Letters to the Editor

From the issue of September 13, 2000

I suggest that we voters reassess our commission and mayoral candidates according to this issue, which reveals where our values lie. Shame on the City of Miami Beach.

David Melvin Thornburgh
Miami Beach

Lincoln Road: Where Good Taste Prevails
Many thanks for hacking out the scruff: Lincoln Road was a quirky, funny, unpredictable place until Nancy Liebman and her commission colleagues took a meat ax to it. Yes, there was some abuse of space, particularly among certain vendors. But they added color and pizzazz, and the performers were a delight. Unfortunately they did not conform to Liebman's definition of "good taste," which in recent years has seemed to embrace large hotels, towering high-rises, and chain stores.

I'm glad to hear that some of the vendors and performers are considering a lawsuit. In New York City, Mayor Giuliani and his crew have been waging war against street vendors and performers. The vendors outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been a particular target. They have been fighting back in court and have won every legal round so far.

I hope ours follow suit. I'm sure they'll have no problem mopping up the courtroom floor with our overpaid, overstaffed, and generally incompetent city attorney's office. Then perhaps the city will consider reasonable, harassment-free procedures to keep the fun in Lincoln Road while avoiding the unreasonable blocking of public space.

Richard H. Rosichan
Miami Beach

Digital Intrigue: Omissions and Inaccuracies
Is that the sound of an ax being ground? I believe several points should be made clear in response to Jim DeFede's article "Digital Intrigue"(August 30). Some obvious omissions indicate that the journalist has an ax to grind.

The first allegation is that Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver tried to hide the Oracle-contract agenda item in the contract-modifications section of the agenda. Not true. In fact, as plainly told to Mr. DeFede twice, confusion resulted from internal communication problems. The placement of items in the department of procurement management section of the agenda is a department responsibility and was placed there by the department. As it was a modification to the existing county contract with Oracle Corporation, that seemed both logical and appropriate.

The foul-up occurred because for some reason the county attorney did not see the entire procurement item until the morning of the meeting. This was a flaw in our staffing process. It was assumed the attorney saw the entire procurement package, but he saw only the bid-waiver section. In fact this was a contract modification, but it was also technically a bid waiver. I have learned that other people Mr. DeFede interviewed gave him the same facts, yet those were ignored in the article.

A second but related point concerns the approach to procuring these financial applications. The intent from the beginning was to seek appropriate vendors already on state term contracts or other contracts with whom we could legally negotiate. We have used this approach successfully on several of the nine other CIO working groups. It is an approach especially well suited for information-technology projects and is routinely used nationally. Virtually every commission meeting has examples of already negotiated state contracts being approved for information-technology projects.

The third point to clarify concerns the statement that, without consulting PeopleSoft, the working group decided to add to the company's proposal the cost of the most expensive database. In fact when e-Verge Group and PeopleSoft submitted cost information, it included costs for the Oracle database licenses but omitted the price information for the ongoing (five-year) maintenance support of those licenses and fees for the Oracle Performance Management Pack. The company was contacted about this. Those costs that were omitted were imputed at the county's discount prices, which are below what is normally available on the market. This is the fairest way to get the true costs we could devise. It was not artificial, as Mr. DeFede's article stated. Pricing was addressed three separate times with both companies.

These and other points were thoroughly discussed with Mr. DeFede. I was disappointed that some were omitted from the story or not accurately portrayed.

B.R. Witt, chief information officer
Miami-Dade County

Jim DeFede replies: Regarding Mr. Witt's first point, I would remind him of his own words as quoted in my story: "The county attorney recommended that we do it as a separate contract and a bid waiver. And we were marching along that line and then we took it up to the manager and it was his decision to turn it into a contract modification." That was the key moment in this saga. Once Steve Shiver made that decision, then yes, Witt is correct. The actual placing of the item on the agenda was a department responsibility.

Are there people in county government who believe Shiver's decision was an attempt to hide the contract? Yes, there are. And while I could not identify them by name because they fear losing their jobs, they do exist.

Piggybacking onto existing contracts may have been done before, but as Commissioner Katy Sorenson pointed out during the meeting, rarely has it been done on a contract worth at least $9 million and perhaps as much as $30 million.

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