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October 14, 2009 > Editorial: Diamonds are forever... so are consultants

Editorial: Diamonds are forever... so are consultants

Ian Fleming made James Bond risk life and limb while following a complicated maze of intrigue to discover where and why diamonds were being accumulated by villainous Ernst Blofeld. Fortunately for many consultants who have attached themselves to city redevelopment agencies, finding riches is much easier.

Fremont's Redevelopment Agency, while actively working to increase its cap by another $1.1 billion has asked the Board (aka City Council) to approve a $150,000 amendment for Field Paoli to continue architectural and urban design services. This follows an initial $120,000 spent "for architecture and urban design consulting services for projects in the Irvington, Niles, and Centerville Redevelopment Project Areas..."

Money is no problem. The Agency assures us that fiscal impact is mitigated by funding that "is already available through existing appropriations for projects in Centerville, Irvington and Niles Redevelopment Areas and no additional appropriations are being requested at this time." Is this the same verbiage used to present the first contract? Money also seems to be of little concern when previous funds were apparently well spent to learn about Fremont. The Staff report notes, "Work to date with Field Paoli has resulted in this firm's development of a considerable knowledge base and body of experience..." Projects listed as examples of Field Paoli's accomplishments for the now depleted $120,000 include the City's former corporation yard (a win), Centerville Unified Site (a dud!) and the former Union Pacific property in Niles (a definite future maybe!).

For the next $150,000, staff promises a focus on "downtown" Centerville. It seems to me that this has been studied and examined by consultants for many years - including Field Paoli - with little or no result. Yet here we are again looking at an "Implementation Plan" for the Centerville Unified Site, Center Theater and former Fire Station 6. The Center Theater, the only win in this group, is not the result of actions by Field Paoli, rather a group of concerned citizens who have forced action through an obstinate agency.

Somehow, revisiting - again - "public parking, pedestrian circulation, Fremont Boulevard traffic reconfiguration and urban design" after previous public sessions have elicited public comment and ideas is supposed to reveal undiscovered gems. I wonder if the only hidden gem is that resting in redevelopment agency coffers.

Specific goals are few and far between for the Fremont Redevelopment Agency. It appears that use of vague reference is preferable to too many details. In addition to plans for Centerville, this amendment is designed to "fund continued feasibility analyses for potential redevelopment programs for the former Union Pacific property in Niles and other land use planning, urban design, and architectural studies as determined necessary by the Agency." These fuzzy statements are useless when concerned with specific goals but in government circles apparently carry significant weight. This is the obvious difference between performance based evaluations and an orientation toward results.

At the conclusion of Bond's adventure in Diamonds Are Forever, Tiffany Case, his love interest for the moment, wonders how they can retrieve diamonds from a satellite orbiting the Earth. Bond fans know that if anyone can do it, Agent 007 will. There is no such speculation when consultants are embraced by redevelopment agencies. They know that this is a great script that anyone can follow to find the diamonds.

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