After the Democratic convention got a terrible progress report in the New York Times this week, the DNC responded with a point-by-point refutation from Howard Dean and DNCC CEO Leah Daughtry. The two attempted to rebut the notion that the DNC had imposed color requirements on food served at the convention as well as a ban on fried food, calling them guidelines instead of requirements. David Montgomery of the Washington Post decided to follow up on the rebuttal, and puts the rebuttal in perspective:
Mocking these standards would be wrong. Especially after the committee’s strong statement posted on its Web site, entitled “Fiction Fuels Frivolous Food Fight.”
As the committee’s Greening Director, Parry Burnap, explained in the statement —
Greening Director? Is that like, Dancing Instructor? Or Tanning Protector? Or Programming Selector?
What does the verb “to green” mean? Does it mean to staple plastic turf on your rowhouse stoop like in Baltimore? Does it mean to spray electric lime paint on a highway median strip? Is “to green” the opposite of “to brown,” so instead of getting old and fried and wrinkled and cynical, you devolve to something young and fresh as a lettuce head?
Greening Director Burnap explained that the guidelines on color, preparation, and origin were entirely voluntary, not mandates. However, as Montgomery points out, in a competitive bidding process, specs mean a great deal. Publishing them indicates a strong preference for compliance, and in order to win business, any bidder responding to an RFP will tailor their entry to match it as closely as possible. Calling these “voluntary” elides the DNCC’s insistence on them.
Those guidelines went beyond food color, too. Here is an interesting part of the public statement from the DNCC for bidders interested in doing business with the Democrats:
The additional guidelines included in the Catering Request for Proposal are based on standard environmental best practices. Guidelines include using reusable serviceware rather than disposables, making green choices for any disposables that must be used, avoiding use of individual water bottles in favor of pitchers or other such dispensers, encouraging staff to take advantage of alternative transportation, providing recycling and composting, and calculating and offsetting the carbon footprint of the event using a calculator that will be provided. These guidelines are designed to provide options and alternatives in order to make their implementation as easy as possible.
The green guidelines are one of many components the Host Committee balances during the RFP selection process. While green practices are preferred, not all awards will include all of the guidelines listed.
Not all awards will include all of the “guidelines” … which hints that most of them will, and all of them will include at least a healthy portion of them. As anyone who has ever responded to an RFP knows, that language exists to give the customer leeway to make whatever choices they desire, but says pretty clearly that anyone who wants to play ball had better follow the “guidelines”.
It sounds hilarious, and it’s pretty cute … in a limited context. It doesn’t take much thought to understand that the Lean & Green “guidelines” will eventually start becoming mandates, as Michael Bloomberg has already begun to make them in New York City with his ban on trans-fats in restaurants. When the nanny state starts making these “guidelines” mandatory, we won’t be laughing nearly as hard at a Secretary of Greening in the Cabinet.