Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Negotiator

The scanner chirps to life shortly after 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The tones are followed by a gruff voice, which seems none too pleased to be barking out orders at the crack of dawn.

“Tone is for SEMS. One-car motor vehicle accident with entrapment on Henning Road by Union Avenue,” the voice orders. “Delta response. Med Flight is on-standby.”

Seconds later, you’re off. The pall of darkness over the city limits is torn open by the ambulance’s flickering red lights. Adrenaline fills your veins as the rig speeds closer to the scene. Flares illuminate the street just enough for you to see the crumpled wreckage wrapped around a tree. Police are on scene investigating, riffling through a pile of wreckage that seems to contain a number of beer cans and a now-empty bottle of Palace Vodka. You realize quickly this is a case of drunken driving.

Firefighters are already having at the vehicle with a variety of hydraulic saws and pliers. They’ve almost gotten the badly injured man from his mangled car when he summons you over. The man, who is remarkably conscious and still clutching a can beer, talks in a voice and tenor that astounds you for the condition of his twisted body.

“Look,” he says pausing for effect. “Before we get started, I want to negotiate some details.”

You blink. Negotiate? You’re partially embedded in a tree, you think. What’s there to negotiate? But astoundingly the man continues, occasionally taking sips from his beer.

“First of all, I hope you realize that without fellows like me, there would be no job for you,” he says pointing the can in your direction. “So I’d like a bit of respect.”

“Now I understand you don’t pay rent,” the man continues. “And with the city’s finances these days, that’s simply unacceptable, so we’re going to have to change that before we get started here.”

You blink a few more times just so the fellow knows you haven’t drifted into a coma.

“Next, I think you should pay me for this ambulance ride you’re about to provide, seeing as though my insurance reimbursements are bound to make you money,” he says in a tone that seems far too nonchalant for a guy facing felony DWI charges. “After all, big cities make money off their ambulances, so why can’t we?”

He pauses. You stammer.

“So why can’t we?” he asks again, only louder. “Look, you freeloaders need to start ponying up some cash, or else I fear we’re at an impasse. I’m going to need…let’s say a twenty-spot…before you get started with the work at hand. And some licorice whips too…you know…my blood sugar is starting to drop…”

Characterizing Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim’s negotiations with the Saratoga Emergency Medical Services as a crippled drunk driver dickering with a paramedic is way too easy. In fact, nailing the comparison is sort of like shooting a five-foot long carp in a bucket with a twelve-gauge shotgun: With every pump, you’re going to hit something on the mark.

Kim started this dreadful process with SEMS when he insisted the city’s ambulance service should be a profit-driven model that earns money for his department’s enormous budget. He caught the attention of several like-minded city officials, who figured putting the ambulance contract “out to bid” couldn’t hurt anything by the egos over at SEMS.

Well the bids came back and two of them offered the Spa City exactly what Kim proffered. But suddenly, the prevailing thought among the commissioners swung away from disbanding the service that has faithfully carted injured Saratogians to the hospital for decades; suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a good idea to callously shear off a cost-free operation that both employs local people, puts volunteers to work and saves lives at the same time.

That’s when Kim arbitrarily decided to continue negotiations with SEMS, even after the city council accepted the “request for proposal” the company submitted months ago. So imagine the company’s confusion when they showed up to sign the contract they submitted and it miraculously turned into something wholly different. The proposal that involved paying a small fee per ambulance trip and a token $1 per month in rent for the city-owned ambulance station somehow ended up becoming a $50,000 annual payment to the city, plus another $50,000 worth of “service fees” for “certain calls.”

Even disregarding the fact that Kim flagrantly flouted the process of seeking and accepting requests for proposals, his mind-numbingly stupid logic makes no sense. Anyone who can balance a checkbook would realize a non-profit ambulance company isn't designed to make money. That's the whole purpose of being a non-profit agency. But under Kim’s misguided accounting, SEMS should assuredly be able to handle a measly $100,000 payment without facing financial peril simply because they have a $1 million budget. Failure to do so means the company simply isn’t being “accountable” to the people, he told the Saratogian this week.

“I’m aghast at their continuing desire to not be accountable,” he said.

Under this logic, being “accountable” means a non-profit agency should have no problem billing residents more or going into insolvent levels debt to kowtow to the demands of a public safety commissioner, who has already proven his inability to balance a budget. Being accountable means gutting a system that has worked without failure in the city during a time when community-based ambulance companies are failing at almost unprecedented rates due to the inhospitable environment presented by the healthcare system.

