How Managed Competition Gets Mistaken for Mandatory Competition - Voice of San Diego

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How Managed Competition Gets Mistaken for Mandatory Competition

The latest City Council discussions on managed competition miss an important nuance.

A City Council majority hopes Mayor Bob Filner will allow managed competition to continue.

If you’ve never read the 2006 managed competition initiative, you’d be forgiven for thinking the city is mandated to put city services out for bid.

It certainly sounded that way Tuesday.

Councilmembers Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf cited the will of San Diego voters before a City Council majority approved a resolution affirming its support of managed competition.

“This is a mandate from citizens,” Zapf said. “This isn’t something, ‘Oh, we’ll do it if we want to.’ The citizens said, ‘This is our money, we want you to do this.'”

The reality is more nuanced and explains just why the City Council was voting on the resolution in the first place.

Back in 2006, about 60 percent of San Diego voters said the city could allow outside companies to bid on city services.

Here’s the actual ballot language:

Managed competition initiative text.
Managed competition initiative text

That nuance didn’t get much play as councilmembers explained their votes Tuesday.

Only Councilman Kevin Faulconer, the City Council’s most vocal champion of managed competition, briefly touched on why they were really taking up that resolution.

Here’s a hint.

Sam Hodgson
Photo by Sam Hodgson

“The mayor is not required to use managed competition. Let’s be clear about that,” he said, before emphasizing the potential savings associated with the program. (The city’s budget for next year assumes $9.8 million in savings associated with the program.)

Unlike his predecessor, Filner hasn’t committed to managed competition. He’s still a wild card.

In his early days as mayor, Filner repeatedly criticized one managed competition project and didn’t commit to pursuing others. He actually appeared to put the program on hold. Later, he said he never intended to halt nearly completed contracts and that he’d allow contracts already in process to go forward.

This spring, Filner asked staffers to conduct a months-long review of the program. He wanted to revisit procedures for selecting which services go out for bid and discuss potential improvements before putting out new bids. Five managed competition projects in queue for outside bids have remained that way since the review began.

In a recent report, the city’s Independent Budget Analyst called on Filner to implement managed competition or detail his own plans sooner rather than later.

A mayoral staffer said Tuesday that officials expect to present their findings next month.

At least six City Council members hope Filner proceeds with the managed competition program.

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