Mayor’s Hire Houston First initiative returns to Council this week

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Last week, City Council took up Mayor Parker’s Hire Houston First initiative. The item was tagged, and returns to Council this week (item #33).

We have not previously discussed the initiative, but here is an excerpt from the initial press release that Mayor Parker put out in July:

Mayor Parker promised a Hire Houston First program when she ran for office in 2009. The mechanism to fully implement the program was approved by state lawmakers in the just completed legislative session. The program, which requires City Council approval, will allow the City to consider a vendor’s principle place of business and to grant preference to local businesses in awarding certain City contracts.

For contracts under $100,000, the legislative changes allow the City to award contracts for the purchase of goods to a local firm if the local firm’s price is within five percent of the lowest bid from an out-of-town company. For contracts exceeding $100,000, there can be no more than a three percent difference between the out-of-town low bid and the next highest offer from a local vendor.

Mayor Parker proposes expanding the principles of the legislation to include procurements for services, including construction work, and to encompass firms based across the greater Houston metropolitan area. The City would also have the discretion, when appropriate, to consider location when selecting contractors for architectural, engineering, and land surveying services.

“I am thankful to the local legislative delegation for their support in getting this approved and I look forward to working with City Council to get it implemented,” Parker said. “Hire Houston First will provide discretion, where appropriate, without negating our responsibility to wisely manage the dollars entrusted to us. It will maximize the local economic impact of our governmental spending.”

Perhaps this makes me a curmudgeon (okay, I’m definitely a curmudgeon), but what this looks like to me is a nice mechanism for the Mayor/Council to dole out patronage and favors to local entities while costing taxpayers up to 3-5% more than necessary.

And… it’s nicely coordinated with the mayor’s “Please let me break 70% so I don’t have to face a tough challenger next time” re-election campaign!

UPDATE: Speaking of the election, a friend recently received this robocall voicemail message (wav download) from the Annise Parker campaign. The fun part was that the caller ID indicated the call was from Washington DC (202 area code). Perhaps there wasn’t a competitive local phone bank to do the calls?

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