Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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May 28 2009

No to Wasteful Spending: Snow response consultant

Published by at 9:56 pm under Emergency Preparedness,Winter Storms

At the May 26, 2009, Full Council, I opposed legislation that would allow the Seattle Transportation Department (SDOT) to spend between $100,000 – $200,000 to hire a consultant to look into the December snow storm response and our City’s overall emergency preparedness in SDOT. I believed the one-time outside consultant cost of $200,000 should not be necessary because this scope of work should be part of the core function and business at SDOT. The Seattle Times reported SDOT paid a consultant over $515,000 to investigate workplace issues dealing with its employees, many of whom do snow response work. That consultant interviewed over 114 people. How does that improve service to you?

I want SDOT to have the internal expertise and develop the algebra behind a smart plan. Even though these severe winter storms only hit Seattle once in a decade, I have been blunt in saying, “This is not brain surgery.” Regardless of the limited experience to snow storm responses in this region, staff at SDOT and Emergency Management Operations should be working with other jurisdictions on an annual basis to study residential plowing policies, use of salt, use of carbide blades, communication and coordination plans, and other procedural and operational functions during a snow storm response at no additional cost to the City. As I stated repeatedly during committee discussions and council briefings, this type of work should already be part of each Councilmember’s committee and department work plan. As chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, I worked closely with Seattle City Light and the Department of Information Technology to review emergency management policies this past year. I have suggested to my colleagues that as they oversee their respective committees, they should include emergency management reviews that are appropriate to the departments they oversee and include it as an annual item on their work program.

This outside consultant work will be in addition to the 1) After Action Report and Corrective Action Plan involving 12 agencies and departments, 2) the in-depth investigative report by the Seattle Times, and, 3) the report compiled by Council central staff and the City Auditor’s office. I believe I share the sentiment of many residents in saying that, by hiring another consultant, it condones the management practices and lack of internal expertise that led to this problem in the first place. I cannot endorse this practice and we should never be hesitant to question the quality of managerial effectiveness.

You can read my two previous postings from earlier this year about the snow response at: http://www.bruceharrell.org/2009/03/2008-winter-storm-response-update/
http://www.bruceharrell.org/2009/01/snow-response/

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