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Improve City Services and Save Taxpayers Money Through Privatization – Orange County Register

What is the purpose of municipal government?

If you’re a regular person, you might imagine something like making certain kinds of rules (mostly around business and buildings) and providing certain kinds of services (from parks to policing).

City residents, business owners, developers and visitors pay taxes which we generally expect anyone at City Hall to use responsibly to perform the aforementioned tasks.

Making rules and passing municipal government administrative ordinances is one thing. Service delivery is another.

Apparently, the goal of municipal service delivery is to provide services that ratepayers want and need, effectively, efficiently and at a reasonable cost.

It shouldn’t matter, in theory, if a city can do it with in-house employees or if they contract out a private company to do the job or if they don’t get involved at all and leave the citizens private settle things, right?

Services are services.

But what if, say, government employees incentivized to keep things in-house, no matter what, band together, pool their money, and make sure the people with the power to decide how services are provided and by whom are on their side and will not do anything contrary to the interests of government employees?

Would that be crazy, almost corrupt?


Well, that’s basically the status quo in cities across the state. And the consequences are real.

In addition to the higher costs city taxpayers pay for less service, there is the ongoing problem of pension crowding out, which occurs when the rising cost of covering the cost of city workers’ pensions crowds out money that might otherwise have gone to city services.

In 2018, the League of California Cities warned, “Rising pension costs will force cities over the next seven years to nearly double the percentage of their general funds they contribute to CalPERS. Cities like Los Angeles have long had to spend about 20% of their general budget on pensions. That’s a lot of money that could have been used, I don’t know, to pave the horrible streets of the city or to get the homeless off the streets or to fight crime.

If you see someone’s “proudly endorsed by the Blah Blah Peace Officers Association” or SEIU Local Whatever, with a glossy mail showing smiling city workers, yeah, those are the people corrupted by public sector unions who don’t will never really dispute what benefits the unions.

They could get a report saying that such and such a service currently provided by a city could just as well be provided by a private company, at great savings to the city, and then throw it in the trash because they don’t want to upset the public service union whose members would be affected.

An example of this occurred just before the pandemic in the town of Riverside, where the council received a report which, according to the Southern California News Group, “said the town could potentially save a significant amount of money by outsourcing” garbage collection to private companies. companies. The city at the time collected garbage in two-thirds of the city, while a private company carried out the task in the rest of the city.

Most council members understood what was said in the report and rejected it anyway, with one council member even suggesting that a better idea would be for the city to take over all garbage collection in the city. “That way today we can leave with clarity for current staff on the status of their jobs internally,” said Councilman Erin Edwards, backed by SEIU 721, which represents city and county employees. county. “After this meeting, the conversation would be, ‘Are we doing everything in-house or are we continuing with the status quo?'”

I think that could be said accurately for just about any city: there’s no reason for the government to be in the business of garbage collection. There are many private companies across the country that perform this task. Government employees do not need to do this.

Now someone might say, “OK, sure, but that’s just garbage collection, what about all the other things cities do?”

Well, to that, I refer you to consider the following.

“Virtually all categories [of public services] was or is provided by a private organization somewhere in the United States: police, fire, paramedics, roads, water parks, recreation, garbage – even tax assessment,” Robert Poole wrote four decades ago in “Cutting Back City Lobby”.

One of the cities that has come closest in recent years to this success is Sandy Springs, Georgia, which, when it was incorporated in 2005, sought to contract out as many public services as possible to the private sector.

That’s how it worked according to a 2012 New York Times article: “Ask for a business license? Talk to a woman from Severn Trent, a multinational company based in Coventry, England. Do you want to build a new terrace on your house? Chat with an employee of the Collaborative, a Boston-based consulting firm. Need a word with the people who oversee garbage collection? That would be URS Corporation, based in San Francisco.

A few years ago, Sandy Springs backtracked on some of that, thinking they could apply some private sector principles while bringing things in-house. But Sandy Springs showed that, yes, even in modern times, what Poole observed in 1980 still holds.

Many of the tasks performed by municipal governments can in fact be performed as well, if not better, by the private sector. And they can certainly be achieved with more flexibility than civil servants’ unions would like.

Public sector unions will oppose any reform of the way their employers do business. Fire unions, for example, act like it’s in the gospels for fire departments to provide paramedic services (which could and often are done by the private sector) because they don’t want anyone notes that most municipal fire departments are simply glorified, overpriced emergency medical rescuers who sometimes put out fires.

But it’s time for the public to realize that for all the money they give to municipal governments, they can usually get more for their money. The key is a willingness on the part of city leaders to put the interests of the tax-paying public first and to ensure that all city operations are carried out as efficiently as possible, even if it requires outsourcing. to the private sector.

Sal Rodriguez can be reached at

California Daily Newspapers

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