Heaping Praise & Sending Insults Simultaneously

Please consider my last blog about the McKinney City Council’s consideration of a private firm taking over our biggest ballpark.

I have never seen a city council go out of their way to thank the staff for what they do. In fact, it is sometimes entertaining to watch each council member compete to be the first to praise the staff. It gets gushy. And it is a pleasure to watch the gratitude and appreciation. It is genuine.

Yet this video clip referenced in the blog is an illustration of how the City Council insults the staff in the very meeting projectile praise is offered. This is a council that has pretty much ignored the Council-Manager form of government for a very long time. Some Council members meet privately with developers in the name of just wanting to be better informed about issues coming before the Council. The only problem is that you often see both the P&Z and staff being overridden without much explanation. The very forum where the public could learn details about an issue, including pros and cons, gets cheated out of a teaching moment.

The first tip off that something is not right in the meeting I have highlighted is that a private company is making a pitch, and the pitch is introduced by a councilmember, Chuck Branch. One of the reasons to have a staff is to vet these kinds of pitches. And everybody knows the danger of indicating a favoritism of a company wanting to do business with the City. Unfortunately, the first worry is criticism from competitors.

In fact, if the staff determines there is merit to a new service or product, the first thing the proposer hears from staff is that the City will have to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to see who else might be able to serve the City. Also, there is an obligation for the City to evaluate the best and lowest price for the said service or product.

In this case, you can see on the video where the Parks & Recreation Director is called on to comment on the presentation in the live meeting. It makes you wonder, did Councilman Branch even talk to the PARD director before the meeting? In the agenda packet you find a copy of the Letter of Intent as well as the presentation. In most cases, like with P&Z, you usually find a staff report and probably a recommendation. Not here. It’s all a one-sided pitch.

Except there is usually an obligation to give consideration to a P&Z item. There is no obligation to take up at least 20-25 staff/council hours in one meeting to hear a pitch. Does Mr. Branch have any idea how many pitches compete for staff and purchasing attention every single year? I’m assuming he has no vested interest in this particular company and is only wanting to bring something to the table that he thinks might help the City. However, has he ever been to a TML conference where there are literally hundreds of exhibitors who would love to have 20-25 staff/council hours to make a pitch for something?

There is absolute disregard for the Council-Manager form of government here. Why is the member of a governing and policy board out hustling for something new for the City to do? And is there no sense of bad timing obvious here when the City just completed a comprehensive parks plan? Is there no respect for staff input? Can you imagine the workload on the council and staff Councilman Branch just initiated?

This is where the meeting went sideways. There was serious discussion about – get this – developing an RFP/RFQ to consider a consultant to evaluate the proposal. Holy Cow! This is where the mayor or mayor pro-tem should have shown some leadership and stopped the whole thing in its tracks. It never should have gotten this far in the first place, but by the time a huge investment was made in listening to the pitch, the PARD director and the audience, a council appreciative of the staff should have driven a wooden stake into the heart of this deal. And, on the side in private, somebody on the council should have told the freshman councilmember what a dumb thing he had just done. I would have considered it an imposition on me as a councilmember.

But then that is where the culture of McKinney Governance is to do just that. Way too much involvement in daily operations and details. This should have been handled with nothing more than a paragraph in a City Manager’s weekly memo to the council, at best. One paragraph. We’ve been approached. We looked at it. It doesn’t fit and here is why. We recommend saying no in a polite letter unless you want to pursue it. And by the way, this is one of six items we have been approached on this week (300 in the last year!) as explained in the next five paragraphs. Actually, I’m not sure it qualifies as to be in a weekly report.

Has Mr. Branch even asked how many vendors currently serve the City? And for every one of them there are several more companies that want to have the City of McKinney as a client. And most importantly, for every vendor selected, there were probably six that were told they didn’t get it. For every one of those six, there is a probability that a protest was registered even in a mild form. Can I see all of the proposals? Why didn’t you give me more weighting in this evaluation criteria? My bid was lower than the awardee. Why did you give it to them? I want to challenge you on your definition of “best bid.”

As I have already said, this is insane. I also cautioned the Council months ago that a good City Manager candidate was going to be interviewing them as hard as they were going to be interviewing the candidate. The basic questions were 1) do you as a council understand the Council-Manager form of government and 2) do you respect and adhere to it?  Not in McKinneyLand!

It is clear that Mr. Branch has no clue. It is equally clear that nobody else on the Council does either. Especially to have let this unsolicited pitch get this far and then promoted by a councilmember. God help us if this doesn’t change and we continue the city manager revolving door episodes of the past. Red flag! Red flag! LFM


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