As many of you probably know by now, I have been very interested in the RFP process of privatizing public services since I became involved with the City Chattahoochee Hill Country, now the City of Chattahoochee Hills, in 2007.
During the election process for Chatt Hills I attended candidate training seminars, interviewed all of the candidates for City Council and Mayor and introduced all of those who were interested to the concepts of contemporary zoning reform and sustainability oriented legal tools and models. Both in Chattahoochee Hills and Dunwoody, late in the races, the discussion shifted from zoning and planning and the vision for the future of the city to police services and politics as usual and who could raise the most cash, put up the most signs and send out the most mailers or robo calls.
While community policing is very important, most of these issues will be decided by the police chief hired and the budget allowed. We will start with a modest police force and hopefully grow it, but more importantly we must employ the many methods common around the country today of creating environments that are safe and friendly to citizens of all race, culture and income and at the same time using code enforcement and community involvement to discourage criminals from inhabiting our community. I am confident that all of the city council representatives will succeed in attracting a great police chief, and since this will explicitly not be privatized, we will have a local and trusted community police department.
Since Sandy Springs more or less invented the modern concept in Georgia of forming a city, out of a large chunk of sprawling metropolis in a rapid time frame and with privatized services, there has been a lot of argument and healthy discussion as to the best way to issue contracts and implement this process.
It is now conventional wisdom that the way all of the cities before us have started their initial services on day one is rather crude compared to the level of sophistication they have achieved today. In starting our city in the fall of 2012 we really have the benefit of all of this knowledge and understand of what works well and what might create limitations on our public leaders in providing the highest quality of services at a fair and equitable price. Please be aware, cheaper is not always better for the city in the long run and this is a very important decision to be made for our city council and mayor.
Once again the initial leaders of the cityhood movement, those who worked tirelessly for 30 years or more to take away the power to sprawl, with no concern for sustainable models, from County Commissioners, has become the leader in refining the RFP process. The City of Sandy Springs has invested a lot of time and money in creating a much better RFP process that they used in their recent re-bid effort for private contractors providing city services. This model will allow much more flexibility for the City Council, Mayor and City Manager to adjust services with our revenue and growth We will have the option now to expand or contract our government based on economic conditions and city growth in ways that none of the other initial city contracts could allow. It also gives us much more flexibility in changing vendors in a way that will likely attract better service providers that know they will be held accountable for both short and long term quality of services.
I want to offer a sincere thanks to Eden Freeman and the City of Sandy Springs for making this body of work a part of the formation of our future City of Brookhaven.
Just before the Governors Commission was formed I felt like I was in the dark on all of these issues depsite my rather strong background of related knowledge and my requests to Brookhaven Yes Inc. to participate. Since the Governors Commission has organized, from 5 people who did not even know they would be the members until the end of August, it very quickly became clear they would do their best to start our city on the most ethical, transparent and legal foundation possible in such a short period of time. I must repeat, they have done a stellar job, as have the large group of very dedicated volunteers from within and from outside of the City of Brookhaven.
In fact what they have accomplished has exceeded my expectations for the quality of the RFPs and this work will have a dramatic influence on the potential quality our privatized services. The level of transparency, professionalism and legal standards, due to the requirement of the Governors Commission to follow open meetings rules, has changed the standard for city start-up.
While the shorted time-line, in combination with this open meetings requirement, put huge pressure on volunteers, their families and their professional lives, to accomplish basically six months worth of volunteer open meetings governed work in one month, somehow they have pulled it off with, in my opinion, a fantastic result. Sure there is a lot that could have been added to the process, including much more public involvement but I believe those selected by the governor have collectively done their best to serve Brookhaven honorably. Additional public involvement would have happened to a higher level if the volunteer commission had been given financial resources to hire professionals, or contract with public relations and social media service providers, or just had more time to focus on that part of the process before having to jump head long into producing the RFPs. But I feel they did the best possible job, came together, reached out to the public immediately, held regular public meetings, got releases to the press, etc. and attracted and involved fantastic experts, professionals and community volunteers in the process.
Which brings us to last night and the Special Called Meeting of the Contracts and Proposals Committee of the Brookhaven Governors Commission.
They decided formally that they would release the RFPs for public consideration on Friday October 26th for contractors that will bid on providing services to the future City of Brookhaven, to be formally incoporated on December 17th, 2012.
I am assuming that it is possible that some RFPs might not be ready by Friday for release but that at this time it is expected that they will be.
There will NOT be a required pre-bid conference. All questions from vendors about the RFPs will be submitted by email and all relevant questions will answered publicly, including the question, for all of the vendors bidding to be able to see. I personally, after hearing arguments and legal opinions, think this is the best decision in our case and due to the conformity of these contracts to Federal standards and the familiarity now of contractors to these RFP models due to the previous city re-bids.
The deadline to respond to RFPs will be at a specific time and address on November 23rd, 2012. I will ask that you check with the Governors Commission website or attend their Regular Meeting of the Governor’s Commission on the City of Brookhaven @ St. Martin's Episcopal Middle School Atrium Room 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm, to verify these details.
I am very confident that the legally required privacy of this contacting process will be achieved at the highest standard, as will the evaluation of these RFPs by a confidential committee. This is a legally necessary step that will then allow for the release of these evaluations and RPFs to the newly elected officials, and to the public, in a way that ensures the highest quality of fairness to all vendors and the highest standard of transparency to the citizens of Brookhaven.
Thank you again to all of the professionals and volunteers who have turned what I felt was a very secretive process of city implementation, led by J Max Davis and his core Brookhaven Yes Inc. team, into a remarkably accessible to the public effort. An effort that has been successful in making the Brookhaven City start-up the best yet, despite our remarkably late start on the public RFP effort, and thankfully without the need to rely on a private contractor for this part of the process. This has allowed us a bidding process unlike Dunwoody under Boyken International that will be as public and transparent as possible as it will remain completely under government open meetings and open records requirements.
Note: With respect to Brookhaven Yes Inc. I have to make a very clear distincition between the Parks team and the rest of Brookhaven Yes Inc. The Parks Team of BYI has always been the hardest working, most organized, most productive and most transparent of organizations. This statement about Parks, which I am confident others who have been involved with all of the previous city startups will agree with, has not just been the best in Brookhaven, but the best of all the cities yet.
The BYI Parks Group has raised the bar for community involvement in city formation to a whole new level in so many ways. Their effort should become the standard for how we involve the public and can accomplish a very large body of work for the city with volunteer, but very professional resources. In saying this I don't want to minimize the strong efforts and work of many others in the formation of Brookhaven, their involvement and work is invaluable. But Parks set the standard for leadership and the kind of character, determination and transparency we should be looking for not just in our public officials but those in our community who we look to for leadership, consult and advice outside of our elected officials.
I will go further to say that their influence changed the whole character of our start-up and fostered and encouraged the great civic involvement that spilled over into all of the committees.
My hat is off to all of you who have been a positive, productive influence in the process of forming this new democratic and republican form of government we will soon call the City of Brookhaven.
As I am finding in person, Brookhaven has already become a much greater entity than any legal boundaries or politicians can define. It is now a stronger and more connected community that I am proud to call my home and where I want to focus my personal work of Conservation, Preservation and Urban Design going well into the future.
Have a Great Day!