Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Perfectly Palinesque Performance

The Key West City Commission last night approved a second one-year extension to the $40,000 a year contract held by a local consultant, but not without first putting Mayor Morgan McPherson through a grilling about exactly what it was citizens were getting for that $40,000 -- actually $80,000 now. McPherson delivered a perfectly Palinesque response to repeated questions from Commissioner Teri Johnston about where she might find the deliverables under the original contract, awarded nearly two years ago. In the end, Johnston gave up and asked that the consultant, Community Housing Coordinator Paul Clayton, give the Commission a report on what he has done and what he intends to do.

Before Johnston, a woman in the audience asked a series of similar questions and raised other points that suggested that Clayton's affordable housing brief might have been extended into other, non-housing areas. Johnston asked during the agenda review to have the contract renewal item pulled from the consent agenda where it might have been approved without any discussion. The contract called for Clayton, a process consultant who once worked for former City Manager Julio Avael in a variety of roles, to produce five contract deliverables: a strategic plan for affordable housing; creation and delivery of an education program for citizens about affordable housing; service as liaison between the Key West Planning Department and the City's Workforce Housing Committee; attendance at as many of the meetings of that Committee "as possible"; and pubic relations about the City's affordable housing programs. Clayton bills the City a total of $40,000 a year for 80 hours of work per month towards the deliverables. That's a rate of a little more than $41.60 an hour.

Johnston wanted to know if any deliverables had been delivered during the first twenty months of Clayton's service as the City's Affordable Housing Coordinator. "Is there a strategic plan?", she wanted to know. "Is there an education program?", she asked. When she was done, the Mayor said that the strategic plan was what they were all moving toward, it was all of the actions the City has taken to try to get some affordable housing built. "But where", Johnston persisted, "is the plan. Where is there a document I can pick up and read to see what we've decided to do?" Johnston got some support from other Commissioners. Gibson and Rossi picked up on some of her points and questioned why they had never been contacted by Clayton in the 20 months he's been in the position. It was interesting, even a little amusing, to watch the Mayor attempt to redefine what constituted a strategic plan. It seemed to me that he wanted it to be whatever he and Clayton decide it is.

The Mayor then chastised his fellow Commissioners for not seeking out the Coordinator to find out what he was doing. He said that he meets with Clayton 2-3 times a week, and that the information about Community Housing could be found on the City's web site. I looked it this morning -- here. Not much there, certainly not a strategic plan, and very little evidence of education or PR. The guest column by Clayton n the Citizen must have appeared in early 2007; the letter from the Mayor appears to be from about the same time.

A friend of mine was a member of the Community Housing Committee for a couple of years. They brought recommendations to the City Commission over the years for things that might be done, most of which are still caught up in the bureaucracy. My friend resigned his position when it cam up for reappointment, saying that there wasn't much more they could do, and that what they did recommend wasn't being carried out anyway.

It is said that " ... though the mills of the gods grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small". What's that other one about dust in the wind?

1 comment:

Concerned Neighbor said...

Bob--

Observing from afar I thought the same thing. Paul was Julio's operative, going back to his (apparently long-forgotten) tiff with Tommy O.

I always thought, "In Key West only the actors change: the roles remain the same."

In this case the reverse may be true.

 
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