One city tries outsourcing – of everything
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.