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Lee Duboc: Will West Menlo Park child care be privatized?

Original post made by Messenger on Feb 17, 2009

Former Menlo Park councilwoman Lee Duboc sent the email below to her e-mail group on Feb. 16.

From: Menlo Park's Future
Subject: Will West Menlo Park Child Care be Privatized?

Today, we know the following:

1. Our General Fund budget will most likely be in the red by a reported $3.1 M this year.

2. The City-run West Menlo Park childcare program is being subsidized by at least $358,000 per year, and because enrollment has dropped the subsidy has increased.

3. Even with the subsidy, the tuition cost to parents is about the same as the cost of private programs.

4. The Menlo Park child care program does not have the State accreditation that comparable private programs have.

5. If the quality of city-sponsored childcare were brought up to private standards, it would be much more expensive than its private counterparts. {NOTE: The private programs have better quality at the same tuition cost as the subsidized city-run program.}

These facts may have led our Mayor to suggest that we should re-consider outsourcing our West Menlo Park child care program. It looks like two other Council Members agree.

I encourage all of our City Council to back him up on this reasonable idea --with due haste -- so the changeover can occur by the fall of 2009.

I contend that before the Council digs dipper into the City's reserves and/or increases the Utility Users Tax they should look at ways to end heavy city subsidies that are unnecessary.

As always, I encourage you to write to me at

If you would like to read any of my previous emails please link to Web Link

Thanks, Lee Duboc

Comments (26)

Posted by seeking facts, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

This is all very interesting information, but some of it is hard to believe, or seems like only half a fact, with important parts missing.

For example, I thought the program had a long waiting list. This missive says enrollment has dropped.

And what's the evidence that local private programs have higher standards and are of higher quality?

Does anyone know why the city's program doesn't have state accreditation?

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Of course Childcare should be privatized. But all City services should be put our for competitive bid with the exception of safety services provided by sworn police officers. If the City can compete with the private sector using fully loaded costs then the city should be retained to continue providing the services. Otherwise the services should be contracted out. We need to be more like Saratoga.

Posted by a few facts, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2009 at 10:17 pm

The privatization proposal was before council a few years ago. back then, city staff admitted that fees covered only the variable costs of the program. Overhead and admin costs were covered by taxpayers, estimated to be $300-400,000. also, it came out that the program was NOT fully subscribed by MP residents, that many of the students were from other towns. Finally, the MPCC ended up in the city's hands because it was a failing business on the verge of bankruptcy when a few "bright" lights on the council thought it was a good idea to take it over. It doesn't even serve city staff or public employees to any significant degree. the fact is, if it were a program with a good reputation, the savvy parents in the town would have made it a successful business, but it isn't so it lives on city handouts.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Menlo Children's Center is divided into two programs, preschool and after-school care. After-school care has always had enormous waiting lists, and non-Menlo Park residents are told not to bother even getting on the waiting list, because there's no hope. The preschool program is very highly regarded (even by teachers at other programs) and fully accredited.

I don't know why Lee hates children and working parents or why she can't see the greater value in providing services to Menlo Park's youngest residents. Lee, why the outrage over subsidizing childcare but not about subsidizing gymnastics lessons?

Posted by C'mon Jane!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm

C'mon Jane! Why do you have to go there? "I don't know why Lee hates children and working parents." That's a ridiculous comment. It has nothing to do with hating, or children or working parents, it has everything to do with an inflated cost that should not be subsidized by tax payer money. There are plenty of better child services, in the private sector that cost less, and don't cost the taxpayer any money. It's a nice "feel good" to have Menlo Park subsidizing this cost, but do YOU want to pay for this type of service, when perhaps there's a better service or similar service or cheaper service in the private sector? If I owned a daycare facility, why is it o.k. for a state, or town to be competing against me? That's just not right, or fair. Think about what your business is, or your spouses business, does the government compete against it?

Posted by no subsidies, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I don't agree with Lee on much of anything, but I have always agreed with her on this. Menlo Park should never have gotten into the childcare business. A long-ago council made a mistake, but that's no reason to continue to provide childcare services. It's a constant source of irritation and a drain on our resources plus, as C'mon mentioned, just not fair to pit a subsidized business against private enterprise.

Most parents in Menlo Park use private childcare, so we are paying for our provider AND for the subsidy. If the city wants to support working parents and childcare, there are other paths it could follow -- setting up a referral service, for example, or facilitating permits for people who want to establish family daycare facilities -- that would cost a whole lot less.

The current economic strain gives the council a face-saving way to get out of the childcare busienss. I hope they do it soon.

