08 July 2009

SB 43: Legislative flea flicker

A mini scandal is brewing in Santa Clara, where the 49ers stadium plan is getting help from State Senator Elaine Alquist (D - Santa Clara). She gutted an active, rather innocuous bill, SB 43, and replaced it with completely unrelated language geared specifically towards Santa Clara and how it should work the bidding process for the stadium.

The original bill was drafted to help the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) determine which health care fields could benefit from greater diversity, linguistic and cultural knowledge. It's a bill that could be beneficial for my brother, who is a rare male in a female-dominated sector. SB 43 was moving swimmingly through committee when, on June 30, all language was replaced with rules that govern that the design-build process for the stadium only. It doesn't establish rules for any other joint powers agencies that may undertake other stadium building projects throughout the state. The bill has gone back into committee.

So what we have is effectively a legislative trick play. Masquerading as a simple interior run, the QB (Alquist) gets the pitchback and heaves a bomb to the WR running down the sideline (49ers), all while the OL (stadium proponents) and DL (opponents) are completely unaware. In a real flea flicker the OL is usually aware, but apparently not this time.

There are all sorts of questions about how this all came about. Let's tackle them from the start.

Why the bill language change? The deadline for introducing new legislation passed at the end of February, so the only way to get these rules passed was to rub out an existing active bill.

Why didn't they just introduce the bill early in the year? My guess is that the Niners felt it would've opened the project up to greater scrutiny before they were ready to unveil the revised plan (remember how I questioned the short evaluation period before the City Council vote?). The 2007 handout made no mention of the bidding process.

Did Sen. Alquist receive a campaign contribution from the 49ers? Alquist's office also revealed late that it received a $1000 campaign contribution from the 49ers.

What's so controversial about this "no bid" change? Stadium opponents are already getting their pitchforks and torches ready now that "no bid" has entered the discussion. The city charter requires a public bidding process for projects like this, in order to get the lowest high quality bid for the allocated budget. In industry parlance it's called "design-bid-build." In this case, they're going with "design-build" which changes the process by identifying a specific lead contractor early and working hand-in-hand from the start. Design-build can yield cost reductions if done right because it can prevent expensive project changes, which cost as much in terms of development time as anything else. There are few firms that have the experience necessary to do this work. What probably happened is that the 49ers and HNTB already had feelers out with construction firms and labor groups to lock in rates and costs as well as they can, which is a good idea - the A's/Quakes have been trying to do something similar. The problem is that we're dealing with public money, for which there is already a defined process. Did the Niners jump the gun? We'll soon find out.

From the City's perspective, this is an endaround the city charter, though a charter committee will be convened to rule on the bidding process. If Santa Clara is figuring out a way to deal with this, then why is state legislation involved? This is one of those cases where a bill is unnecessary and potentially wasteful. Not in the "I want my legislators working full time on the budget" sense, more the "let local issues be handled at the local level" sense.

So why are they doing this? It sounds like the decision to go with design-build was not arrived at hastily, and it may have been baked into the project from the onset. Wouldn't it have made more sense to educate the public about the matter during, oh, the last two years? Now stadium proponents have to be careful that this issue doesn't get too hot, despite the process being a peripheral detail.

And what of the original SB 43? I doubt anyone's going to get hurt by it disappearing, and it can easily be reintroduced in the next legislative year. Though I have to wonder - was the original SB 43 just a placeholder for the existing bill?


Anonymous said...

And we wonder why gov't is so inefficient...logic is thrown out the window and everyone blindly marches to a set of rules that may not apply. The '9ers agreed to cover all cost overruns--so why shouldn't they be allowed to try and ensure that these costs are managed effectively?

What's amazing to me is that a bill has to be introduced to allow for this exception--or the public would have to vote to allow for it to happen even when the city's interests are protected--Much ado about nothing when all is said and done--

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a new A's ballpark blog? nobody cares about the 9ers

Jeffrey said...

Speak for yourself anon 357

This sort of information is important to any stadium development.

gojohn10 said...

Not only that, but even if you don't care about the niners you have to appreciate the flea flicker analogy.

Marine Layer said...

Plenty of questions remain about the financing plan. While the 49ers will cover cost overruns, there is no info as to how they will deal with revenue shortfalls. Santa Clara should have protection from this, and for that reason alone the political process shouldn't be easily bypassed.

BTW, I enjoyed drawing up the play.

Tony D. said...

Hey R.M.,
You should be the Raiders offensive coordinator! With plays like that, we're sure to go all the way! (I've left myself open for this one)

Anonymous said...

"speak for yourself anon 357" aren't you the guy who someone said doesn't know what they are talking about? thats what I thought

Jeffrey said...

"thats what I thought"

Again, "thats" is actually two words. You should take an English class. That is. It requires an apostrophe.

Marine Layer said...

I don't think it's realistic for any business to eat a tax even if they're can expect to get it back. Most taxes simply get passed on to the consumer. It would've been a nice gesture not to raise the parking fee, but it's not realistic. As it stands the A's will actually pull down slightly less revenue per car. $17/118.5%=$14.35.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey this is not an English class, nobody cares about perfect grammar and punctuation on here. But if it makes you feel better to make pointless corrections keep it up. Here is one, fix this "Jeffrey douchebag is a". Rearrange that and satisfy yourself.

Jeffrey said...

Hey Anon, at least I can articulate what it is that you don't know. :)

Anonymous said...

I know everything your talking about I just dont care to use the best grammar on blogs and stuff. So you telling me about an apostrophe is rediculous, as long as people understand what your talking about thats all that matters.

Anonymous said...

Not really. When you consistently misspell the same words over and over it calls into question your intelligence, which calls into question your analysis and opinions on the matter at hand. You might not like it, but it's a fact. Feel free to continue to represent yourself in this manner. But don't be surprised when people don't take you seriously.

Marine Layer said...

Enough with the grammar/anti-grammar attacks already.