Public Comment

An Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council Regarding Emergency Services for Disabled Citizens

By Morning Chu
Tuesday September 14, 2010 - 11:08:00 AM

I am outraged by the Center for Independent Living (CIL)'s latest move, backed (or instructed?) by the City of Berkeley, in an effort to obtain City funding to supplement its programs. After announcing to the City and Easy Does It Emergency Services (EDI) on August 13 that they were withdrawing their application for Measure E funding, then retracting that withdrawal a few hours later, CIL has now modified its proposal for the Measure E contract. This revised proposal has been accepted by the City and forwarded to the Commissions on Disability and Aging, who will be voting to recommend a vendor for the Measure E Contract on September 15. 


I am asking you, as elected officials, to help answer the following questions: Why is CIL allowed to change their proposal repeatedly without any other bidders' involvement and public notification? What process was used by the City of Berkeley to receive CIL's improved proposal for Measure E funding, while the opportunity was not offered to competing vendors? Who quietly approved CIL's revised proposal to be forwarded to the Commissions on Disability and Aging, and the City Council, for evaluation and decision? 


Is this the City of Berkeley's common practice for awarding its contracts--hand picking a vendor, railroading the approval process, and, when failed, forcing the selected vendor to stay in the bidding? CIL announced its application withdrawal after the community voiced their concerns regarding CIL's lack of experience and qualifications to provide emergency services. Since June, CIL has repeatedly stated that they wouldn't have applied for the Measure E contract if the City hadn't told them to do so, and that they never wanted the emergency components of the contract, which is the mandate of Measure E! CIL entered "collaboration" negotiations with the intent to "split" Measure E funding for its non-emergency programs, then decided to withdraw once they realized that there's no money to be split in Measure E. 


It now appears that the City thinks they have a way to manipulate the funds after all... How else can anyone explain CIL's erratic behavior throughout the process, and the City's unyielding willingness to accommodate this behavior? Did the City orchestrate CIL's retraction of its application withdrawal, and its most recent proposal modification? Does the City really have the power to do whatever they want, whenever they want, in any manner they choose, thinking that the citizens would just let it happen without saying anything?! 


Is the City doing this because it has given CIL (and the Ed Roberts Campus) so much money that they need to guarantee CIL's financial viability? That's great, but HOW--by killing another community agency who is perfecting its emergency services program, who is strongly supported by the community members, who called/wrote letters to their representatives, and showed up at several Commission and Council meetings to speak out? Or, by killing the emergency services program, forcing 2 agencies with different mission and scope to share the Measure E contract? By mixing non-emergency with emergency related activities, unnecessary resources would be spent by the City and the agencies, in order to justify using Measure E funds, etc., and this will only cause both agencies to fail. What would the City gain by destroying the program and putting the burden back on 911 and other emergency City personnel?  


How many more City contracts will be awarded without merit but based on personal preference, political interest, or sheer ignorance, before the practice is stopped? Will the Council stop the outright corruption in the City's RFP process? I am asking you to stand up to the Mayor and the City Manager--by questioning the process and rationale for recommending an agency who is clearly not qualified to deliver Measure E mandated services, who never even wanted to deal with emergency services, and attempted to withdraw their application altogether. It would be a very unwise decision for the City Council to award CIL the Contract against the disability community's will. 


Morning Shu, Berkeley property and business tax payer  

*****See bullets below for a chronology of events.***** 

Below is a chronology of the events leading to this letter which demonstrate CIL's ever changing position. After the "History of CIL's Inconsistent Position", I have copied the public events listed in my letter to the City's General Services Manger Sharon Thygesen on July 18 questioning the City's RFP process for your reference. 


*****Click on the link to see blog posts for more information.*****  


History of CIL's Inconsistent Position Regarding Measure E Contract 


The executive director of Center for Independent Living (CIL) Yomi Wrong has publicly stated that CIL never would have applied for the Measure E contract, if the City had not invited them to do so (and by all indications, promised to award them the contract--before any proposals were even submitted)! 


§ On June 8th, in a meeting between Easy Does It (EDI) and CIL, with community member Alana Theriault present, Yomi Wrong stated that CIL had only bid for the contract at the City's request, and the City is putting them in a position to be a "hammer...", and that they never wanted to administer emergency services--referring to the program as a "huge headache". However, they did want Measure E funding for wheelchair repair (and disaster registry). 

§ On July 14, at the Commission on Disability Meeting, CIL's contractor represented the agency to announce its "alternate proposal"--stating that they do not want the attendant and transportation components of the Contract that were included in their initial proposal (essentially withdrawing that portion of their bid.) The process question was raised but not answered by the City personnel. 

