It appears that Andy Taubman and the other members of the ad hoc street committee are making a difference in changing the status quo down at the street department. At Tuesday’s council meeting, Valerie Gray, the city’s executive director of public works for the past year, presented a plan that sounds almost identical to what Taubman and his “A Team” have deemed necessary in order to get the runaway street problem under control.
Currently the Street Preventative Maintenance Program has completed less than half of the projects that were slated for completion by 2016. From the data collected by the street committee, it appears that the department created its own roadblocks by creating an environment of “We will continue to do today what we did yesterday” even when it wasn’t working well.
This outdated way of building and maintaining streets worked extremely well for a handful of big contractors, especially one who claims to have made over a billion dollars off city street jobs. This comment was made when contractors were invited to attend the third meeting of the committee to address what is working and what is not working in the current SPMP program.
One of the committee members, Alan Guggenheim, who has lived up to his description on Linked In as “highly experienced in reorganizing, streamlining, and strengthening business to maximize delivery performance, customer satisfaction, profitability, and shareholder value across operations,” asked a simple question of one contractor. “What are your criteria for measuring success?” It was a reasonable question, a good question, a question asked by private business owners all the time, but one that amazingly hasn’t been asked of the contractors until now.
The contractor’s answer? “Make an obscene profit.” Well, that’s great for the businessman, and certainly that’s how capitalism works. But, what does that say about the way the City has been spending our hard-earned tax dollars? Maybe now there will be some accountability within the system. It’s amazing how new eyes on an old problem can lead to solutions.
In today’s Caller-Times article, Mayor Nelda Martinez is quoted as saying, “There’s no question of the unprecedented construction work underway on our streets. This is the most bullish we’ve ever been on streets, and I know we’re going to get better — there’s always room for improvement — but I can’t tell you how proud I am.” Perhaps the Mayor and the other three council members who were adamantly against the formation of the committee in the beginning are starting to see the good that has come from this group of concerned and knowledgeable citizens . Surely they have made the connection between what has come out of the committee and this sudden change in the “business as usual” attitude of City staff.
Councilman Chad Magill, who initiated the creation of the committee, is at every meeting and is often seen seated next to Carolyn Vaughn, a savvy business owner and council member who supported the creation of the committee and nominated Alan Guggenheim to serve on it. The five who were in favor of the committee from the start (Magill, Vaughn, Rubio, Garza, and Rosas) should be proud of their efforts in taking the first step to fixing a broken program. Magill told the Caller-Times, “I’m more confident in our seal coat process than I ever have been.” He went on to say that he anticipated even more improvements to come from the recommendations of the street committee.
Next week Council will hear the full plan that includes the City being more small-contractor friendly so that work on the projects can be sped up to meet the December 2016 deadline. Using more than one contractor for these projects has been a discussion item at many of the street committee meetings. This kind of collaboration among City staff, the committee of concerned citizens, and the Council gives us hope that our streets will improve and that our tax dollars will be spent wisely. In the words of John Hannibal of the television series The A Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Clarificaton: Council member Colleen McIntyre pointed out to the editor that the final vote for the ad hoc street committee was a unanimous one (9-0).