For a while now we've complained that El Paso's many local government entities loved to hire contractors, vendors etc. from out of town. This has been done even though there are many local businesses that can not only fulfill the need, but rely on it. Adding insult to injury, most of those out of town firms end up just hiring the locals to perform as subcontractors... and then they don't pay them much or in some cases not at all.
A few years ago local businesses started to push the local government entities to try and hire locals before hiring outsiders. It was becoming rather obvious that staff in many cases weren't being objective with their recommendations. I mean, how did it look when staff told a council member that a certain local business wasn't good enough to do the work yet when the work commenced it was the local guys doing all the work? It looked bad.
The out of town companies know how to play the game. They often rent a small office space locally (from one of the local businesses that aren't qualified to do the work - so says staff) and staff it with one of their guys from out of town so they can claim they have a "local office." Smart, but we all know the game.
In some cases the out of town guys do bring in their own people and don't hire locally. They also don't source materials locally either. Much of the economic stimulus that El Paso residents may have felt from building and supplying projects in their own city is never felt. In a perfect world taxpayer money would go to the city and then go back out to them to build infrastructure etc. That doesn't happen in this case - the money leaves. Other communities are essentially siphoning your tax dollars over to their city. There's a whole economic theory behind this, but I think you get it.
So, some local politicians decide that they are going to give local vendors a helping hand by recognizing their location when assessing bids, requests for qualifications/proposals. That was great - they got the message and wanted to do something about it.
And there's more to this where it comes to reciprocity with New Mexico... If a Texas based firm bids work in New Mexico, they (New Mexico) adds 5 percent to whatever their bid is. El Paso did not always do this for New Mexico based firms bidding El Paso, Texas jobs. It's kind of complicated... but the bigger picture you get - BUY LOCAL FIRST!
And you knew there'd be a "however" here eventually because it seems nobody can do anything right in my eyes...
The program the City of El Paso has instituted has some rather strange and intrusive requirements for a company that wants to be seen as "local."
Below you'll find the requirements for "Tier 1" and "Tier 2" consideration. The difference in tiers is the size of the company and the size of projects they bid.
Tier 1 required documents:
1. TIN Certificate (business name verification)
2. Headquarters Address verification (lease or contract)
3. Employee list
4. Copy of ID / Driver license or voter registration card for 10% of employees
Tier 2 required documents:
1. TIN Certificate (business name verification)
2. Local Address verification (lease or contract)
3. Employee list
4. Copy of ID / Driver license or voter registration card for 50 employees
Does any of that strike you as odd? It should.
Imagine you work for Bill's Dirt Diggers and bill has to prove he's a local contractor. Bill has to send to the City of El Paso a copy of your driver license or... or... orrrrr... your voter registration card...
Yeah, I wouldn't be to excited about my employer sharing that info with strangers at the city either. I know you can look up a driver's license number and voter registration information with not too much trouble. However, that photocopied piece of paper can be used for a lot of nefarious things. Just think about the places where they copy your driver license in the process of trying to execute a contract or a financial deal.
Now, I'm not saying that our friends at the city would ever do something bad with this kind of personal info. But... you never know.
Many of you are probably whining "this is on your blog because of your parent's business blah blah blah." It is and isn't. My parents can easily meet the requirements. Yet, they also have a responsibility to their employees to keep whatever personal info they have on their employees protected. If my dad sends off a bunch voter registration cards or driver licenses to the city and that info gets into the wrong hands - my dad gets the blame. My dad doesn't want the blame and he sure as hell doesn't want to put his employees personal information in the wrong hands. (I imagine HR professionals reading this are developing one of those nervous twitches in their general face area about right now.)
There has to be a better way to do this. I'm not sure exactly how, but there's got to be a better way.
There are so many bad thing that can go wrong here and let's not forget you can easily cheat this.
First of all, for Tier 1 folks the city is looking for 10 percent of the work force. Okay, 10 percent of what? Does the city know exactly how many employees each company has in El Paso? Also, how will they verify the driver license copies they receive are of those employed by that company? I could just copy five friend's licenses and send them in. What are they going to do? Call them? The requirement is intrusive to begin with and secondly it's easy to fake... It just doesn't work.
And let's say this information goes into a file and a local vertically integrated elected official (you know the team I'm talking about) decides they'd like to learn a little more about those people whose driver licenses and voter registration cards they have right there in front of them. What if they run them through the local voter rolls and find out the Bill's Dirt Diggers is a construction firm where all of his employees voted in the Republican primary instead of the Democratic? It's bad enough that Bill himself donated money to the wrong candidate for congress. Now they know his employees are a bunch of mouth-breathing Trump lovers! You think that elected official might vote differently knowing that? YOU BET YOUR ASS SHE WOULD.
The whole thing was done with the best intentions, but it was executed all wrong. They need to go back to the drawing board. I'm not against suggesting site visits to these offices or some other means of verification. Let's just not be throwing the working man's personal info out there without a lot more thought going into this.
And an afterthought here... would all this be available under open records? Asking someone to provide their lease documents on their office space is risky. You could have commercial real estate people and God knows who else digging around the city for that information. Lease terms and other considerations are very private in most deals. Too many negative things could be done with that information.