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Thread: Privatizing planning dutues

  1. #1

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    Privatizing planning dutues

    Does anybody have a problem with a planning director, Mayor, or City Council who favors privatizing many planning functions? I just found out that the Mayor wants to privatize the site plan review and zoning departments. I wonder if he thinks that we do not do a good job? Are consultants more qualified that us?

    Whenever a new and important task comes along, it is given to a high-paid, suburban consultant who makes much more than the planners who work for the City. I feel like they are saying to the planners that we are not competent to handle the most important stuff that we can only do the day-to-day administration and bureaucratic paper pushing. A new neighborhood plan or waterfront park give it to a consultant! This is the first time that they have discussed privatizing a day to day activity like zoning.

    I have seen the bills, and the consultants cost a lot more that the in-house planners. We have so many good planners who went into the public sector because they truly care for the City; who are as qualified if not more qualified than the consultants.

    Can anybody explain this to me?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    "Can anybody explain this to me?"

    Yes. You are getting the shaft.

  3. #3
          Downtown's avatar
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    a) I agree with Mike.
    b) Maybe they are pushing for privatization because they perceive that the current staff is biased, and they are getting alot of flack from the public?

    Regardless, it just doesn't seem to make much sense, since private is so much more expensive than in-house, especially if you have the resources in place already.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Privatizing

    How big is the community? That can mean alot. How is your local economy? Thriving or stale? In the (thriving) municipality where I work, the entire engineering dept was farmed out. Always had been. The + side was that every expense was charted and charged to the "offending developer". On the negative side, customer service was abismal. Over the past 2 years they have been bringing things in house, realizing that certain things can stay private and be 100% charged back, but certian things require a personal touch - even if it is an engineer's touch!

  5. #5

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    bturk - we are a very large city, population close to a million, midwestern rust belt, very bad economy, very low tax base.

  6. #6
    Member Mary's avatar
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    Have you tried making them aware of what's going on? Try monthly reports to council of your department's activities. It's a pain but it would let them know how much work really goes through your office.

    Concentrate on return time. If the public esp those with the $ aren't getting things in a timely fashion they may be convincing council that you arn't doing your jobs.

    Personally I hate politics but it sounds to me that if you want to save your department it's time to make friends with the powers that be and find out what factors are forcing this change.

    If you have any extra staff time find a project that the council has wanted and hasn't gotten and present it to them wrapped in a bow.

    Good luck

  7. #7

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    That is a good point Mary. The in-house stuff does take a lot more time.

    A good example is we tried to get a digital camera for inspections. We had been using a Poloroid for years, and the film alone was costing a fortune. We fought for years (really) and were never able to come up with the support for one (we are a very poor city). In the end, we asked a consultant to buy us one and we tacked it on to a bill for consulting services. Took them two days to get it to us! Now we have a contract with a consultant whos only purpose that I can see is to buy supplies for us and provide training because there is no money in the department to pay for such things (I guess because all of out money is going to consultants!).

    Dan, there are a few consulting fims that I know of in Michigan that only do work for those small towns that do not have planning staff of their own. I was told that the cities give them all their planning work because it is cheaper than hiring full time staff.

  8. #8
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Originally posted by planasaurus
    Dan, there are a few consulting fims that I know of in Michigan that only do work for those small towns that do not have planning staff of their own. I was told that the cities give them all their planning work because it is cheaper than hiring full time staff.
    My town's professional staff includes a town manager, town clerk, finance director, and me -- the town planner. That's it. There's also eight full time police officers, four general maintenance staff (streets, water system, etc.), and a water/building clerk.

    The demographics of the town are, with the exception of a six block ghetto that is something of a historical anomaly, can best be described as "low key high end" -- affluent, but not really flashy. Despite the growth and wealth, the town budget is very small -- there's only a very small commercial base, and the town is still recovering from financial problems it had several years ago. A digital camera is in the budget, though, and we just got a large format plans copier. A lot of the luxuries that I've taken for granted in larger municipalities -- plan reducers, GIS, color copiers and laser printers, matching furniture (much less a chair that stays locked at one level), the industrial Bunn coffee maker -- there's none of that here. I got the town's first ever laser printer several months ago, and we can afford high end computers only because I'm building them myself.

    Still, we've got our fair share of consultants. For the new municipal complex, charter school and public safety building, there's teams of architects and planners. Our civil engineer is a consultant, but in spirit he's thought of as an employee.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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