The agenda was (with some elisions):
• Project Status from Hensel Phelps
• HP Intros
• Updated Jobsite Photos
• Monthly Project Status Report
• New and Open Community Issurs and Status
• Status Report, DDOT (James Cheeks).
• Remarks, Jack Evans
• Remarks, DPW William Howland (i.e., parking issues around the site)
• Feedback of survey of meeting dates
• New Issues
Jack was running late so he went toward last. He did his fairly standard spiel on the state of finances and downtown projects in the District, which is always useful.
And then meeting took a different course. There are several provisions for training District residents and hiring them as the hotel is built and when it begins operation. A "good" thing. Let’s just say that there were several people from other parts of town concerned with this aspect of the new CCH, and the whole idea that the CCH was to be a benefit to the city disappeared for a while. Many in the audience seemed most concerned with how the take from the project for the training and jobs thing could be maximized. The editor also had that impression from a few of the Councilmembers when he testified in favor of the CCH here. (It seems so long ago.)
The editor believes in transparency. This jobs and training part of this project in the District is mostly mentioned in passing when it’s discussed in a general setting. The editor has the feeling that it’s bigger than we think. Hensel Phelps and Marriott have to factor in the training costs, the costs of hiring many not quite up to speed personnel and the attendant handlers and lawyers to make sure the “right thing” is done that it probably adds several million to the cost of the project and the on-going operation by Marriott.
It would be nice to see that number broken out, as there is a jobs number but not a dollar amount. Surely HP and Marriott have projected the costs, probably having done such things elsewhere. They surely have a carefully budgeted number. It would be nice to know that. But it’s buried in the overall cost to Marriott and the District. Don’t forget, we the taxpayers here have a large piece of the action. What we have in an off-the-books welfare (okay, “job training”) program of non-trivial size buried in project, which we are paying for. The editor recalls an old IBM salesman joke about burying expenses. It’s what the project is doing.
One of the of differences between government thinking and that of the competitive world is that competence is priced differently. In the private world, one wants people competent enough to get the job done while paying the least amount. In the government world, many, many job descriptions can be filled with a range of competent people and the job can still be done. In the private world, there is competition, and the company which can more closely match competence and job pay and requirements over time will thrive more than many competitors.
The recent proposed 20%-70% hiring requirement for contractors doing work in DC is an attempt to bury serious extra employment costs in project prices. The editor considers it insane. Those extra costs will show up, either in higher taxes, lower bond ratings, or simply things that don’t happen because business is more profitable and transparent across the Potomac River.
The editor also remembers the 1980's living in 3D. We had a number of police officers of questionable honesty at the time, a lot new hires. There was, at the time, a very, very strong push for local hiring, almost to the exclusion of other considerations. Thus, vetting was not what it should have been. Over time, and better management in the MPD, that seems to have disappeared. It would be nice if it stays that way.