We don't have Don Schmidt on City Council anymore to watch those pennies for us (which have a way of adding up to dollars). But Liz Brown, R-at-large, and Karen Goldner, D-2nd, may be on the way to becoming a fiscal-watchdog tag team. They displayed their spending skepticism (with maybe a wee bit of sarcasm) Tuesday night, when a proposal to spend $340,000 to a consultant for rain gardens came up:
Also Tuesday, the council:
?Strongly criticized a plan to pay a consultant $340,000 to help publicize and manage the city's promotion of residential rain gardens, which is required as a part of a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency. The consent decree requires the city to spend at least $420,000 on its rain-garden initiative, which aims to have 1,000 homeowners build rain gardens to help retain stormwater runoff on their property. The city is setting out on a $240 million program to reduce combined-sewer overflows as part of the consent decree. Currently, stormwater runoff goes into the sewers and excess is pushed into the rivers.
Councilwomen Liz Brown, R-at large, and Karen Goldner, D-2nd, were especially critical of the proposed contract with international consultant Black & Veatch. Under the contract, the consultant would have developed educational materials for schools, how-to manuals for homeowners and development standards for use in residential and commercial constructions. It also would have designed 16 rain gardens and would have helped run community meetings to promote rain gardens. The council issued a “do not pass” recommendation and told City Utilities staff to work out another proposal.
Good job. Because the city deals with millions of dollars, something that costs "only" $340,000 can be looked upon as just routine keep-the-wheels-going spending. But, if nothing else, doggedly questioning the smaller stuff can keep council members sharp and in practice for the big stuff. The trick, as Schmidt knew and Brown and Goldner are probably learning, is to not simply be against everything and get a reputation for being an obstructionist.
The consultant would have gotten all that money for how-to manuals, conducting meetings and "designing" 16 rain gardens. You have any idea what's online? I googled "rain garden how-to manual" and found several. Here's a very nice one from the University of Wisconsin in a handy pdf format. Tell you what. I'll print off a thousand copies and set up a meeting to hand them out, and I'll only charge the city, oh, say, $150,000. Quite a bargain, wouldn't you say?