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Mayor Won't Block Managed Competition

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on the set of KPBS Evening Edition, February 2013.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on the set of KPBS Evening Edition, February 2013.

Turns out Mayor Bob Filner never intended to hold up nearly completed managed competition contracts.

"Those that have moved forward are going to move forward," the mayor said Thursday, more than a week after a tense City Council discussion that ended with questions about how the city would handle bids for city services and whether the new mayor would proceed with managed competition. So far, city workers have won each bid.

Some councilmembers expressed disapproval at last Monday's meeting when city officials said Filner wanted an audit of a fleet maintenance contract that hasn’t been fully implemented, and might hold off on finalizing other contracts until he could vet them.


Republican Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer, Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf panned the mayor's plans.

It doesn't make sense to audit a managed competition deal that isn't fully implemented, they said. All three support managed competition.

But Filner said Thursday that staffers misunderstood him, ultimately creating confusion at the council meeting.

"I was using a layman's language and they're coming out of years of working on this, so when I said I wanted to stop those that haven't gone forward, I meant the ones that had no request for proposal," he said.

That means the mayor will likely wait to forward at least four potential agreements to the council for review, including public utilities customer service and solid waste collection, but will allow staffers to finish labor agreements for sidewalk maintenance and landfill operations because the process is already under way.


And Filner said he's changed his mind about the fleet maintenance contract he's repeatedly criticized. The contract involves tune-ups and repairs for city vehicles.

Here's how the mayor, who has referred to managed competition as "mismanaged cuts" described that contract in a December interview with U-T San Diego:

“It’s killing us. They don’t have the person power to keep the garbage trucks running. They’re lined up for repairs and the guys can’t drive them. It’s costing us more money this way."

Since then, Filner said he's learned what was behind the less-than-stellar service: The city hadn't yet added a third shift of employees.

"The evidence that I had seen that it was not working was because they had not finished the process yet," he said.

The comment came hours before U-T San Diego published a story that called Filner out for misleading comments about managed competition's impact on fleet services. The newspaper said the mayor failed to acknowledge the city had yet to fully implement the contract.

Still, Filner said, he's committed to reviewing each contract to ensure the city is actually saving cash.

Filner clarified his position in a Thursday memo.

Filner's explanation could quell at least some concerns about the city's growing budget deficit for next year.

The city's budget analyst estimated that delays in implementing managed competition could add a $3.9 million shortage in the city's day-to-day budget for the upcoming fiscal year, on top of a likely $40 million deficit officials have identified.

The city had counted on savings from fleet maintenance, street sweeping and street maintenance contracts that haven't been finalized but it's unclear how soon staffers will be able to hash out labor agreements and other contract details.

Delays to managed competition this year could force the city to cut about $3 million from the operating budget.

Faulconer, who has championed managed competition, said Friday he'll ask the mayor to move forward with all proposed managed competition contracts.

"This isn't an abstract debate," he said. "Every day the mayor delays, tax dollars are being wasted."

Corrected: July 15, 2024 at 8:35 PM PDT
Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know ofsomething she should check out? You can contact her directly or 619.325.0528.