Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 28, 2010

How many consultants does it take to brand a city?

Filed under: Alameda, Business, City Council, Development — Tags: , — Lauren Do @ 6:11 am

Taking a break from Measure E stuff for today.   So someone pointed me to the fact that the City’s Alameda Point/SunCal updates website was designed and created by Graphtek, the same company that was selected to the tune of nearly $75K to brand the City of Alameda with a new identity and logo similar to the work they did for Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant in Desert Hot Springs.

So, I decided to ask for a copy of the contract for developing the SunCal updates website.   Instead of getting a copy of a contract for Graphtek, instead I received a copy for Rips Consulting, Inc.   The initial contract was for $39,000, but then was amended to$51,000.   But the SunCal website was not the entire scope of the contract, rather we are in for more branding folks!

That’s right, the scope of work includes:

Management of the creation of the City’s green identity, which includcs working with a graphics partner selected by the City to produce a brand audit and positioning platform, develop a green logo and tagline, and overseeing consistent use of the to-be-developed identity in green marketing and communications materials

It is unclear if this branding and identity work is in addition to or on the same track as the Graphtek branding work, because it would be sort of silly to have two “brands” for Alameda.   If we are going with the “Green Island” thing, then why the rigmarole around the whole survey?  Although the survey was pretty lame so it was probably done in order to say, “hey, we did a survey.”

If this is an extension of the Graphtek branding contract, then between these two branding contracts the $75K thresh hold has already been breeched and this should have really been put out to bid to allow local companies a chance to brand Alameda in some sort of pre-selected “green identity.”    And while I’m sure that the two companies selected are very competent, I’m not quite clear on why there was not an attempt to tap Alameda, or at the very least Bay Area talent before importing yet another Coachella Valley business to reap the financial benefit of Alameda’s General Fund.

And, this should come at no surprise, but Rips Consulting (see reference to Catherine Rips) was hired as a consultant to work on the Desert Hot Springs branding effort to build DHS’s identity as “California’s Spa City,” from a Press Enterprise article that discusses the aftermath of Ann Marie Gallant’s resignation as City Manager in DHS:

Gallant later hired consultants to improve the city’s image. The tagline “California’s Spa City” was formally registered this month, and a city-sponsored Web site marketing Desert Hot Springs’ boutique spa hotels came online this summer, said city consultant Catherine Rips. A redesign of the city logo, a new urban design plan and a bid for a College of the Desert west campus are all under way, Rips said.

For those wondering, Desert Hot Springs did not get the College of the Desert west campus, it appears that honor went to Palm Springs.

Here’s the weird thing though, in the last payment of $12,000 for two months made to Rips Consulting, the line item indicated that it was to cover “Alameda Point Website , Develop and Maintain SunCal/Alameda Point Website,” but I confirmed with City staff that the SunCal project code was only billed $3000.   It is unclear why the SunCal website was bundled into a larger branding project.


  1. More smoke and mirrors from City Hall. What a surprise! The Council needs to ask for Ms. Gallant’s resignation NOW! We cannot afford to pay for her and all of her friends. Can’t wait to see what else you find in the City’s consultant list. This is truly an outrage! I’m going to organize my block against this type of practice and any politician who supports it.

    Comment by Eyeland Native — May 28, 2010 @ 6:19 am

  2. UR so right #1 (love Eyeland). I would like to see our City Council begin discussing recruitment of a new City Manager immediately. It’s a good 5-6 month process…let’s have some candidates by the time the new Council is elected in November. Let’s help the ICM not dig deeper holes for our beautiful city!

    Comment by R.U. Amuckraker — May 28, 2010 @ 6:22 am

  3. I remember from my consultant days that you would gt around limits on agreement amounts by “piecemealing” the work. I think it is actually unlawful under case law. Where is the City Attorney on this? Contracts shouldn’t be left so vague.

    Why ar we dealing with this ICM any more? Can we request the Council to answer questions about these sorts of things? Emulating DHS (with its MJ leaf looking design), really that is what she is bringing to the table? You saw how they let the door hit her fanny on the way out, it’s going to happen again.

