A proposal by one Hermosa Beach city councilman to outsource the city's entire parking enforcement division failed to garner enough support from the council and residents during a public hearing Tuesday night.
In a 3-2 vote, the City Council shot down Mayor Pro Tem Kit Bobko's proposal that would have looked into hiring a private company to take over the parking enforcement services that the city's community service officers currently perform.
Bobko and Councilman Michael DiVirgilio were the only two council members who voted in favor of the proposal.
Initially presented at a June 11 budget review meeting and , Bobko's plan argued that putting parking services out to bid could potentially increase city revenue while also saving the city millions of dollars on employee benefits and long-term pension obligations.
"Decreasing costs and increasing revenue in California in 2012 -- If that is not something you want us to do as a City Council, then I don't understand what we are supposed to be doing as a City Council," Bobko told an audience that was overflowing into the lobby. "All I am asking us to do tonight is to do what any corporate board anywhere in this country would do, which is to gather information and make the best business decision we can possibly make for the people we are entrusted to look out for."
According to city budget documents, total salary and benefits packages for Hermosa Beach community service officers range between $67,367 and $93,335 per year. In total, the city budgeted $855,893 for community service officers during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
In a staff report presented to the council at the end of August, Interim Chief of Police Steve Johnson and new city manger Tom Bakaly outlined 115 distinct community service officer responsibilities that included a myriad of duties in addition to parking enforcement.
These additional duties, which include such things as traffic control, special event assistance, animal control and certain code enforcement, are services that Mayor Jeff Duclos and other opponents to Bobko's plan said could be lost if an outside contractor is hired.
"Part of this value is the institutional knowledge of employees who know the unique characteristics of our small city and have a career commitment to the city," Duclos wrote in a letter to the council and city staff. "A single contractor does not generally provide the range of services that can be covered by an employee, or can you achieve true accountability with them."
About a dozen residents, including former Hermosa Beach police chief Greg Savelli, seemed to agree with Duclos' sentiments and stressed the community would lose a valuable resource if services went to a private company.
"These people do all kinds of things for you that you have no idea that you will miss," Savelli told the council. "These CSO's spend more waking hours in this town providing service to the residents than the majority of you folks sitting on council... and I mean that with no disrespect," he said to an eventual extended applause from the audience.
Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Watch co-founder Kelly Kovac-Reedy credited community service officers with providing a police omnipresence that deters crime. "The CSO's, to me, are not just about the generation of revenue," said Kovac-Reedy. "They know the community better than most residents of this town."
Only three people stood up to voice any support for Bobko's proposal including Carolyn Petty, who asked the City Council to stand up to the police and fire unions and reign in big government salaries.
"As a resident and responsible person, I ask you to demonstrate a fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers, not the unions," Petty said. "The only way unions will agree to demonstrate fiscal responsibility is for them to see that they are now irrelevant," she said in support of outsourcing the parking division.
Other councilmembers, such as Councilman Howard Fishman, said that the city is already working to reduce pensions and has not raised city employee salaries for five years. He also pointed out that additional revenue could come from new credit card parking meters.
"We are going to increase revenue by switching meters around, not by switching people around," said Fishman.
Councilman DiVirgilio, the only other councilman offering support for Bobko's proposal, said that the potential savings from outsourcing the city's parking enforcement could be used to fill three open police officer positions and an open engineer position. According to DiVirgilio, no other options had been presented.
"We are not fixing the problem of actually hiring the personnel we need most," DiVirgilio said. "The fact is, nobody is offering a better solution."
Seeing that the council would vote down outsourcing, DiVirgilio suggested that a five percent reduction in city employee salaries could save $750,000 and be used to fill the open police officer positions. It is a suggestion that DiVirgilio called reasonable and manageable for employees.
"At some point, we have to reduce something or add something," DiVirgilio said, adding that he understood the arguments of the anti-outsourcing crowd. "I hear you loud and clear, but pick another idea," he said.