It's no surprise that while Jim Miller finds truth and insight in Lee Cokorinos' report, Target San Diego [see our main story], Carl DeMaio finds nothing but an agenda-driven attack. Welcome to the black-and-white world of the privatization debate.
For his part, DeMaio, a major subject of Cokorinos' report, was unaware of its existence until contacted by CityBeat. He says it contains “some fact, lots of fiction,” and “adds up to complete distortion.” He takes issue with his Performance Institute being lumped in with other right-wing think tanks and says he's never accepted a dime in funding from the corporations listed on the report.
“You can't paint us with the same brush as the rest of those groups,” he says. “I'm not saying that those groups are right or wrong; I'm just saying let's be honest about who is involved in San Diego.”
DeMaio says Cokorinos chose to characterize the Performance Institute by focusing on privatization, which he says is only one element that accounts for about 10 percent of what the Performance Institute does, while ignoring its emphasis on government transparency and accountability.
“We are not for outsourcing as your first option. We are not for blanket privatization. We are for fair competition and only on functions that can appropriately be done, and if the employees even come in 10 percent over the private-sector bid, then the employees should be the ones given the right to do the work,” he says. “It's not a panacea. At the federal level, 92 percent of all competitions are won by federal employees, and we applaud that; we cheer it.”
And while Cokorinos and others probe DeMaio's agenda, DeMaio's not shy about sharing what he thinks might be fueling the ire of the Center on Policy Initiatives.
“I think the agenda of CPI in all of this is one of the problems that we have identified in San Diego-that the special-interest labor unions, along with the special-interest business elites and downtown lobbyists have for years been on the take,” he says. “It's been a free lunch, and by applying transparency and accountability, it uncovers their accounting gimmicks and uncovers the sweetheart pension deals.”
Fred Sainz, spokesperson for Mayor Jerry Sanders, says his boss didn't get his ideas for “managed competition” and “performance reviews” from DeMaio.
“It's straight from the book of good government,” Sainz says. “Whether the Performance Institute adopted those metrics, or whether virtually every reasonable person on God's green earth adopted those performance measurements, that falls into the category of interesting but not important.”
As for a 2006 ballot measure asking the public to approve the outsourcing of some government jobs, Sainz says Sanders “believes that the private sector may very well be able to do something, believe it or not, better than government.”
Sainz says that any outsourcing, if approved, will come with “safeguards, protections and baseline standards.”
Whether or not voters approve that plan could have an impact nationwide, according to Cokorinos, who says the intent of his report wasn't to beat up on DeMaio but, rather, to show that San Diego is an example of a larger national trend in which right-wing groups are attempting to infiltrate urban areas with liberal leanings.
“The object of Target San Diego is not to make Carl DeMaio the spider in the web. Carl is really just in some ways a low-level player in what is a wider national battle over how our cities are going to be governed, how the country is going to be governed and on whose behalf they are going to be governed,” Cokorinos told CityBeat.
“The real agenda here that Karl Rove, Ron Nehring and DeMaio have is to break the political power of unions because they are the biggest political institutions that stand in the way of them completely privatizing government across the country.
“Ultimately the report is about the assault on urban democracy and smart government and you could actually write a report like this about the 20 largest cities in the U.S.”