All lawyers just had a conniption based on the title, but seriously, it is time to start cancelling contracts that are designed to empower certain people at the expense of others. So much of the residential displacement that occurs is based on meetings outside the public eye where highly paid consultants offer slideshows that demonstrate the utopia of what could exist in a place. Rarely do the consultants meet with the residents with any sincerity, and often, the visions include neighborhoods without Black or brown people because the only colors that matter to local governments are White and green. Therefore, people need to start considering what it would look like to cancel some of those expensive contracts that kick people out of their homes while saying that other people “look better” in them.
Another issue with contracts lies in their executions. Many private entities have the same lunches with the same “major players” who are plied with luxury to ignore other competitors. In theory, there are anti-lobbying laws, but everyone knows that laws only matter if someone is too poor to skirt them. Meanwhile, many established contractors grow fat at the public’s expense while claiming to provide the best services. Look at the excessive wastes of Halliburton and Blackwater, and what about the standardized tests and textbooks? None of the “major players” have demonstrated any positive outcome with their involvement, so if governments at any level want to embrace accountability, some performance standards have to be implemented–immediately.
Lest anyone think that rubberstamping would be an option, contractors need to get into the habit of demonstrating their value to strangers. If a builder cannot justify why its administration needs to be trained at the public expense instead of in-house, that builder should be able to explain that expense to teachers, other builders, or lawyers. The myth that “only like-minded individuals” understand how public funds work needs to die. Thus, those who evaluate the performance of different contractors need to rotate so that no one becomes accustomed to people ignoring flaws in contract execution, especially when those flaws cost the public money. Poor skills have been validated for long enough, and the public needs to stop funding contractor “potential.”
Finally, contractors need to learn to take responsibility for wasting funds, and local governments need to accept some accountability for hiring poor-performing contractors. Whenever the public discerns anything other than “everything is wonderful,” public and private entities rush to point fingers at each other, showing that both sides think reputations are more important than actual work. No one cares about how people look when mistakes are discovered; people only care about who fixes the problems. Truly, public and private entities waste too much time appearing on television and pointing fingers than getting behind the scenes and doing any real work. Thanks to sheltering in place, no one cares about fake reputations that only matter among people too entitled to possess morals.
When contractors accept public funds, they need to understand that they have agreed to subject themselves to public scrutiny. It is unethical to hide behind a corporate veil when people express dissatisfaction with one’s work because no one is required to approve of bad behavior. Countless contractors are obsessed with slurping up public funds without giving a thought to how anyone could have used those funds better, and too many “businesses” with contracts are thriving when they should have been dissolved. Taking away school money and demolishing public housing is not shopping at Macy’s; no one deserves that kind of boost when they offer poor service. Public funds should be used for the good of the public, not to improve someone’s reputation, and only insecure people find it appropriate to get validated on the public’s dime.
* Image from the Knowledge@Wharton section of the University of Pennsylvania website