Powering Strong Communities

Legal Analysis Argues for Community Participation in Rochester, N.Y., Municipalization Study RFP

An independent legal analysis from the Environmental Advocacy Clinic at the University at Buffalo School of Law makes the case for allowing for community stakeholder participation in the development of a request for proposals for a municipalization feasibility study.

“A long line of precedent and history establishes that competitive bidding requirements do not apply to contracts for professional or technical services. There is absolutely no New York State law preventing community stakeholder’s involvement. Community participation is a matter of local choice, not state law,” the analysis said.

“Moreover, community participation is specifically called for when needed to supply technical or other unique knowledge or experience, a gap that has been acknowledged by the city in this case. The context of municipalization is one of local self-determination. This RFP is of utmost relevance and importance to local community,” the analysis said.

The analysis was released by Metro Justice, a Rochester organization that supports the creation of a public power utility for the city.

“In communications with Metro Justice, the city has suggested, erroneously, that allowing community stakeholders to participate in the design or evaluation of the Municipalization Feasibility Study RFP would constitute bias or favoritism,” the analysis said. “This gets it exactly backwards. Robust participation by community stakeholders is necessary precisely to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability in the RFP process.”

The analysis said that robust public participation in the RFP process is an effective means of ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability in selecting a suitable contractor for the municipalization feasibility study.

“The feasibility of establishing a municipal electric provider is a matter of significant importance to the citizens of Rochester, as has been acknowledged by the Rochester City Council and other public officials,” it said.

“Given that incumbent utilities may, by virtue of their position and resources, enjoy easier access to government decision makers, direct community participation in the development and evaluation of the RFP is a necessary and appropriate measure to ensure fair representation of the diverse public interests at stake. Including community stakeholders at an early stage would further ensure that community priorities are clearly reflected in the RFP and evaluation criteria, enhancing the transparency of the decision-making process.”