Young questions lack of minority participation in rec center consulting

The Colorado-based consultants would fly to city and conduct sessions with Rec and Park staff and sponsor a leadership summit


Rec and Parks wants a Colorado firm help it identify its core values and mission. The Madison Square Rec Center serves the low-income Oliver neighborhood.

Photo by: Mark Reutter, 2012

A consulting contract to help the Recreation and Parks Department define its “values, vision, mission and core businesses” was held up today when City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young questioned the absence of minority participation.

Approval of the $53,000 contract to Colorado-based GreenPlay LLC was deferred for one week at Young’s request during the Board of Estimates’ pre-meeting, which takes place before the public meeting.

While miniscule compared to many consulting agreements – last week, for example, the spending panel approved $2.5 million for roadway paving consultants – Young was concerned that there was no minority participation in the Rec and Parks agreement, his spokesman, Lester Davis, said this afternoon.

The city requires 27% minority and 10% women-owned business participation in public contracts. The city’s rec centers and parks serve an overwhelming African-American clientele.

Paperwork accompanying the Rec and Parks request, reviewed by The Brew, asserted that the contract could not be “segmented” to include minority and women’s participation. This was partially because the consultant uses “proprietary methodologies and tools” to assess the success of recreation programs and facilities.

Cost Recovery Strategies

In a letter to the agency, Greenplay’s Chris Dropinski summed up the purpose of the contract as “you are looking to reactivate the department” to be “much more purposeful in what you are providing” to the public.

GreenPlay said it would concentrate on helping senior staff  identify duplicative efforts at city rec centers and develop “pricing and cost recovery strategies.”

In short, the consultant – who plans to fly in several members from Denver to work for several days at a time in Baltimore – will pursue the “privatization” plan favored by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and outlined in a 2011 report by a mayoral task force.

The plan to close or turn over to private operators as many as 20 inner-city rec centers has been highly controversial. The two of the plan’s principal architects – department director Gregory Bayor and chief of recreation Bill Tyler – left the agency after brief tenures (here and here).

Delayed City Audit

Rec and Parks is currently undergoing the first audit in at least 25 years by the City Comptroller’s office.

The audit, originally planned to be released last summer, has been delayed due to various problems in assembling financial data for City Auditor Robert McCarty. The bulk of the audit has been completed, but has not been publicly released.

Ernest W. Burkeen Jr., appointed as agency director 14 months ago, requested that the Board of Estimates approve the GreenPlay contract as part of what he called a master plan for community centers for youth and adults.

GreenPlay, established in 1999, provides consulting, community outreach, strategic planning and staff training to park, recreation and open-space agencies around the country.

The group said it plans to hold a “leadership summit” with community leaders and government agencies in Baltimore to focus on a long-term plan to better serve the city’s recreation needs.

Under the proposed contract, three principals of GreenPlay would each be paid $150 an hour by the city.

The consulting salaries would amount to no more than $44,100, the contract states, while travel and hotel expenses would total about $9,000.

The group’s proposal suggests that the company expects to be retained by Rec and Parks after the initial contract expires in a year.

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  • trueheart4life

    Mr. Ernest W. Burkeen Jr. are you ready to go back to Florida?

  • KnowNothingParty

    With this on going practice of dolling out nifty sums of money to “consultants” to tell city agencies what and how to do their jobs, one would think poor old Baltimore was swimming in the dough. Mr. Young if Green Play LLC is qualified and demonstrates it can do an effective job at the most efficient cost why does it matter that they are white professionals?

  • ushanellore

    GreenPlay also called Turning green to GREEN.

    GreenPlay, what a pun!
    You’re thinking vistas and vistas
    of panoramic, pastoral verdure,
    on the trees and on the ground
    where kids can climb, run and roll,
    They’re thinking lustrous, lustrous,
    green back, newly printed
    rolled off the press, pressed–
    into their palms– a tantalizing goal!

    Usha Nellore

  • Andrew

    Does this city council remind anyone else of Detroit’s as it ran that city in to the ground with their self-interest?

  • rogerclegg

    Re: “The city requires 27% minority and 10% women-owned business participation in public contracts. The city’s rec centers and parks serve an overwhelming African-American clientele.” So, is the implication that, if the clientele were all-white, then no blacks need apply? Why do race, ethnicity, and sex need to be considered at all in deciding who gets awarded a contract?

    It’s good to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that
    bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets
    discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex. But that means no preferences because of skin color, etc. either–whether it’s labeled a “set-aside,” a “quota,” or a “goal,” since they all end up amounting to
    the same thing. Such discrimination is
    unfair and divisive; it breeds corruption and otherwise costs the taxpayers and
    businesses money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it’s almost always illegal—indeed, unconstitutional—to boot (see 42 U.S.C. section 1981 and this model brief:
    Those who insist on engaging in such
    discrimination deserve to be sued, and they will lose.

