For all the nonsense that the Orange County Board of Supervisors deals with (some of it self-imposed), this is a great idea from a November 12th Voice of OC post: John Wayne Airport Might Accept Bids for Private Firefighting. There is positively no good reason that this small emergency service at JWA can’t be handled by an outside entity that’s comparably trained and equipped.
The competitive bidding process will determine that, and it’s a great opportunity for a private sector firm to assume contracted responsibility with a specified service level for an ordinary government function that need NOT be exclusive to a County Department and a public employee union. We’d expect to see a normalization of this service just as Costa Mesa has improved their city fire/paramedic services and saved a pot of money by rationalizing work shifts and reducing personnel with NO decrease in service level or protection for the community. In fact, we hope Costa Mesa will see the revenue opportunity and bid on this considering the Airport is on their city boundary.
Predictably, the President of the OC Firefighters (IAFF Local 3631) union immediately began spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) by saying the BOS would be “jeopardizing public safety by tinkering with the minimum staffing standards at the airport to save a reported $600,000.” Suhkee Kang, the soon-to-be-ex-Mayor of Irvine also weighed in, citing “dire impact” if the union
doesn’t help fund my next political campaign is forced out by a lower bidder with equal capability. Of course, neither the union or the wannabe Congressman has one bit of evidence, a set of facts or any numbers to support their always tiresome Doomsday scenario.
The Register also mentioned the issue last November, before the Supervisors bravely put the opportunity on hold for a year and lost that supposed $600k savings. At the time, the union’s hyperbolic business agent wrote “The OCFA will have to develop new tactics that rely on the aircraft passengers self rescuing.” More FUD.
We can’t recall an instance where the Board has ever considered outsourcing or privatizing an existing County Department or work unit, so it’s about time. Certainly other opportunities exist — for example, why does the County have an Assessor’s unit when such tasks could be handled by many of the numerous private firms in that business if only they’d would put a bid on the street? A simple “RFP” or “RFQ” (Request for Proposal or Quotation) could be rendered (by a consulting firm if necessary as the unionized County purchasing unit will suddenly be too busy on Nick Berardino’s orders) that simply consists of the unit’s budget, business plan and org chart. A recent audit might also be included, and of course their documented internal procedures and descriptions of their computer systems.
The Supervisors should let the unit itself bid as they would be expected to best know their own operation, and we’d also cynically bet they might find some internal efficiencies to reduce their costs or streamline their services. If no suitable, properly referenced private sector firm responds or does not underbid the County unit and offer comparable services, then the County can do nothing — but with the knowledge (and press coverage) that a fair and competitive process proved the internal unit was best staffed and equipped to continue its work.
The BOS IS doing the right thing by bidding the airport’s fire and emergency services into the private sector, but by NO means is this the only internal function that needs a competitive look via the outsource or privatization process.