Posted by Kiss My Grits, Lee!, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Guess what Lee,

No matter how many times you try to get childcare, it'll never work, because the facts ain't on your side. Spin, spin, spin all the numbers and other BS you want, but it ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Hash Browns, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2009 at 7:00 am

Kiss my Grits is another tired socialist beating the same tired mantra. Of course the facts are on Lee's side. KMG offers not a soupçon of evidence to support her claim. KMG should ask how many other city Government's in San Mateo County offer City sponsored child care. Only one. And why is that? Because you can get far higher quality of child care at a lower cost when the SEIU is not involved. How can that be? Outsourced child care providers are better skilled and more efficient and I forgot to say that dirty word- they are privately run.

Posted by Been There, Done That!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:37 am

Just in case anyone takes Ms. Duboc seriously, here's what happened the last time she (along with Ms. Winkler and Mr. Jellins) screamed that city-run childcare was a budget-buster and must be privitized - from The Almanac's editorial back then (2006):

Editorial: Phantom savings in private child care

After months of trying to get firm numbers from Menlo Park city officials, the Almanac finally found out last week that the true cost to operate the city's child care programs is $1.14 million, just $4,500 more than income received from tuition.

This is a shocking disclosure, given that the City Council majority of Nicholas Jellins, Mickie Winkler and Lee Duboc have repeatedly claimed that the programs cost the city $444,000 more than they take in. As a result, the trio has pressed ahead with a request for proposals from private firms to operate the programs based on the premise that they are operating at a loss of nearly half a million dollars a year.

This discrepancy comes from an accounting sleight of hand, where the city assigns a portion of its permanent overhead costs, such as the salaries of the city manager, the assistant city manager and other administrative employees, to the programs. But obviously, those salaries cannot be applied to a private child care operation and will not go away if a private operator takes over.

Posted by Been There, Done That!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:50 am

Oh, and by the way, it is my understanding that the reason that the program isn't state accredited is because the "new" facility housing it isn't big enough for the program's size.

And who was is charge of the committee responsible for that "new" facility (which isn't new at all, but just a cheap renovation of the old police station) - why, it was Ms. Duboc!

Talk about chutzpah!

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm

BTDT--You are absolutely right, but anyone who would disagree will never bother to check your facts (which are correct--though the characterization of a common accounting practice of spreading general admin costs over all functions is pretty common and not really a "sleight of hand"--so, the triad on CC will kill this program, and somehow still claim they care about family values.

Posted by Been There, Done That!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm


All that I cited in my first post - including the "sleight of hand" reference - come directly from The Alamanac' editorial - they're not my words, although I do agree with them in terms of the way that the numbers were used by Ms. Duboc et al.

Posted by mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm

We will probably never know the exact cost of the childcare programs, but the programs should be allocated some of the overhead. After all, the city programs get free use of public land, free gardening, free building maintenance -- their private counterparts have to pay for these services. No matter how you slice it, and we can question those numbers forever without resolution, it's pretty obvious that the city can't operate a childcare program as cost-effectively as the private sector can.

The city should not be competing with private businesses, for starters. The fact that the public is subsidizing the programs without assessing the needs of the recipient families is scandalous. (I have no problem with providing subsidized childcare services to the indigent.)

Historically, the city-run childcare has not been the best (I rejected it for my own child) and the only reason it keeps going is the greed and selfishness of the parents in the program. The rest of us are tired of paying for our kids and for yours!

Posted by mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

By the way, I am very grateful to a prior council for defeating the "Taj Mahal." That grandiose multi-kitchened facility would have used a huge percentage of the Measure T funds, meaning that there would have been no money left for the fields, for the gyms, for the pool -- facilities that thousands and thousands of kids use. The childcare programs serve only a few dozen people. The childcare families were fortunate to get a beautifully remodeled building and they have a lot of chutzpah (speaking of chutzpah) complaining that "only" $3 million was spent on it.

Posted by Been There, Done That!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Ah, "mom", we've heard from you before, as well, with the same old arguments which run like this:
Let's not discuss specific numbers (because they just got shot down), it's "obvious" that the city (being government, after all) can't do anything cost-effectively versus business (the old conservative myth that's been drummed into the general public's head since Reagan was President) and why is the city competing against business anyway (the nerve!) and the program is obviously horrible because I didn't send my child there (did you really expect me to expose my child to - gasp - middle-class or lower kids!) and the only reason the program keeps going is because MP parents use it (oops, gotta revise that - because of the "greed and selfishness of the parents" - ah, much better!) and we're all tired of paying for your kids (although the numbers don't bear that out, which is why I don't want to discuss the numbers now).

Then, for good measure, you come back with a second post focused on the good old "Taj Mahal" issue that been trotted out a zillion times before to try to reinforce the "greedy parents" theme, hoping that no one will point out that: a) the parents had to put up with their kids being housed in a couple of dilapidated trailers crazy-glued together for a number of years before a proper facility was built and b) if it wasn't for the fact that Ms. Duboc knew that Measure T wouldn't pass unless a new childcare facility was included on that measure, the kids would likely still be housed out there in those same crappy trailers today!

