Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

SMG: A study in no-bid contracts

With all the hoopla being raised over Mayor Peyton’s efforts to convince City Council members to waive City ordinances and award a 35-year $750 million contract to Waste Management Inc to operate the city’s landfill, I thought it might be interesting to look at one of the city’s other vendors.  As I mentioned the other day in my post about the dire state of the city’s finances,  SMG manages all of the city’s major venues—the Arena, the Stadium, the Baseball Park, the Performing Arts Center, the Convention Center and the Equestrian Center.  As the Council Auditor’s most recent review of the city’s finances noted, these venues aren’t exactly prospering.  In fact, the report expressed grave concerns over the abilities of these individual venues to meet their current obligations.  

So, why are these venues struggling?  Are they managed properly?  Did SMG bring the strongest bid to the table when they were awarded the contract and are they the best entity to manage these facilities?

These are questions we may never know.

The SMG contract was awarded as if it were a sole source contract.   Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , ,

Waste Management changing tactics?

It appears as if Waste Management may be trying to distance themselves from the Mayor’s good buddy, Paul Harden – at least on the surface anyway. 

Or maybe they are just trying the softer approach now that they’ve seen that their threats of litigation only served to cause City Council members and Jacksonville’s citizens to dig in their heels a little harder in opposing the Mayor’s proposed no-bid contract with Waste Management. 

Then (September 18, 2008): 

 “Believe me, if you don’t pass this [bill], it’s retirement for me because we’re going to litigate it until the cows come home,” [Paul] Harden told the council’s Rules Committee on Monday.

Now (February 16, 2009): 

Waste Management spokesman Chuck Dees said the company has not decided if it will file suit if the City Council refuses to approve the new contract and forces the mayor to put Trail Ridge out to bid. He also wouldn’t say if the company would submit a proposal if the city did that.  “We never speculate on those kinds of things,” he said. “We just have to go through this process and see where we end up, and the company would make a decision.”

Evidently, Paul’s retirement plans may be up for grabs, at least for now.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , ,

Wasted Management

More folks are weighing in to the City Council President asking him to please open up the proposed Waste Management contract for Trail Ridge Landfill to bid.  There are no new letters of support for the Mayor’s proposal.

Here’s another example of citizens’ opinion on the issue -appropriately entitled “Wasted Management”:

From:   Dave Posted:   Fri 2/13/2009 2:25 PM
Posted To:   Ronnie Fussell’s Email
Conversation:   wasted management
Subject:   wasted management


I strongly suggest the council vote no on no bid contracts. I run a business and we always bid out purchases to enhance our bottom line. Secondly, 35 years is too long of a contract. Technology exists now that turns garbage and tires into diesel fuel and carbon powder. There are five prototype plants around the country now. [Discovery Channel] In a few years this technology will be available at every land fill in the country.  Waste Management takes tires and shreds them and then buries them in a landfill. [Discovery Channel] I hope in the next election to be able to vote on a citizens initiative that gives voters the power of recall in the Florida Constitution. After the first year of service, any politician is fair game. If 55% of the voters want them out, they are gone.

D.W.          My Family Votes In Every Election

BTW, in the latest Council Auditor’s quarterly summary report (click on Report #661 on the web page) on City’s finances for the first quarter, the Solid Waste folks are projecting a decrease of approximately 45,000 tons of solid waste this year. This marked decrease further supports the fact that the current Trail Ridge Landfill could last longer than 5-7 years.  See our previous post on that subject here.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , ,

Public weighs in on proposed Waste Management no-bid contract

On January 29th, Mayor Peyton spammed Jacksonville with an E-mail trying to garner support for his proposed no-bid contract for Waste Management to run Trail Ridge Landfill.  I thought it would be interesting to examine the public’s response since the Mayor sent out his letter. 

So today, we examine Council President Ronnie Fussell’s E-mail Inbox.  Posted after the break are the E-mails the Council President has received both against and in support of the no-bid contract since January 29th.  I have abbreviated people’s names to just their initials, but if you wish to verify the accuracy of the quotes below, you can access Council President Fussell’s E-mail from City Council’s website at www.coj.net.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , , ,

Trail Ridge Landfill could last longer than projected

Interesting article in today’s Orlando Sentinel.  Across Central Florida, counties are reporting a sharp drop in the amount of household garbage, commercial waste and construction materials getting dumped into their waste facilities compared with a year ago.  Orange County experienced a 17% drop from the same time period the previous year.  Osceola County experienced a 20% drop from a year ago.  And Lake County experienced an 8% drop in the first 3 months of the fiscal year.  With the continued economic troubles, the amount of trash brought to landfills is expected to continue to decrease.

The bad news – counties are receiving less revenues from tipping fees. 

The good news – landfills are getting filled at a slower pace.   And that’s good news for Jacksonville’s citizens. 

One of the “reasons” the City has cited for going with a no-bid contract with Waste Management is that the Trail Ridge landfill is quickly filling up and will be out of space soon.  They projected that would occur in 5-7 years.  City officials have cried out in alarmist fashion that if that happens before they can have the contract to operate the additional space and the additional space permitted to operate,  the City will have to ship garbage out of the county – and that would prove to be very costly. 

