by Paddy Notar

The Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) submitted a Request for Quote (RFQ) 2019Q20123, for Herman Miller furniture and accessories for the Anchorage Solid Waste Department. Quotes were due on Nov. 13 by 1 p.m. Why Herman Miller furniture, which carries some of the most expensive furnishings on the market? Why not something much more affordable, like Hon?

On July 24 of this year Mayor Ethan Berkowitz declared a civil emergency due to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget cuts. Berkowitz said the cuts would cause “dire and imminent public safety and health risks.” Of course, we’re not going to go cheap with chic.

In 2012, the MOA purchased the SAP program, which was supposed to improve purchasing and financial processes. Instead, it sapped us of money. In 2017, the Anchorage Assembly authorized another payment to upgrade the software. Those costs have risen to $81.5 million just to fix the stupid thing. A former MOA employee said, “When I was in the municipality, I saw thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars flying out the municipal doors.” Apparently if we can afford a busted software program then we should be able to flip the bill for some over the top furniture in a department that no one visits.

Some of the items listed in the RFQ: A Mira 2 Task Chair. On line it’s listed for up to $1,300. It depends on how stylish you want to get. The Motia Sit-to Stand Table starts at $1,000 and can go as high as $1,400. That’s one of those tables that you can pull up and down, all depending on your mood to sit or stand while working. Give me a break. Some of the furniture items listed on the RFQ begin at $500 and go upwards into the $1,500 range.

The divas of the Solid Waste Dept. are also asking for Aside Side Chairs which will only cost about $349 each on the low end. These are chairs that you often see at wedding reception tables and can be stacked on top of one another. Do you really need to spend that much money on a chair that doesn’t recline and isn’t made of leather? If they want to take a septic splurge the chairs can go as high as $430 each. Why not? They’re worth it!

What’s even more interesting are the storage cabinets that the MOA is looking for. These are two-door standing cabinets that look like two lockers standing side by side. When I went to the Herman Miller price book I found that item starts at $1,091 and goes up to $1,771 depending on the size. I bought a similar one for my home office that cost $150. I had to put it together and that took about 30 minutes but the MUNI doesn’t like putting things together. It’s kind of like common sense and responsible spending in the Berkowitz administration. Because of the tedious task of assembling everything the MUNI also has a line item for installation cost, compliments of Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer.

If you’re looking for a two drawer filing cabinet that sits on the floor and is 30 inches wide you can expect to give Mr. Miller $884. Oh wait, you want it to be 42 inches wide? Hold on. That one costs a little more. We’re going to have to charge taxpayers $1,100. Hell, why not just get four drawers for $1,713. It seems pricey for four sliding drawers that just holds folders but it really holds them in tight. It’s worth every penny.

The list goes on and on from a diagonal tray, Flo dual screen monitor arm, tile adapter and wall strip, a universal clamp mount, and many other items, all Herman Miller, please.

Is Berkowitz for real? Do you have glamorous furniture where you work? No wonder why our property taxes keep escalating. My office is efficient and affordable. What more do you need than a desk, a comfortable chair and storage cabinets? Most city offices I’ve been into have military surplus desks that are made of metal. These guys are looking to make the most upscale cubicle living on the planet.

OfficeMax and other local vendors have plenty of more sensible furniture to choose from. At OfficeMax you can become a preferred customer and earn dollars towards your next purchase. They’ll even donate a portion of what you spend to the local school of your choice.

Why did it have to be Herman Miller furniture anyway? Whose decision was that? Why not just put out an RFP stating what they needed? I see this with the school district and other MOA agencies where they have to slap a name onto things instead of just putting what specification are necessary in order to get the right equipment.

There are plenty of companies out there to choose from when it comes to furniture and other things and the last time I checked competition keeps the prices down for those of us who constantly hear, “You’re property taxes are only going to go up $6 this year if you vote for this…” How many times do we have to keep raising property taxes to pay for MOA stuff? Those small amounts add up.

In the end the Solid Waste Department smells bad on a good day but buying Herman Miller furniture is just over the top greed. Then again, out of touch Mayor Berkowitz is probably walking around City Hall quoting the words of American author William Feather who said, “A budget tells us what we can’t afford but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.”

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