Consent Calendar

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.

19 Comments

  1. P.O.—the council should take another look at the Los Lagos golf nets.  If CSJ paid $2.2 MILLION, the taxpayers got screwed.  We all know that the same job costs at least twice as much if done for a government entity than if it were done for a private party; just as restaurants raise their prices for Mothers Day, and a meal at a restaurant costs three times as much if it’s wedding-related.

    But the taxpayers should not have to bear this burden.  Someone should audit that cost.  It’s easy: have a staff member call up every driving range in the Valley, get the specs. and cost for their nets.  Plug in an inflation factor to adjust for nets installed years ago. Shouldn’t take more than few hours to see if we got the shaft.

  2. This casual treatment of other people’s money is exactly why the City is in a financial mess.
    I’m glad that there is at least one Councilman who understands that the Government exists to serve the people- not the other way around- and I thank you, Pierluigi for championing our interests.

  3. “the council policy requires that these private landscapers be paid a prevailing wage, which is higher then the market price.”

    Absurd, socialist policies that dictated “prevailing wages” and “comparable worth” were foisted upon us by activist leaders who equated good feelings with good government. Where are they now? Will these sages please stand up and take a bow… and perhaps some responsibility for the bind in which we find ourselves. Now that the myth of the bottomless piggy bank has been exposed, how about these compassionate crusaders cough up some cash of their own. C’mon Janet, show me the money! There are wrongs to be righted. Out with the checkbook, Susan. Just once let your inner socialist have a crack at your own fortune. Blanca, you were to local government what quince cervezas is to good driving. ¿Pagará con dinero o con tarjeta?

    This world has been blessed with ordinary citizens who will risk their lives and fortunes for the things they believe in, and cursed with arrogant politicians who risk only the lives and fortunes of others.

  4. I would say our city government panders to special interests first and residents last on economic/budget matters. Thank you for highlighting all three that were not covered by the mainstream press.

  5. Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock have provided us with many wonderful romantic-comedies in the last decade.

    I look to the calendars of Nora Campos and Madison Nguyen for courageous and thoughtful leadership.

  6. Don’t worry PLO, JMO, JG and FF. I’m sure all of your collective whining on blogs will surely bring about the change you seek.

  7. Pierluigi,

    Could you tell us how much the city is paying for the “Green Mobility” project across the street from city hall?

  8. I was listening to KUSP the other night, and they had PJ O’Rourke on.  One of the things he said was: “Politics is the art of achieving power and prestige without merit”.  I suspect he might have been quoting Mark Twain without attribution.  But whoever said it was correct, for the most part.

    I second #7’s request.  How much did the new little sidelwalk across from The Taj Gonzal cost us, P. O.?

  9. #7 & #8

    The Santa Clara Street Green Mobility Sidewalk Improvement Project provides for the
    construction of sidewalk, drainage and electrical improvements along Santa Clara Street between 4th and 5th Streets, as part of the Green Mobility Showcase Project. Proposed improvements include: new curb, gutter, and sidewalk using “green” concrete, permeable pavers, a storm drain lateral, electrical conduit and pull boxes for future electric car charging stations, high-efficiency
    streetlights and a solar “cooling station” as well as other necessary roadway improvements. The City will be supplying the “green” concrete and permeable pavers for the project.
    The public
    improvements will benefit the Downtown Redevelopment Project Area by improving safety and operation as well as allow for the demonstration of various “green products” to be used in streetscape construction. The project requires coordination with utility companies, and other City departments.
    The Department of Public Works will perform proj ect administration, prepare project plans, specification, and cost estimates, perform plan review and coordination, construction management, and other services required for the construction of all proposed improvements included in the project. The source of funding for this project would be a transfer from the Redevelopment Agency in the total amount of$188,769.

  10. Pierluigi,

    Thanks.  Looks like there is also a companion project “Santa Clara Street Lot Drainage Improvements” at the RDA costing $70,000.  This lot was built only a few years ago. 

    There was already one charging station at this site installed with great fanfare. Having passed by the area many times during working hours, I have never seen an electric car being charged.  Let’s hope the city has more success with the other items being installed.

  11. Orwell,

    If you don’t understand a certain word go look it up. The activists are preaching green so this what you get from local government. I would guess plug in electrical and plug in hybrids cars will be more common over time.

  12. The Santa Clara Street Green Mobility Sidewalk Improvement Project sounds like a total waste of at least 1/4 million dollars.
    Electric cars are a fraud as the energy comes from a coal or oil power plant. What the heck is “green” concrete?

  13. State law defines “prevailing wage” as the “basic hourly rate paid on public works projects to a majority of workers engaged in a particular craft, classification or type of work within the locality.”  Doesn’t sound like an exorbitant pay scale, especially for the kind of jobs we’re talking about.

    Seems like a good idea to make sure that people taking care of our parks or any other public property are paid a fair wage.  I have a feeling that many people who work on landscaping for property management companies are vastly underpaid.

    Let the cries of “pinko” begin.

  14. James #15—I’d be happy to pay them a fair wage if they did even a half -assed job.  The folks who work for parks & rec., for instance, would be fired on their second day on the job for a homeowner, for instance, if they did as little work for their “fair wage” as they do.  The wage isn’t the issue.  It’s the bullshit work rules the union negotiates from our wimp-ass “leaders”, to ensure that no union
    worker does more than four hours worth of REAL WORK, in an eight hour day.

    You opined:“I have a feeling that many people who work on landscaping for property management companies are vastly underpaid.”  I agree, if you are comparing them to government employees.  But the private sector guys actually work hard, all day; unlike the government landscaping workers who dog it, and get paid more money.  Go figure.

  15. Charter City,

    Sounds like then the council has been lobbied by Big Labor to do it voluntarily and give San Jose residents less.

  16. San Jose is a charter city and therefore is exempt from prevailing wage. Prevailing wage law does not address matters of statewide concern and therefore charter cities do not have to comply. State Building Trades of California vs. City of Vista and DIR vs. Long Beach and Vial vs. San Diego.

  17. 15-

    Prevailing wage in California is defined as the mode.  This makes prevailing wage in practice the wage of the largest union contract, often considerably higher than average.

    Other states use the mean or median, which results in wages based on what every pays, not just unions.