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A City Tries Outsourcing Everything

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The New York Times reports:

"City officials last month fired all of [Maywood, California's] employees and outsourced their jobs.

The school crossing guards were let go. Parking enforcement was contracted out, City Hall workers dismissed, street maintenance workers made redundant. The public safety duties of the Police Department were handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department."

The populace was afraid.

"Senior citizens were afraid they would be assaulted as they walked down the street. Parents worried the parks would be shut and their children would have nowhere to safely play. Landlords said their tenants had begun suggesting that without city-run services they would no longer feel obliged to pay rent.

The apocalypse never arrived. In fact, it seems this city was so bad at being a city that outsourcing — so far, at least — is being viewed as an act of municipal genius."

Leonard Gilroy, Director of Government Reform at the Reason Foundation and an expert on privatization issues, believes Maywood's move is a good first step, but government can go quite a bit further, resulting in greater levels of fiscal success.

Gilroy tells Minyanville:

"I watched Maywood closely from the beginning, and what I’ve told people is that there’s nothing particularly unique about what they did. Maywood went with what you might call a public-public partnership, as opposed to a public-private partnership. It's not exactly privatization; what they’ve done is contract out to other governments, tapping them for public works. I’d say they should go a step further. They could explore whether they could compete those contracts with private ones. If Maywood were to really maximize the value of this approach, they would have to have real, true competition which would including private sector entities. In the city of Sandy Springs, GA--outside of public safety, which they are required by law to keep public--a company called CH2M Hill, runs everything else. They have a total of four 100% public employees. The CH2M Hill workers don't walk around with company logos on their uniforms or drive around with CH2M Hill stickers on their vehicles, they say 'Sandy Springs'. They walk, talk, smell, and breathe like public employees. They look and act no different from public employees. Multiple oher cities have imitated this model because it works: Dunwoodie, GA, Johns Creek, GA, to name two off the top of my head. Maywood's moving in the right direction, but it's still not Sandy Springs. However, Maywood still shows that you can break down the city model, rebuild it from scratch, and show that it works. California was first--they started that in the 1950s with a city called Lakewood, the first city to contract out public services. Now there are hundreds of cities doing the same thing."

Because it works.

The services provided by CH2M HILL to Sandy Springs "have resulted in a total savings of $20 million per year as compared to traditional municipal management. As a result, citizens of Sandy Springs have been rewarded with dramatically lower operating costs, a significantly higher level of customer service, and a focus on quality and responsiveness to their needs."

Will Maywood be the next Sandy Springs? Let's hope so.
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