One city tries out­sourc­ing – of ev­ery­thing

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

MAY­WOOD, Calif. — Not once, not twice, but three times, An­drew Quezada says, he was stopped in the past two weeks and ques­tioned by au­thor­i­ties here.

Quezada, a high school stu­dent who does vol­un­teer work for the city, pro­nounced him­self de­lighted.

“I’m walk­ing along at night car­ry­ing an over­stuffed bag,” he said, de­scrib­ing two of the in­ci­dents. “I look sus­pi­cious. This shows the sher­iff’s depart­ment is do­ing its job.”

Chalk up an­other May­wood res­i­dent who ap­proves of this city’s un­usual ex­pe­ri­ence in mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ing. City of­fi­cials last month fired all of May­wood’s em­ploy­ees and out­sourced their jobs.

While many com­mu­ni­ties are fear­fully con­tem­plat­ing ex­ten­sive cuts, May­wood says it is the first city in the cur­rent down­turn to take an ax to ev­ery­one.

The school cross­ing guards were let go. Park­ing en­force­ment was con­tracted out, City Hall work­ers dis­missed, street main­te­nance work­ers made re­dun­dant. The pub­lic safety du­ties of the po­lice depart­ment were handed over to the Los An­ge­les County sher­iff’s depart­ment.

At first, peo­ple in this poor, long-trou­bled and heav­ily His­panic city south­east of Los An­ge­les braced for an­ar­chy.

Se­nior cit­i­zens were afraid they would be as­saulted as they walked down the street. Par­ents wor­ried the parks would be shut and their chil­dren would have nowhere to safely play. Land­lords said their ten­ants had be­gun sug­gest­ing that with­out city-run ser­vices they would no longer feel obliged to pay rent.

The apoc­a­lypse never ar­rived. In fact, it seems this city was so bad at be­ing a city that out­sourc­ing — so far, at least — is be­ing viewed as an act of mu­nic­i­pal ge­nius.

“We don’t want to be the model for other cities to lay off their em­ploy­ees,” said Mag­dalena Prado, a spokes­woman for the city who works on con­tract. “But our res­i­dents have been some­what pleased.”

May­wood has some of the ills that plague other cities.

Prop­erty taxes, a pri­mary source of rev­enue, have de­clined to $900,000 from $1.2 mil­lion in 2007. Sales taxes also have dropped.

But May­wood’s biggest prob­lem by far has been its po­lice depart­ment.

A re­port by the state at­tor­ney gen­eral last year con­cluded the cul­ture of the depart­ment “is one per­me­ated with sex­ual in­nu­endo, ha­rass­ment, vul­gar­ity, dis­cour­tesy to mem­bers of the pub­lic as well as among of­fi­cers, and a lack of cul­tural, racial and eth­nic sen­si­tiv­ity and re­spect.”

There are $19 mil­lion in claims pend­ing against the po­lice, which made it ef­fec­tively im­pos­si­ble for the city to get in­surance for any of its em­ploy­ees. If May­wood did not dis­miss the mu­nic­i­pal work force, of­fi­cials said, bank­ruptcy would have been the only op­tion.

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