Archives: September 2011
By Susan Duerksen | September 27, 2011 |
Unfortunately, San Diego’s City Council has decided to continue with an expensive and misguided process to contract out Miramar Landfill, without any hard data on the potential benefits or costs and despite many red flags.
Councilmembers David Alvarez, Marti Emerald and Todd Gloria are to be commended for their serious consideration of the issue and their support for the public’s best interests.
More than 150 San Diego residents, including individuals and representatives of a wide variety of community groups, took time on a Monday to come to City Hall to express their concerns about the many risks in contracting out the landfill to a private operator.
Most Councilmembers stated before the vote that the landfill is extremely well-run now by city staff, and makes money for the city. As Councilmember Alvarez noted, there is no “real data” supporting the idea of handing over public control to a for-profit operator, and it could well mean “limitless costs to the city for decades to come.”
In studying the issue for more than a year, CPI has determined the risks far exceed potential gains from putting the landfill through the Mayor’s “managed competition” program.
The city cannot escape legal and financial liability for contractor malfeasance or negligence, which could mean lawsuits or fines from numerous regulatory agencies. The need for strong oversight of private contractors and subcontractors adds to taxpayers’ long-term costs.
Highlighting the risks of contracting out needed services to private companies, it was reported that the city has paid $1.9 million to settle a lawsuit by a software contractor it fired because of delays and cost overruns.
The first proclaimed success in San Diego’s “managed competition” program has stumbled right out of the gate. The handling of the relatively simple publishing department contract should raise red flags as City Council prepares to vote Monday on putting Miramar Landfill out to bid.
As other cities and states have learned, contracting out complicated vital services requires extreme attention to the details of those contracts.
But in the case of San Diego’s publishing services, the city’s business office accepted a bid that included use of a computer system the employee team believes to be more efficient — and now is requiring a different system.
If a private contractor had won the bid and the city tried this after-the-fact switch, taxpayers would face a big cost increase or perhaps a lawsuit.
The city’s business office wasn’t able to specify the work necessary to contract out publishing. A similar mistake on Miramar Landfill could have far more serious implications for San Diego taxpayers and our environment, public health and essential services.
San Diego’s only public landfill, Miramar is a complex venture that has been efficiently operated by city staff for 50 years, generating revenue and providing numerous services to all San Diegans. Every household in the city relies on it. Besides safely handling the 1 million tons of garbage we collectively produce each year, it provides community services ranging from neighborhood cleanups to recycling and free mulch.
Contracting out landfill operations is fraught with risk. It involves managing more than 80 subcontracts and complying with at least 23 regulatory agencies. If a private operator is able to cut corners — whether because of a poorly written contract or a lack of oversight — potential water and air contamination, escalating costs and reduced services are at stake. This contract would have to be precise to the last detail.
In 2006, voters empowered the city to use managed competition if it maintains service quality, protects the public’s interest and saves money. The mayor already spent more than $500,000 in taxpayer dollars to learn that privatizing the landfill is a bad idea.
Miramar Landfill is best left under public control. The City Council can protect the public’s interest by voting on Monday to reject the business office’s proposal to put it up for bid.
By Xavier Leonard | September 14, 2011 |
By Susan Duerksen | September 9, 2011 |
We’ve redesigned and updated our website!
Some of the key changes include:
- A new, cleaner look and feel.
- A Key Statistics section, which provides important data at a glance.
- A Campaigns section, with information on CPI’s major projects and advocacy campaigns.
- The Latest, providing news, updates, and commentary from CPI.
- An expanded Issues section, with information and resources on the core topics CPI works on.
We hope you find the new site helpful and easier to use. If you have feedback or suggestions, please contact Xavier Leonard: xaver [at] onlineCPI.org.
The Institute for Policy Studies in Washington recently released its 18th annual survey of executive compensation, aptly titled “Executive Excess.”
The report shows that 2009′s unconscionable 263-to-1 ratio between CEO pay and average worker pay in the U.S. grew to 325-to-1 last year. Companies generally are doing well. Their executives are doing extremely well. But the people whose labor creates the products are left behind.
The national situation described in the report is familiar to San Diego as well. Earlier this summer, local news outlets reported that average compensation for local executives rose 21 percent to $1.8 million (including salary, bonus, perks, stock options) in 2009. Workers’ pay rose less than 3 percent.
For years, the Center on Policy Initiatives has analyzed annual income and poverty data from the Census Bureau and reported that income inequality is increasing locally. The 2010 data will be released in three weeks and we expect the same story.
In San Diego County, unemployment has been around 10% for almost 2 years — which doesn’t indicate the other 90% is doing fine. For every person unemployed and still seeking work, another two are underemployed — perhaps working a few hours a week when they need full-time work to make ends meet. And many who still have jobs have lost wages or health benefits.
In 2009, nearly 700,000 residents of this county earned less than $50,000 a year for full-time work. Then there’s Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm. According to the Executive Pay Watch database, he earned over $1.1 million in salary alone last year, and more than $17 million when you add in his bonus, stock options and other benefits.
It takes 563 people earning the county’s median income to equal Paul Jacobs’s salary. At California minimum wage, 1,059 people have to work full-time to earn what Paul Jacobs does.
This deep inequality hurts us all. The result is higher poverty and an economy that can’t heal. In 2009, 12.6% of us in San Diego County were living in poverty — and nearly 1 in 5 of our children. What will the 2010 data show?
Every year, in cities, states and nationally, we fight over what services to cut. Do we lay off librarians and teachers, limit health care for children or the disabled, close fire stations? All these services are funded through taxes, on property and income. Our communities will thrive when we bring the unemployed and underpaid into the middle class, so they can pay their mortgages and their taxes.
The CEOs and profitable corporations can pay their taxes, but too often don’t. In one telling measure, the Institute for Policy Studies report showed that 25 of the 100 highest paid CEOs in U.S. took home more pay than their company paid in federal income taxes.
This Labor Day, commit to helping reverse the inequality and getting our economy working again. If a union member or other worker has a benefit or pay scale better than yours, don’t question why they deserve it. Ask why you don’t.