City Controller and Mayoral candidate Annise Parker has proposed a new policy for giving Houston firms an advantage when bidding for city-financed work.
Under Parker's plan, when companies bid on a city project -- say, to build roads or provide office supplies -- local firms automatically would get picked when they tie with an outside company's offer to do the job for the lowest amount.
She also said the city should give local companies a second chance to match the lowest bid for smaller jobs (under $100,000) if they initially come within 10 percent of it. She added the city should not have to pay more for services and goods in such a program.
You can read the proposal here
(PDF). She talks about "local hiring goals" and "local hiring benchmarks", which I take to mean some metric of how many employees on a given project actually live in Houston. I'll be very interested to see how they define all that. Not clear to me is whether or not there will be a preference for firms that are actually located inside Houston - my first impression, upon reading the story with its reference to "local firms" was that this was the key bit, but that appears to not be the case.
To the extent allowed by law, city government jobs should go first to applicants who live in Houston, according to Parker's proposal, and mayoral appointees to boards and commissions also should come from within city limits.
That seems straightforward enough, and fairly unobjectionable to me, at least in theory. One can certainly imagine situations where a post might go unfilled because the best candidates live in West U or Sugar Land or whatnot, and one can imagine the potential for shenanigans if some flexibility is built in. I like the general idea, but I'm going to want to hear a lot more about this before I'm convinced.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 11, 2009 to Local politics
The concept looks good on paper, especially if it's kept at that lower than $ 100k project basis. If not, it would open the door to reciprocal type criteria by other cities on Houston based firms; and more importantly - Tammany Hall type machineries that would set-up store front companies/firms that would be impossible to beat locally. Project bidding work like this tends to draw unsavory characters to it anyway - just the nature of the beast.
This is a bad idea. Is there REALLY a need for this?
Does Houston have the skillsets locally for most kinds of work? Check.
Does Houston have lower unemployment than the rest of the country already? Check.
Are Houston firms already chosen for city work? Check.
So there's no problem.
On the flip side:
Has Houston avoided onerous loopholes for businesses to operate better than almost all other parts of the country? Yes.
Has Houston avoided the insider deals and business deals with insider connections better than most other cities. Yes.
So, let's not create a new problem.