Saturday, September 30, 2006


I'm not sure which it is, but City Sanitation Director Veronica White either has a very keen sense of irony or none what so ever:
"We want uniformity," she said. "We don't want excuses."

Considering the number of excuses in that one article, the quote is almost humorous. One also has to wonder if Kimberly Butler has been brought back as a special consultant on sanitation issues:
Meanwhile, Nagin requested proposals last week from firms bidding to manage "Disney-like" trash collection in the French Quarter, the city's most notoriously squalid sector,

Apparently, Ms. Butler wasn't the only Nagin associate to prefer Disneyland to the real thing.

Dangerblond has been over the ridiculous contract with Waste Management and Mark has pretty much covered the expensive boondoggle angle, but I'll add a few points.

I'll remind everybody that when Nagin first ran for mayor in 2002, he endorsed the BGR proposal to let appointed professionals vote on the awarding of city contracts. Once he made the runoff, he backed away from that agreement, but pledged to announce his own plan to reform the process within his first 100 days. To give all due credit, he did announce a plan--three years into his term. Though the reform didn't go far enough for the BGR, it apparently went too far for the mayor as it still hasn't been enacted (my earlier rant on the subject, with the background links).

IMO, the money quote was:
Nagin, who said in May that sanitation is a priority of his second term, is expected to award lucrative contracts to two new trash contractors for automated or semiautomated trash pickup in every neighborhood except the French Quarter, White said. The announcement was supposed to be made this week but has been delayed until at least next week, she said.

Now, I understand the Paradox of Choice. There's almost too much in that one paragraph for one post:

During the campaign, I did point out that:
Considering the city's abandoned car and general garbage disposal situation and the mayor's insinuations about taking donations from individuals who might want to profit from the city, it seems like the mayor gets a lot of Benjamins from companies in the disposal, scrap metal or landfill business.

What's the delay--waiting for some new company to get fully incorporated this time?

Did White really need to tell us that the awards would be lucrative? Every contract that the sanitation department awards is lucrative. Of course, Ms. White would know all about that.

I also wonder if the delay is related to today's article about awarding reconsruction contracts to minority businesses. I totally approve of that, but two big minority subcontractors on other reconstruction work are a major Nagin campaign contributor and a firm with close ties to Nagin's former CAO.

One last point about the use of the word lucrative, it reveals a fundamental problem with Nagin's approach to rebuilding. Whether you believe that Mark described a total boondoggle or the mayor is taking a long overdue step toward modernization, it shows that Nagin doesn't give much thought to resource allocation. Whenever a problem is mentioned, the answer is to direct people to the city's Deniability Matrix where you can see how much money the city's spent on solving the problem. How will the city's pay for this? The answer to that question was in another article in yesterday's paper:
He said the city plans to pay it if it receives word that the federal government has approved a second $120 million Community Disaster Loan to the city. That word could come today, he said. If the city doesn't get that loan, he said, it could turn to a $150 million line of credit that private banks have agreed to extend to New Orleans.

You remember, that really favorable line of credit.

Finally, I couldn't help but notice that Veronica White said that her department had been reduced from 89 to 14 employees, that almost makes me wonder if they're the same 14 who work on street maintenance. More seriously, it points the extent to which Nagin is privatizing city services. Also, it make me wonder how many of the "underpaid" workers are left in city government, aside from police officers and firefighters, that is. That will have to wait for a separate post on the slap in the face, I mean across the board pay raise.

I want to make the same clarification I did to Ray in the comments on my piece: I'm not opposed to Pay as You Throw. That seems a fine and noble idea.

My worry (following from Kim's excellent catch about one-a-week pickup that I missed because I was alrready seeing red) is that, based on the current contract regime, if they bid it out on one man automated trucks and it turns out most of the populated city requires a two or three man crew, my future sanitation fee will be much higher.

Another fine moment in Businessmen Privatizing Essential Public Functions.
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