    • Barnadine_the_Pirate

      I partially disagree. I can see that, all things being equal, input from a local, minority-owned consulting firm would be useful for something like evaluating the programs, procedures, and effectiveness of a service mostly used by a local, minority (is 60% of the population still a minority?) clientele.
      On the other hand, a paving contract is a paving contract is a paving contract. I understand the historical rationale behind the set-asides, but it may be time to debate whether they have outlived their usefulness.

      • KnowNothingParty

        How much racism are you willing to allow Mattey? An RFP was developed, bids were submitted by consultants, bids were reviewed by the city, the contact was awarded. THEN Jack Young holds the contract up because he wants a different color of people to “participate”.

        • Barnadine_the_Pirate

          I don’t know who “Mattey” is and the phenomenon that has your panties in a bunch is not “racism.” It may be discriminatory, it may be bad policy, but it’s not “racist” except in the current, 21st-century rightwing dipshit sense of “racist” meaning “anything old white people dislike.”

          • KnowNothingParty

            You must be one of those liberals who mispronounces big words and changes the definition of racism according to who is getting the preferential treatment. Now walk the plank

          • Barnadine_the_Pirate

            That’s nice. Isn’t there something on Fox “News” that you could be watching instead of demonstrating your stupidity in response to week-old comments?

  • cwals99

    This is a joke as the Minority Contractor lawyer has shouted constantly about the loss of black voice in city business as well as development and Jack Young always votes with Baltimore Development.

    The important thing to remember about public rec centers is that they are historically a place for the public to meet to talk politics and community issues freely as were public schools. When you hand all public institutions to private corporate non-profits they will tell you……WE CANNOT BE POLITICAL SO TAKE YOUR TALK SOMEWHERE ELSE. That is why all these public institutions are being closed. Let’s face it, the $300,000 to renovate and run is pennies to $100 million handed to Exelon for nothing. So, this privatization is not about expense… is about getting all public venues for gathering under control of corporate leadership…..these directors are hand-picked by the corporations ‘donating’ for their operation.

    Baltimore is almost completely privatized now by Johns Hopkins. This Health and Education reform these few years is handing all public health and public education over to corporate private non-profits so we do not have control of any public policy. THAT’S THE GOAL AND JACK YOUNG AND CITY HALL ARE ALL ON BOARD WITH THIS.

    If we do not wake up as citizens to run for all offices in primaries to shake these corporate pols out of the rug…..we will no longer be citizens. That is what all this behind the door policy-writing is all about. WAKE UP AND RUN FOR OFFICE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

  • bmorepanic

    Rec’n’parks consulting groups tend to specialize along theories. There are some quite good ones that are about visioning and connecting, but this company isn’t one of them. This company seems to specialize in implementing strategies that are around doing what you have the money to do instead of doing everything but doing it poorly. It’s a way of managing.

    I think the thing that “outsiders” will not consider is the extreme differences between what’s available to the rich areas and what’s available to the poor areas. And also, that the poor areas need recreation services and programs, not just empty rooms in a building with a recreation center name. I’m thinking along the lines of study centers with basketball and computer rooms. Plus, they do need to be subsidized. They are one of the ways the city can fix itself by structuring safe places for children to play, do homework and get some caring support structures that can be missing in their neighborhoods. Such facilities and support staff are needed and need to be subsidized.

    Its popular to say that people (you could substitute the word parents if you like) just don’t care. I hold two opinions.

    The first is that times are tough for low paid people – when people need to work 50-60 hours per week, spend more hours every day on transit, sometimes have multiple jobs, sometimes are a single parent and even getting food on the table everyday is a nightmare. Getting shot or arrested is a real concern and its exhausting trying to protect against it without time and money. How much effort can a poor person devote to getting or keeping a recreation center and its activities going?

    The other is recognizing that a lot of people have addiction issues, mental health issues and just plain exhaustion that combine with a lack of knowing how to be a good parent. When we refuse to help the children of these families learn how to care, to be a good citizen, to care for themselves, to be a good sportsman or to be a good student because of their parents’ weaknesses, we are telling the children that they also are trash and were doomed by society when born. It’s worse than original sin because most Christians believe that can be washed away, but being born in poverty is a life sentence.

    At best, we tell them to get religion so that when they get shot, they can go to heaven.

    I’m not saying that poor = bad parent. I have met many lovely people who aren’t wealthy, who worry about their children and their other relatives but are too busy with the activities of poverty to care about anything else.

    Which brings me back to thinking about these GreenPlay guys. Is learning to provide services only for those who can pay what we need to re-invigorate the department? Cause I think I’d rather see rec’n’parks figure out grant application writing and project management.

  • ZacharyMurray

    The Board of Estimates must go

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