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Garbage Can Bids in L.A.

January 16, 1994

Re "Garbage Cans Teach a Hard Lesson in City Hall Politics," Jan. 4:

She was the low bidder, a lawyer, and a businesswoman, and she would be building a factory in the distressed district of Councilwoman Rita Walters. She asked for help with the technical part of "doing business with City Hall."

The councilwoman's staff referred Catherine Bump to a former councilman. This expert, registered with the City Ethics Commission, asked for a free trip to Germany and $145,000 as his fee if she received the contract. She declined.

Her closest competitor employed another former councilman who picked Ms. Bump's bid apart and got her disqualified.

Obviously the bid process in Los Angeles is riddled with a lot of little cheese holes that these slavering mice can crawl into.

Hey, Big City, aren't you tired of all this? Rewrite your bid process. Refer bidders to the Purchasing Department for verification of their forms. Politicians should not be required.

CARTER DARNELL La Jolla I want to extend my compliments to The Times and to reporter Ted Rohrlich for the enlightening and revealing article, describing the process buying garbage cans in Los Angeles. However, Rohrlich's story instructs us that: 1) it's very dangerous to try to do business with the city without a "fixer"; 2) the "fixers" are (surprise!) retired politicians or others "close" to city government; 3) "fixers" make pretty big money and 4) the city is paying a hell of a lot more for garbage cans than anyone else in Southern California.

The article does not indicate what kinds of bids the city is looking at in connection with its garbage can contract. But from the information supplied it appears that Ms. Bump's company--presumably the low bidder--is bidding pretty close to $54.50 per can. Mein Gott! Das ist ein wirlich Panzer !--as well it might have to be if it is to be picked up by mechanical arms of the city's garbage trucks. Today, I would have a very hard time spending more than $30 for the very best plastic garbage receptacle you can buy--for only one--not the half-million the city is contracting for!

The article demonstrates why it costs so much to run city government these days. I hope Mayor Richard Riordan can do something to change this, but frankly, even with the best efforts on his part, it will take several terms before he will be able to make a real difference.

WALTER S. FISHER Palos Verdes Estates

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