The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.—from an Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet first published in 1981.

We hear that quote usually attributed to Albert Einstein, but he had been dead since 1955—and there is no proof that it belongs to Einstein, Mark Twain, Richard Feynman or Yogi Berra.

Regardless of the source, there is folksy wisdom that the quote evokes, and we all express that thought as we banged our head against the wall in frustration. It is certainly the case of contractors trying to do business with the City of Los Angeles.

ECA had been representing our contractors regarding problems with L.A. City Hall for more than 40 years. Our members are the largest group of contractors doing business with the city for public works construction, especially in the underground segment.

We’ve had a few “wins” over the years, getting the city to change requirements, policies or procedures, but we don’t win them all.

We are the most active participant in what the public works department has, for the last 15 years and more, called the Ad Hoc Committee. Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning a group formed, arranged, or done for a particular purpose.

The current ad hoc purpose is trying to get the city to follow its own rules about prompt pay, particularly regarding emergency work. When one of our members rotates to the top of the city’s emergency sewer repair list, they are expected to respond nearly instantly, do the repairs to the city standards as quickly as possible, bill the city for the work and, according to the PWD rules, get paid within 30 days of invoice.

Pretty clear, right? Our members engaged in that work are wondering why it takes from six-to-nine MONTHS. Virtually every contractor who does business with the city knows to expect delayed payments, sometimes caused by incorrectly filled out paperwork at our members end, but most often the holdup is the fractured, Byzantine thicket of city departments who are supposed to be part of the “process.”

This brings to where we started: the city’s pathway to the payment of the simplest bills must be fixed.

We recently thought we had a deal to at least get partial payment of undisputed work as many public agencies do every day, but no, so we have to go the ad hoc pathway…doing the same thing over again and hoping for a better result.

By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]