The truth behind the pricy advice

Headline: "Martinez Pushes $400,000 For Survey."

Setting: The night before. A bar in downtown Orlando.

"Psst. Hey you ... yeah, you! Hey, what's a good-looking county executive like you doin' in a place like this? Hah, hah, just kiddin', Mr. Chairman! Oh yeah, I understand, you gotta have a place to relax, get away from the naysayers. I know, I know, why can't those other guys just see things your way? Helluva thing, running a county.

"Me? Oh, I'm here on business. ... What business? Why, I'm a consultant. By the way, nice little town you got here. I mean, nice little REGION. ... Oh, yes, absolutely, my friend, you gotta think region these days. The days of thinking my town, her city, his county are over ... done ... finito! Yeah, unless you're thinkin' in terms of regional development, you're just gonna get left behind.

"What? You DON'T have a Regional Development Program? Wow, are you ever gonna miss the gravy train! ... No, no, don't panic, my friend, this could be your lucky day. Sssshh! C'mere. I don't want anyone else to see. I just happen to have right here a first-class, bona-fide, gold-plated Regional Development Plan! ... No, no, no, I don't mind if you look it over. But, well, hey, everyone's gotta make a buck, right? I mean, I can't give you the whole nine yards for nothin.' How much? Hey, you're a nice guy, and I'm in a good mood. For you, $1.7 million.

"Nah! You don't need to pay it all up front. Look, tell ya what. I'll take 400 grand from you, just to get things rolling, and we'll get the rest from ... wherever. Sure, sure, take it to the board, the commission, whatever! Heck, they're gonna love it. Here's my card. Gimme a call. Nice talkin' to ya!"

"Operator, gimme Parsons, of Parsons, Brinckehoff, Quade & Douglas ... Hey Pars, you ol' devil, it worked like a charm. Yeah, yeah, the chairman's on board. ... What did I give him? About 20 pages of gobbledygook. You know, a bunch of babble about the need to think regionally, to build coalitions, seize the opportunities, shape the future, the usual stuff.

"I know, I know. These guys will buy anything! How much did I ask? $1.7 mil! Yeah, well, I just pulled that number outta my hat. Seemed to go over good with Jacob Stuart and the Chamber of Commerce guys, so I just stuck with it. I know you guys got $19.4 mil for the light-rail thing. Heck, the whole town -- I mean, the whole REGION -- got stiffed for 45 big ones on that! And guess what? There's not gonna be any train after all! Ain't that a hoot? ...

"I don't know. You'd think the locals would be gettin' pretty pissed off by now. I mean, they elected these guys to run the place, but all they seem to know how to do is hire us consultants to tell 'em what they should already know in the first place. Crazy business, huh?

"Take this regional development thing. All it is, is a bunch of high-falutin' nonsense which basically boils down to one thing: If you wanna get things done, you all gotta sit down in the same room and work together. ... I know, it's amazin'! And the beauty part is, these guys really think they need the darn thing, 'cuz right now, they aren't even talkin' to one another, much less workin' together. So, I come in with all this fancy brouhaha about cooperation, charm the pants off 'em, stick 'em for a good price, and they think all their problems will be solved. Is this place great or what?

"By the way, you hear anything these days from Jim Belcher of Earthbase? ... Who's he? C'mon, you remember, he's the guy the city of Orlando hired to 're-brand' downtown. Got the mayor and the Downtown Development Board to pony up $50,000. Gave 'em this song and dance about creative teams made up of residents, business types, government guys. Had one of his guys convince 'em that it was important for people to make an ‘emotional' connection to downtown. Can you believe it? What a scam. I think they finally designed a logo or somethin'. The Development Board members wear it on their T-shirts. Yeah, that's it, as far as I can tell -- just the logo! For 50 Gs! Gotta hand it to Belcher, though. He told us this place had money to burn! Opened up the whole territory for the rest of us. What a genius!

"What? ... Oh sure, yeah, yeah! We haven't even scratched the surface. We'll be sucking bucks from this place for years. Why? Well, I guess they figure that unless someone comes in from the outside and tells 'em what to do, they're gonna look like a bunch of amateurs. Funny thing is, that's exactly what they look like anyway for buyin' into all this stuff. Right ... right! Like the man said, there's one born every minute!"

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