?

     There is one small kink in this current set up.  Dean International might also be collecting consulting funds from other municipalities to supposedly achieve and report on some of the same issues as documented for Irving.  See the dilemma?  How does Irving know that their $1.3 million investment in this agreement is really producing fresh fruit and not over-ripe bananas?

     In what may be a potential game changing event, the council -- with several dozen eyeteeth pulled -- decided to send the consulting requirements (previously awarded exclusively to Dean International) out for an RFP (Request for Proposal).  This action would allow other firms, who handle the same type of lobbying work, to basically bid on the agreement.  And of course, the CCR always believes that competitive bidding can work to the advantage of tax paying citizens who foot the bill for all possible nebulous “consulting” work.

     The initial problem associated with the current RFP -- that is due to be submitted by November 30, 2012 -- is that the specifications prepared for the proposal seem as if they could be a little skewed or maybe worded towards a particular firm.  Would this be Dean International?   Do city officials, who prepared and reviewed the specifications, already have a favorite in this horse race to receive these consulting bucks?  Were the specifications prepared independently of any consulting firm that might be interested in submitting a proposal for review?

     Well, one thing is certain.  Dean International is apparently not going to let any gravy spill from their lobbying-gravy train.  It appears that they have initiated a PR crusade to convert all non-believers to their lobbying-magic by hosting “show and tell” sessions to cloud thinking synapses.  Lavish fetes and noshing events are also being provided to clog the brain arteries of those who could influence, or vote on the upcoming consulting agreement.  To be sure, there will be plenty of wine and pate, lots of backslapping and ego stroking of elected officials as they party on your tax bucks.

     Regardless, the burning question still remains.  Will the city administration (city manager) and city council (especially those who have benefitted from Dean’s largeness) actually review all proposals objectively with tax payers in mind, or merely ‘rubber stamp’ the Dean proposal?  

     Some city staff and council members sure would hate to be removed from the A-list of partying hosted by Dean International.  After all, an hors d’oeuvre is a terrible thing to waste...especially when it’s a free one.

*  The exception would be the $1.6 million the council doles out in their agreement with the Irving chamber of commerce.

…………………...Mark Holbrook