Recent efforts by the Menlo Park City Council to explore alternative options to running city services have met acrimonious resistance.
Council candidates Heyward Robinson, Vince Bressler and Rich Cline are using two outsourcing efforts, Burgess Pool and child care, as a linchpin in their campaign, inaccurately claiming the process was not transparent and attacking the majority council members, who were taking responsible actions as stewards of our public funds.
The budget, for example, shows that Menlo Park's city-run gymnastic program is profitable, demonstrating a successful public recreation program. On the other hand, the city's child care and aquatics programs are heavily subsidized.
Neighboring cities do not use local taxes to subsidize child care and other city-run aquatic programs are also operated at a loss. This indicates it is wise for the council to consider alternatives to cut non-essential expenses. Many city services are outsourced, such as soccer, tennis, and music programs, and many municipalities outsource services.
The outsourcing of the pool was reviewed in public council meetings and commissions where Heyward Robinson voiced support for the pool proposal and city staff reports recommended the pool proposal.
Yet, Mr. Robinson, who is endorsed by the SEIU, which represents most city employees and has stated they will not support any "privatization" (Almanac, April 26), changed his mind and now voices opposition to the outsourcing.
Menlo Park's city staff is excellent and the debate on outsourcing should not be interpreted as a question of their capability or a vote against the SEIU. The SEIU serves its members well as evidenced by the quality of service our citizens receive and the quality of the information they produce in staff reports and budgets.
Nonetheless, Menlo Park faces a $1.8 million budget shortfall and exploring options in a constructive and open forum is critical to maintaining our current city staff and meeting the long-term needs of Menlo Park citizens. John Boyle, Lee Duboc and Mickie Winkler represent a slate of candidates willing to explore and sometimes make tough choices that may require short-term change, but long-term benefit to citizens and staff.