§ On July 15, EDI and CIL met to discuss collaboration possibilities at the City Manager Phil Kamlarz's request. Four City staff were present at that meeting: Phil Kamlarz, Jane Micallef, Drew King, and Jennifer Vasquez. Yomi Wrong emphasized that they never wanted the attendant and transportation components of the Contract, which are the core services mandated by Measure E. She characterized the service disparagingly, calling the program "a huge headache" and "an eight hundred pound gorilla" (an incorrect use of the phrase). She also repeated the hammer comment, this time, appearing to be willingly playing that role. The meeting ended with the City Manager telling the two agencies to "work it out, or I will work it out for you". 

§ On July 20 (and one other meeting) where CIL met with John Benson from EDI to discuss possible "collaborations" on wheelchair repair, CIL claimed that the City is giving CIL 10% of the Measure E funding, that they have a "green light", and that "it's a done deal". 

§ On July 29, EDI and CIL met with the above same 4 City staff to continue their discussion. They agreed that when they were to meet again on August 13, both agencies' should have a Board representative, in addition to the ED and relevant staff. When it was pointed out that the group was not allowed to use City property for this meeting due to "furlough" closure, Phil Kamlarz asserted that he had the authority to override the safety officer's order. 

§ On August 13, EDI's 2 board members Don Brownell & Debby Graudenz (took time off from work), executive director Bonnie MacFadyen (calling in from her vacation), bookkeeper Nancy Ferreyra (volunteering her time), and transportation/repair coordinator John Benson (on his day off) showed up at the meeting only to hear Yomi Wrong announce that CIL was “walking away from the table,” and that pursuing a slice of the Berkeley Emergency Services contract was costing CIL too much money and hurting their reputation in the community..."
But a few hours after EDI was approved by the City Contract Manager Drew King to announce the meeting's outcome, Mark Burns, deputy director of CIL, posted on the Berkeley Disabled Community list-serve that he "misspoke". Mark said he misspoke when he said that "CIL was withdrawing from the RFP process”, and that "Our (CIL's) original proposal remains on the table..." 

§ On September 9, one of EDI's board members discovered that CIL's proposal posted on their website has been revised, and that the new proposal has been included in the Commission on Disability's September 15 meeting packet for their vote on who to recommend be awarded the Measure E funding. The new proposal was never announced publicly 


The saga is not over--the Commission on Aging will meet on the same day, September 15, to do the same, and the Contract will be awarded by a vote of the City Council at one of their meetings in late September or in October--agenda to be proposed by the City Manager, likely with minimal notice to the City Council and the public. Will the City Council Members look into the City's contract selection practice and ask Phil Kamlarz the real reason why he is recommending CIL, after members of the disability community strongly recommend the Measure E Contract be awarded to EDI? 


Public events involving the RFP process for Measure E Contract 


(Extracted from my letter to the City's General Services Manger Sharon Thygesen questioning the City's RFP process.) 


§ April 7 Pre-Proposal Meeting 

§ April 27 Proposal due 

§ May 6 Oral presentation 

§ An agenda item to award the contract to CIL was placed by the City staff on the June 1st City Council Meeting agenda. On May 25, due to a deluge of phone calls and letters from community members to the Mayor and Council Members, the agenda item was changed to extend EDI’s contract for 4 months, while the City “receive community input”. 

§ June 1 City Council Meeting–community members spoke at public comment period in support of EDI retaining the contract 

§ June 9 Commission on Disability Meeting–large number of community members came out to support EDI retaining the contract, and express concerns about the recommended vendor’s ability to provide emergency services. 

§ June 22 City Council Meeting–Council Members unanimously voted to extend EDI’s contract for 6 months, instead of proposed 4 months. 

§ June 23 Commission on Aging Meeting 

§ July 14 Commission on Disability Meeting–due to lack of quorum, the Commission was not able to vote for a recommendation. Community members were again there to support EDI, and had a good discussion with the Commissioners. CIL’s contract representative announced its “alternate proposal”, stating that they do not want the attendant and transportation components of the Contract that were included in their initial application. When the process question was raised, City personnel was not able to explain whether CIL’s alternate proposal qualifies other applicants to modify/resubmit their proposals. 

§ July 15 (At the City Manager’s request in June) EDI and CIL representatives met to discuss collaboration possibilities, with City personnel in attendance–Phil Kamlarz, Jane Micallef, Drew King, and Jennifer Vasquez. The Exec Director of CIL emphasized that they never wanted the attendant and transportation components of the Contract, which are the core services mandated by Measure E. They want to “leverage” their wheelchair repair service program (being developed using a new grant from FEMA) to provide emergency wheelchair repair service–realizing that EDI is best suited to provide onsite and “after hour” emergency repair, as it often overlaps with emergency attendant & transportation calls. The discussion ended with the City Manger instructing the two vendors to work out a solution.