Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith addressed the membership breakfast of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of New York on 03.03.11 at the Union League Club. After a glowing introduction by ACEC New York 2012 Chair Paul A. Bello, PE, of AKF Engineers, the Deputy Mayor for Operations spelled out NYC’s economic condition, and what Mayor Bloomberg, his deputies, and commissioners are doing about it. “It is true that because of the relative resilience of the city’s economy, revenues are higher than the Office and Management & Budget had expected,” was his opening line, followed quickly with: “But the expense side is something else.”
Much of the speech reviewed the reasons that “the cost of government is going up at a higher rate than revenues” with much attention focused on the pensions of former municipal workers and the need for lay-offs beyond those leaving city employ by attrition.
Of keen interest to the many engineers and two architects (including 2011 AIANY President Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP) in the room were the issues of procurement reform and review of regulatory processes. The former was noted in regard to the time it takes to issue, analyze, and award contracts through Request for Proposals. With Marla Simpson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, at the head table, the Deputy Mayor joked about the administration’s remaining time in office perhaps being shorter than some consultant hiring decisions, adding that “how we do procurements is on the table.”
One of the recent hires was a consulting firm to analyze the operations of the NYC Department of Buildings as part of the Mayor’s “Simplicity” program “to reduce the friction of working with government.” Goldsmith noted, “There is a culture clash at the Buildings Department between two missions: policing safety and building buildings,” and that “mediating between those is the major issue of process change.”
The extent of capital expenditure reductions in the city’s proposed budget was also discussed, with particular mention of the difference between an across-the-boards cut of 10% or 20% on all projects versus the elimination of a set number of projects totaling that amount of the capital budget. The Deputy Mayor said that “there is a great variation between agencies on costs.” More radical was his mention that the city incurs costs by outsourcing all risk. He noted that it might be possible to change municipal contracts and the bonding process to cut costs by allowing for more risk.
Good news for the engineers present was the Deputy Mayor’s mention of the city’s green infrastructure program, creating “new opportunities in hydroelectric and sludge.” He noted “if we can take some of the gray infrastructure and make it green infrastructure and have more permeable surfaces and save some money while we do it, everyone will be happy.”
He invited those present to get involved in the issues of regulatory reform, including the problems of sequential and conflicting reviews, and concluded by saying, “In the end, we also have to get health costs under control, but we have to first figure out how to make city government more simple, more efficient, and less full of friction.”