Seems like that the City will have more time now until the landfill is filled – so that won’t be a problem anymore.   WIth the economy not expected to recover in Florida until 2011, the City will now have additional time to bid the contract out.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , ,

Sound familiar? Texas’ version of Trail Ridge

At today’s […] meeting it was decided to send a new contract to Waste Management, Inc. (WMI). While the deal is much better than the current contract, […], or the subsequent attempts at a new contract, it’s still not a good deal for the county. But as long as the county will not use it’s full powers to attempt to competitively bid the contract, this may be the best deal the county can get, with commissioners leaving a new contract deal at the mercy of the corporation.

It seems that Williamson County, Texas has been undergoing the same kind of disputes with Waste Management of Texas for years as Jacksonville has.

Guess it’s the corporate culture…..or else they drink the same Koolaid.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , ,

JAX Chamber Pimps Itself Out

The Board of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has inserted itself into City government by voting to back the Mayor in his bad to ram a $750 million no-bid contract down the throats of struggling taxpayers. The Chamber, led by long-time Peyton fundraiser Mike Hightower, has shown an absolute lack of understanding of the entire Trail Ridge issue with the following statement:

“We’ve taken such a hard hit in the past few years,” said Maxine McBride, marketing and communications chair for the chamber. “We have to take a look at the impact that not extending the contract would have on the building and development industry in Northeast Florida. We do not want to be forced to dispose of trash out of the county and pay disposal fees.”

Ms. McBride is perhaps unaware, or has chosen to be unaware, of the fact that there are other companies who do perform the same services as Waste Management and would like to bid on this project. These bids could quite possibly save the taxpayers money—something we will never know unless the project is bid out. (And, yes, Ms. McBride was a contributor to John Peyton’s Mayoral campaign.)

Shame on the Chamber, but if anyone is surprised, drinks are on me. When your Daddy owns the City’s most exclusive private clubs that most of the members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors belong to, you pretty much own them.

Who’s your Daddy, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce?

Filed under: Jacksonville, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , ,

Peyton exerts pressure in backdoor Waste Management deal

Here’s the soft underbelly, the ugly underside, of how politics really work in Jacksonville under Mayor John Peyton.

Peyton keeps saying we need to keep personalities and politics out of the Waste Management no-bid contract deal….as if.  He is the one who brought them to the table and keeps putting them into the deal.

So let Peyton answer these questions if he’s so interested in leaving politics and personalities out of it:

Why did Peyton only change his position on the landfill contract after many years of the City claiming that the landfill only covered 144 acres?

Why did Peyton only change his position on the landfill contract after Paul Harden snaked his way into his confidence? (Susie Wiles announced her resignation just 3 days after Harden’s legislation for the no-bid contract was introduced into City Council, btw.  Coincidental timing?  You be the judge.)

Why did Peyton pull Dan Richardson’s waiver to represent Republic Services with a quote by City lawyers that information Richardson had “could hurt the City”?  (If the contract was a valid extension all along as Peyton now says it is, what possible information could Richardson have that “could hurt the City”?)

Why is Peyton continuing to pull the no-bid contract legislation from consideration by Council?  (It was introduced back in June of last year.  Continually pulling the bill from consideration is an indication he doesn’t have the votes on Council, isn’t it?) 

Why is Peyton having his staff members visit each Council member personally? (Another indication he doesn’t have the votes on Council?)

Why is Peyton having his staff members arrange for Council members to take tours of Trail Ridge Landfill? (Yet another indication he doesn’t have the votes on Council to pass the bill?)

Why is Peyton meeting personally with each Council member (in addition to his staff members visits)?  (What?  Is he following the belt and suspenders approach of Hollingsworth now because he doesn’t have the votes on Council to pass the bill?)

Why did Peyton ask Susie Wiles to quit lobbying against his deal?  (Couldn’t get the votes he needed on Council?)

Why did Peyton ask Jim Gilmore to quit lobbying against his deal? (Still couldn’t get the votes he needed on Council?)

It all boils down to one answer…..pure and simple….politics and personalities.   I guess it’s only okay to involve them if you’re Mayor John Peyton. 

Just one last word of thanks to the Mayor.  Thanks for showing me your ugly side, Mayor.  And it is a very ugly side at that.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , ,

Restore confidence in Jacksonville’s government

 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.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , ,

Mayor still can’t get Waste Management no-bid contract through

The bill that would give Waste Management $750 million dollars to run Trail Ridge Landfill through a no-bid contract was once again deferred in Council Committees this week – even after the Mayor sent unsolicited letters to people defending his decision to award the contract without a bid.

The next Committee meetings are scheduled for the week of February 17th (Monday the 16th is a holiday).

BTW, I can’t tell you how many people I heard say that they were either irritated or offended that the Mayor would send them an unsolicited E-mail about the no-bid contract.  Evidently, Mayoral staff culled the E-mail addresses from the Mayor’s normal E-mailing list, plus E-mail addresses from CPACs and E-mail addresses from people calling to complain about City services.  The people who had not given him permission to use their E-mail address for his unsolicited letter were not amused.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , ,

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