San Diego Mayor Sanders Plans Harsh Cuts, Services Competition

Thursday, 13 Jan 2011 07:53 AM


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San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is calling for companies to compete with municipal departments to provide services such as street sweeping, sidewalk maintenance and vehicle repairs, to help the city save money.

“We can end the government monopoly on non-essential services when the private sector can do the same job for less money,” Sanders, 60, said today in a speech.

The nation’s eighth-largest city by population faces a $73 million deficit for the fiscal year that begins in July. In his speech, Sanders, a Republican, said private management of the city’s technology ‘Help Desk’ cut costs in half. He said two functions, fleet maintenance and publishing services, are ready for “managed competition” and several others will be soon.

San Diego voters in November rejected a half-cent sales-tax increase designed to help close budget deficits over five years. After that vote, Sanders proposed putting future city employees into 401(k)-like retirement-savings plans to cut pension costs. The mayor said he expects to bring that proposal to voters soon.

The merger of two city departments with overlapping functions, Development Services and Planning, will save $1 million a year, Sanders said. He said the city has cut 1,400 jobs over five years, lopping off $94 million a year in costs.

San Diego’s ratio of city workers to residents has fallen to its lowest level in four decades and it will keep dropping, said Sanders, a police officer who rose to chief. He was first elected mayor in 2005.

‘Harshest’ Cuts

“Because past cuts were so deep, the next wave will be the harshest,” Sanders said. “When the cutting is done, we will have sculpted a government that lives within its means.”

Street sweeping and maintenance, public utilities and sidewalk upkeep may be next in line for competitive bidding, Sanders said. They may be ready “soon,” he said.

Michael Zucchet, general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, said city workers will prove that they can provide services as inexpensively as private companies. The union represents 4,000 people.

“In other cities that have adopted managed competition, public employees win the vast majority of bids,” Zucchet said today in a telephone interview. “We’d rather be doing our jobs than fighting to keep our jobs, but it’s not something we are afraid of.”

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