    Comment by DRM — May 28, 2010 @ 11:54 am

  4. Where is the City Attorney? She is managing her own army of consultants and working like hell to justify her salary and protect her own job. There is no upside for the City Attorney to interfer with the ICM. The question should be Where is the City Council? Same place as always, head in the sand or pandering to City Administrators.

    Comment by Mike P. — May 28, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  5. What about the City Auditor? ANYONE?? I thought there were bidding requirements. The ICM thumbs her nose at public involvmt, rules, regulations, yet the Council sleeps. I attended a meeting with a Councilman Frank, something, he seemed like a nice and honest guy, but knowing he allows this stuff to happen under his leadership, well I have to think about him twice. My boyfriend has to put bids together for work, why doesn’t she try to hire local people? What does she have against us?

    Comment by Pebbles — May 28, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  6. Q: How many consultants does it take to brand a city? A: As many as ICM Ann Marie Gallant wants and can get away with. With her arrogant disdain for transparency, Gallant’s probably pulled a host of other funky stunts we don’t even know about.

    Comment by charlie — May 28, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  7. The do-nothing city Council is asleep at the wheel, as always.

    Comment by alameda — May 28, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  8. Speaking of branding, or in this case “rebranding”, ever since that new housing development that runs along that street that goes to the base was built, the one that has a wall on one side and old housing projects on the other side, the name that was stuck on it, “Bayport”, makes even less sense than “Towne Centre”, which is neither a town or a center. The “Towne Centre” brand more or less took care of itself…everybody still calls it South Shore. But what about Bayport, it’s neither on a bay or close to a port. In fact, the only thing it’s close to is a wall. And the old moniker “east housing” was just as bad since the housing is about as far west on the island as one can get.

    So, I took it upon myself to let RFPs for a rebranding effort…just to see what creative Mad Men types could come up with. The salient point of the RFP was that the brand should reflect reality, and not be some mythical fairybook handle one would find in Livermore or Tracy. Well the proposals came flooding in. The panel of experts who were selected to judge the winner have now made a unanimous choice. I should mention that the fee mentioned in the RFP could not exceed $1.00. The winner was a distinguished firm by the name of Craptek which, I understand has been actively involved in many rebranding efforts. Craptek’s bid came in well under the maximum fee, $0.75 to be exact and the winning Brand was, “WallMark”.

    Heretofore “Bayport”, aftertothen “WallMark”.

    Comment by jayare — May 29, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  9. @8 … slow day at work, eh?

    Comment by alameda — May 29, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

  10. #3 Now that you mention it, didn’t J Knox provide a link to her being fired,oops, resigning from somewhere in Los Angeles for doing this exact same thing?? Going around the rules and hiring a consultant, won’t 1 City Councilmember have the courage to ask for an investigation and/or an explanation?? Are you guys afraid of her or what? Does the City Auditor have the power to do this?

    Comment by Eyeland Native — May 30, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  11. I wonder if the City staff (esp. Police and Fire) will point t these episodes of spending when they are asked to cut positions and salaries.

    As to #4, I’m told by a city staffmember that the City Attorney doesn’t come in until about 10:30 every day and leaves by 6. Maybe the city attorney is not there long enough to research these kinds of problems.

    Comment by DRM — May 31, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  12. I look at the nearly $90K being paid to Rips Consulting and think of how much actual environmental *work* could be done with that much money, instead of just making the City of Alameda’s web rankings better.

    Off with the ICM’s head, I say. She should be “greenwashed” out of town, back to lalaland whence she came…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 31, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

  13. PRESS RELEASE (June 1, 2010): Mayoral Candidate Daysog Urges Return to Previous $25,000 Threshold For No-Bid Contracts

    “I am deeply concerned by recent news posted on the local blog called ‘Blogging Bayport,’ which has documented two no-bid contracts for similar work amounting to $125,000 extended to two non-Alameda firms.

    “Given the magnitude of the two no -bid contracts cumulatively amounting to $125,000 for somewhat similar work, local business owners should have been given a chance to compete to provide services. I urge the Interim City Manager and City Council to issue new guidelines governing conditions under which the City Manager can enter into no-bid contracts.

