City Council OKs plan from Mayor Bass to cut red tape for homeless services

At the request of Mayor Karen Bass, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday, Feb. 28, to waive its usual competitive bidding process when it comes to hiring vendors to tackle L.A.’s homelessness crisis, so that contracts for goods and services can be accepted immediately.

The council, in a 10-0 vote, suspended competitive bidding amidst the homelessness emergency that Bass declared in December. The council authorized the city administrative officer and city departments to act immediately to procure “construction contracts, service provider contracts, supplies, and equipment for homelessness facilities,” according to its resolution.

The city administrative officer will be required to report to the city council every two weeks to justify actions and to explain why the city had to act immediately rather than follow its usual process.

Normally, the city must allow contractors to submit bids, then city officials review the proposals to determine which company offers the best deal, taking into account factors such as costs, timeliness and quality.

The usual practice is meant to ensure that the city is spending taxpayers’ money wisely. But that can drag out the process for awarding contracts by weeks — or months. That’s why the Los Angeles City Council can suspend the practice during emergencies.

During Tuesday’s meeting, a caller providing public comment raised concerns. “The state of emergency … does not entitle our government to have city funds – have public funds – go unchecked,” said the caller, who did not identify herself. “And there’s no competitive bidding on anything. We still need accountability on how you’re spending our money.”

Another caller said the biweekly report from the city administrative officer was a “weak check.”

“This gives all the power to the mayor to allocate funds,” he said.

Although the mayor’s office will be able to enter into contracts, the city attorney’s office will review the documents and the controller’s office must approve payments before they’re made, according to Hugh Esten, a spokesman for City Council President Paul Krekorian.

After hearing public comments, the city council did not debate the proposal and voted to approve it.

The decision to suspend the competitive bidding process came as part of a vote to continue the city’s state of emergency on homelessness.

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Bass first declared the emergency in December, and the city council ratified it a day later. Since then, the council has had to vote monthly to continue the state of emergency.

The suspension of the competitive bidding process for homeless services will remain in effect until Sept. 1 unless the stated emergency ends sooner.

The homelessness emergency itself is scheduled to end June 12 – six months after Bass first declared it – though that could be extended.

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