So I made a bag of popcorn and turned on the tube to watch Monday night's city council meeting. The Herald-Sun covered the main brouhaha of the night, the much-ballyhooed 'cooling off' period for former city employees. Personally, I found the debate to be a rather pointless one -- and a much less concerning matter than, let's say, the brother-in-law of a Council member being selected over city staff's recommendation for a design project.
But then, maybe that's just me. As was pointed out by several opposed to the cooling-off idea, the entire council debated, publicly and vociferously, the construction manager at risk (CMAR) program for a year before it was implemented. Am I surprised that the city staffers working on the issue would recommend three of the most prominent US firms in the CMAR business as finalists for a CMAR contract? I'd be more concerned if City Hall were pushing Joe's Discount Construction over players like Skanska. By the same token, if a city staff member involved in construction oversight leaves the city employ, it seems logical that one of these same large CMAR firms would be a natural employer.
Frankly, after seeing the challenges that the City has had getting projects like the long-delayed Third Fork Creek trail done, with projects in an incessant bog of bid-cost escalation-rebid, I'm happy to see CMAR used for projects. After the widespread complaints that the '96 bond funds didn't get spent fast enough, or well enough, it's better to wrap up multiple projects in a bow and let a CMAR run with them to bring them to completion. With good incentives and contractual obligations to ensure compliance. How free market of us, letting private firms take the wheel!
But of course, the cooling-off motion had no chance of passing from the start. Instead, coverage of the debate (and the mayoral mileage it provides), not passage, was exactly the goal of bringing it up. One might ask if there's a conflict of interest, metaphorically speaking of course, between advocating conservative interests on the City Council and working as a VP for the most aggressive network of right-wing think tanks in the state. Do we need a cooling-off period for, well, for Art Pope, generally? Does Thomas Stith get a discount at Rose's?
All that said, the best line of the night actually came from the usually-serious Stith, so credit where credit's due:
"I was sitting here chuckling... the city manager reminded me at the Farmer's Market that the event was taking place, so I showed up just to be supportive of the mayor, and he had an unfortunate conflict, so I ended up having to speak for the mayor. I kinda liked that -- might could get used to that, Mr. Mayor."
-- Thomas Stith, on attending (and happening to speak at) a recognition event for Eastway Village homeowners
He might run for mayor? Imagine that.
Almost four hours later -- although you can only speak for two minutes at a time, if you've got Victoria Peterson and the Hesters in the house speaking two minutes on item after item, things run long -- it's over. Just another night at the City Council. Do councilfolks get hazard duty pay for this?