Well, the voters of Saratoga Springs should show Kim the true definition of accountability. An official who is accountable to the electorate is rewarded with another term in office. Conversely, those who create problems and put the community in a situation where it could feasibly lose a life-preserving service should be shown the door; or better yet, keelhauled on the Minne-Ha-Ha.

30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don’t forget how thekim saw fit to acquire an ambulance for his department when the opportunity to potentially increase the responsibilities and exaggerated services for more equipment and employees and a new station and.... (You know the rest) was envisioned in his head. And now, under what authority or executive power does comronkim have at this moment to be negotiating contracts between SEMS and the City?

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Per this logic, shouldn't Ron Kim pay rent on his office?

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait until one of the firemen gets hurt on duty, being a paramedic, goes out on 207-A, and the city pays him or his surviving spouse full wages for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

Does HoChiKim ever check to see what is going on at the SSFD?

SEMS people don't enjoy 207-A privileges.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SEMS charges clients for providing their service. More cost to them will cause an increase cost to their clients. This whole deal is nothing more than like a tax increase to take more money out of our pockets.

Lets get a balanced budget for 2010 without a tax increase.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Stop Kim before he has nukes said...

Chairman Kim wants accountability? Ok how about a truly independent citizen review board to keep an eye on public safety then for a really radical idea, let’s not have it chaired by screwy Louie Benton or anyone from democrats for change.

But maybe Bill Clinton can fly in and negotiate the release of the citizens of Saratoga from chairman’s Kim’s grasp.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Mao say tung depressor said...

I'm all for that. Screwy Lew and his first cousin John Tihhge are both disgraces for the party they represent. It's people like these two that make us all sick.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me start by saying that I do believe SEMS should get the contract. They’ve served the community honorably for many years and as a former member I know many of the providers both from SEMS and the Fire Department and they are well qualified and work extremely well together. Saratoga Springs is very lucky to have the system they have. Saying that, I think Kim is right, it’s time for SEMS to stop playing the woe is me game and pony up. From the day SSFD got involved in EMS, some 20 years ago they have spouted the same “they’re going to put us out of business”, “we’re going bankrupt”, “we’re a not for profit” rhetoric and it continues today. If you can CONTROL your income to match your expenses, then you will always be able to make the argument that you’re just getting by. They have the current City Council hoodwinked just like previous councils. Tom Curley figured it out late in his tenure as Public Safety Commissioner, as he was the one to suggest ambulances for the FD. Kim just figured it out sooner. It’s fair and reasonable for SEMS to start paying rent on a facility they occupy and/or reimburse the City for the billable services the Fire Department provides. It’s that simple. They will make improvements, they will become better managers, they will process billing more efficiently thus raise more revenue, just like they have for the last 20 years. SEMS will survive.

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 4:12
The only thing HoChiKim "figured out sooner" is how to get re-elected by saying what people want to hear.
The SSFD has a wonderful relationship with Kim because he gives them everything that they have ever asked for.
Does he ever check to see what is really happening at the Fire House?

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

ANON 4:12 AM-

Respectable government is not a creature of whim and whimsy. Consider the core content of an RFP- Responsible officials include the non-negotiable "must-haves." After careful study and at great expense, Responses come back. No, they are not "set in stone" and minor issues DO change.

Remember "The High Rock RFP?" The City DEMANDED two "Must-Haves"-- A new Public Safety facility AND a Parking Structure. All three responses included both.

Okay, now read the EMS RFP. Never is it stated that there MUST be a minimum city rent of $50,000. Yet Kim tells reporters “As I have said from the beginning, this is about money."

Whoa. Certainly should warrant a place in the RFP. A word. A $500,000 tab. But... nada. And now, as he shakes down SEMS, he tells reporters this madness is the work of the Council- "The whole council was represented (in the demand for $50,000)."

If today's Saratogian is correct, Mayor Johnson and Commissioner Ivins deny any complicity in this public mugging.

The award of an RFP is not an invitation to wide-open negotiaton. The responsibility of a Public Official is not a Carte Blanche to speak for the Council when no such support exists.

Jefferson and Hancock were onto something when they wrote-

"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states."

-Kyle York
No Time for Tyrants

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is cost to the taxpayers. No cost right now for ambulance services. Million or so if Fireman do it. We are in the middle of a Recession. There is no money. How high will our city taxes go if SEMS is shut down?

