Wednesday, May 19, 2021

5.18.21 Meeting Summary

 Last night the Council discussed two significant items:
  • The first was whether to award a consulting contract to assist in preparing an update to our Housing Element.  Updating the Housing element is periodically required approximately every 8 years.  The City is not staffed to handle this work on a regular basis so when required we engage outside parties to assist.  As is normal with contracts of this size, we issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) inviting vendors to submit bids on the work.  Our RFP estimated the cost of this work to be approximately $235K.

    In response to the RFP, we received two responses from firms that had similar experience, approaches, and cost.  Of the two firms, the City has already engaged with one of them regarding the consulting work on the downtown lot.  It was for this reason that staff recommended selecting MIG for the newest contract.

    But rather than just the $235K, we were informed that there could be additional work necessary related to Environmental Impact Review (EIR) which may cost up to an additional approximate $180K.  The staff recommended authorizing this larger appropriation of funds.  The determination of whether an EIR would be necessary would be made by MIG.  In my view, this has the potential to create a moral hazard where the entity responsible for determining the need for additional work and compensation is made by the same entity performing the work and receiving the compensation.  In addition, if the work was truly larger by greater than 75% of what was estimated in our RFP, then the RFP was flawed and should be redone as other vendors may bid on a substantively different project.

    While I would be fine with authorizing the lower spend amount and then later evaluating the criteria by which a determination is made for additional spend, doing everything all at once may give the impression of self dealing.  As a result, I voted no.  I was in the minority and the Council awarded this contract and authorized the greater spend on a vote of 4-1.

  • The second item we discussed was more of a procedural matter.  We removed the council agenda order from our ordinances shifting to adopting these by resolution rather than in the municipal code.  We updated the language to reflect current naming conventions and proper identification of entities.  

    The last thing was more substantive.  Historically a representative from the Planning Commission (PC) would give a report to Council on their activities from previous meetings.  Because it is common for matters that come before Council to first go before the PC, in order to avoid prejudging matters we discontinued the practice of having the PC report out to the Council.  This was straightforward, however the discussion brought forward many other instances that are of a similar nature.  The PC would also do a report out to the CBCA, where Councilmembers may be in attendance.  Councilmembers are also known to attend PC meetings.  In some instances Councilmembers may attempt to sway PC decision making.  All are problematic and present risk to the City.  

    While we took action on the one part - PC reports to the Council, we did not do anything to address the other matters.