Oh No Flo

Will city workers get heave-ho from Cofer?

By R.E. Graswich
June 2024

It’s not news that mayoral candidate Flojaune Cofer is OK with homeless camps in city parks. She wants to defund cops, too.

But there’s something else on Cofer’s mind—the end of Sacramento as “full service” city.

Dismantling city services is one of the more bizarre ruminations from a novice politician who thrives on outlandish public policies.

Cofer’s cheerleading for free-range homeless camps and a shrunken police force is typical for progressive candidates. Decriminalization politics are standard in San Francisco and Oakland.

But Cofer veers into another universe when she supports consultants who want to make Sacramento a contract city, where unionized public employees are replaced by private companies and vendors.

She almost sounds like a Republican.

Cofer comes late to the contract city party. The concept dates back at least 60 years. Today there are hundreds of contract municipalities in California, including Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova.

The goal of contract cities is to hire as few people as possible. A perfect contract city has an unpaid mayor and city council and three employees—manager, attorney and administrative assistant.

Other jobs are contracted out: police and fire services, park maintenance, water, garbage, street repairs and engineering.

Sacramento has about 5,100 city workers. They account for half the $1.5 billion annual budget. They are responsible for a large chunk of the $66 million deficit.

When Inside asked Cofer about managing the deficit, she gave a clever answer. Rather than discuss specific cuts, she cited a report by Management Partners, consultants hired by the City Council.

“The city has other options to fill a budget deficit, including implementing some of the 39 projects and efficiency recommendations they paid Management Partners to give in March 2020,” Cofer said.

I figured she didn’t know enough about city government to offer her own ideas. And I presumed she hadn’t read or understood what Management Partners proposed.

The report is filled with ideas that infuriate unionized employees. It’s the kind of document progressive politicians wipe their feet on.

I won’t review each of the 39 ideas. But to summarize, the report says: Dump expensive union workers and their unsustainable pensions and benefits. Or make them compete for jobs and bounce the weakest.

Next, open city services to bidding wars and hire cheaper vendors. Without collective-bargaining contracts and perpetual pay raises, the city’s budget shrinks. Civic life gets easier to manage.

Management Partners is a sophisticated company with years of experience advising cities. The consultants know a liberal City Council isn’t going to lay off thousands of workers and enrage unions, especially when council campaign money comes from organized labor.

Still, the report is pretty blunt. It includes statements like this:

“Though efforts can be made to minimize the impact on city employees, the significant changes that are necessary to create financial sustainability in Sacramento will, inevitably, affect employees.”

And: “Managed competition is a structured program in which public employees compete for the right to continue to provide public services. The objective is to secure the best value for taxpayers.”

And: “A primary opportunity for improvement would be contracting out or franchising a portion or all of the residential solid waste collection function.”

Garbage, parks, water and ambulance services are obvious targets. Ultimately, fire and police departments can also disappear.

By contracting with Sac Metro or Cosumnes fire agencies and the sheriff’s office, the city can erase itself from the public safety business.

When Cofer’s labor supporters realize what she’s saying, they may call her in for a talk. Her tune may change.

To me, this suggests Cofer isn’t ready for prime time. A couple of months ago, she threatened to sue me for defamation after I quoted a city report that said she broke campaign finance rules.

Now she’s on record supporting Management Partners’ budget solutions. Maybe she understands the city’s workforce better than she does the First Amendment.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at regraswich@icloud.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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