What is the proper role of government? To create unions jobs!

Brian Brady Brian Brady 14 Comments


Radio host Mike Slater sai, on his program today, that if you’re Mayor Bob Filner you answer that question by saying, “to create union jobs.”  I don’t disagree with Slater.  Filner is taking aim at the managed competition process, a program which San Diego voters overwhelmingly passed some five years ago.  While the voters told the public-sector unions to “compete or perish,” those unions pushed back on former Mayor Sanders to the point of obstructionism:

The managed competition program has been slow to develop, however. The administration has been criticized for bureaucratic foot dragging, and challenges from city employees labor unions have slowed its progress. According to the mayor’s anticipated time line, it will be another year  “two and a half years since the passage of Prop. C before the first contract winners start providing services

To his credit, Mayor Sanders fought the union bosses and got five of the dozen scheduled bid competitions to market.  Guess what?  The city employees won one every single one of the bids.  How?  By looking at the process, like they did with the Miramar landfill,  employees determine what is absolutely essential to providing quality service at a market price.

“Those are the front-line employees making the bid; this isn’t management,” says Cathleen Higgins, who handles managed competition issues for the city’s largest labor group, the San Diego Municipal Employees Assn.  “So when we get the folks who really know the job, they’re able to produce something that’s going to be very good for the city and good for the taxpayers.”

The public sector employees won the bid….in a competitive marketplace.  To the winners go the spoils and those landfill employees should be praised for their judicious use of public funds.  But Mayor Bob Filner doesn’t trust those good City employees he suggests they willingly cut corners, sacrificing quality for price.  And Bob needs to save those union jobs to pay the union bosses back for supporting his candidacy.  Bob needs to save the public employees from themselves.

The new mayor said he wants to put a hold on managed competition and review the quality of the services that have already been put through the cost-saving grinder before proceeding with more. Those include the city’s print shop, fleet maintenance and street sweeping. Filner said he is skeptical of the process after visiting with workers who repair city vehicles.

Give me a break. Managed competition doesn’t always have to be about price.  I assure you that I sacrifice price for quality and convenience every single day.  The fact that our public employees are winning every single competition bid offered is inspiring confidence in their customers (the taxpayers).  To go back to a legislated monopoly, which serves political needs rather than the public good, would be a travesty.


Comments 14

  1. Maybe it would be helpful to quote one of our nation’s foremost Republican Presidents:

    “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

    ~Abraham Lincoln

  2. Al, nobody is saying workers shouldn’t be proud of their hard work. And their hard work should be highly respected. And in the spirit of Lincoln, Republicans are asking laborers to value their hard work more than the unreasonable amount they want to get paid for that work. My hope is that their work gives them fulfillment and enrichment that no amount of money could every equal.

    “I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.” -Jimmy Carter.

    (had nothing to do with anything we are talking about, but clearly the most profound thing a Democrat has every said and since we are quoting…)

  3. “Republicans are asking laborers to value their hard work more than the unreasonable amount they want to get paid for that work. My hope is that their work gives them fulfillment and enrichment that no amount of money could every equal.”

    And we wonder why laborers tend to vote for Democrats.

  4. But Hypocrisy, all we ever hear from the left is “spread the wealth” and “greed is bad” and “fair share”. Well, you convinced me and others! And here we are asking these union workers to…you know…spread their wealth and not be greedy and start giving up a fair share for the financial health of our city. And this is the response you give?

    Boy. Ya just can’t win here.

  5. Post

    Managed competition produced five straight wins for the City workers and a heightened level of respect and trust from the taxpayers. Why would anyone want to interfere with a “fair wage” (after all, the City workers suggested those terms) and a fair price for the taxpayers (they won the open bid).

    The only reason to oppose managed competition is that it weakens the stranglehold the union bosses have over their members

  6. Brian,

    Managed Competition hasn’t resulted in anyone’s wages being reduced. The City Workers saved the taxpayers money by reducing the number of people doing the work.

    It is prudent and good business practice to review these changes and see if service levels have been negatively affected by these changes before imposing similar changes on other departments.