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And so, RK is asking the public to trust him with the Mayor's role on the next Council.

How can a person who spent 4 years cantankerously occupying a seat on the council provide the voters with any accomplishment other than his reputation as a belligerent participant? The voter just has to ask, “what has he done for us?”

This reverse barometer of good (political) sense can only be expected to squander his every opportunity even those that are practically gift-wrapped. Sitting on a majority council and accomplishing nothing, his first term and then charging like a bull in a proverbial financial china shop when the economic times call for restraint are the only memories we have.

Clearly, RK does not intend to change his approach. His mission like the Titanic in the dark of night, is to course under full steam under his own hubris into whatever iceberg that might exist in front of him in order to fulfill his irresponsible quest to increase spending for the PSD and change the form of government, that he has so strenuously and indirectly campaigned for these last 4 years. His tantrums, his fail-o-meter, his orchestrated law suit, and now, his assumption that as 'chief negotiator', he can somehow save the City money by forcing a NFP to come to their knees.

The voters will not be fooled, and the commissioner has no clothes.

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SEMS has chosen the method of Matching income to matching expenses, because that is what a 501c3 not-for-profit agency does, and for the simple fact that they do not want to penalize the citizens of Saratoga Springs for calling 911 when they need help.

If SEMS did what some in the Saratogian comments suggested, and start to refuse care to those that abuse 911 for the "Taxi" rides to the hospital, they could be held accountable by New York State Department of Health, and the court of law neglecting patient care. SEMS is not here to neglect the citizens, but they are here to do right by them.

SEMS does not "pad" the Department of Public Safety's Budget. Each year you can see the rise of the Departments budget. As it is the Public Safety's budget has increased over the past 4 years by $100,000.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Correction on the $100,000 increase.

2008 - No Data

2007 - $1,138,717,296

2006 - $1,072,255,168

2005 - $1,005,318,145

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:37AM - Imagine if there could be some rethinking behind the decision to accompany every SEMS ambulance to the various senior housing buildings with a fully equipped and manned fire truck, just so that they can open the building doors. The firemen don't even enter the building, they just log in a service call, when someone "can't get up".

Those calls must add up by year's end. Why can't a dispatcher determine what emergencies require a fire truck and which do not?

It seems like Commissioner Kin should have looked into that savings potential long ago if he was trying to be more efficient.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 7:19

Why not get rid of the fire department all together...hell, why we're at, lets get rid of the police department too, and throw in the DPW for kicks. Shit, lets just all volunteer our time and that way everything can be free. No more money, just take what you want...there problem solved.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 737,

SEMS controls the revenue side of their budget through billing. They report that they generate 1 million in revenue. What they won't tell you is they could generate 1.3, 1.4, or even 1.5 million in revenue. Obviously Empire, Mohawk and the City know this that's why the commercials can offer as much as $400,000 to the City. And it makes no difference whether there not for profit or commercial...the potential revenue is there. Kim has made this an issue in these difficult times. It time for SEMS to be honest with the public on their true revenue potential and stop playing these games. If nothing else, they should be made to pay rent on the facility they occupy. It's going to look pretty bad for the council when they purchase land and build their own facility @ 3 or 4 million and we're left with a vacant station.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

920 AM: Efficiency is not the same as elimination. The next time you are thinking about getting a haircut, why not consider cutting off your head - 2 problems solved.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SEMS should pay the 50K and get on with business. They charge their customers. This is not unreasonable. Other cities get a lot more from other providers.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can 155 million productive workers support themselves, nearly 100 million nonproductive (goverment employed, welfare, ect.) others and a seemingly endless list of government endeavors (all of which could be done more economically and more effectively by the private sector)?

Answer: They can’t. Or, as they say in the computer business, “Game Over.”

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

instead of rent maybe he can put our police into the job they are supposed to do like being proactive....this catches criminals. they now practice re-active work....so they sit and wait till some one calls....oh yeah patroling around is really working....ha! maybe if they sat and watched at the dangerous corners they might see one of those drivers that need to go back to driving school... or at the very least wirte up a traffic ticket, not a one dollar rental agreement! Clean up our streets from the scofflaws and the self appointed priviledged. how many time are you cut off by cell phone users? why can't they tax(ticket) those people who end up causing the services to be used? oh yeah... they are protcted from real work by being reactive

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

put they already paid back to work...our police and fire personell need some visable presence, after all they are getting paid...let see the real work we assume they do!

