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Councilman: Outsource Parking Enforcement

Mayor Pro Tem Kit Bobko says outsourcing the city's parking enforcement division will help increase revenue for the city and cut costs. Council votes to continue discussion about the proposal in September.

A Hermosa Beach councilman's proposal to outsource the city's entire parking enforcement division was met mostly with concern during Tuesday's City Council meeting as members discussed the proposal. The council ultimately tabled further discussion until September.

In a memorandum sent to the mayor and city council members on Monday, Mayor Pro Tem Kit Bobko argued that putting the city's parking enforcement services out to bid would increase the city's revenue by more than $500,000, increase parking enforcement efficiency and reduce the city's pension and health care obligations.

During Tuesday's meeting, Bobko motioned to have city staff prepare a request for proposal (RFP) that would include a detailed scope of the project, detailed staffing plan, a schedule of implementation and an estimate of associated costs and revenues.

As a comparison, Bobko pointed to the city of Newport Beach, which saw parking revenue increase by 30 percent after the city outsourced its parking enforcement.

"What I am asking for us to do tonight is, I think, just good business," Bobko told the council. "Just as a straight business decision, I think it is incumbent upon us to see what we can do better."

In his letter to the council, Bobko referenced last month's report by Hermosa Beach City Treasurer David Cohn, which outlined problems with the city's parking enforcement division, including improper audits of parking revenue, a backlog of disputed parking tickets and lost revenue from 158 broken parking meters.

However, both Hermosa Beach Police Chief Steve Johnson and councilman Howard Fishman mentioned that there were inaccuracies in Cohn's report. Fishman called the report a "work in progress."

Bobko also highlighted in his letter the cost to employ the city's 10 parking enforcement officers whose salaries, allowances and retirement benefits total between $67,000 and $93,000 per year, per employee.

Under Bobko's proposal, if parking services were outsourced to a private company, Hermosa's current parking enforcement employees would lose their jobs with the city but would have the first chance at new jobs with the private company.

"We are just moving those jobs from the city to a private partner, " Bobko assured the council. "If those folks are now working for our private partner... We won't lose any institutional knowledge."

Hermosa Beach Police Chief Steve Johnson addressed the concern of losing institutional knowledge and expressed that the city's parking enforcement officers provide a greater service to the community, which a private company would probably not provide.

"If we are going to have outside parking patrol, will they be people that will be showing up every day? Being the same people, will they know the city? Will they be stewards?" he asked, pointing out that the city's parking enforcement officers also provide animal control, backup traffic control, crossing guard backup, and other services when needed.

"Would we be losing something?" he asked. "We need the money out of it, but would we get the value out of it?"

Later in the meeting, councilman Michael DiVirgilio said that the police chief's concern about lost value could be taken as misleading.

"I think that this is something that can be used inappropriately... I think that kind of claim can be used to freak out the community," DiVirgilio warned. "I don't want to see us freaking out the community ... Lets be logical about that conclusion and fact check that."

DiVirgilio, who offered the greatest support for Bobko's proposal on Tuesday, said he supports any fair methods used to increase the city's revenue and cut costs.

"It seems like nobody ever wants to cut anything, but at some point, we are going to need more revenue, whether its through a cut of a cost or an increase of a revenue like this, to produce some of the goals and some of the projects that we have," he said. "It is easy for everybody to say no, but I sure don't see lots of people coming up with ideas."

Fishman, who said he felt rushed evaluating the proposal, worried that performance-based contracts with a private parking enforcement company could lead to an increased amount of citations.

"If you write all these tickets, yeah, you are going to get a lot more revenue, but there is going to be a cost associated with those citations," said Fishman.  "What you are going to wind up doing is driving out visitors, and you are also going to upset the residents."

However, City Attorney Michael Jenkins said that the city compensating a private company on a per-ticket basis would be legally questionable.

Fishman subsequently clarified his concern, saying that while ticket quotas are probably illegal, writing citations would still be one metric used to evaluate the parking enforcement company's performance.

"I am simply indicating that these contracts are performance based and citation issuance is always a part of the performance measure that you look at when you enter into an agreement to outsource parking citations," said Fishman.

