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L.A. controller suggests contracting out some services

December 23, 2008|David Zahniser

Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick called Monday on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to look seriously at contracting out services as a way of addressing the city's budget woes.

With a budget shortfall of $432 million expected by July 1, Villaraigosa and the City Council need to take a hard look at such concepts as hiring private companies to pick up trash and leasing out municipal buildings, Chick said.

"Nothing is too sacred for discussion and scrutiny," she said.

Chick made her remarks as she released a report on "public-private partnerships," efforts by government agencies to work with the private sector. The report said the city should examine such opportunities as leasing Ontario International Airport, hiring a nonprofit to run the city's animal shelters and contracting out its wastewater management.

Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo said the mayor has already tapped Michael Keeley, a onetime aide to former Mayor Richard Riordan, to look at contracting out the city's parking garage management. Szabo said Keeley would also look at the possibility of contracting out janitorial services and maintenance of parking meters, along with other items in Chick's report.

Riordan focused heavily on the concept of privatizing city services a decade ago, particularly the Bureau of Sanitation and city-owned golf courses. During that effort, city officials failed to show that private companies could deliver the services as well as government workers for less money, said Bob Schoonover, acting president of Service Employees International Union Local 721.

"We've been down this road rather extensively before," said Schoonover, whose union represents roughly 9,000 city employees.

"In times of budget shortfalls, you should look at everything. But you should also learn from the lessons of the past."

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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