Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Of Grand Lake Farmers Market, RFPs and Dick Cheney

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...
speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011, after receiving the "Defender of the Constitution Award". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
RFP ---- NO, NO, NO!!!!!
Keep AIM as market manager

The opponents of the Agricultural Institute of Marin continuing as manager of the Grand Lake Farmers Market persist in pleading for an RFP, or Request for Proposal.  Let us be clear what an RFP is.  It is transparently clear that in this case the sole purpose of such an RFP to oust AIM!  Let’s take a look at how an RFP can be set up to achieve that pre-determined goal.

I am a registered architect.  I have worked for private firms and for both county and city governments. I understand RFPs.
I have written Request for Proposals.
I have evaluated submittals made in response to RFPs.
I have convened committees to read RFPs and evaluate which proposals submitted in response to them should be looked at in more depth.
I have selected people to sit on committees to determine which companies, based on their proposals, should be interviewed as the selection process advances.
I have chaired RFP committees to select from the groups interviewed the company to be offered a contract.
I have created contracts for finalists in the RFP process.

I have overseen the RFP process from start to finish.  I know how the RFP process works, how political it can be.  I understand the purpose of the process.  AND in this case, the purpose is to oust AIM and get another group to manage the Grand Lake Farmers Market.  Of course, sometimes RFPs are more political than at other times.  But in this instance the probabilities are high it will likely be completely political.  It will be political because Katz is political and has spent many years cultivating politicians in the City.  He has done some positive things in service to the neighborhood.  That I concede.  But this isn’t one of them.

Back to the RFP process:  As a government architect I worked under a supervising engineer who told me that through the RFP process he could get any group to select anyone he wanted and could get the selected group to give him what he wanted and to take any position he wanted them to take because he understood how to use the RFP process.
1. By writing an RFP, you create criteria, criteria that determine who can apply and who, in the end, will be chosen.  I assume that if the city institutes a market RFP, Katz and his allies will be given principal input into the contents of that RFP.   Do any of you remember when candidate George Bush (the younger) sent Dick Cheney out to choose the best qualified person to serve as his vice president, and Cheney returned with the recommendation that he was that person.
2. By choosing the individuals who read responses to an RFP and have them create a ‘consideration list,’ you can get individuals who share your goals to give you the list you want.
3. By developing initial questions that will be asked by an interview committee choosing the finalists from those who submitted a proposal, you determine not just what you are looking for but which group will provide the answers you want.
4. By creating a rating sheet on the necessary qualifications and the weight given on how qualifications are assessed, the selection is directed toward a predetermined end.
5. By selecting the interview committee members who reflect your view and who are your allies, you get what the process was created to do, to get a predetermined outcome, the selection of the group you want.
6. And, of course, by chairing each committee – from the one writing initial criteria to the one reviewing proposals to the one interviewing finalists - you influence every group decision, guiding the process to your pre-determined choice.

If an RFP is issued for a group to manage the Grand Lake Farmers Market, it will, I guarantee, be one that follows the above model.  The RFP’s results will be pre-determined, and Ken knows that.  The RFP process will result in the market manager being who Ken Katz wants and not what the community at large wants.   In short, the outcome of an RFP designed to select the manager of the Grand Lake Farmers Market going forward will be predetermined by Ken Katz and his political allies.  It will not be determined by the community that has supported AIM by voting with their feet and who, by the hundreds, have signed a petition to keep AIM as manager.  Should who manages the Grand Lake Farmers Market be determined by a few well-connected individuals in the Crocker community, or should those from all over the City who attend the market regularly determine who manages the market?

In conclusion, having conducted many an RFP process, and knowing the people involved and understanding the way results can be predetermined, I am against an RFP because it will not be a fair process and it will in the end give us, our neighborhood, our community, our City, a lesser farmers market.

To sum up:

If a Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued, it will be the result of political insider clout exercised by those who are against the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM).   Several months ago at the meeting of the re-constituted unofficial farmers market advisory committee, group leader Jerry Barclay quite proudly stated that they were a small group – indeed only a dozen or so were in attendance and only seven or eight of those in attendance voted to ask the city for an RFP - but that they had considerable political influence.

If an RFP is issued (in opposition to City staff’s January 24, 2017 Council Report which recommended that AIM be granted a ‘5-year lease’), those same individuals with insider political clout who influenced the creation of an RFP will also have influence on the drafting of the RFP, its language and its stipulations.

If an RFP is issued, those same politically connected few will have blocked City staff’s recommendation that AIM be granted a ‘5-year lease,’ as well as the hundreds who support AIM’s continued management via a City negotiated a lease.  To date, those few have stopped the recommended ‘lease agreement’ from being implemented.

If their views will hold sway, the voices of hundreds will have been ignored.  Those few believe that they and not the hundreds supporting AIM should have a bigger voice in who runs the market.

If the group (who have blocked, through their political connections, the staff-recommend AIM lease since January) really wanted to work with the Agricultural Institute of Marin to modify what AIM is doing, they could easily work with the City and the City’s lease negotiation process to get changes.  Those requesting an RFP are doing so because they want to replace AIM’s highly successful market, or why else go through the RFP charade?

Make no mistake about it, an RFP (Request for Proposal) is not a benign way to get AIM (the Agricultural Institute of Marin) to do an even better job of managing Saturday’s incredible Grand Lake Farmers Market at Splash Pad Park.  In recent weeks, during personal encounters with me at the market, a couple of Katz supporters claim “reforming” AIM is his purpose, insisting that Katz’ is only trying to get improvement, and it is not trying to get rid of AIM.  But, as Katz’ “market guidelines” posted on his news blog make clear, he wants other groups, not AIM, to run the market.

“Considering the long term lack of support from the current management – combined with our limited expectations for future improvements, we’d recommend that the city issue an RFP inviting other market operators to submit bids.  We’d also consider organizing a community non-profit for this purpose….”

 I have been told by credible sources that he has talked to other people about him, or his group, running the market.  An RFP is simply a way to expel AIM from the wonderful market they have created.  Again, if the community wants AIM to make some changes in its market, the way to do that is through City-run contract negotiations.  If AIM’s Grand Lake Farmers Market were a market of questionable quality, an RFP would be a good thing, but AIM’s market has, by several local news organizations, been singled out as being the BEST of the BEST!!!!  And why would one even consider replacing the BEST with something of lesser quality?  No other farmers market has been voted the ‘premier’ farmers market of the East Bay over and over.  So why even attempt to get rid of the Agricultural Institute of Marin?

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