City Privatization Sabotaged?

Katy Grimes: When employees who mow grass for the city of Sacramento are paid $60,000 annually, medical benefits and a nice pension, you know that the inmates are running the asylum. Unskilled labor jobs, which in the real world are paid at an hourly wage, have become part of the union-driven entitlement jobs, especially when the government is running the show.

But now, with talk in Sacramento of the need to privatize city park gardening and maintenance services, suddenly a lawsuit has been filed against the company which has successfully managed many of the city’s public golf courses.

There is no such thing as coincidence.

Four former city golf course employees filed suit recently against Morton Golf, alleging sexual harassment and labor law violations.

It’s interesting that the suit was filed this month, just as the Sacramento City Council approved a contract with Morton Golf for maintenance and other services of the city’s golf courses. City officials estimate Sacramento would save $500,000 annually by privatizing the golf course maintenance and services.

I think the number is low, but a good starting point.

The point is that the city should not be in the golf business. Because of outrageous union salary and benefit packages, the city can no longer afford to maintain much of what it is responsible for, including the city-run golf courses.

William Land Park Golf Course opened for play in 1924 in Sacramento, making it the city’s oldest golf course. After many years of looking seedy and needing a makeover, the golf course operations privatized approximately 10 years ago. The golf course has never looked better, and now operates in the black by a non-profit group called The First Tee.

“The First Tee provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values such as confidence, perseverance and judgment through golf and character education,” reads the mission statement. It’s a wildly successful program which helped to reinvigorate the golf course, which is now run smartly.

With the Sacramento city parks department cutting nearly 50 percent of its employees in only the last two years, the  maintenance crew at William Land Park Golf Course has already kindly expanded their grass maintenance beyond the golf course in order to help out the park and keep the golf course looking pristine.

That’s how it works in the private sector.

It is difficult not to assume that this lawsuit could be a union attempt to run interference and perhaps discredit Morton Golf in the eyes of the City Council. Whatever the reason, it’s very interesting timing.

But that won’t change the numbers on the balance sheet. The city of Sacramento has no money and is running a horrendous deficit from which it cannot possibly recover without a massive overhaul and union concessions.

And the golf course maintenance cannot possibly be run as cost effectively as a privately run business, as proven by William Land Park’s golf course.

“Labor officials say they doubt outsourcing will save the city money; an audit will explore the situation this fall,” the Sacramento Bee reported.

Threats, threats. Expect to see more of this union-thuggery as city budgets finally burst under the weight of unsustainable pensions and ridiculous salaries and benefits. Unskilled public employees, who otherwise would have been lucky to be paid $15.00 per hour, have been paid ridiculous salaries for just showing up and doing a mediocre job.

With a little competition in the mix, expect parks and golf courses to start looking better in Sacramento – if the union lawyers and City Council don’t screw up the deal.

JUNE 27, 2011

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