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Going Through the Motions: Jan. 22 and 29 

We sit through City Council so you don't have to.

Apparently there's a method to getting a private contract for city work. Let's review:

Step 1. Promise to do a service for a specified amount of money -- let's say $11.7 million over three years -- that is cheaper than the city's current expenditure.

Step 2. With about a year left on your contract, announce that you need more money to do the work for even another month, let alone another year.

Step 3. Receive an extra $1.5 million to do the work you promised to complete at the original price.

Step 4. Have your ineptness rewarded with a brand-new contract even larger than the (inflated) original version -- say, three years at $14.5 million.

You won't find this plan in the city code or posted on its Web site, but it is the path that private company First Vehicle has taken to successfully get two contracts to maintain the city's 1,000-car fleet.

Fleet maintenance was originally privatized under Tom Murphy's administration. However, in April 2007, then-Acting Controller Tony Pokora released an audit showing that the contract was going to quickly exceed the money allocated to it. Council members weren't happy at the time, but allocated additional funds to complete the work, vowing to look into taking control of the garage again when the contract expired. However, on this past Jan. 29, the mayor's office asked that the contract be extended instead.

That should make for lively debate when the contract comes up for a preliminary discussion and vote, on Feb. 6.

"The administration has had preliminary meetings with [First Vehicle] and they are confident that the costs can be under control, [something] they'll need to show when they come to the table," says Councilor Bill Peduto, who chairs council's finance committee. "The question that I have, and hopefully it will be answered, is there's an opportunity not to just have First Vehicle provide service to the city but also to the county, so why aren't we merging this service with the county?"

Peduto also says he has asked the administration "if there were reports ... saying that this contract wasn't living up to what it's being sold as, how and why are we giving them an extension on it?"

Vote of Confidence

Council voted 7-0 to send a resolution of support to the Pennsylvania State Legislature regarding a pending GLBT anti-discrimination bill. An e-mail was sent Jan. 28 from the Delta Foundation, a GLBT activism group, urging members to call councilors Ricky Burgess and Dan Deasy and ask them to support the measure. Neither had cast a vote in previous meetings. Both men supported the measure in the final vote.

There may have been a concern which way Burgess, also a minister, would vote. However, before the vote as even called, Burgess affirmed his support for the measure saying, "all Pennsylvanians should be protected from discrimination."

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