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Bedford's Consultant Bug

Urban Dictionary - a crowdsourced online dictionary for slang words and phrases - hilariously defines a 'Consultant' as:

  • A self-proclaimed expert that extorts inflated fees from a host company in return for vague and predominantly incorrect business advice. The successful consultant detaches from its host at the exact moment its parasitic qualities are discovered by upper management. Thus, the successful consultant's term of engagement will last from months to years, until a mildly attentive decision-maker realizes that their burning ray of hope is all talk. Note that some middle managers and all other employees of the host will immediately recognize the consultant as a pathogen. In order to gain access to a viable host, the consultant preys upon upper managements' lack of job expertise and unrealistic dreams of grandeur. By using a string of buzz-words and metaphors that appear as incoherent babble to most humans, the consultant will usually succeed in gaining an assignment to fix a non-existent problem purportedly caused by the host's employees.

I don't know about you, but that made me giggle - and laughter is important when impulsively purchasing a rather ordinary mug for the exorbitant price of $32.95 just because it had said definition plastered all over it (without even engaging a consultant, they're already costing me money!).

Now this post is not an anti-consultant diatribe - I believe that there are inherently good people in this line of work who provide a valuable service to organizations in need (despite my personal experience with several in the corporate arena). But I do have concerns as it relates to us here in Bedford.

Supervisor Calves - in her July 15th newsletter - announced that the Town Board was considering allocating funds to a one-year part-time consultant to focus on business and community promotion in each of our hamlet business districts to support economic development opportunities which raised some questions for me:

  1. Aren't we electing and paying public officials to generally make these types of recommendations and decisions? What work has this Town Board done in advance of their proposal to hire an external consultant, and what qualities/traits do we think this outsider will bring to the table that are missing from our Town Council?

  2. Have you explored all other resources? I would hope that this Town Board has exhausted every option available to us before bringing someone external in. Have you reached out to Town departments that we could leverage to advise and execute on these matters like Chamber of Commerce organizations or even local business leaders?

  3. What are you attempting to solve with external help? Supervisor Calves describes the job as one that would include promotion, attraction and retention... but is that what we truly need? That's not even possible in the depressed hamlet of Bedford Hills where landlords are purportedly squatting on their properties for tax write-off reasons. Has the Town Board reached out to these people to discuss what would incentivize them to be open to leasing - perhaps tax breaks or even streamlining permitting and approval processes to make for a more business-friendly environment would be a start? It just feels like we would be putting the cart before the horse if not.

  4. What would the deliverables be for said consultant and what is the projected ROI for taxpayers? I assume that the consultant cost will not include their suggestions of an agency or other source of spending to actually execute on said recommendations. I think residents of Bedford deserve to understand all associated/forecasted costs alongside the benefits of doing so (i.e. do we think we'll be able to cut property taxes with these new businesses?).

While I can give credit to the Town Board for thinking about economic development opportunities, I am concerned about its approach to a solution. We elected each and every one of you to lead based on your experience and knowledge, not outsourcing the job to a foreign consultant. Not to mention the timing, which in today's economic climate of crippling inflation as a result of out-of-control spending in D.C. and Albany - is fiscally irresponsible. Town Board initiatives should be laser-focused on providing some relief locally and the announcement of hiring a consultant draws more questions than answers. I hope the Supervisor will address these questions and concerns at the next Town Board meeting. And I encourage anyone who feels the same way to voice your thoughts either by email or during public comment at the August 16th Town Board meeting.

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