Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Culpeper Council Meeting Review for November 12, 2014

Here's a brief look at the high profile vote taken tonight.

Tonight the Culpeper Council took up the first part of ethics reform dealing with town employees. The ethics reform measure abolishes town employees from engaging in political activity while on duty. It also sets a maximum limit of $5,000 per year for any council member doing work for the town as an employee. 

Those voting in favor of the new ethical standards were council members Lockridge, Olinger, Price, Reeves, and Russell.

Those council members voting against the new ethical standards were Rimeikis, Taylor, Ryan, and Yowell. 

Those opposed to the measure did not believe we needed higher ethical standards. They argued the status quo was sufficient. 

Measure Passed 5-4

Monday, October 20, 2014

Culpeper Council Meeting Review for October 14, 2014

Here is a brief look into some of the more high profile votes taken last Tuesday night.

Town Council took action to appoint Tom Letts to the Culpeper Planning Commission. I voted for Tom because of his extensive private sector experience in construction. The council voted 4 to 3 to appoint Tom to the Commission. I voted yes. 

Council also took action in support of economic development and tourism by establishing a new job description for the Culpeper Tourism Department. The council voted 4 to 3 to establish the new job description. I voted yes. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Need for Better Stewardship over the Money Government Spends

When bad things happen in government procurement, the real culprits too often are officials who fail to exercise the oversight they should.
BY OCTOBER 2, 2014

When a water main breaks in your town, what does the local government do? Other than responding to the break with the appropriate emergency services, the municipality works to replace the broken main. Companies are asked to bid for the job based on the cost of pipes, other materials and labor. Officials then award a contract that delivers the best work for the best price.
That's the way procurement is supposed to work. However, this isn't always the case, and too often the real culprit is poor oversight by elected officials.

The competitive bidding that most procurement regulations require aims to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best quality product or service at the lowest price, and it supports accountability in government. In some cases, however, there are services or products that can only be purchased from a single company. This "sole-source procurement" is usually done when the product or service is a specialty item and no other company can provide it at a reasonable price.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, for example, recently announced a $4.2 million settlement with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to resolve alleged procurement-law violations involving the award of a $14 million contract to a Virginia company without competitive bidding.Both approaches to procurement have their place, but both are subject to unethical behavior, such as when department heads or government workers grease the skids for companies with which they have personal or professional relationships or when the competitive-bidding process is bypassed improperly.
And in January of this year, a public-works supervisor for Miami-Dade County was convicted of taking $13,000 worth of household appliances in exchange for using his influence to ensure that the department purchased the supplier's lighting products. Worse, the employee who had held the same job before that supervisor had been charged with taking bribes from the same lighting company.
What the Miami-Dade case illustrates is a lack of oversight for a position with authority over the spending of taxpayer funds. The only way to curb this type of unethical behavior is for elected officials to look closely at the procurement process and hold department heads accountable for the choices that they and those they supervise make. As for sole-source contracting, it is important for elected officials to regularly reexamine such procurements to confirm that what is being purchased is indeed still hard to obtain or for some other reason cannot be subject to competitive bidding.

Most government employees are not susceptible to unethical procurement temptations even when there is relaxed oversight. But there will always be some who will be tempted to take advantage of a system that lacks the necessary safeguards and stewardship by elected officials.
It is estimated that government procurement on the local, state and federal levels accounts for $7 trillion in spending annually. When that much taxpayer money is on the line, elected officials must provide efficient procurement processes, but they also must exercise careful oversight. The right way to handle taxpayer money is diligently and carefully.
VOICES is curated by the Governing Institute, which seeks out practitioners and observers whose perspective and insight add to the public conversation about state and local government. For more information or to submit an article to be considered for publication, please contact editor John Martin.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Culpeper Council Meeting Review for September 9th 2014

Here is a brief look into some of the more high profile votes taken last night.

The Culture of Debt
I will always vote against government borrowing, also known as bonding. It is my belief that government should live with-in it's means and only pay for projects as the money is available. Saddling our residents with debt most often results in higher taxes and bigger government. The practice of spending money before you actually have the money is systemic problem in government culture. I don't operate my household in such a manner and nor should the government. 

The council voted 8-1 to adopt a reimbursement resolution for more than $3 million in future borrowing for new town vehicles ($344,400); computer items ($85K) and a water fund project ($2.6 million). Passed 8-1 I voted no.

Tax Money Thrown in the Trashcan
I believe it's reckless not to allow competitive bidding for government contracts. Our trashcans are only purchased from one vendor without competitive bidding. This means there is no opportunity to bring down the cost of our cans. The Council voted 5-4 to purchase 560 new trash carts at a cost of $28,449. 
I voted no. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Culpeper Council Meeting Review for August 12th 2014

Here is a brief look into some of the more high profile votes taken tonight.

-Public Comments
On July 1st, I presented a addendum to council to add public comment time to the town code governing council committee meetings. In committee the addendum was met with resistance by two committee members. The addendum was then sent to the council as a whole with no recommendation.

Tonight the council passed my addendum with an amendment by a vote of 7 to 2. The two councilors who voted against public comment were Pranas Rimeikis and Bobby Ryan. This addendum is a statement to the people of Culpeper that the majority of council values your opinion and we want you to be a part of the process.

- Car Wash Expansion
The owners of a car wash on Sperryville Pike wanted to increase capacity by utilizing more of the property they had available. However the residents living around the car wash signed a petition to have the expansion stopped due to loud noises, traffic, excessive lights, and major parking issues. The problem revolves around the town government's lack of planning for the area back in the Mid 2000's . The awkwardly placed car wash and strip mall was planted in a residential area and does not provide residents with noise, light, traffic buffers. As a result their property values have been severely reduced. I did not want to add to the problem by adding more traffic to the neighborhood. While both sides presented very persuasive arguments, I voted against the proposal because the neighborhood asked to me to vote against it. The proposal passed 5-3 with one council member abstaining.