Monday, September 9, 2013

Abele's Transit Scheme Needs To Be Rejected

In March of this year, Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele had another one of his temper tantrums and fired his Director of Transportation, Frank Busalacchi. Unfortunately, during the time of Abele's tantrum, the Milwaukee Transit System was in the process of negotiations with the paratransit providers.  And because of Abele's tantrum, things got bungled and the taxpayers were put on the hook for nearly $9 million.

To cover up the results of his blundering ways, Abele decided he wanted to get a new agency to manage the transit system, even though the current manager, Milwaukee Transport Services (MTS). To do so, he put the contract for bid, but kept the process of evaluating the bids under wraps with absolutely no transparency or accountability. Abele eventually chose a company named MV Transportation, a national for profit company with a horrible track record.

As I predicted, the secrecy and underhanded nature of Abele's Byzantine bidding process had led to a lawsuit forcing the county to release the information, although that has not been made public yet.

Now we are learning more about this scheme.  In an editorial in Sunday's paper, two former managing directors of the Milwaukee County Transit System are calling out the bad decision making by Abele:
The county's own audit shows that the paratransit contract situation could have been handled more effectively. It also clearly shows that MTS did not act alone and that the transportation department and the county's troubled minority business office share responsibility for the outcome. That's an important point that often gets ignored. Changing management firms will not resolve this situation and is likely to result in expensive lawsuits from the current paratransit providers. It could also jeopardize the long-term integrity of the transit system.

MTS is a local, non-profit corporation that was formed to manage MCTS in 1975 when the county purchased the transit system from its private owners. It has managed MCTS in an exemplary way for 38 years having been at or under budget in all but two of those years and never taking a dollar of profit from Milwaukee County. Seven times, the state of Wisconsin has performed an independent audit of MTS's management services and each time found the company to be a leader in delivering effective service and a high level of cost efficiency. Specifically, MTS managed the system to provide the highest rides per capita, the lowest cost per ride and the lowest percentage of administrative expenses of systems comparable in size.

Despite the emergency paratransit contract situation, MTS has delivered consistently good results in that area too. While Abele is focused on the loss of $8 million in future savings, he's ignoring the bigger picture. MTS, on its own initiative, brought the county cost saving measures that have easily saved nearly $17 million in the last three years. In fact, nearly $5 million was returned to the county last year, most of it in paratransit savings.

So who has been selected to inherit MTS's legacy of excellence? It appears to be MV Transportation of Dallas, Texas, a for-profit organization that has a reputation for over promising and under delivering in a number of communities from California to Virginia.
A little of digging also raises other concerns about MV Transportation.

Their CEO, R. Carter Pate, appears to be only skilled at schmoozing up to politicians and getting fat contracts. His failure to do that also cost him his last job in 2009:
No mention of Mr. Pate, so I reached out to my highly placed contacts. I was told Mr. Pate remains on the Advisory Leadership Team doing “special projects.” He continues, therefore, to receive his huge payout without having to work with clients. The PwC I know does not admit failures and they made a big mistake when they gave the US Advisory Leadership job to Carter Pate last October.

As I mentioned in a blog post at the time, Mr. Pate is a big booster for the Republican Party and worked very hard campaigning for John McCain. Who lost. To Barack Obama. The Democrat.

It may have seemed “logical” at the time to put Mr. Pate in charge of not only reviving PwC’s Advisory (Consulting) practice but to expect him to also turbocharge it with lots of government contracts once Mr. McCain, the Republican, was elected President. When Mr. McCain lost, Mr. Pate lost his ability to dial for Federal government engagement dollars.

Once Mr. Obama was inaugurated, Mr. Pate came up with another brilliant plan to grow business in the Advisory practice. That’s when the rumors of PwC buying BearingPoint, the whole enchilada, started. I reported that strong rumor in early February. By the end of March, PwC had changed course and agreed to buy only BearingPoint’s commercial consulting practice. They left, or rather Mr. Carter left, perhaps via some ineptitude, arrogant boorishness, or lousy negotiation skills, the BearingPoint government consulting business on the table for Deloitte to snatch and grab for a bargain price.

That must have sealed Mr. Pate’s fate. He was out of the ivory tower in time for the new fiscal year that started July 1. When PwC announced on June 16, 2009 that they had completed the purchase of BearingPoint’s North American assets, Mr. Pate’s name was not listed. Joe Duffy is shown as the US Consulting leadership contact. By July 1, Mr. McIlwain was in place.
Pate was also involved with George W. Bush's campaign in 2004.

In a way, this make sense.

 Abele's never been shy about giving money to Teapublicans, no matter how sleazy they are.  And now, just like his hero and mentor, Scott Walker, he's trying to use taxpayer dollars to support his Teapublican friends at the expense of the working class and the poor.

Yet another problem is that Abele has not once spoken to the unions about this.  It's impossible for him to know what's working and what isn't without talking to the people actually doing the work.  But then again, that is his typical management style.  His lack of caring about the reality of things is leading to all the problems at the mental health complex.

In fact, Abele, again imitating his hero and good buddy Scott Walker,  is trying to turn this against the unions already.  One of his supporters/employees had this to say about the possible MV contract:
A lot of people expressing doubts about MV are doing so because MTS has been extremely cozy with the unions for the past 38 years, and they are worried that MV won’t play ball. But, people like you and I who’s primary concern is the best possible transit service should be asking a different set of questions. First and foremost, is this contract being managed by government employees who understand how a privately held for profit company behaves? And, if so, have those people been empowered to do their jobs correctly?

Brandon is correct that MV has the capacity to bring innovation and efficiency to MCTS operations. But it is still up to Milwaukee County employees to make sure that capacity is utilized here.
I don't know about the gentle reader, but it sure seems like Abele and his supporters are getting ready to trash the unions and blame them for MV Transporation's inevitable failure, either with the contract not being approved or later when the company doesn't live up to its fake promises.

Yet another problem is that MV Transportation is touting about how they will save money by buying all our equipment in bulk.  Keep in mind the county just spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new buses, fare boxes and whatnot.  I don't see it being fiscally astute to just hand over self-sufficiency to a third party and then having to rebuild from square one when they fail.  

Along that same line, MV Transportation is looking at our paratransit system like a starving jackal looks at some meat tossed to it.  They would kick hundreds of drivers out of work in order to install their own substandard system.  This could and would lead to at least one class action lawsuit as has happened in other places foolish enough to contract with this company.

This matter is to come before the Milwaukee County Board soon and they need to reject it.

They have not been given sufficient information to make an informed decision on whether this is a good deal, much less the best deal for the county and its taxpayers.  Likewise, the community has not been given sufficient information to give feedback to the supervisors (yes, that is representative governing).

Furthermore, what information that is known about MV Transportation is rather negative and would cause a rational person to be rather leery.  And Abele has yet to even give a valid reason for not giving the contract to MTS, which has been the standard for other transit systems for decades and has returned tens of millions of dollars to the county because of their efficiency.

The Board has had to squash the results of Abele's ineptitude and intemperance before and they should do so again.

No comments:

Post a Comment