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In his letter (August/September, p. 4), Keith
Miller states, “the government will take a
larger percentage of the wealth to support
the bloated bureaucracy.” This is a very
broad and unsubstantiated statement and is
an attack on government employees. NSPE
represents all licensed engineers who pay
to be members and many are government
employees. PE magazine, in representing
government engineers, should not allow an
attack on some members of the Society to
Louis G. Albano, P.E.
In my opinion, Keith Miller, in his critique
of Carlos Bertha’s ethics article “The Moral
Responsibility of Sustainable Development”
(January/February 2013), clearly missed
the point. Sustainable development is in
everybody’s interest, and the challenges
it poses will continue to make engineering
an exciting profession.
Bertha writes that engineers should
be cognizant of the social environment in
which they work. Citing John Elkington,
Bertha mentions social justice as one of
three elements of sustainable development,
the other two being economic prosperity
and environmental quality. Nowhere in his
article did Bertha state that social justice
involves “taking from those that have to
give to those who don’t because it makes us
more equal.” That may be Miller’s opinion,
but it cannot be based on a thoughtful
reading of Bertha’s article.
During my 40 years of practice, I have
witnessed increased attention to public
participation and education in the planning and execution of public works projects.
NSPE programs assisted in this effort. The
goal was always to have a better understanding of the potential outcomes of our
work and to achieve greater public acceptance and satisfaction with the project.
Meeting these goals results in better projects and advances the respect and status
of our profession.
Miller’s statement, “we don’t all deserve
to be equal,” runs counter to well established standards of our democracy. His
notion of American exceptionalism conflicts
with the Engineers’ Creed, in which engineers pledge “to place service before profit,
the honor and standing of the profession
before personal advantage, and the public
welfare above all other considerations”
(emphasis added). Social justice is intrinsic
to the public welfare. Why should it matter?
Because in some way, everyone pays the
bill for the quality of life produced by our
projects, whether in taxes, consultant fees,
air and water quality, road and bridge
safety, or barren or attractive landscapes.
Taking social justice into consideration is
just another way of our affirming that we
George H. Tanner, P.E. (retired)
The October issue contained two articles
on qualifications-based selection (“Top of
the List,” p. 29, and “Why Qualifications
Matter,” p. 35). I agree with the need for
QBS of design services, but as the owner
of a small firm, I am increasingly frustrated
at how it is implemented.
Too often my firm has not been selected
because, in the words of one selection
committee member, “the other firm had
more resumes in their packet than you
did.” It’s hard to have more resumes than
the firm with 30+ offices nationwide. That
firm can put in multiple resumes, regardless of how far away the person is from the
ASCE Policy Statement 304 outlines three
steps for QBS, the first being: “The owner
selects the professional engineer believed
best qualified....” There need to be prac-
tical guidelines established for this process.
Apparently, some owners in our area don’t
know what they are looking at and are forced
to count resumes. Most owners aren’t engi-
neers or architects, so that is understandable.
Discussions about QBS should include
more emphasis on approaches to evaluate
each firm’s design staff that will actually
be providing services. This would include
specific past projects by those individuals,
references, and so forth. There should be
some consideration of a firm’s locality to
a project. An engineer who is in an office
50 miles from the project is going to know
more about local conditions, good or bad
contractors, and so on, compared to an engineer who works 250 miles away.
There are smarter folks than I who can
come up with practical guidelines for QBS.
Until then, I will have to keep proposing
on “low-bid” engineering projects. Or find
some more resumes.
Chris Casteel, P.E.
Correction: Thank you to the many readers
who pointed out that the image of Minnesota on p. 6 of the December issue should
have been an image of Michigan.