Mayor Jeff Duclos said that his main concern with the proposal is ensuring there is plenty of future discussion and public input into the matter.

"We answer to an electorate," said Duclos. "If we have this discussion, it should be a well-agendized item with a full public hearing."

The mayor also used the city of Costa Mesa as an example of what could go wrong when city jobs are outsourced. 

Costa Mesa, which recently outsourced about half of its city jobs, saw the city's police chief, city manager and other important staff either retire or resign in protest, Duclos said. In addition, Duclos said Costa Mesa has used over $1 million in city tax dollars to fight litigation resulting from outsourced jobs.

Discussion to Continue in September

During discussion on Tuesday, Councilman Peter Tucker proposed tabling discussion on Bobko's proposal until additional information is gathered.

"I think there are a lot of pluses and minuses, and I would really like to see a full report by the (police) chief because that is his department," said Tucker.

In addition, Tucker said he wanted to wait until Hermosa has a new city manager in place before any further discussion occurs. 

"To ask for this right at this moment is the wrong time until we have a new city manager," said Tucker, who added that any RFP that is prepared needs to be specifically tailored to Hermosa Beach.

The City Council ultimately approved, in a 4-1 vote, a motion from Tucker that tables discussion of Bobko's parking enforcement proposal to the first council meeting in September. That meeting will take place on September 11.

