Friday, January 7, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg's Administration Has No Cash for Ambulances, But a Blizzard's Worth for Consultants by Juan Gonzalez - NY Daily News

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The use of outside contractors is just another way for the Bloomberg Administration to privatize City services and bust municipal labor unions...It also is a way to send City ca$h to favored contractors and political allies to the detriment of city taxpayors and bypass transparency and normal checks and balances... 

The city wasn't prepared for the blizzard, with ambulances and buses stuck all over, but Mayor Bloomberg is sinking millions into consultants and 911 upgrades.
You could pick snow chains, shovels and common sense. Or you could hire an army of $400,000-a-year computer consultants.
In the Bloomberg era, City Hall routinely chooses door No. 2 - and sticks us with the tab.
Everyone knows how long it took the mayor to admit snow removal in last month's blizzard was a disaster or that our city's emergency response system became woefully overwhelmed.
Now, before any investigation is complete, Bloomberg is rushing to scapegoat lower-level officials instead of holding himself and his top aides accountable.
EMS Chief John Peruggia was the first to be demoted. Others will surely follow.
Then we discovered this week that Bloomberg is planning to spend another $268 million on his hugely expensive modernization of the city's 911 system.
The 911 upgrade looks like another CityTime money pit. It has been beset with performance problems, is years behind schedule and already costs more than $2 billion - nearly double its original budget.
The latest contract only came to light because Controller John Liu blew the whistle Monday and balked at approving it.
Under Bloomberg's plan, defense giant Northrop Grumman is supposed to take over management of the project, which a previous contractor, Hewlett Packard, botched. Most of the $286 million expenditure is earmarked for consultant salaries.
More than 100 Northrop people would be paid an average of $380,000 annually, a Daily News analysis of contract documents found.
The agreement even provides annual 2.5% wage increases. The highest-paid consultant would begin at $454,000, and would increase steadily to $494,000 by the fifth year of the contract, the documents show.
Bloomberg is determined to pay such outlandish salaries at a time when he is cutting city workers and services.
The backlog in answering EMS calls during the storm had nothing to do with the new 911 computer system, the mayor said yesterday. All those buses, private cars and ambulances stuck in the snow created the problem.
If the city had spent some of that computer consultant cash on snow chains for city ambulances, many of them would not have gotten stuck.
"Fire engines and police cars all have chains for their tires, but we have nothing," said Bob Unger, a spokesman for the union of EMS workers. "Our union has raised the issue periodically and it wasn't addressed. The screwups here went far above Peruggia's pay grade."
Better yet, if Bloomberg and his top aides had used basic common sense and declared a snow emergency from the start, sanitation crews would have had better luck clearing the streets.
Look at Philadelphia. At noon on Dec. 26, before a single flake had fallen in that city, the National Football League postponed the Eagles-Vikings game that was scheduled for that night.
Two hours later, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency. Up the turnpike in Newark, Mayor Cory Booker grabbed a shovel and went to work.
Here, Bloomberg & Company managed things by BlackBerry and Twitter from wherever they were. Immediately afterward, they went back to doling out the great new patronage of our time: $400,000-a-year consulting contracts.