    However, if it is found that the City Workers cut corners to win the bids and service has been negatively impacted, then there actually will be a strong argument that the City Workers are in default and the private sector bidders should have another opportunity to bid for this work.

  7. Post

    Are you suggesting that the unionized City workers cheated to win the bid Hypocrisy because I’m not. I think they competed hard to win the bid.

    Isn’t the MCIRB is tasked with monitoring that service level rather than the Mayor? Bob is meddling outside of his jurisdiction. He’s the Mayor, not a prince

  8. Hypocrisy,

    If you read the City’s Managed Competition Guide, all of those audits are already required. In fact, the City Auditor has in his work plan this year to audit the first completed managed competition, Publishing Services. The excuse that we should delay because we have to audit is a red herring, especially since the entire Council approved the Guide that included the audit requirement.

  9. Right on, Chris.

    Filner was put in office by the unions — SPECIFICALLY to protect union members, their monopolies and their excessive compensation. All such “audit” excuses are pathetically thin smokescreens behind which Filner ET AL will kill off managed competition.

    But managed competition in the city of San Diego is dead already. It’s doubtful that any private firm will win ANY future bids — certainly not for the more labor-intensive functions such as trash collection. The bidding process is rigged in MANY ways — starting with the managed competition “manual” passed by the city council.

    Granted, there are some savings to be had from having city departments make nominal cost efficiency improvements, but it’s a fraction of the savings we could get from an open bidding process on a level playing field.

    Frankly I’m baffled why ANY private firms are still submitting bids. Waste of their time — there IS a cost associated with submitting bids.

    We got VERY few private firm bids BEFORE Filner was elected. It will be interesting to see how many we get now.

  10. Brian,

    I am not suggesting anyone cheated, just that the City Workers bid aggressively and may now be having troubling providing the promised services.


    I know you have vast experience in running businesses, so tell me: should the city put every department out to managed competition even before the first one that underwent this process has a completed audit verifying its effectiveness?

    Instead of pushing back on the sound business practice of verifying that changes made were really changes for the better, we should be pushing to insure that the audits happen promptly and reminding the powers that be that if the workers can’t do the job effectively at the agree on price, then the work should go to the private sector.

  11. Hypocrisy,

    Don’t see the need to get into the rhetorical questions. I was just merely pointing out that audits are required and are occurring. That has been lost in the talking points that have come from Mayor Filner as a reason to stop managed competition. No negative tone expressed.

    Moving back to oversight, part of the guide calls for a Contract Manager to oversee these very things. Also, corrective actions are called for in the case of performance levels or costs not meeting specified service levels. See Task U on Page 23 of 53 of the guide:


    Slide 5 of the latest (at least public) Managed Competition Status Report shows that there is monthly monitoring of performance.


    It took 4 years of negotiations to approve this guide, and I believe the union representatives thought through all of the oversight procedures to ensure the best value to the City, especially in the case a private company won the bid.

  12. Chris,

    None of the audits have been completed yet and I am not even sure the first one has even been started. I believe it is prudent to complete at least one audit before putting the sixth department out to bid. Perhaps more importantly, the result of the audit might provide real ammunition for those who believe that these services would be better performed by a private sector business.

  13. Actually, the city might want to check with the COUNTY, which has successfully contracted out several functions at considerable savings. The county printing contract supposedly reduced cost from the county print shop by 80%!

  14. Sadly, an auditor is not always impartial. Too often such folks make their living by giving the answers DESIRED rather than the answers FOUND. If they find the “WRONG” answers, they are unlikely to get another audit contract — from ANY govt agency. And that’s assuming the auditor is not a city employee in the first place!

    This is similar to the actuaries called upon to verify that the pension assumptions are valid. For many years, such govt pension actuaries fully understood that — if they wanted further contracts from govt agencies — they best verify that the pensions were on sound footing.

    With rabidly pro-union Mayor Filner honchoing the audit process, I think we can be assured of the outcome — in advance.

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