Saturday, November 08, 2008

Just a hunch

I don't know if it's quite as a bad a case of calling timeout to tell the team to run out the clock as Frank Donze seems to think it is, but:
the council voted to spend $15,000 to hire a consulting firm, Strategic Planning Associates, to help it review the budget and "provide advice on revenue and expenditure alternatives."

Something tells me that the consultant won't recommend renegotiating the city sanitation contracts as a way of cutting expenditures:
Louisiana Secretary of State
Detailed Record

Charter/Organization ID: 36398233J


Type Entity: Partnership

Status: Active

2008 Annual Report is required at this time
Mailing Address: 9641 OLD GENTILLY ROAD, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70127

Domicile Address: 9641 OLD GENTILLY ROAD, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70127

Registered: 03/05/2007




I doubt that meets the legal definition of conflict of interest, but it's a conflict to my way of thinking. I know that New Orleans is a small city with a small business community, but sometimes it seems pretty incestuous.

I wouldn't use the word "incestuous," but there was an interesting coincidence in the N.O. Politics column in today's Picayune. I want to emphasize that I'm merely pointing out something that's almost certainly a coincidence, but it's a coincidence that I found interesting. The main item in the article deals with the large number of Jefferson Parish officials who have lindecided to support J.P. Morrell's state senate bid. The third part tells us that Jefferson Parish political consultant Charlotte Burnell has received a $15,000 contract to work with Cynthia Hedge-Morrell on the New Orleans city budget; the article doesn't say who recommended Burnell for the contract. I wouldn't be so foolish as to suggest that almost the entire Jefferson Parish political establishment could be bought off with a $15,000 contract, but if you follow the last four links*, you'll find that Burnell would have the connections to introduce J.P. to most of the people who decided to support him -- if she had the time. She seems to be the city's busiest consultant since Ed Blakely. As much as I'd like to come up with a conspiracy theory involving New Orleans and Jefferson Parish Politicians, J.P. Morrell is more likely to have received the endorsements because of his time in the state legislature. Danny Martiny and Charlotte Burnell work together on the Glenn Ansardi campaign committee, but Martiny and Morrell also worked together in the state legislature. Still, I had to note the coincidence.

I may have misjudged Donze's tone. At any rate, the idea of paying a consultant to help the city save money does seem a little absurd, but $15,000 for advice on the city budget is nothing compared to some of the other consulting fees that the city pays. That's one of the better arguments for taking zoning and land use decisions out the city council's hands -- theoretically, council members would have time to make some of their own decisions, without needing to pay consultants to tell them what to think.

*For example:
A winning argument

To help Redflex in Jefferson, Wagner contacted his friend and business associate, Julie Murphy, a longtime political consultant married to state District Judge Robert Murphy. Murphy said she met with council members Young, Tom Capella, Jennifer Sneed and Byron Lee. The meetings were held in the members' individual offices under official circumstances, she said.

"I'm just a citizen of Jefferson Parish who is treated like any other citizen," Murphy said. "The Jefferson Parish Council is very accessible."

None of the council members promised her an approving vote for Redflex.

"I would have loved it if they had," she said with a laugh.

Murphy also brought in Charlotte Burnell, a consultant with the local firm Strategic Planning Associates and Kenner's chief administrative officer during the 1990s, when Parish Councilman Louis Congemi was on the City Council and later was the mayor. Burnell said she played only a minimal role in presenting the more technical aspects of Redflex's system to Jefferson Parish officials.

Notwithstanding the involvement of Murphy, Wagner and Burnell, the key to Redflex winning the Jefferson contract was a conversation Young had with Chief Deputy Newell Normand of the Sheriff's Office, Young said.

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