Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Consultants, City Councils, and Citizens

All in favor of a resolution giving $183,700.00 to McClelland Consulting Engineers, Inc. for planning tasks associated with the Runway 16 Safety Area Improvements at Drake Field and approving a budget adjustment in the amount of $183,700.00, raise you hands. Too late to vote against that one. That item was on the Consent Agenda for the Fayetteville City Council last week. Maybe Ray Boudreaux isn't up to the job, but it was just another routine handout of public funds to consultants who have made off with millions with the full support of our elected city officials and no complaint from citizens.

It is not a good idea to keep hiring consultants to do the job that we pay city employees to do. Not only is it a waste of money, the experience in Tontitown this week provides another.
EGIS, a consulting firm the city of Tontitown pays as its engineering department, refused to provide city Recorder-Treasurer Tracy Goddard with a word processing document of the specifications for a street overlay project. It was officially requested from the consultants at the engineering firm under the Freedom of Information Act, and it was for a copy of a document the city had already paid for, but nothing doing. The cousultants made some bogus excuses and claimed they were not covered by the FOIA, but Attorney General Opinion 99-350 states a private entity that receives public funds for services rendered to a government agency is subject to FOIA when the services could have been performed by public employees.

By contrast, look at the outstanding job done by
Karen Minkel, Fayetteville's senior long range planner and project manager, in guiding the city’s Walker Park Neighborhood Master Plan developed by city planning staff and based on a citizen input process of charrettes, neighborhood meetings and walking tours of the area. Neil Heller of Fayetteville, a landscape architect student at the University of Arkansas, helped out with some of the drawings. Most local residents are enthusiastic about the plan based on four guiding principles that came from area residents through the charrette process: a balance of uses and housing, connectivity and walkability, a Jefferson square as a core of the neighborhood, and accessible greenspace.

Let's wean the consultants and rely more on our competent city staff working with engaged citizens. It will save money, promote open and accountable government, and produce a better result for our community.

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