The consent calendar on the city council agenda comes after the City’s ceremonial items are completed. The difference between “consent” items and the rest of the agenda is that the consent items are suppose to be composed of “rubber stamp” issues like excused absences for councilmembers, final adoption of ordinances that were already voted on at previous council meetings, etc. As a result, all the consent items are voted on at once. However, any councilmember or member of the public has the right to “pull” an item from the consent calendar which requires that the item be voted on separately than the rest.
The rule of thumb is that the consent calendar is not supposed to include any in-depth policy or controversial issues. However, sometimes buried in the consent calendar are items that merit discussion. For example, I removed the $2.26 million golf nets for Los Lagos golf course a year ago. I thought that $2.26 million on golf nets warranted discussion and I wanted to be on record for not supporting this purchase.
At last week’s council meeting, we had several items that probably should not have been on the consent calendar. One item of interest was settling a lawsuit with a software vendor for our Housing Department. Unfortunately, the Housing Department bought software based on a promise and a PowerPoint slide. So when it came to actually implementing the software, it did not work. As a result, we spent eight years of staff time going back and forth on a settlement. We are getting only a fraction of our money back via installments over five years.
As you may remember, I have been a fan of piloting software before purchasing it. I believe it is a smarter and smoother way to go. If the software does not work, you find out quickly and do not have to spend a lot of money or staff time. The city of San Jose now has a new policy that allows for technology pilots. Here is a link to a prior blog on this topic.
Another consent item was that the council decided to give every janitor, gardener and security guard a raise at the water pollution control plant last week. I removed this item and shared my concerns which included the idea that if we receive good services today, why should we pay more? Perhaps we would consider giving raises in a robust economy to attract workers, but we are in a recession with the highest unemployment rate in Santa Clara county since 1941. We do not have a problem getting these services delivered today. I am not sure why we continue to voluntarily raise the cost of government when we do not have to do so. I also found it interesting that this issue came forward two weeks after council raised the sewer fees and not before.
And, yet another item on consent was the public-private partnership update. As you may know, there are property management groups from homeowner associations to corporate property owners who would like to maintain certain city parks for free! They would take care of landscaping, cleanliness, etc., by hiring professionals in those fields. Most people that I have talked with think it’s great, because then, I can free up currently deployed city park staff and move them to other parks in San Jose and catch up on the backlog of maintenance. Ah ... but not so fast, thee who is on a quest for government efficiency ... the council policy requires that these private landscapers be paid a prevailing wage, which is higher then the market price. Therefore, our quagmire continues since private groups do not want to pay above- market rates.
Your government at work…sure…but does it have its residents’ best interest in mind?
If you’re looking for food, entertainment and a tax deduction, then consider attending Monday Night Live at the San Jose Stage Company tonight at 6:30. Tickets are $60.