get the private people off the city owned property...like the driveways on east ave...easment are not private parking but open space and should be enfored as such...or charge rent RK

how about clearing bushes planted on Lake Ave that have grown so one cannot see down the road safely to pull out...great for privacy but not owned by the individual... it is the city property and the city's public safty, if you want bushes grow them on your property or the city should trim...Code enforcers take note you collect pay too! do your job, i don't care about ruffeling feathers neither should you.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SEMS was awarded the RFP 5-0 by the City Council. Ron Kim, when he sent out the RFP originally never put a dollar amount on that RFP. Some how SEMS is being held responsible for Ron Kim not sending the RFP out correctly? If Ron Kim wanted money out of this whole thing, he should have put the dollar amount on the RFP. Doing it after the fact is simply covering up for him not doing his job right.

6:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 6:08

The RFP was pretty clear in seeking competitive proposals for revenue. Emphasis on COMPETITIVE and REVENUE. Why on earth would the RFP include a specific dollar amount? Kind of defeating the competitive bid process don't you think? And just so you know...check the charter. The accounts office is responsible for RFP's and bidding procedures. If it was done incorrectly it would be the fault of the Account Office.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 8:39 - Why on earth would the short-fused RK negotiate any contract between the city and an outside vender? It's not his job - it's the Mayor's job. Can he ever get anything right?

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 12:00 - I'm not a big fan of name calling, to me it's just an indication that you're a partisan, promoting your agenda. Unfortunitely there is an awful lot of that going on with these blogs. However, regardless of your motivations, facts should prevail. The Mayor does not have jurisdiction in negotiating this agreement. Title 3 Art B. and I.
limit his authority to other GOVERNMENTAL authorities (towns, villages, state etc,.) and employees. SEMS represents none of those.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Anon 8:38 AM-

Due to HO's careful cultivation of his next communiqué, your piece of fetid nonsense has enjoyed far too many days of exposure to folks far too wary to disinfect to your digital brain droppings.

If Kim says it was "always" about money, then he was obligated to state that "money" had a STARTING bid of $50G...MINIMUM. Minimums are a dime-a-dozen in real RFPs. Well, $50G-a-dozen in KIM EMS RFPs.

If you STILL believe minimums are "defeating the competitive process," you need to visit a small web site called "E-BAY," where "minimum bids" are... oh what’s the word... COMMON!!! Don't you think?

And as you casually blame all errors on the "responsible" Account Office, you have little understanding of the RealWorld practices of this Five-headed Fiasco we call a City Council. The sponsor of any RFP is the author, editor, band leader, and bandersnatch.

And "Check the Charter?" Please, that document is so utterly useless in the RealWorld that you couldn't sell a copy on E-Bay.

No minimum bid necessary.

-Kyle York
"This is about money."

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle once again you spout rubbish. If Kim placed a minimum bid in the RFP,as you suggest, and if you believe SEMS, they wouldn't have even been able to make an offer. Therefore we would have been left with Mohawk and Empire. So how would placing a minimum bid on the RFP served to improve the process? If you actually read the RFP it was clearly stated the City was seeking revenue. All of the bidders offered money, so it was pretty clear to them. And again...Not blaming anyone, but if the RFP was not sent out with all the i's dotted and t's crossed, it would fall back to Accounts.

Just my educated opinion

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Opinionated 4:25-

Congratulations. You have just completed your own circuitous journey to RonKim Reality--

An honest "upfront" demand for $50G would have meant "NO OFFER" from SEMS. Precisely! By Jove you've GOT it!

While you've got the RFP there, I'll be party with you to "a wager" that the full Council would never have voted to issue the RFP had it included the $50G demand. Mayor Johnson and Commissioner Ivins have gone public with their lack of support for the fifty large.

(Oh, even though I didn't state it, our "wager" is for $50G.)

By now you should see that an honest RFP with the $50G spelled out would "improve the process" by keeping things honest and above-board.

Instead, we have SEMS making their offer, the City accepting their offer... only to back them up against the wall, hands reaching the the stars, their eyes staring down the barrel of a $50G extortion demand.

-Kyle York
Shakedown Springs

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, how's the weather in your world? You have quite the imagination and ability to rationalize through any distorted means your opinion. Maybe you should stick to PCB's.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey voters - let's keep the circus running! Can you see the disastrous council meetings in our future, and the ruining of the city - way too much fun to watch. I just have to move to Milton or Wilton before the fall.

9:29 AM  

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