THE JOY OF BUREAUCRATIC TERMS
This gets us closer to returning to Room 301 at the Hall of Records – the supes’ arena of action.
It’s the nature of government contracts with options for extensions that they require a long period of foreplay. So it is with contracts for the 10 haulers handling the 13 exclusive service areas.
Although the contracts expire in February 2018, the county is required to begin negotiating the possible exercise of the options no later than February 2017. That means the preliminary talks can start even earlier.
Since the options themselves aren’t guaranteed, the county can scrap the system negotiated in 2004-2006 and start from scratch.
It was clear from comments made Tuesday that county officials have been chewing for some time on what to do as various deadlines near.
We outsiders must grasp two bureaucratic terms if we’re to fully enjoy this story of political ambition. The first is “amend and extend.” The second is “request for proposal” – hereafter referred to as RFP.
“Amend and extend” means the county and the current haulers would sit at a table (not all at once, of course). They would have before them the current contracts. They would identify how things have changed over the last decade – regulatory conditions, market trajectories, customer preferences, operating expenses. Everyone would agree on contract amendments. These amendments would be both specific to each of the 13 service areas and fair in overall principle. The amended contracts would go to the supes. If the supes approve them, then the haulers can relax – they’ve got another decade of monopoly in their service areas.
RFP means competition. Each of the 13 service areas would be up for grabs once the current contracts expire. Haulers would turn in their best offers. This often means the lowest price.
“I’ll haul away your trash for $25 a month.”
“Yeah? Well, I haul away your trash for $24.50 a month, and throw in some extra goodies.”
The process isn’t really a live auction. But, in theory, it’s supposed to work much like my example. Each hauler, knowing that his competitors want the business just as much as he does, is forced to squeeze his profit margin and operating costs until it hurts. The winning hauler may squeal, but the ratepayer (usually a voter, as well) saves money.
That’s the way RFP is supposed to work. RFP is a staple of government operations.
All this is common knowledge among politicians and haulers. As this story has suggested, haulers have been known to make campaign contributions to political campaigns. Candidates have been known to cash those checks. This arrangement is so pervasive that it’s simply impossible to paint one candidate as pure and another as sinful.
There are no virgins out there.