Posts about City Services
By Trinh Le | April 10, 2013 |
The Mayor released his proposed budget for 2013-14 on Monday (4/15), and the spending decisions made over the next two months will directly impact our neighborhoods and our families’ quality of life. We invite you to get involved! We’re planning a series of free events aimed at helping you understand the budget process and learn how to effectively advocate for the services and infrastructure needed to give every neighborhood a fair shake.
Join us online and in person:
4/16 @ 7pm Budget 101 Webinar: General Overview (Online)
4/17 @ 7pm Budget 102 Webinar: Capital Improvement Projects (Online)
5/4 @ 9am Budget Teach-In and Advocacy Training (at Jacobs Center)
5/6 – 5/10 Week of Budget Hearings (San Diego City Hall)
5/22 @ 6pm Evening Budget Hearing (San Diego City Hall)
By Trinh Le | March 29, 2013 |
The new city budget is coming! Decisions on City of San Diego spending for 2013-14 have begun. The new budget will take effect on July 1. A number of residents and community leaders have expressed concern over the complexity of the process.
Do you know how to tell if service levels or projects are being funded in your neighborhood? How can you determine if the investment in city service levels will improve?
This workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to learn how to access the budget online and how to interpret the data as it relates to projects in your community. Corinne will lead us in a review of the budget format, how to read key tables and how to review which projects received funding.
Will you join me and the Community Budget Alliance at this important workshop? To confirm your attendance please email me at TLE@OnlineCPI.org or call me at (619) 584-5744 x24. You may download flyers here.
By Christie Hill | February 23, 2013 |
When we asked for letters supporting decent pay and healthcare for hotel workers, we expected maybe 10 or 20 people would take the time to sit down and write a letter.
Wow. We underestimated you!
More than 60 passionate, thoughtful letters poured in overnight* – and they’re still coming! People are fed up with the powerful downtown hoteliers, who are demanding the city turn over $30 million a year for their marketing, while refusing Mayor Bob Filner’s request that they pay livable wages.
The Tourism Marketing District has been invited to make their case to the City Council at 2 pm Monday, and they have a slick presentation ready.
Hotel workers and CPI will be there with the facts. The hotels are profiting from San Diego’s location and from their employees’ hard work, and they don’t help the local economy by paying wages too low for people to live self-sufficiently.
Please contact Normita Rodriguez, NRodriguez@onlineCPI.org, if you can join us at 2 pm at City Hall, or you have questions. (And watch Normita on Channel 17 discussing how hotels’ low wages contribute to poverty in the region.)
Help us spread the word and bring more people out to support livable wages. Please forward this e-mail and share with your friends!
Thank you for standing with us. Together we are making San Diego better.
By Christie Hill | February 21, 2013 |
If San Diego’s profitable hotels get $30 million a year in public funding to advertise themselves, is it right that half their employees make $24,400 or less per year?
I don’t think so.
The Tourism Marketing District, controlled by downtown hotel CEOs, claims the city should subsidize their marketing staff and ads because tourists help the local economy. But if hotel companies pocket those tourist dollars and don’t pay the San Diego residents who work in the hotels enough to live on, that’s a direct drain on our economy.
Join CPI in supporting Mayor Filner’s call for a better deal for the people of San Diego. Say NO to public subsidy of poverty wages.
Providing decent wages and family healthcare won’t break the hotels. Some local hotels are providing good jobs and thriving.
Why do housekeepers at Doubletree San Diego make only $8 an hour and have to pay $400 a month for family healthcare when those at the nearby Hilton San Diego Bayfront are paid $15.50 an hour and get full family healthcare for $50 a month?
As the hoteliers threaten to sue the city for a four-decade deal giving them $1 billion, Mayor Filner is asking simply that they all rise to the responsibility of providing a decent, modest living for hard work.
Will you join us in supporting a fair deal for the people of San Diego? Click here to add your voice!
By Clare Crawford | February 7, 2013 |
Take a look at this CPI op-ed published this week. It may get you thinking about how the budget for city services affects your life.
It’s budget season at San Diego City Hall, and this year for the first time, we have a Mayor who ran on a “Neighborhoods First” platform. The stage is set for a budget process that will prioritize the needs of city residents and diverse communities.
City services took a beating under the previous administration, when the focus was on budget-cutting rather than measuring and ensuring adequate service levels. As our op-ed states: “It’s time for a real conversation about the need to deliver the services San Diegans expect and deserve.”
City services aren’t luxuries. Cutting them below needed levels harms our quality of life and can result in far greater costs, such as the recent court judgment linking a horrific accident to a lack of city tree trimming.
CPI and the Community Budget Alliance will be at City Hall frequently this spring, working for adequate and equitable funding of crucial city services and infrastructure improvements. (Here’s a recent news clip of CBA members in action.)
We’ll be in touch throughout the budget process. Here are some key dates: Councilmembers must send their budget priorities to the Mayor by March 1, and the Mayor releases his budget April 15. The final budget vote is expected on June 10.
What good is city government?
