At the last City Council meeting, the public was asked to buy four tablet computers at an individual cost of $4,000. That is not a typo. You could walk into a retail store and buy the same device priced for much less. Yet you, the taxpayer, was asked to pay more.
Thanks to the good catch and hard work of Councilman Bill Gates, the Council voted down the proposal on a 5 to 4 vote.
This may seem like a small amount to those who think it is OK to spend your money with little oversight, but small purchases turn to large ones. The same argument -- that it is such a small amount and we shouldn’t worry about it -- comes from those who thought it was OK to spend $11,000 on table coasters.
Well, I do worry about it. And I do worry about spending hundreds of millions of your money, too.
At the same Council meeting, I voted against a budget that included $3.7 million to pay for union activity (which I believe is not legal and violates the state gift clause) and $100 million in new pay raises for government staff. Doesn't sound so good when you have people out of work struggling to make ends meet, does it? Hard to defend when you compare what government gets to what you get, and the tough times you are going through.
The attitude also highlights the need for procurement reform at city hall, a reform I have been pushing for the past two years.
Pointing out and making examples of these items for the public also serves another purpose: It creates a level of transparency that discourages other questionable purchases from ever moving forward. It makes people think twice about ordering an overpriced item that may not even be necessary.
Procurement reform will help, especially with the large items, but there is one other thing coming soon that will be of help. Two months ago, the Council voted to make small business a priority. Part of that proposal required Phoenix to reach out to Arizona businesses on purchases. Yes, instead of business poring over bid requests, we would have to search to find out who carries different products.
What does this do? It expands the base for product or services, which in turn creates more competition, which then leads to lower prices and a better deal for the taxpayer.
It does one other thing. It lets new people in the system.
Up to now, many taxpayer dollars went to insiders familiar with the procurement process, those who have been around for years and have familiarity with the bidding system. This new proposal passed by Council breaks that barrier to entry and opens the door to many more vendors in Arizona.
I made a commitment to you and your family to protect your interests and bring change to City Hall, and I will continue to push for those reforms that make our city an even better place. I will continue to point out issues that have long been kept from you. Shortly, you will see a column talking about property taxes and why the current policy Phoenix adopted in 2009 will mean your tax bill will go sky high in the next few years. It is called "maximizing the primary rate," which is another term for "watch your taxes go up." Here is the official document from the City of Phoenix which ran in today's Arizona Republic.
My best to you and your family,
City of Phoenix
Councilman, District 6
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