Government / Politics

Opinion: A Maze: City Staff Fails to Provide Analysis and Public Info

Vehicle leasing maze looks like poor staff work and the details were not provided to the public.

At the December 11 special meeting the Hollister City Council received an oral report from city staff and representatives from Enterprise Fleet Management on a pilot vehicle leasing program that could end up as a very expensive decision.  It soon became obvious that the city's 120 vehicles covered a wide range of types, funding, function, usage, age and condition.  One minute they are discussing low-mileage sedans the next minute pickups or high-mileage Fire Department SUVs all with little distinction and no plan in the public documents; that's no way to do business.  

If I were a member of the City Council I’d send it back to the staff and ask for a more professional work product. The so-called report was nowhere near the kind of detailed financial analysis one needs to navigate the maze of options and make complex decisions that will have significant impacts on the city treasury. The staff can do better and it should.

Another serious problem was that the agenda packet did not even have any raw data that the public could use to make their own analysis although it seemed that some raw data was provided the Council. There’s no excuse for the information failing to make its way to the public when the item was presented. That’s like putting a blindfold on the members of the public trying to decipher the maze.

Mayor Velazquez gets credit for watching the pennies because the pennies turn into dimes and the dimes into dollars. He brought up the significant fact that there were many city non-emergency vehicles that were old, but the mileage on them was very low considering their age. I can’t check what I heard – no data – but it sounded like 12-year old administrative vehicles with less than 30,000 miles, but how many and why are they even assigned to a non-emergency department if they are hardly using them? At first blush it appears that they need to pool general use non-emergency vehicles and save a bunch.

I get it, every department wants a new vehicle, but the real question may be, does that department even need a vehicle if they don’t use them and have no on-going emergency responsibility?

The staff needs to do a much better job and the public needs to have access to the information; that’s the attitude I believe the council should take on this issue. We’re talking real money here and that requires real analysis not just finding a potentially expensive – albeit convenient – result and trying to justify it with generalities.

I never object when the council praises good work, but they need to be as forthright when they receive a poor product from the city staff.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.