We all rely on city services for the necessary basics that support our daily lives. Ideally, everything runs so smoothly we barely notice all the work that goes into keeping our city clean, safe and functional.
But when those services stall or fall short, the disruptions get our attention and the long-term repercussions can lower our quality of life. When the sewer lines back up, the firefighters arrive late or uncollected garbage piles up, the value of municipal government becomes crystal clear.
In San Diego, repeated budget-cutting during the administration of former Mayor Jerry Sanders has reduced some of our public services to unacceptably low levels.
Saving money is great. But simply slashing budgets without a realistic assessment of whether citizens are getting the services they need is not only irresponsible but ultimately more costly than providing good, efficient services.
The tree-trimming budget is a particularly troubling case in point. Over the past six years, the budget for tree maintenance along our streets was cut in half and then eliminated except for emergencies. An untrimmed, top-heavy palm tree fell on a city resident and left him paralyzed. A jury recently ordered the city to pay $7.65 million for its negligence in failing to maintain the trees, according to Courthouse News Service.
Clearly, that budget-cutting decision did not save money. And, even more importantly, it put the health and safety of San Diego citizens at risk.
Last week, the City Council voted to restore some funding for trimming palm trees in public rights of way. Now the council must take proactive action to determine the appropriate levels of other services, rather than waiting until damage is done.
It’s time for a real conversation about the need to deliver the services San Diegans expect and deserve.
To begin with, we are lacking the information and systems to measure whether the services provided to city residents are at adequate levels. And the city pays private contractors to provide many of our services, without sufficient oversight of how well those contractors are doing their jobs.
During the previous administration, the budgets that determine service levels were drastically reduced for many city departments, with the budget taking priority over realistic needs. We need a full accounting of those cutbacks and the services we have lost, from library and swimming pool hours to police car maintenance.
Before the “managed competition” program continues, we need to pause and take stock of our needs as a city. Each managed competition is based on the current service levels of a city department and concludes with a contract awarded either to that department or a private contractor. Already, city administrators have had repeated difficulties defining the work to be done in the contract documents.
To avoid locking us into reduced service levels that put citizens and city finances at risk, the city needs to develop solid measures of service levels and quality. That process should involve residents from all parts of San Diego.
Everyone who lives and pays taxes in San Diego needs the services that only city government can provide. We need debris cleared from the streets and storm drains, safe water piped to our homes and maintenance of fire trucks and garbage trucks completed regularly — to name just a few crucial services.
Good fiscal stewardship is not just a matter of doing things on the cheap. It means getting good value for money spent. It’s no bargain to shortchange city residents on basic services and put public health and safety at risk.
Corinne Wilson is research and policy lead at the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego nonprofit dedicated to economic equity for working people and communities.
Four times, the city of San Diego has pitted city workers against private companies in a competition for the continued responsibility to provide an essential city service. All four times, the city workers have proved that they – as U-T San Diego put it last week – “provide taxpayers with the best bang for their buck.”
The evidence is in. Given the chance, city staff can figure out how to do their work at a lower cost than private, for-profit companies can.
It’s time for the city administration to set aside assumptions that privatization saves money and find out whether more savings are possible by allowing city staff to compete for work that is now contracted out.
A significant share of the city’s general fund budget – $176 million in the past year – goes to pay private contractors and consultants.
In fact, the next service on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ “managed competition” auction block – street and sidewalk maintenance – is already substantially outsourced. The city’s fiscal year 2012 budget shows $43.6 million spent on contracts in the transportation and stormwater department, compared to $38.4 million for employee wages and benefits. Much of that contract expense is for major street resurfacing projects.
San Diego taxpayers deserve to have all options evaluated for saving money on at least some of those projects.
And insourcing may also improve the quality of services, which can be substandard under private contractors seeking to maximize profits. Even residents of the mayor’s own neighborhood of Kensington have suffered, when a contractor two years ago left streets torn up for months and left equipment in the gutters that caused a rash of tire punctures.
While privatization consultants continue their drumbeat of promises, a repeated pattern of service failures and cost escalation has prompted many cities and states to insource services previously privatized. Mildred Warner, a Cornell University expert on privatization, says the reversal began in 1997, when contracting out public services peaked in the United States.
“The privatization experience of the late 20th century has taught us that … managing markets for public services is both challenging and costly,” Warner wrote in 2008. “That experiment has failed to deliver adequately on efficiency, equity or voice criteria.”
The top two reasons city managers bring privatized work back in-house, according to a survey by the International City/County Management Association, are unsatisfactory service quality (61 percent) and insufficient cost savings (52 percent). For example:
- Evansville, Ind., took back control of its water and sewer system from a private operator in 2010, for an estimated savings of $14 million over five years.
- Atlanta dissolved its water system contract 16 years early because of mismanagement and poor service under a private company.
- A Pennsylvania study this March found the state could save $78 million by insourcing school bus services.
- Locally, the San Diego Unified School District has saved $1 million a year since bringing bus services in-house in 2010.
- The San Diego Community College District has saved at least $900,000 a year by insourcing its IT management.
