by Max Brantley
The Little Rock City Board approved a local bidder preference ordinance last night over the objections of only Director Ken Richardson, increasingly the voice of reason on the board.
Enforcing this ordinance will be a headache, at least. Every company with an operation in the city will want in on it. I wonder, too, whether anyone wonders if a local business might set up a dummy bid by an out-of-city bidder so as to be able to add a little profit cushion to the bid they know will ultimately win?
City directors touched on the ready solution and I'm surprised it wasn't written into the ordinance in the first place. Mayor Mark Stodola counseled seeking advice from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce on setting qualifications for the firms that receive preference. CORRECTION: Mayor Stodola says it was not he, but another city official, who made the suggestion about getting advice from the chamber.
Why not simply make the law say the preference is available only to members of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce? Problem solved. They are already running a public agency — the technology park authority — including making decisions on when public records should be destroyed. In fact, why not just let the chamber run the city procurement process? It would be outsourcing at its finest. It could also lend support to the chamber's current campaign to increase their support from taxpayers and utility ratepayers ($200,000 annually from the city alone.)
Maybe we could outsource the mayor's job to Chamber CEO Jay Chessir, since he's calling so many of the shots already.