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.