San Diego uses a managed competition process similar to that used by the federal government, requiring contractors to save at least 10 percent over the employees’ proposal to account for the city’s costs in transitioning to private service delivery. City workers won the landfill competition without applying that differential.
But outsourcing also frequently carries many more hidden costs for taxpayers – such as environmental violations, the loss of local jobs and a lack of transparent and accessible public records.
Besides saving $2.7 million a year, keeping city workers on the job at Miramar Landfill means we all can breathe easier about the continued safe and efficient handling of more than a million tons of waste each year, hazardous materials and closed landfill sites.
As Councilman Todd Gloria tweeted following the landfill announcement Friday: “No one delivers services better than city staff.”
Since managed competition is intended to save money, it only makes sense to include city staff in a full competition for important services that are now outsourced.
Crawford is executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI), a local nonprofit that advocates for workers.
By Trinh Le | July 20, 2012 |
Although the San Diego City Council approved the 2012-2013 budget in June, our budget work continues!
On Wednesday, July 25, from 9am-12pm at City Hall there is an excellent opportunity to learn more about how the city prioritizes and plans infrastructure projects – and proposed changes to enhance community participation.
The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is how the city plans for infrastructure (like streetlights, skate parks and libraries) in the neighborhoods we live in. On the 25th, the Budget and Finance Committee will discuss two proposals about allowing greater community input on the program and improving the way infrastructure projects are prioritized. This meeting will also include information on how the process works (for example, how a project ends up being a project). The meeting will be at City Hall on the 12th floor. The address is 202 C Street in downtown San Diego.
This meeting is the first opportunity for the public to hear how the city plans to change the Capital Improvement Program. A vote to finalize the changes is expected this fall.
Please forward this email and invite friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else who would be interested in learning more about how decisions are made on important neighborhood projects like sidewalks and streetlights.
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Trinh Le, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619-584-5744 ext 24.
Invite your friends using the Facebook Event Page.
Chat about this post using the hashtag: #OurBudgetSD.
By Corinne Wilson | April 16, 2012 |
Thought I would share something I find interesting regarding formal processes for citizen input in infrastructure planning and the impact of funding deficits on them.
In the City of San Diego, community plans (and related plans for how to finance facilities identified in community plans) are the primary method to enable community planning groups (and residents generally) to provide input on needed projects and priorities. Community plans, per state guidance, are essentially living documents and are meant to define community needs and values and are recommended to be updated frequently.
However, community plans in the City of San Diego are, on average 23 years old. Related financing plans are, on average, 9 years old.
This means the average community plan was “born” in 1990 or so. How have we changed since then?
- The City of San Diego had 200,000 fewer residents.
- We were using pagers, listening to music on portable CD players and the iMac had just been introduced.
- Dances with Wolves had won Best Picture, The Simpsons had been on the air for a year and Friends still had four years before they would “be there for you”.
- And, while you could ride the Trolley from downtown to San Ysidro and to El Cajon, you couldn’t take it to Old Town or to watch the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium.
There is a small difference between plans for communities funded through development impact fees (on average 28 years old) and facilities benefits agreements (on average 21 years old). Ten community plans are in the process of being updated:
- Uptown (1998)
- San Ysidro and the Tijuana River Valley (1991 and 2000)
- Barrio Logan (1979)
- North Park (1986)
- Greater Golden Hill (1987)
- Midway/Pacific Highway (1991)
- Ocean Beach (1976)
- Old San Diego (1988)
- Otay Mesa (1981)
However, these aren’t the necessarily the oldest. For example, Mission Beach and Carmel Valley date from 1975, Serra Mesa from 1978, and Navajo and Tierrasanta from 1983.
Updating community plans is expensive and requires significant resources. In a conversation with city staff from Chula Vista, they lamented the loss of redevelopment because that was one of the main sources of funds to do planning and outreach. The funding crunch isn’t just impacting getting infrastructure built, maintained or revitalized but is also hampering what we are investing in and how we make those decisions, if our vision is so out of date.
By Susan Duerksen | March 19, 2012 |
Under the guise of “streamlining,” Mayor Jerry Sanders is asking the San Diego City Council to steamroll community concerns and give him more power to make closed-door deals with contractors.
A vote is scheduled during the Council meeting that begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 20.
The broad-based Community Budget Alliance, which includes CPI and more than 20 diverse community organizations in San Diego, objects that the change would allow the Mayor to award public works contracts of up to $30 million without any Council or public review, a substantial increase from the current limit of $1 million.
The Mayor’s proposal also would allow large contractors to choose subcontractors with no obligations to hire locally or pay wages that cover the cost of living in San Diego.
Read more in an op-ed published Friday by alliance members representing the League of Women Voters, NAACP and United African American Ministerial Action Council.
Please attend the Council meeting Tuesday afternoon or contact your Councilmember: Tell the Council to reject this deeply flawed proposal and develop a real streamlining plan that retains public control of our public works and benefits our neighborhoods rather than big contractors.