The City of Los Angeles is looking to replace all 40,000 of its parking meters. That’s going to be a tall order for some manufacturer. But according to reports, the city is going to attempt to circumvent the normal bidding procedures and use a political device called "piggybacking." That is, they will, if the process is approved, be able to purchase the meters by using the bid process that was used by another government agency. That means that the company that got the deal before will get the deal again. You can read about it in this column here.
As a former hardware salesman this process turns my stomach. Sure it may be faster but is it fair? Just because some agency thought brand "A" was best for its application, is it not possible that brand "B" might be better in this case. I’m reminded of a sign that was on the wall of a coworker at my last gig:
Procrastination on you part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
INnother words, just because the city didn’t start the replacement process two years ago doesn’t mean that they can run roughshod over the normal bidding process because time is short and meters are falling apart. Come on LA, do what is right: research the market, get a bid spec written, open the bidding, and allow the companies that provide pay and display and meters to bid your project. There are a number of good ones out there.
Now as for the indignation that was wrapped around the columnist (Steve Hymon of the LA Times) when he went to a meeting where the above was discussed and found a bunch of vendors with keen interest, he called "lobbyists" and I call "Salesmen" all I can say is "get a life."
What do you expect manufacturers to do when a city is going to spend $12 million bucks for something. Sit back and wait for the order. Of course not.They are going to attend meetings, put on presentations, invite appropriate people to tour installations, and get their products and services in view. In fact they were the ones that gave Mr Hymon the spin for his column, that of the city trying to bypass the normal bidding process.
Healthy competition will flush out the baddies, get a good price, and most likely if the city does its homework properly, get the best product for the job. Trying to bypass the process is a mistake.