Rumsfeld Rules - Is Elk Grove Suffering From its Own Version of Mission Creep?

May 20, 2013 | In recent weeks former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been making the rounds on the media circuit to promot...

May 20, 2013 |

In recent weeks former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been making the rounds on the media circuit to promote his new book, Rumsfeld's Rules.

One show Rumsfeld appeared on last week was America Public Radio's Marketplace. During the interview Rumsfeld was asked about the seemingly contradictory message on one of his rules and the "mission creep" of the Iraqi War.

Are there lessons on 'Mission Creep' the Elk Grove City Council can learn from DOD Secretaries McNamara and Rumsfeld?
While Rumsfeld was, at best oblique, the topic of mission creep and his response came to mind when reviewing this week's Elk Grove City Council meeting agenda. Specifically, item 10.4 whereby the city will pay an vendor to bid on the aquatics center.

While the discussion of paying a vendor to bid on a project is a separate discussion (see side bar below), it appears that Elk Grove City seems to be caught up in its own version of mission creep. For Elk Grove it could be more accurately called unfulfilled project creep.

Think about it, how many plans, several of them grandiose - some might say delusional, has the city undertaken that have gone unfulfilled yet cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars? A simple jog of the memory reminds us of several and undoubtedly readers can probably point out several others that don't immediately come to mind.

Perhaps the biggest was the civic center project that the city council spend spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars on for architectural plans that are now collecting dust on some shelve inside city hall.

Of late, the city has laser focused on pursuing several athletic endeavors from the proposed softball fields  a while back to the more recent aquatics center. Of course the city continues to spend tens of thousands of our dollars on consultants, studies and travel in pursuit of landing a Major League Soccer Team even though the City of Sacrament clearly has taken a commanding lead in this pursuit.

This is not to say all of the city's unfulfilled projects plans are unwise. For instance, the city has developed plans to open a stop on Amtrak's San Joaquin route that to date remains unfulfilled.

Then there are those categories of projects that many correctly assert would regionally connect us, reduce car traffic, improve air quality and provide a real service to citizens that the city has shown no inclination to pursue and one can even argue has shown varying degrees of outright hostility towards.  Can you say Light Rail?

So while the city might spent $150,000 more of our money to pay some consultant to develop a proposal that they could bid on, the city council and staff might want to consider self-medicating themselves with some Ritalin, quit spending taxpayers money on consultants and travel junkets and focus on realistic infrastructure plans that benefit the taxpayers and not their political agendas or personal egos.

To paraphrase one of Rumsfeld's more notorious quotes, this might be asking to much with our local government as there are several "known unknowns" when it come to their scheming with taxpayers dollars.  

Side Bar - Paying to Bid?

Item 10.4 on this week's Elk Grove City Council agenda meeting has the audacity to recommend that the City reimburse each bidder up to $155,000 to cover their costs to submit a bid proposal for the design of the waterpark.

Perhaps this a win-win, no-lose policy using taxpayers money. Win-win, because the losing bidders win their money back, even if they lose.

We cannot find or recall any recent example of this in other levels of government, except maybe Department of Defense contracts and we all know how convoluted those are. By pulling this latest economic incentive rabbit out of their hat, the Elk Grove City Council is sending a strong signal that says 'we are a desperate city and will pay you to bid on our projects.'

We all know that others are watching and will want the same deal. Win-win, no losers, except for the taxpayers of course.

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Anonymous said...

Exactly what STAFF member thought this was a good idea and placed it on the agenda? We should not be paying vendors to submit a proposal. This agenda item needs another look, fellas. This seems like another one of those "deals" we don't need. Who pays for proposals (well, that is, besides johns)??

Connie Conley said...

Any company that submits an RFP for a multi million dollar contract would know that is the cost of doing business.

Most cities have a clause in their RFPs that state there is no reimbursement for costs or expenses incurred.

However, could it be that there has been so little response to the acqutics center RFP that city staff had to offer an incentive?

What about all the other companies who spent tens of thousands on city of Elk Grove RPFs and didn't get the contract? Fair to them?

And for us laypeople taxpayers, how many of us were paid for a job we didn't get when we got that rejection letter?

That slippery slope continues with RFPs in the city of Elk Grove . . .

Lynn said...

As one council member told me "we will give incentives till the money is gone"...the rate our elected officials choose to spend our tax dollars it is going to be gone sooner than later.

New Rider of the Purple Sage said...

Look, the city and the consultant both know that the report will show a massive subsidy is needed for the project to succeed, and the consultant knows that the odds of moving forward with the project is slim to none--and they don't want to throw their money down the sinkhole. Let the taxpayers do it they say!

Someone who used to care said...

New Rider hits the nail on the head.

The projects the city seeks to undertake are frivolous and ill-conceived. That is why they can't get any reputable businesses to submit bids. Everyone except those on the council realize that the council's grandios plans are nothing but pipedreams.

No reputable business is going to spend thousands of dollars for projects that have no reasonable chance of ever coming to fruition. That would be bad business.

Everyone sees that except our council.
...and that makes our council and our city a laughing stock to our neighboring communities.

Some things just never change.

Jean said...

Generally, good business people are smart. They don't spend their time and money on projects that aren't likely to pan out. Perhaps that is why the city cannot find companies to submit RFPs. Smart business people have the vision that these proposed projects will either fail or never get built, otherwise they would submit the RFPs out for bid.

Perhaps these people know more than our council about what a good project is and what projects are likely a waste of effort and money.

If you pay them regardless of the viability of a project, you'll get the RFPs you seek, but at tax payer cost for projects that experts see as, at best, questionable.

If and when the city brings forward solid, well-thought out projects, we will get the RFPs we seek at it won't cost the taxpayers a cent.- We don't need to entice businesses to do business. We just need solid projects that make good business sense. - Numerous and legitimate RFPs will then fall into place.

Anonymous said...

How true...if it sounds risky most won't waste their time on it. Much too costly for a business.....

Anonymous said...

Alleluia sister! Perhaps you might want to run for the next vacant city council chair? We need smart business people, not politicans who have very little experience as small business people. Paying for RFP's? Sounds desparate. Maybe this project needs some more venting before you spend xxxx dollars on a project that seems destine to fail.

Michael Monasky said...

This reminds me of something comedian Mel Brooks said: Never, EVER invest your own money in a project---that's what investors are for!
Our city Fathers seem to share Mel's penchant for spending other people's money.

Of course, Brooks is a fabulously successful creative genius who promoted "Springtime for Hitler," a guaranteed flop expected to make instant money for "The Producers."
Any perusals about the next city council foray?

Michael Monasky

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