    “The first contract I am referring to is a $74,000 March 2010 no-bid contract extended to Brisbane-based ‘180 Marketing.’ This company will assist local officials in web-site services and creating a brand to better market the City of Alameda. The second no-bid contract was entered into on January 2010 with Indian Wells-based Rips Consulting for $51,000. This company will devise a ‘green’ brand for Alameda.

    “When I was on City Council, we required the City Manager to bring all contracts above $25,000 to the Council for discussion and a vote. The City Manager was allowed to enter into no-bid contracts for contracts below $25,000. Some time after I left Council, the threshold was increased to $75,000.

    “I urge City Council to return the previous $25,000 threshold. When then-City Manager Jim Flint sought to increase the threshold (see, I argued that, in my line of work, it is not unusual for consulting companies like the one I work for to have to compete for contracts as low as $25,000 to $50,000. I opposed Flint’s request, and the limit stayed at $25,000, which I believe it should be today.

    “While it would be informative to see the cumulative amount of contracts extended under the current $75,000 and previous $25,000 no-bid limits, I am convinced that the most important and most pressing issue is to return to the lower threshold, which will allow the public to better monitor contracts extended by City Hall. If the previous $25,000 threshold was in place, local business owners would have known about and could have competed for two contracts amounting to $125,000 that two non-local firms obtained under the current no-bid policy.”

    Comment by Tony Daysog — June 1, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

  14. The correct link to the 2003 decision mentioned in the previous article (#13 above) is directly below:

    Click to access council_minutes030715_modified.pdf

    Comment by Tony Daysog — June 1, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  15. Nice release Tony. I think you should also comment on the necessity of using funds in this manner and also the vagueness of the contracts that were approved for who knows what real work. You may also want to comment on the 4th grade level survey that was put out.

    You probably have some strong support for ditching this ICM and City Attorney.

    Comment by DRM — June 1, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

  16. Now that is REAL leadership Tony! I have been waiting for you to speak out against this practice, as you have always been honest and get this, TRANSPARENT in your governing. As a west end resident, I missed you when you left and look forward to you returning as Mayor. I think the threshold should be reduced for anyone in an INTERIM status, to protect the City. Maybe you can bring City services back to our side of the island, so businesses and restaurants on our side of town can also have a chance and not just Park Street.

    Good Work Tony!

    Comment by R.U. Amuckraker — June 1, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  17. Do you believe Ann Marie Gallant? Our experience when she was city manager in our city is that Gallant was tough in looking out for the best interests of residents, especially when dealing with developer proposals.

    A major point in Alameda with the SunCal proposal it seems is a request by the SunCal for a sizable reduction in development impact fees, fees to cover the cost of the impacts its project will bring on the city.

    If the costs of those impacts are not provided for by the developer, one of two possible outcomes remain: Either the residents live with the resulting added congestion or the residents pay to relieve that congestion through higher taxes.

    It is about money and who pays. To me it is hard to argue against a city manager – interim or otherwise – that is looking out for the best interests of residents and taxpayers.

    Best Regards,
    Russell Betts
    Councilman – Desert Hot Springs, CA

    Comment by Russell Betts — August 1, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  18. 17. Councilman Betts, were it that simple, but it’s not. Nice to get a little outside input though.

    Check this out.

    One of the main points of contention between City and SunCal was regarding a cap on developer contributions to a certain portion of public improvements, public amenities, a pool etc.. In the end the ICM might have been correct on many things but there was a clear difference on how ICM and staff tallied the projected costs for that chunk including hard and soft costs in that sector. It seemed ICM and Public Works were counting actual new road and other infrastructure costs for that sector which SunCal stated clearly was not the case. On that point as one example SunCal’s position seemed defensible.

    At the final showdown staff’s contention about SunCal’s projections was too little too late and much of that seemed credible too. However, SunCal claims they were inhibited by City in completing the term sheet with the Navy and I’m waiting for the lawyers on that one.

    ICM may put public before developer, but also ICM before everybody else, including public, staff, Council. If Alameda suffers badly in the legal arena due to ICM decisions, how would that count in priorities with regard to citizens?

    Comment by M.I. — August 1, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

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