Image: trueStatement: “Our employees have won I think all the bids,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said during a June 6 interview on KPBS about the result of a 2006 ballot initiative allowing San Diego to put city services up for bid.

Determination: True

Analysis: Voters approved a Republican-backed pension initiative last week, setting the stage for a legal battle between organized labor and the City Attorney’s Office that could drag on for months or years.

The initiative overhauls city employee retirement benefits, aiming to freeze their pensionable pay, while replacing pensions with 401(k)s for new employees except police.

Goldsmith doesn’t want the issue to linger in courts for long. He has asked a state appellate court to combine and quickly address five lawsuits seeking to invalidate the initiative. Other lawsuits are also expected.

So far, the lawsuits filed by labor groups and others allege Mayor Jerry Sanders circumvented state laws that require the city to negotiate with organized labor before modifying employee benefits. Sanders says he supported the initiative as a private citizen, not as the city’s mayor, so the state laws didn’t apply.

Discussing the suits during a recent interview with KPBS, Goldsmith said he wanted to avoid the legal delays that followed approval of a 2006 initiative that allowed San Diego to put city services out to bid to see whether the private sector could do them cheaper. The process is also known as managed competition.

“It took four years to implement that,” Goldsmith said on KPBS. “When I took office by early 2009, it had been mired in litigation and eventually we got it moving. And actually it’s been pretty successful and our employees have won I think all the bids.”

We decided to Fact Check Goldsmith’s claim that city employees had won all the bids. It is an interesting claim because critics of the 2006 initiative predicted it would lead to a private takeover of public services.

In ballot materials mailed to voters, for example, opponents wrote that “government contracts will go to the largest campaign contributors and their lobbyists.” They warned, “Private employers will be free to replace city employees with their own relatives or reward employees for political activities.”

To date, those predictions haven’t become reality. The city has assessed private and public bids for three services — street sweeping, publishing and vehicle maintenance — and awarded the contract to city employees each time.

By re-evaluating the three services and identifying efficiencies, the mayor estimates the city will save about $5.8 million annually. That’s money that can now pay for core functions like police, parks and libraries.

The city is now in the process of evaluating bids for four other services: customer support for public utilities, Miramar Landfill operations, street and sidewalk maintenance, and other maintenance of public infrastructure. Each contract is scheduled to be awarded sometime next year.

Because Goldsmith accurately described who had won all the bids to date, we’ve rated his claim True. If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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