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Last week, we reported on San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s opinion that San Diego could outsource city services without allowing city employees to bid.

The opinion diverged from long-held beliefs and arguments about the city’s long-stalled managed competition program. Mayor Jerry Sanders’ refusal to rule out outsourcing left labor leaders less than pleased.

But even if the mayor wants privatization to happen, City Council has to agree. I thought to poll council members to see if outsourcing could happen.

The results show some opposition, but also some willingness to leave the issue open.

I asked all eight council members the same question:

Do you support outsourcing city services without soliciting bids from city departments assuming the restrictions addressed in the City Attorney’s opinion are followed?

Please choose:

Yes

No

Don’t Know

Explain your choice in 2-3 sentences.

I received one “yes,” two “no’s” and two others who offered explanations instead of straight yes or no answers.

Three council members — Tony Young, Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner — did not respond.

Yes

Councilman Carl DeMaio:

If city employees are unwilling to participate in managed competition in a good faith manner, or if we are at risk of not being able to provide vital services to taxpayers, outsourcing certainly is one of several options the city should consider. In any outsourcing, I would insist that more than one bid be received to harness the power of competitive sourcing.

No

Councilman Todd Gloria:

Prop C was sold to voters as a “managed competition” initiative, not privatization. The ballot measure required the establishment of a Managed Competition Review Board; without competition, the role of the Board is trivial. Experience shows that privatization, coupled with contract mismanagement, jeopardizes service delivery and quality, and leads to cost overruns, labor discord and a lack of transparency (i.e., Walter Reed Medical Center at the federal level and San Diego Data Processing Corporation on the local level).

Council President Ben Hueso:

We have a responsibility to provide San Diegans with the best possible services at the lowest possible cost. If we exclude our City employees from the bidding process, we deny them the right to demonstrate conclusively that they are able to handle our residents’ needs better and more efficiently than other potential service providers.

Other responses:

Councilwoman Donna Frye said she didn’t want to provide a simple “yes” or “no” answer so as to avoid any possible problem with the state open-meetings law.

But this is what she said:

Outsourcing city services without soliciting bids from city departments breaks faith with the voters and city employees. The ballot argument signed by the Mayor, City Attorney and others in favor of Prop C in November 2006 stated that, “City employees will be given an opportunity to develop plans for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a targeted service, while qualified outside providers will be invited to submit proposals for providing the service.”

Additionally, in December 2006 the Mayor prepared a fact sheet about Prop C confirming ” … that City employees will be provided with resources in order to respond as part of managed competition process.”  Included with the fact sheet was a proposed ordinance to enact Prop C. Specifically, Section 22.3704, Resources for City Employees Involved in Managed Competition, stated that, “City employees involved in Managed Competition will be provided with resources, such as information, technical assistance and staff support, to develop strategies for optimized efficiency, economy and effectiveness, in order to respond to solicitation.”

Councilman Kevin Faulconer:

I support managed competition, which allows private businesses to compete with city departments for service contracts. I can’t give you a yes or no answer because we have to look at every budget-related opportunity on a case-by-case basis. We’re facing a significant deficit. We’re going to be making difficult decisions. So all of our options need to be on the table.

— LIAM DILLON

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