Commentary: Will quality of work suffer if trash is outsourced?

Re. Commentary: "Outsourcing trash collection would save $17M," (Sept. 8): A huge, lengthy commentary in the Pilot's Sunday Forum by our Newport Beach mayor and a councilman touted outsourcing trash pickup. In previous editions, and in letters to citizens, our city manager has also joined the chorus.

However in their plethora of happy "facts," many of which are unsupported, they neglect the significant downsides. A loss they ignore is the universal satisfaction of existing customers with the outstanding service now rendered by city employees with their always dependable, on-time, clean and no-hassle work.

All trash, in what ever condition, is cheerfully taken and extra requests often accommodated. A litany of possible mitigation measures for the termination of these loyal employees gives no assurances of any work or, if hired, that they'll get comparable wages and benefits.

How do private companies undercut the city's costs? By exploiting employees? Think Wal-Mart, many of whose workers are subsidized by food stamps because of their substandard wages. According to our city manager, we will save a little more than $1.5 million in operating cost ($2 million-plus, overall) per year.

How can that be with such a small number of employees and equipment? If so, is it worth possible non-fulfillment of promised sanitation and service standards? It amounts to only a minuscule fraction of our city's budget.

How does this drop in the bucket compare with the city's continuing costs for its new stainless steel and glass city hall, with its embarrassing glut of offices, lounges, conference rooms and balconies, not to mention the blocks-long park landscaping, statues and overpass. Also, other city services, which are not even mandated, are many times more costly than the tiny comparative, so-called savings of the proposed trash outsourcing.

According to the Sept. 8 commentary, employees and their supporters are already aggressively campaigning to convince residents to retain their trash workers.

Do we want to be another Costa Mesa and have this "city vs. employees turmoil?"

Will our privatization next extend into other city services, such as Costa Mesa has been trying to outsource?

KEN KVAMMEN is a Newport Beach resident.

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