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Coalition pushing for ballot measure on outsourcing San Diego contracts

A coalition of building contractors joined Councilman Carl DeMaio today to announce an effort to put a measure on the ballot that would make it easier for the city of San Diego to outsource municipal services and prohibit agreements that favor unions.

Supporters need to collect 96,000 valid signatures to qualify the “Competition and Transparency in City Contracting” measure for the November 2010 ballot.

The measure would change the charter to give the mayor the discretion to outsource city services; require that all taxpayer-funded contracts be posted online; and mandate that elected officials disclose campaign contributions from contract bidders.

“This measure imposes clear rules for open and fair contracting within city government,” DeMaio said at a news conference outside City Hall, flanked by about two dozen non-union trade workers.

It would also ban project labor agreements on developments being undertaken by the city, according to DeMaio.

A project labor agreement mandates that government contracts for public construction projects go only to union contractors. There isn’t currently a project labor agreement before the city, but San Diego is exploring several large projects, including a downtown stadium for the Chargers, a new central library, redeveloping City Hall and expanding the Convention Center.

“We need to ensure that if these taxpayer-funded projects do proceed, that all San Diegans are allowed to apply for the jobs that they would create,’' DeMaio said.

Officials with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, which represents 125 unions in the region, said the proposed ballot measure would establish policies that harm local workers and would create an incentive for contractors to create low-wage jobs that don’t come with health care benefits.

It would also repeal the city’s “living wage” ordinance, according to the Labor Council’s Evan McLaughlin.

“This policy is really about giving a hand out to government contractors,” he said.

The effort comes three years after San Diego votes approved Proposition C, which allowed private companies to compete for jobs now performed by city workers. However, talks between the mayor’s office and San Diego’s labor unions broke down over how to implement the so-called managed competition program. So far, nothing has gone out to bid.

“Over three years ago, San Diegans overwhelmingly approved Proposition

C, which expressed the public’s desire to see city services undergo competitive

bidding,” DeMaio said. “Unfortunately, three years has passed and not one program, not one taxpayer dollar has undergone competitive review.”

The city has spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours in negotiations with the labor unions, trying to establish the rules for managed competition.

DeMaio said privatizing city services would save the city “tens of millions of dollars” in the first five years, while opponents of the measure argue the savings touted by DeMaio are exaggerated.

— JOE BRITTON