Kim Perkinson June 14, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Does the city not make enough off parking citations? Looks like, acc. to the city's website, 55,692 parking citations were handed out in 2010. That's over 150 citations per day and well over 2 million dollars per year. I totally agree with Howard Fishman's comment above regarding the cost associated with writing more tickets. My family and I moved here last Fall. We chose Hermosa for it's "Best Little Beach City" (Acc. to their website) feel, but the constant site of traffic citation officers is definitely a turn off and not what I would expect from a small laid back beach town. But, as Bobko says above, it's "just good business".
Dave Andrews June 14, 2012 at 04:12 PM
The problem is pensions. People working for the city/government usually do it with lower pay and receive a lifetime pension! People are living longer than they ever have and we have to support those people. When I see a person making 67k-93k/year for this job that probably requires little to no training and they get a lifetime pension is that right? I would rather get an automated system that I can use a credit card (nobody carries coins anymore). This can then track every single meter and what it generates in real time. Wether you like it or not the city is a business. It should be run like one. In business there are always tough decisions you have to make and I think the city should get automated meters that accept credit cards and get outsourced companies to take on the responsibility of the pensions. The average salary is $50k in CA. Why do they make so much more?
Bob Atkins June 14, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Lets outsource all of the city's government's functions. Require every dept. to show a profit and compensate the outsourced supplier on a performance basis. Lay off all city employees - they cost way too much in salaries, compensation and pensions. The council can absolve themselves of the employees that are laid off and who iwll likely apply for the same job at the outsourced vendor for half the compensation and no retirement benefits at all. Then they can't afford to live in Hermosa or anywhere close to the beach. We can feel good that our city services and employees will be working for nearly slave wages while the city brings in even more cash that IT DOESN"T NEED! While I certainly don't care for parking enforcement - it is a basic city function. In case any of you haven't tried parking at the beach on the last 2 years - perhaps you haven't noticed that we now have unattended parking garages to save money with a parking system designed to raise even more revenue from meter violations in the garage. Parking rates have been raised. Ticket prices for meter violations have been DOUBLED and parking hours have been extended two hours until midnight! And yet these bastards now want to fire the entire city parking enforcement dept. so that they can rake in more revenue when the city already has $13M in the bank for a rainy day.
Bob Atkins June 14, 2012 at 05:28 PM
My answer to Dave above - you're so selfish and short sighted! People are compensated wages based on the local cost of living. You can't take the average in CA and use that as a limit. It is an AVERAGE and you can bet in higher cost of living areas (like the coastal communities, etc) the salaries are much higher. Parking enforcement officers may not need a whole lot of training but you are so out of touch with reality. A basic receptionist gets $13-15/hr these days or $32K. Try living on $32K ANYWHERE in Los Angeles let alone near the beach. You expect everyone to survive on a pittance just because their job appears to be easy with little training. I'd like to see how well you do dishing out tickets and dealing the with wrath of the occasional driver - and do that mind numbing job 5 days a week for a few years! What are we doing?? For the sake a of a very few dollars (in relation to the city budget) that the city doesn't really need anyway we are going to suck some more life out of our community. Bravo - lets just see how you feel when it happens to you.
Bob Atkins June 14, 2012 at 05:54 PM
FYI - I have no association or connection with the parking enforcement division nor do I work for any city government. I'm a business owner and a resident of HB and I feel that for the good of our communities we should stop trying to squeeze every last penny out of everyone else. I pay my employees as generously as possible - even though business has been down for the last 3+ years! I avoided letting anyone go when times were really hard and I work tirelessly to help improve revenue rather than take it out on my employees by relentlessly cutting costs which would likely translate into salary cuts and job losses since payroll is the single largest expense of my business. Instead I take a lower compensation because I can afford to and I know that my employees have much less margin to work with. We all have to get beyond the penny pinching, 'Wal-Mart' mentality that is SO prevalent these days because it is just sucking the life out of our communities and everyone around us. My customers (most of whom are small businesses) purchase equipment from out of state online vendors in order to save CA sales tax yet they take away the very revenue that I need to compensate my employees even though they will likely end up having to pay it anyway when they file their CA tax return and their LA business property tax or risk being fined by the Franchise tax board. People get with the program - if we don't take care of our own employees and local businesses then we will end up with nothing!
Dave Andrews June 15, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Bob, Should someone get $67k-$93k as a salary to check the meters in Hermosa Beach and a lifetime pension? We could put a help wanted ad up and get someone to do it for $50k. If you do a search you will find that the average annual salary for an LA, Long Beach, and Glendale Parking Enforcement Worker is $40,940.00/year. Should we pay that much more for these positions? No. Other people that work in Hermosa and do more advanced jobs that require college degrees get paid less. Yes, I have lived on less and lived in Hermosa. I am not saying outsource the position to a 3rd party but maybe we need to look at what we have in place and how can we fix it to move forward and make it a better experience for citizens, visitors, and the city. According to a daily breeze article there are 1600 meters in Hermosa Beach. 158 of them are broken. There are no ways to have any sort of auditing that is anyway accurate (Millions of dollars at stake). For those salaries and the money generated we should be looking into a better system. I am not saying ticket more people, add more meters, increase the prices. Being an engineer I would think you would try to look at unique solutions and try to solve them.
Kathryn Cheng June 15, 2012 at 02:52 PM
"...the city's parking enforcement officers also provide animal control, backup traffic control, crossing guard backup, and other services when needed." If parking enforcement were outsourced, I'm assuming that the city would have to pay separately for those additional services? How much would that add to the overall tab? All costs need to be considered. As a homeowner in Hermosa Beach, I prefer having civic employees perform public safety and enforcement services. With outsourcing, we would get a private company that is driven only by the bottom line, probably with high turnover, uncertain personnel policies, and a lack of community spirit. I favor paying civic employees a decent wage so that they can afford to be a permanent part of this lovely beach community.
Dave Andrews June 15, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I am all for having employees of the city do these duties. The animal control portion was about to be taken over by the county according to a pamphlet one of the offers gave me a few months back. Should these officers be paid far more than teachers? There are budget issues in Hermosa's schools. Should these officers who probably do not need that much of an education get paid more than a teacher? Teachers have to go to 4 years of college and get their teaching credential. They are interacting with our kids everyday. Personally, I think the teachers should get more money. It is more about trying to find a system that works. If 10% of the meters are broken we are probably losing 10% of potential revenue. I have heard figures in the 3,000,000 range in revenue coming in. That is $300,000/year in potentially lost revenue. We have 1600 meters in Hermosa. If we spent $1,000 on meters it would be $1,600,000. Many of these meters are in the south lot of the pier and in the parking structure. These have been replaced already. Someone just needs to do the math and look at amortizing the cost over 5 years to see if it makes sense. We may be able to reduce one or two officers because of less work load. We could also have an accurate audit of how everything is performing.

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