Sunday, August 2, 2009

Council Meeting Monday--OUTSOURCING!

Monday will see another city council meeting with a variety of interesting subjects that the city will be taking up prior to its traditional August break.

Items of interest on the Agenda include:
  • On the consent agenda are the acceptance of funding for the Library's Big Read program, acceptance of the DPOA's contract for police patrosl for downtown, acceptance of homeland security funding for the city, and selection of Vice Mayor (it's Freddie Rodriguez's turn). as well as various contracts for alley improvements, the appropriation of CIP funds for Monroe Avenue street closure, and other items.
  • The last item on the consent agenda is a resolution by the city to put a measure on the Nov. 3 election ballot for an update to the Telephone Utility User's Tax (TUUT). This one is interesting as it will add VOIP, Wireless (cellular) phone service, and other new technologies to the tax base. I had not even considered that with my home phone being part of my cable television service that it doesn't actually fall under the traditional category of telephone service. How do they separate the bandwidth used for my High-Def TV from the bandwidth I use for phone calls? Very interesting.
  • There is a public hearing on a Pomona Congetstion Management Program.
  • Public hearing on the denial by the Planning Commission of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the 7-11 store at Towne and the 10 freeway to sell beer and wine.
  • A public hearing on an HPC decision to deny the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for a home on McKinley in Hacienda Park that wished to retain 9 vinyl windows and install four vinyl windows and to retain in addition to a lot of other "improvements" to the property.
  • Public Hearing regarding a modification, suspension, and/or revocation of CUP for Angelo's Pizza who has been in violation of their original CUP.
  • Public hearing for approval and acceptance of the Police Department's user and cost recovery service fee adjustments study, which also includes some amendments to a couple of city codes.

Also on the agenda, under New Business, are three items regarding outsourcing of city services. The services that are proposed for outsourcing are:
  • Park Maintenance and Landscaping Services, which includes maintenance of city highway medians
  • Street Sweeping Services
  • Building and Safety Services
I've had a brief chance to review some of the documentation including bids and comparisons as well as projected cost savings. To be brually honest, I'm not sure that I trust the conclusions, but on the surface, it looks like we'd get varied savings.

Here's where I have a problem with this: If I, as a homeowner, choose to outsource something, say lawn mowing and basic gardening, it's usually done when I'm in fiscally good shape, when I can afford the luxury of not having to do it myself. The same is true of plumbing, window washing, car washing, etc. I would never consider outsourcing such jobs if money were tight, if I had lost income, etc. So, I have a hard time getting my head around how this is different for a city.

OK, so city's can lay off people and cut back on things and maybe the outsource has tools and capabilities that would be costly to the city (the homeowner might not own a lawn mower), but in the long-run is it really a savings?

In discussing this with people, one of the main issues that is brought up as the reason that the city can "save" so much money is that the city has to pay so much more for labor than the "union controlled" city workers demand. This appears to be the main argument for such actions.

If this is indeed the case, what we're saying is that we are trying to hire cheaper labor (denying our citizens a living wage?) and, especially non-union labor. So is this, in essence, an attempt by the city to "bust" the unions? If, the outsource vendors were paying the same wages as city union-member workers, would the costs still be cheaper? Would we actually save anything or would we then be better off using "in-house" labor?

I'll be interested to see how the councilmembers who claim to be "friends of organized labor" and who have accepted campaign money from the unions come down on this.

If, we truly just don't have the funds to run our city, then we're all in trouble. If we, the citizens, aren't willing to pay for the costs of our infrastructure, then we've got to figure out just what we can live without. I don't believe that outsourcing will, in the long-run be beneficial. I still can't see how we can pay for a service that we were providing ourselves cheaper than sending it to a company who has the obligation to make as much money as possible to provide profit for their shareholders/owners. A city is a public benefit organization, a vendor is a for-profit company.

A side issue which has no bearing on costs, except moral cost, is that every vendor (and most of these are companies based outside the city of Pomona) because a "special interest" who will wish to ensure their future profits and attempt to influence Pomona. In the last election it was the LA County Firefighters (a group with lots of resources whereas the Pomona Police Association is only within the Pomona PD and has limited resource) that appeared to have spent the most money and had the most influence in influencing the Pomona voters. Is it really in the best interest of Pomona residents to have businesses that profit from our taxes influencing our elections. Perhaps you feel that they do, as for me I'm always concerned about such things.

You can read the agenda and all supporting documents on the City Clerk's public documents web site at:


gilman said...


Thanks for addressing these important "outsourcing" issues that are facing the city. I agree with all of the points you make.

It appears that the city senior staff is tackling cost savings from a bottom up approach vs. a top down approach. The dozens of city employees that will be terminated are just average folks. Many are single moms or dads, some are the sole providers for their families and some are residents of Pomona. All made a committment to the city and have a right to expect the same level of committment in return.

Instead, senior staff is trying to sell the Council that outside private companies can more effectively manage these services, yet this same senior city staff has been in charge of managing these services and will remain unaffected?..often at compensation packages that are 3-5 times what the average worker receives.

In addition, a close look at the proposed numbers, will show that any savings is only going to be realized during this recession (maybe depression). If business levels return to 2006 levels, well it will be costing us MORE for these outsourcing proposals.

This is simply a bad proposal and one which the public really hasn't been given an opportunity to particapate in.

calwatch said...

What happened to Tim D'Zmura, the former public works director/chief building official? Was he fired or did he leave on his own to take other opportunities? All my dealings with him were professional and seemed to know what he was doing. Hopefully it is a positive to him rather than a negative event.

gilman said...


I have received conflicting reports on Tim's departure.
Senior staff/elected representatives are saying he resigned, but junior staff are indicating he was fired.

I am guessing it was a "forced" retirement.

I am a little concerned that he was forced out in anticipation of approval for the elimination of the city building and safety staff? I get the impression that approval of the outsourcing proposal is a done deal......sad indeed.

Ed said...

I've only digested the landscaping proposal, but the numbers suggest it's a good deal.

My only concern is whether we should be giving the entire proposal over to one company. For instance, Midori's water site bid was less than 50% of Spectrum's. The same argument might be made if we looked at the individual numbers for different parks. Would exposure to more landscaping companies be problematic?

The city's efforts at LP have never left me very impressed, so any problems with the 9 parks and medians that are already outsourced?

Gilman said...


You bring up some good points. Why can't several companies provide various services, thus bringing the costs down further?

A factor not being considered is the effect these actions will have on the remaining City staff. We all know that Pomona doesn't always attract the best possible candidates for job openings and now it will become clear that EVERYONE'S job may be at risk.
Why would a professional work in Pomona when they know that an entire department might be bulldozed at anytime?...well they won't.

You don't manage a staff by circumventing agreements and eliminating entire departments.

I would suggest that the only reason the numbers "look good" is because the department has been poorly managed for years....not bad workers, not poor performance on their part, just bad management and administration. So now, the workers will be canned and of course, the managers will stay?

Ed said...

I agree.