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Public v. Private: City Council set to discuss handing over city’s downtown parking operation to private manager

In Chuck Wieneke, City Hall, Justin Shields on June 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

A downtown parking committee, which includes city staff and Doug Neumann, the president/CEO of the Downtown District, has met for some months to explore the prospects of turning some or all of the city’s downtown parking operation over to a private manager.

The committee selected from companies interested in the work, and interviewed two finalists a couple months ago. Republic Parking System, Chattanooga, Tenn., which manages parking systems in Lincoln, Neb., and Rochester, Minn., in the Midwest, is thought to be the frontrunner. Also interviewed was Ampco System Parking, Cleveland, which manages the parking at The Eastern Iowa Airport and the parkade system in Des Moines.

Part of the City Council debate tonight surely will come down to philosophy.

To his credit, the Downtown District’s Neumann has not glossed over what he says is a fact of privatization: higher-paid city employees would lose jobs and be replaced by the private manager’s employees, who would be paid less.

This clearly has not escaped the notice of council member Justin Shields, who is president of the Hawkeye Labor Council. Last month, Shields said he considered voting against hiring Greg Graham as the city’s new police chief because City Manager Jim Prosser had increased his pay above what Mike Klappholz was receiving as chief before his March retirement. Shields said he it was inconsistent to pay the chief more as the city was contemplating eliminating jobs in the city’s parking operation so less-well-paid private-sector employees could do the jobs.

“I don’t understand how that fits together,” Shields said. “If the philosophy is to cut wages,” then why raise the chief’s salary?

Council member Chuck Wieneke two weeks ago expressed displeasure that there was much discussion at City Hall about privatization of parking and he hadn’t heard anything about it.

This week, the Downtown District’s Neumann said he likely will speak to the council at its work session Wednesday evening. Neumann said he was not going to advocate for public or private, but for better parking service.

“I’m going to make it clear that the status quo is not an option,” Neumann said.

He said privatization offers many of the services, best practices and responsiveness that the downtown thinks it needs to be a “vibrant business park, entertainment center and residential center.”

“If those same marks can be met by the public sector, that’s fine,” he said. “It’s not an issue of who operates so much as it’s an issue of service levels.

“We feel – strongly – that current service levels are unacceptable.”

He said the issue is not private versus public, but private versus “much-improved public sector service.”

Nine full-time city employees, three half-time ones and a less-than-half-time one would be out city jobs if the city privatizing its entire parking operation.

 

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  1. I’m just wondering why the City can’t provide the services that a private contractor can. The only thing I see is lower labor costs because you will firing well paid city employees and replacing them with minium wage paid employees. There’s some merit to that. Guess you can also do the same to Solid Waste, Streets etc.

  2. Hey just wanted to let you know that this outsourcing/privatizing thing is fantastic. In fact I’m thinking about firing my old, overpaid and lazy secretary and subcontracting all my secretarial needs to a company in another country. Let me tell you my plan.
    Yesterday I interviewed an overseas subcontractor over the phone and they told me they are the best secretarial firm and I believe them.
    They told me they have the hardest working and smartest secretaries in the world and I believe them.
    They told me that inexperienced and lower paid secretaries work harder, smarter and are more productive than my old, overpaid and lazy secretary and I believe them.
    They told me that if I hired them they could do it 90% cheaper than my old, overpaid and lazy secretary and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries never make mistakes, plus they have internal auditors that double check everything, thus I would never have to double check the secretary’s work product and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries never get sick, never die, don’t have a family to care for and never take work breaks and I believe them.
    They told me everything would be perfect the first day, in fact their secretaries have worked for every possible type of boss and they are so experienced that starting the first second we would work together like a hand in a glove and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries are like super widgets, they are all the same, and there would always be a seamless transition if they needed to provide a substitute secretary and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries all hold degrees in English, computer science, finance and they type 20,000 words per minute and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries absolutely love their work, their company, me and my company and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries want to work for free but the company cares so deeply for them that they insist on paying them 10 cents per hour (this is the highest wage in their market) and I believe them.
    They told me their secretaries are so happy that they cry tears of joy when they come to work and they cry tears of sadness when the work day is over and I believe them.
    They told me that the highest priority of their company is to make sure I am 100% satisfied and if I am not I should tell them and within 3 seconds they will make everything perfect and I believe them.
    They told me that their word is their bond and if they begin to lose money on this contract they will continue to honor it by providing the same outstanding service they have provided in the past notwithstanding the fact that it may bankrupt them and I believe them.
    They told me that if they need to sell their house and their children they will do so to make sure I am happy with their work product and I believe them.
    They told me their company will make no profit on this contract and I believe them.
    They told me that any secretarial work I ask their secretary to do would be covered by the contractual flat fee I pay to them and that the company would never claim my work request was outside the scope of the contract and they would never demand that they be paid time and material for the extra work and I believe them.
    They told me that they guaranty their work product and they have a one trillion dollar net worth to back it up and I believe them.
    They told me if the secretary ever made a mistake (which will never happen because she is an expert) they would immediately volunteer the information to me and simultaneously they would pay my damages and I would never have to sue them and I believe them.
    They told me that if for any reason I want to terminate the contract to let them know and they will voluntarily leave without asking for any compensation and I believe them.
    They told me that they really like me, that I am the best employee they have ever seen and that I should consider working for them (after the contract is signed) and they would triple my current salary and I believe them.
    They told me they would never attempt to take me or my boss out for expensive dinners and drinks or invite us to spend the weekend at the company condo in Aruba and I believe them.
    They told me to sign their form of contract and deliver it to them and later on if I wanted any changes to give them a call and they would immediately send over a signed amendment and I believe them.
    They told me not to worry, to trust them because they would never do anything that could jeopardize their good name or our relationship and leave everything to them and I believe them.
    This is great! I’m so smart! All my problems are solved! I think I will call the security guard and tell him to kick the secretary out of the building and that she is fired.

  3. I wonder how long Concerned Citizen has been a member of the Downtown District. I bet I could sell him some swampland in AZ. Seriously, tho Concerned Citizen makes his Point very well. I hope our Council members read this.

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