Wednesday, June 9, 2010

City Hall's LED debate lights up again

Frank Jackson’s taking another shot at his LED lighting plan. Gone is the idea of handing a no-bid contract to Chinese manufacturer Sunpu-Opto, but not much else has changed.

The mayor still wants to use the city’s purchasing power as leverage to demand new jobs. Any company can now bid on a 10-year city lighting contract — if it promises to build a North American headquarters in Cleveland with 350 employees. In other words, the call for bids proposes a deal that Jackson knows Sunpu-Opto’s willing to make and invites other companies to match it.

Councilman Brian Cummins e-mailed me to say he’s against the new proposal. In a comment on my blog two weeks ago, Cummins said he objected to the Sunpu-Opto deal because of a “lack of credibility related to the company and their products.” He’s now posted several arguments against the new plan on Brewed Fresh Daily. The strongest: The LED lighting industry is changing so fast, how do we know that whichever company gets the deal will be producing state of-the-art lights in 2020?

But I doubt any company would relocate to Cleveland just to get a plain old two- or three-year contract. The original deal looked like it’d squeak through council on a 10-9 vote, and the competitive bidding in the new plan may convince a few councilpeople to drop their opposition. It’ll be hard for them to turn down 350 new jobs (even if many would be low-paying). But Cummins and others who oppose the deal are posing some tough questions. And win or lose, they’re establishing themselves as independent thinkers who won’t back down.

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