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Analysis: By the time San Diego voters reached the polls in November 2006, warnings about favoritism in contracting had saturated the debate surrounding Proposition C.
The initiative aimed to allow the city to put public services up for bid through a process known as managed competition. City workers would bid against private contractors to see who could efficiently perform functions like trash collection or street repairs.
Mayor Jerry Sanders and other proponents said the process would save money and help heal the city’s deep financial wounds. Opponents, coalesced behind organized labor groups, argued the initiative was actually a scheme to award lucrative contracts to political allies in the private sector.
“Under Prop. C,” opponents wrote in ballot materials sent to voters, “government contracts will go to the largest campaign contributors and their lobbyists.”
Still, voters approved the initiative and allowed the city to move forward with the bidding process. To date, the city has completed four bids for services and several others remain in the works.
As part of a rolling series about past promises and warnings, we wanted to take a look back at some of the claims about Prop. C and figure out whether they’ve come true.
Among the bids completed so far, the city has saved money, but opponents’ warnings about campaign contributors haven’t come true. Opponents predicted the bids would be awarded to contractors with deep campaign pockets, but all four bids have gone to city employees.
And despite awarding contracts to city employees, the city has still found savings. Combined, the mayor estimates the city will save about $8.4 million annually to provide publishing services, vehicle maintenance, street sweeping and Miramar Landfill operations.
Because there is no evidence that the contracts have gone to the “largest campaign contributors and their lobbyists,” we’ve rated that statement False. However, if new evidence surfaces in the future that reveals a different trend, we will revisit this issue.
In an interview Wednesday, Norma Damashek, a Prop. C opponent who signed the ballot materials sent to voters, acknowledged that the privatization of city services hasn’t happened. But she said her concerns still remain for the future.
Damashek worries how the city would fare under new leadership. Sanders has used the bidding process for a group of relatively minor functions while Carl DeMaio, a candidate to replace him, has pushed for a far more aggressive approach using managed competition for major services like libraries, water treatment and parks.
“The pieces haven’t been put into place,” Damashek said. “I’m believing that once you set it up, it’s possible to turn over really major public services to private firms.”
But for now, the private takeover of San Diego’s public services hasn’t happened.
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