There is a certain amount of confidence that needs to be reestablished with government. So I think we owe it to our constituents to make sure we do what we’re supposed to do as a council. To restore that confidence in government.
– Councilman Jack Webb on the Mayor’s Waste Management no-bid contract proposal
Councilman Jack Webb isn’t sure that giving Waste Management a no-bid contract is the best way to restore Jacksonville’s citizens confidence in their City government because without putting the contract out to bid, he can’t be sure the Waste Management deal is the best out there. And with that statement, Councilman Webb goes right to the heart of the matter of why requiring companies to bid on the City’s business is the best thing Jacksonville’s citizens have going to ensure the most transparency in our government and the best bargains for our tax dollars.
A little background: A no-bid contract is actually known as a “sole source contract” – which implies that there is only one person or company that can provide the contractual services needed and that any attempt to obtain bids would only result in one person or company being available to meet the need. It is awarded usually, but not always, by a government after soliciting and negotiating with only one firm. While these contracts can be negotiated much more quickly than a competitive contract they are often fraught with suspicion that the company used illegal or immoral means to exclude competitors (usually cronyism or bribery). Nevertheless, U.S. law (and the City of Jacksonville’s procurement code) permits the government to award sole source contracts under specified circumstances. Interestingly enough, a 2004 European Union study demonstrated lower prices are obtained when there is more than one bidder (see Figure 7, page 16 and accompanying text), and in 2007, no-bid contracts became illegal in the European Union. Maybe the Europeans are on to something here.
In order to restore citizens’ confidence in Jacksonville’s government and ensure transparency in the process, there are three things that Councilman Webb and his fellow Councilmembers could do:
1) Post contracts and other legislative attachments on the City’s website in plain view of everyone instead of allowing them to be filed as paper copies in the Legislative Services Division, etc. where you have to call or stop by and ask for a copy to be produced;
2) Require the most recent version of contracts to be posted online with the legislation. (For example, it is my understanding from speaking with another Councilperson that the proposed Waste Management contract that is on City Council’s website is not the latest version – and that the latest version of the contract does not actually have to be filed until an amendment is introduced.); and, finally,
3) Put the contract for the Trail Ridge Landfill out to bid.
It may be too late for Mayor Peyton (he’s too busy to be bothered by citizens – scheduling Trail Ridge tours for Council members in an effort to twist their arms on behalf of his buddy Paul Harden), but it’s not too late for our City Council members to restore the citizens’ faith in their local government leaders.