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San Diego’s City Council, led by Kevin Faulconer and with the endorsement of Mayor Jerry Sanders, yesterday approved a proposal to put management of the city’s Mirimar Landfill out to competitive bid by a 5-3 vote. Tony Young, Carl DeMaio, Sherri Lightner, and Lorie Zapf joined Faulconer with votes in favor, while David Alvarez, Marti Emerald, and Todd Gloria voted in opposition to the project.

“We should line up managed competitions like planes on the runway at Lindbergh Field,” said Faulconer. “I am a strong supporter of managed competition, which simply lets the City ask, Who can perform a service better – the private sector or city workers? Competition for landfill operation can save the City millions of dollars each year in operating costs, and gives City employees an incentive to work more efficiently and effectively.”

But competitive bidding may create problems of its own. Initially hailed as a successful experiment by Sanders, the city’s print shop submitted a successful bid to keep the operation mostly intact by laying off 12 workers and slashing costs by $1 million out of a $3.6 million budget. But the computer system favored by the remaining 11 employees (and outlined in the approved bid) isn’t being made available to the department, which is instead being forced to operate on a less-efficient platform. The printing division is now asking for conversion to the system named in their bid or permission to hire back one employee, either of which would increase costs.

“There’s certainly a fairness issue that needs to be raised with the public and the City Council that, come on, you’ve set the rules to the game and now you’re asserting that you can change them midstream after the employees put in their bid,” Damion Tyron, business rep for the union, told the Union-Tribune.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club have also expressed concern over transitioning to private operation of the dump. They fear that a private operator looking to keep costs down might be tempted to cut corners or avoid following applicable environmental protection laws.

Further, the issue is complicated by the fact that the landfill actually sits on property owned by the Navy, an entity that has not yet weighed in on the city’s proposal.

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