Wednesday, November 06, 2013

More Banana-Republicanism at County Hall: Big Money In Failed Infrastructure … by gimleteye

The most closely watched bid of the year involves the plan, costing more than $1.5 billion, to keep Miami-Dade taxpayers from choking on their own excrement.

Thanks to the domination of local government by the builders lobby (formerly, through the agency of disgraced county commissioner Natacha Seijas and staff), Miami-Dade water rates were kept at a low level; the lowest in the nation for a large municipality. Why? By starving infrastructure, the county cut the costs of growth artificially: providing developers and the builders associations and Chamber of Commerce insiders with added incentives to lure unsuspecting buyers into tract housing and condos.

The abject failure of local government to protect citizens and the environment -- Biscayne Bay for starters -- prompted Biscayne Waterkeeper to file suit in federal court against the EPA and county for breaking its 1994 agreement to fund sewer infrastructure. This agreement was codified in a consent decree that county commissioners treated afterwards -- well -- like toilet paper.

Federal judges are limited from interfering with legislative responsibilities, but when agreements they supervise are flushed along with everything else, you can bet there will be consequences. Oh yes-sirree. If the public only knew.

But the public rarely gets the chance to know because county officials retreat behind public relations consultants, advisors, lobbyists -- the media scarcely paid attention when criticism raised the ire of advertisers allied with builders -- and life goes on.

That's what happened in this case under a competitive bid system meant to provide neutrality in order for county elected officials to make fair-minded decisions on the pecking order at the taxpayer trough.

Indeed many of the exact same interests who fed off low cost growth are now competing for the big contract to fix the mistakes they profited by.

I suppose there is not a word adequate to impart the depth of cynicism it takes to carry on, in this environment. Here is the picture in a snapshot.

CM2H is a large national engineering firm that has been welded to the county's hip for decades and profited mightily. During the Alex Penelas years as county mayor -- grim beyond the pale -- its top lobbyist was inserted straight into the 29th Floor. Now lobbyist Miguel DeGrandy -- one of the GOP's top state lobbyists -- is representing the complaining competitor.

DeGrandy's client objected to the late insertion of hundreds of pages of modifications to CM2H's original bid proposal and prevailed on the current grim mayor Carlos Gimenez to obtain an ethics ruling. But amending bids and contracts is the mother's milk of county contractors and lobbyists. How many billions of dollars were lost, through this time-honored process, has never been reckoned.

That ruling, issued yesterday by Joe Centorino, suggest that a foul was committed by CM2H.

The real foul, though, is the absence of accountability for accumulated deficits -- more billions of dollars -- that are borne by taxpayers without their even knowing it. Who would be held accountable?

In a functioning democracy, elected officials who fail their responsibilities would be turned out of office by informed voters and replaced by challengers unencumbered by lobbyists, lobbyists would be reigned in and stripped of their perks of access, and top county managers would be insulated from the revolving door between regulators and the regulated.

It is no wonder the state of Florida is floating in a sea of pollution. Voters, for the most part, deserve what they get.


Cato II said...

Why does it matter to you that Miguel De Grandy represents CH2MHILL's competitor? The fact is that the company violated decades of bidding practices by doing 2 things. First, it contacted members of the review committee directly during the County Code mandated "Code of Silence", That should not only disqualify CH2MHILL from this bid, it should get them debarred from doing work with the County. Unfortunately, Acting Inspector General Patra Liu said that the bid document was vague on the issue. However, the County Code is clear. Second, allowing CH2MHILL to supplement their bid with hundreds of pages of documents AFTER the competing bids were submitted gave it an unfair advantage. Again, the logical course is to either toss out CH2MHILL's bid or to toss out all bids and set the matter on an expedited basis for rebid. The fact that De Grandy is involved has nothing to do with the story. Gimlet, you buried the lead.

Anonymous said...

Your conspiracy theories surrounding the failures of the Giminez regime should focus on the here and now. This Administration is breeding its own political-money machine with designs on billions of dollars worth of public investments.

Where is Gimenez's little dialing-for-dollars creep Goldmeier in all this? Gimenez's erstwhile opponent, Llorente? His driver and lunch buddy, Ralphie?

By framing every single f**k-up at county hall as the result of historic path dependent conduct set in motion 10-15 years ago by has-been officials, you are relieving the current administration of culpability. It is time to MoveOn to the new cast of characters.

Gimleteye said...

Interesting comments. There are too many ledes in this story, for sure. The over-riding story, though, is a political culture at County Hall that tolerates abuse. There are so many 'gray zones' that the entire operation of county government is afflicted. Has morale among county staff ever been worse? The people we talk with, say no. What happened to Carlos Gimenez? … he won't talk to Eye On Miami, and hasn't, since his election.

Anonymous said...

Readers of this blog need to tune into what's happening in the City of North Miami with CH2M Hill at Biscayne Landing remediation project.

That is a story that needs wider distribution than just Northeast Dade.

They are at loggerheads with the city over cutting corners, trying to get a sweeter deal.

I know a lot of people roll their eyes when they hear "North Miami."

But that city really, really is doing its best to clean up and responsibly re-develop the site.

It's obviously a lot harder when your prime remediation subcontractor is basically trying to game the political system there.