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Coalition Supporting Outsourcing of San Diego Contracts Pushes Forward

(SAN DIEGO) Yesterday, flanked by a coalition of San Diego building contractors, Councilman Carl DeMaio held a press conference to announce a new ballot measure for November 2010 titled "Competition and Transparency in City Contracting." The measure will attempt to succeed in accomplishing what Proposition C has not, which is to outsource San Diego city services and prohibit contracting practices that favor unions.

“If we want to end sweetheart contracts and inefficient monopolies in city government, we need voters to impose reforms from the outside,” said DeMaio. “This measure imposes clear rules for open and fair contracting within city government.

"Over three years ago, San Diegans overwhelmingly approved Proposition C, which expressed the public's desire to see city services undergo competitive bidding. Unfortunately, three years have passed and not one program, not one taxpayer dollar, has undergone competitive review."

City departments have been unable to bid against private bidders due to the failure to reach an accord on guidelines between the Mayor’s office and unions. As a result, not one program has been subjected to competitive review since voters passed Proposition C in 2006.

Voice of San Diego reported that the new measure includes deadlines and transparency, mandatory posting of all contracts online with disclosures as to the number of bids on each contract, and requires both the Mayor and the City Council to reveal any campaign contributions received from contractors in the previous year. It also sets a deadline of June 30, 2010 for the city to complete a competition process for several support services, including solid waste collection, landfill management, auto and print services, and facilities management.

The measure, according to DeMaio, would also ban project labor agreements on developments being undertaken by the city. Project labor agreements mandate that government contracts for public construction projects go only to union contractors and although there is no current project labor agreement before the City, San Diego is exploring several large projects, such as a new central library downtown and a new stadium for the Chargers.

“We need to ensure that if these taxpayer-funded projects do proceed, that all San Diegans are allowed to apply for the jobs that they would create," said DeMaio. “We need to implement these reforms that would require competitive bidding as part of our solution to the city’s financial problems.”

But DeMaio’s opinion is not popular with everyone.

Officials with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council (SDICLC), which represents 125 unions in the region, said the proposed ballot measure would establish policies that harm local workers and would create an incentive for contractors to create low-wage jobs that don't come with health care benefits.

It would also repeal the city's "living wage" ordinance, according to the Labor Council's Evan McLaughlin.
“This policy is really about giving a hand out to government contractors,” said McLaughlin.

“The only thing ‘transparent’ about Mr. DeMaio’s proposal is how badly he wants to hand out contracts to his friends in the government contractor industry,” said Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer and CEO of SDICLC.

“After making a fortune himself as a government contractor during the Bush Administration, Mr. DeMaio is trying to pass along his tricks to other big-dollar government contractors. But he’s doing it at the expense of San Diego’s taxpayers and local workers.”

With the city in one of the largest deficits of its history, this issue is sure to gain momentum as elections draw near. In the meantime, De Maio and his coalition of supporters need to collect 96,000 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2010 ballot.