Posted by Been There, Done That!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2009 at 10:23 pm

OK, "mom", here's MY second post:

You state: "The city should not be competing with private businesses, for starters."

OK, then, why aren't you (and your cronies like Ms. Duboc and Ms. Winkler) calling for privitization of the gymnastics program as well because that program competes against private businesses and, using your logic, because it is city-run, it "obviously" can not be run as cost-effectively as the private sector could.

I eagerly await your reply!

Posted by Been There Does Nothing, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 19, 2009 at 11:27 pm

"Been There Done That", we truly wish you would read the business section of a newspaper, or at least take a course in Business 101. It is so obviously apparent that government CANNOT run things efficiently or effectively, if it could, we wouldn't be in the mess that we are in, across the country, in small towns and in Menlo Park specifically. It just doesn't work. When was the last time a government employee was truly held accountable, and were threatened that if they didn't "shape up" they'd lose their job? Every company in this country has had to terminate people, shrink their offices, cut back on product, decrease salaries, delay expansion etc., how much has ANY government done any of the above??? Basically, zero. Government just can't do it. They get a free revenue source without having to produce anything that they're held accountable for, and they run record deficit levels because they can, they answer to no one, not a bank, not a VC, just the poor, uninformed, apathetic voter. Childcare, gymnastics, the pool, you name it, it should ALL be privatized. My next rant will be privatizing the police force!

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 20, 2009 at 7:24 am

I agree with Been There Does Nothing completely- except for the sworn police officers. There needs to be a direct connection with the City Manager (Now all we need is an effective City Manager). Would it be less expensive to contract out the public safety service to the County? No question. But there are circumstances where we need to have quick effective action and for this reason we would be better off having the sworn police officers remain as employees of the City of Menlo Park.

But every other city service should be competed on the open market and if the city's Life Cycle Cost cannot compete with the private sector proposal for the same service then the City has a fiduciary obligation to its residents to contract that work out and eliminate the city positions.

Posted by mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 20, 2009 at 8:59 am

Sorry, Been There, I am horribly and irrevocably middle class, and Lee and Mickie both dislike me intensely. Nicholas too, for good measure. My kids attended nursery schools that had shabbier facilities than the MP center did when it was housed in trailers. And now they go to MP schools that have trailers, and no one complains. In fact, the kids like the trailers because they have air conditioning.

I only mentioned the Taj because you brought it up. Ancient history! As for the gym, it is totally appropriate for the city to support recreational facilities (pool, gym, soccer/baseball fields) and libraries that otherwise would be unavailable to the public because they are not economically viable for private enterprise. If our cities didn't own and operate free parks, we might have to spend $50,000/year to join the Circus Club, assuming they'd let us in. If our cities didn't provide free lending libraries, some of us wouldn't be able to afford to read a book.

I also agree with Hank (on this issue only) that it is appropriate for the city to outsource services if an outside provider is more cost effective, with no compromise in quality, than the city would be. The city already does this, for example, with Kidz Love Soccer. I also think that cost recovery should be 100% for all recreational classes, with financial aid available. That's how we run the local sports leagues (volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball) and it seems to work fine.

The barriers to entry in the childcare business are low, and private entities can and do offer those services more cost-effectively than a public bureaucracy can. Most of us pay our own way with childcare; you MP childcare parents can do the same!

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I won't touch the child care debate because it should all boil down to numbers. The service level can be managed and improved in either situation. It comes down to cost of doing business for the city and for the parents.

But once you start talking about police, it just makes me laugh. I don't need to state the obvious here do I? You all live West of 101 and you have never lived in a mixed society (economic and racial). Right?

This is why the black and white argument Hank lives on seems to easy to toss around. Because it is comfortable rich white people talking to other comfortable rich white people.

Matt Henry is right when he says this is a two community town. And you guys prove this point with your blanket statements. We shouldn't be blamed for increased police, that is a cop out, but we also shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to community policing strategies.

What I see is this discussion:

"Gee, Mary Jane, life is so nice here. The people are so wonderful. Why would we ever have to pay so much for so many police? It is just shameful. We aren't Oakland or Richmond. My goodness, let's have a bake sale and talk about it with Lee Duboc."

We are a community of cities and we are in it together. East Palo Alto, Menlo Park (east and west), Redwood City and Atherton. Crime is regional but asking the county to oversee it all with the budget crush they are under and the sheriff response times which are way off from our own police, is just two basic points that you wrecklessly disregard. It shows little thought and more ideology from the same white rich people. This is why any of these ideas fail. No research, no data, just strong ideological opinions...

