Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Glance around Network Space

Just some quotes which are standing out to me presently from the Great Connectening:

RDM President Joseph M. Hohman said he has heard criticisms of the ways his firm gets work. He contended that it's not the businessman's job to tell prospective client to first issue requests for proposals, or RFPs, from multiple firms. "[S]peaking from a marketing standpoint, when those opportunities present themselves, I don't say back to the municipality, 'Well, I really think you ought to RFP that.' " (P-G, Lord 3)

Sounds more than correct. No car salesman should recommend to a prospect that he or she spend a few extra weeks testing out all the other cars on the market. You should stride right up with confidence, a handshake and a great sales pitch, and if it's potential repeat business you should ask, "How are the kids?"

At the end of the second of two short-term contracts to train authority personnel to manage themselves, a municipal authority board majority and RDM negotiated a new pact, for 14 years, at a fee that would start at $750,000 annually. Gone was any reference to RDM training the authority to manage itself. Instead, RDM would manage. The contract required that the authority's top employee, Mr. Kerr, jump from public servant to consultant at the private firm. (ibid)

Well, that guy sounds like he brokered something unusually fancy for himself. Being a public servant at the time, that sort of thing leaves a bad taste among many.

Justice Zappala said he never helped RDM. "Emphatically, the answer is I had nothing to do with RDM, and if you suggest otherwise, you'll be hearing from me." (ibid)

Zappala's emphasis would seem to have been in light of the fact that he happened to be chief justice of the state's Supreme Court in 2002, when a long-term contract awarded to this RDM -- which here is being described as a Network "cornerstone" -- was in dispute. RDM's contract was nixed at the lower courts but saved in middling court. I'm not sure whether the high court is in the habit of describing the theory behind hearing or declining certain cases, but I don't see particularly why it should not be. One trusts an explanation would pass a basic reasonableness test.

[Dodaro] added that people who have served in government sometimes face a perception issue when they leave. "When relationships assist them in developing business contacts, it's called political. When it occurs in business, it's called networks."< (P-G, Lord 1)

Again, this strikes me (and most) as the height of reasonableness. Social networks, even the analog kind, are useful in general. One hopes that the occasional perceived nasty entanglements like those which momentarily tripped up RDM are exceptions rather than the rule in the life of prominent civic networks -- and this was the Thrilling Crescendo of the series, after all.

Mr. Verbanac's response: "Ed Grattan is working on the finance plan right now."

After that e-mail, the funds that rolled into the Coghill campaign account were laden with contributions from sources tied to firms that do business with the city or its authorities. (P-G, Lord 2a)

The Network was getting all juiced up over a City Council race? Between two kids and a crazy roofer?

Why? Man.


  1. Somebody needs to get more crazy roofers to run for office. Unless Coghill was the roofer.

  2. Part of the "Network"

    In a series of e-mails dated March 24, 2009, the team members planned the operation. The day started with an early morning missive from lobbyist Jeffrey Thomas to Coghill campaign manager Matt Hogue, with carbon copies to John J. Verbanac and city Chief of Staff Yarone Zober. In it, Mr. Thomas urged the team to "get to work" on door knocking.

    Mr. Thomas said he joined because he "was contacted. I don't know who contacted me" about participating in the Coghill campaign. "I don't miss an opportunity to involve myself in a campaign." He said he was not paid for the campaign work.

    Q: Same Jeff Thomas that is an operative from Councilman Ricky Burgess’s office?

  3. A: Affirmative, save for the word "office" I believe. And I have to admit that quote amuses me. Doesn't know who contacted him, didn't know from Coghill, didn't get paid, but doesn't miss an opportunity to campaign regardless! Now we all know who to call if we ever run for anything, right?

  4. Come on Bram. You expect Rich to detail every election that the Network tried to influence? Not enough newsprint for that in the whole town, even if you include the Tribune-Review Pennysaver.

    Anyway, even if this were the only case of the Network's efforts to sway elections, it makes sense that they'd be interested in this one, since city council is part of the decision-making process for approving city contracts. Also in light of the close split on council at the time, where one vote could make all the difference.

    Make some phone calls, write some checks, break for lunch ... all in a day's work for the Network, it would appear.

  5. Yeah, but here's what I don't get: that seat on council was 1 of 9, and it was an open seat with no familiar incumbent to defend. You'd think a network could just get in well enough with whoever earned that office.

    But instead it a) exerted itself, possibly spreading itself too thin across the play field and b) risked making and ultimately made new enemies. You'd think networks of amiable business-gentlemen would want to avoid unnecessary enemy-generating at ALL costs.

    I guess it makes sense if you interpret it as a favor the network did for Ravenstahl, since Coghill reportedly was the mayor's preferred candidate. Still, it seems like a long way to drive for a fershluggenah council seat. Don't they know the more they tighten their grip, the more star systems slip through their fingers?

    Eh. Monday morning quarterbacking for real.

  6. What ever happened to Matt Hogue? We got to watch him grow-up on a blog and then he was gone.

  7. The Coghill race was important then because they believed him to be the 5th vote for Burgess. Also, Yarone was gigged up to stick one to the Wagners.

  8. and then this: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10258/1087565-53.stm