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Mayor Sanders' 'Managed Competition' Efforts Under Attack

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is coming under attack for moving too slowly on his promise to open city jobs to competition from the private sector. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is coming under attack for moving too slowly on his promise to open city jobs to competition from the private sector. The mayor had promised to start managed competition this year but is still negotiating with the unions. Steve Francis, prominent San Diego businessman and former mayoral candidate, is using this issue to remind the mayor he'll face opposition next year if reforms don't happen fast enough. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

­­­­­­­­­It's been a while since the words "financial crisis" ricocheted around San Diego City Hall, but businessman Steve Francis doesn't want people to forget the city's money troubles. Francis has not declared if he will run against Sanders next year, but through his self-funded Institute for Policy Research, Francis frequently weighs in on city policy. 

Speaking near the fountain in the Civic Concourse outside City Hall, Francis chided the mayor for being quote "lethargic" in his approach to reforms at City Hall. 


Francis: We have a serious financial crisis, a serious deficit that needs to be addressed now. The voters gave the mayor the tools through managed competition to start to address these serious financial deficits. And what I am saying is the city needs to address this, the mayor needs to address this, and they need to start today. We don't have time to wait.

Francis says Sanders' five year plan shows the city will face a budget gap of $174 million dollars next year. Francis' Institute for Policy Research report suggests the city could save up to 200 million dollars a year with managed competition - by allowing the private sector to compete for city jobs.

Standing with Francis, Geoffrey Segal of the free market oriented Reason Foundation said the city should already have a team in place to supervise managed competition

Segal: If we look at managed competition around the world, around the country especially, the question is not whether we should do managed competition, it's how to do it correctly.

Indeed, even opponents of managed competition agree that the devil is in the details.


Murtaza Baxamusa is an analyst for the Center on Policy Initiatives , a think tank that frequently goes head to head with Steve Francis' Institute for Policy Research. Baxamusa spoke before the city's budget committee.

Baxamusa: There is anecdotal considerable evidence that there are failures in privatizing across the country that are inevitably caused by incompetence in the process of privatization and inadequate monitoring of contracts.

Baxamusa worries city services will get cut, jobs will go to out-of-towners, and workers would find their health benefits eliminated. 

The city's labor unions have fought to pin down the details of how Sanders' managed competition will work. Attorney Ann Smith represents the white collar workers at the city. She says the city still hasn't got enough safeguards to go ahead and outsource.

Smith: And give those jobs to outside contractors who will low-ball you at the front end not do a good job and then take you to the cleaners over the course of a contract and you will not be able to get out of it juts as other jurisdictions have found.”

Smith says the city is legally obliged to negotiate with labor groups before rolling out its managed competition plans, and could end up being sued if moves ahead without the proper "meet and confer" process.

Mayor Sanders says his staff has held more than 60 meetings with labor so far, and his promised timeline on managed competition is about a year behind schedule. Responding to Steve Francis' criticisms that he is "lethargic," Sanders blames the unions for the delay. 

Sanders: I think that what we have done is try to get all the input, so that when we move through this process we've got one that's fair, one that will produce lasting results and wont produce chaos as we do it,  and the pace is about to pick up.

Under the mayor's timeline, the city will invite bids from private contactors by next summer. That will coincide with the June primary election.

Alison St John, KPBS News.