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Mayor Bob Filner said he wanted to re-examine the managed competition process — and now he’s starting to move forward.

City officials shared the mayor’s plans at a Wednesday budget committee meeting. They said Filner wants city managers, union leaders and others to weigh in on possible improvements to the process.

That means procedures may be tweaked before the city makes progress on other bids, which could result in a contentious negotiating process. Changes could require updates to the city’s managed competition guidebook, a document that previously took city leaders four years to hash out with the city’s unions.

The review also means five city services in queue for outside bids will remain that way until the analysis is complete.

It’s not clear how long the process would take but Interim Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick said it shouldn’t be considered a delay tactic.

“View it as a way to improve a program,” he said.

Chadwick said it’s crucial to ensure managed competition is benefiting the city and to learn from challenges that came up during past bid processes.

His comments followed a tense January council discussion about the status of the voter-approved bid process.

Two city union leaders supported the new plans. Carlos Mejia of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Michael Zucchet of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association described what they saw as spiteful decision-making in previous managed competition contracts.

“There are some very significant things that we’ve learned in the process that have not been to any of our liking,” Zucchet said.

For example, he said, there’s no formal procedure to determine which city services should go out for bid.

Per the guidebook, the mayor decides on potential managed competition opportunities and only he can submit possible bids to the City Council for consideration.

Voters approved outside bids for city services in 2006 and city staffers have since won all five bids, including contracts for landfill operations, street sweeping and publishing services.

Of those, only the latter has been fully implemented. (For more details on where those projects stand, check out this post.)

Filner initially appeared likely to block all managed competition projects but clarified his position earlier this month, saying he’d allow those contracts already in progress to move forward but wanted to scrutinize those that have yet to go to the City Council.

Proponents of managed competition, including Councilman Kevin Faulconer, say the city could save millions if it proceeds with additional bids.

Faulconer said Wednesday the city could give up potential savings at a time when the city is likely to face a $40 million budget deficit next year.

“I will resist strongly any attempts to delay this for an undetermined amount of time,” he said.

Councilman David Alvarez, who also supported managed competition, welcomed the review process and additional input from city staffers.

“This is not about delay,” Alvarez said. “This is about doing it right.”

The budget committee is set to get an update on Filner’s plans on March 27.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa.halverstadt@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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