Posted by Truth Still Lives! Darn!, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 20, 2009 at 12:16 pm

"Truth", it seems like you are more irritated than normal!
"We aren't Oakland or Richmond"? I think this is a good thing.
"Let's have a bake sale..."? Bake sales are bad?
"Lee DuBoc" You mean the lady that puts her neck out there, on very tough topics, for the greater good?
"..same white rich people" Wow, let's continue the white guy bashing, and racism! I thought once you got B.O., this stuff was all over??
Settle down "Truth" and run some numbers. Overpaying a police department regardless of where they are located hampers a community, regardless of what community it is. We could take the same over burdening salaries for these officers, and create 2 or 3 patrol positions. That's where the math makes sense. The police won't leave because "they're not making enough money", that's ridiculous, particularly at this time. This is nuts.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Don't you see the irony in your response?

Menlo Park is not Oakland or Richmond because of our police, not in spite of our police. You live under the cloak of security our police provide. And you taunt them, insult them and threaten to toss them out as a result. You blame Menlo Park for national pay increases and union negotiations.

Lee stuck nothing out but her fist for four years. Don't rewrite history. Her lack of collaboration, her defensive nature and her black and white view of the world did her in. Doesn't mean she is a bad person, it just means she became a bad public representative.

West Menlo is white and rich. Don't worry, it is not an insult, just a fact.

Posted by Sorry Truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Sorry Truth, in this environment, you will not have the majority of people thinking that police unions, fire unions, teacher unions, any union, are a good thing for our fiscal woes. It does not sell in Peoria! Our government does not work, because it does not know how to manage money, OUR money. I'm tired of it, the country is tired of it, and fortunately people like Lee, and many others have grown tired of it, and are speaking out. The police are good people, no one is "taunting" them or "insulting" them, they just cost too much, and people are realizing they can spend THEIR money, on quite possibly a different strategy.(privatizing security, or more police, versus more expensive police) The general public has every right, in fact MORE of a right, to question this out of control spending. I just hope, for our town's sake, and our country's sake, enough people have woken up, and not just the "white rich people".

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Point the finger at the working class. Blame the unions for Wall Street stealing billions and the housing market collapsing on itself. Don't blame greedy developers and bankers. Blame the working class. Blame the unions. Blame the blue collar for not working at the same salaries of China or India.

Every election comes down to the same principles. Wealthy, business people who are trying to keep from paying more out and middle and lower class folks who are trying to keep a roof over their head.

You are betting that Lee can make unions the enemy and thereby color anyone on council who voted for a union package.

Good luck with that. I believe in healthcare for everyone. I believe nurses and teachers deserve to be paid better. I believe a secure community improves quality of life and home values. I believe people without resources should be helped by people with more.

But I also believe in competition and the race to be the best.

Your scenario to dumb down the working class or to marginalize our unions, our working class, is a race with China and India to see who can pay the least and get the most.

It is a race to the bottom and it will fail us all.

Now you can go back to calling me a socialist or a commie or whatever names pleases you.

I believe this council represents what most of us want. That is why the same angry people have to post every day here. Most people don't feel the need to take down the current city leaders.

And you will see that in our next election. Most people will will see.

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 20, 2009 at 6:01 pm

As usual Truth does not know what he is talking about. I lived in Southeast Washington D.C. for 2 years, three 99.99 % Hispanic neighborhoods (Los Palos Grandes, Colinas de Bello Monte, and Altamira) for 1.5 years and in Oakland, CA for 4 months. I also worked for over 3 years in West Oakland where my company's work force was well over 90% African American. So I have lived and/or worked in places that have a far higher percentage of African American and Hispanic population than Belle Haven. I felt safe in all those neighborhoods and I have very fond memories of Oakland, Los Palos Grandes, Colinas de Bello Monte, and Altamira.

Posted by Sorry Truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Sorry Truth, I'm not betting anything, in fact I appreciate what Lee is calling everyone's attention too, but I think this city, and this state are too far gone. I wouldn't bet your money on us surviving this crisis. Say what you want about all of the ills of our current world, but if you guys could just point at ONE program that has worked, and has actually propelled our country forward, rather than backwards, I would listen. You say you want competition?? Government subsidized housing? Government subsidized childcare?Universal Healthcare? Welfare? Unions? Aggressively Taxing Businesses? Pensions 'til you die? THIS is competition??? These are strategies that are killing us.
You are a Socialist. Your definition, and what you write above, is Socialism. That's great, but that's not what America has been for over 200+ years, AND most importantly, in the history of the world, this has not, nor will it, work. History has shown us over, and over, and over again. A free market economy works, when it is truly free with some regulations.
Why don't you, and your Socialist friends investigate who started unraveling the will find the names Reno and Clinton prominently displayed.

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