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Today, San Diego’s City Council is poised to pass rules to allow the city to outsource most city services, a process four years in the making.

The front page of the New York Times has a story on the outrage over outsourcing public libraries in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. The article asks if some services are too much a fabric of public life that they can’t be trusted to a private company.

“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.”

There has been scattered talk about San Diego outsourcing its library system, but that’s unlikely to happen. Other services like trash collection, printing and auto repair are considered prime outsourcing candidates.

Arguments in favor of going so far as outsourcing libraries rely on savings. The company taking over Santa Clarita’s libraries argues it can save the city money mainly through cutting retirement costs, an argument that should be familiar here.

Library employees are often the most resistant to his company, said Mr. Pezzanite, a co-founder of [the outsourcing company] — and, he suggested, for reasons that only reinforce the need for a new approach.

“Pensions crushed General Motors, and it is crushing the governments in California,” he said. While the company says it rehires many of the municipal librarians, they must be content with a 401(k) retirement fund and no pension.

A hat tip to Murtaza Baxamusa of the Center on Policy Initiatives, the left-leaning think tank, for tweeting the New York Times story.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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