City Council Considers 'Food Fight'

Houston City Council approved the extension of a lucrative airport food concessions contract in an effort to avoid a so-called bidding food fight. But as Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, there was a bit of a fight anyway.

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Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck was fighting a losing battle, but determined to fight it anyway. Clutterbuck's concerns centered on the proposed extention of the food vendors contract for Bush Intercontinental Airport.

"Any time you bring in new parties, new terms, new vendors, it is a new contract."

The contract in question is between the city and JDDA, the current food and concessions contractor at the airport. JDDA has held the contract for 17 years - the last time it was put out for bid was in 1990. Houston Mayor Bill White says his intention was to put the contract up for the Request for Proposal process, unless the contractor agreed to meet a number of requirements for improvement in services.

"Some time this summer, the vendor, somewhat to our surprise, after some time of fighting it complied with the high level of demands and we have put this into contract form so that we believe that we have the benefits of competition."

The new terms of the contract require JDDA to provide more than $10 million in food court renovations and to bring in a partner to help boost the quality of concessions and services. The city will also get a bigger cut of the revenue. Everyone agrees it's a strong contract that benefits the city, but Clutterbuck maintains even if they got the best deal, this should have gone through the bidding process.

"I appeal to everyone at this table, as you said earlier Mayor as being one of the most fervent believers in the market system, that we let the market system apply to this, that we go to a RFP process as we are charged to do."

Clutterbuck moved the refer the contract back to the Administration to go through the RFP process. Councilmembers unanimously voted her motion down. Council then voted to approve the extended contract, with Clutterbuck and Sue Lovell voting against it and Michael Berry and Pam Holm absent. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...