The Social Justice of $3,000 Battery Trays

San Francisco, according to its hometown paper, "has 21 ordinances that govern city contracting. They range from the banal–registering with the city tax collector–to the progressive–providing health care for employees and complying with a ban on tropical hardwood and virgin redwood." Shockingly, the requirements "are costing local taxpayers millions of dollars a year in overcharges." Some lowlights:

In one case, a Muni worker said the city paid $3,000 for a vehicle battery tray. Such parts can be found online for $12 to $300, depending on the type of vehicle. City officials said they couldn't verify that purchase, saying the trays are usually bought in bulk with the battery.

Other city purchasing policies, if followed, would mean paying about $240 for getting a copy of a key that actually cost a worker $1.35 to get done at a hardware store on his break, the employee said. Another city worker called the use of catalog pricing for supplies "Pentagon-style purchasing."

Markups from approved vendors range from 10 to 150 percent, employees said, with one calling the city's requirement that contractors provide health care benefits for domestic partners "the expensive white elephant standing in the middle of the room (that) no one wants to mention."

Some vendors are suspected of being little more than middlemen who comply with San Francisco's very specific requirements for contractors - like disclosing historic ties to slavery and providing domestic partner benefits, a provision known as 12B because of its chapter in the Administrative Code - then turn around and buy the products from companies that don't meet the restrictions, city officials acknowledge.

An analysis by the General Services Agency found that in the last complete fiscal year, 2009-10, the city paid $9.8 million to "possible third-party brokers" - vendors that may be pass-through companies.

Using the contracting process as a tool for social engineering almost always ends up in tears, as I once tried to explain in the L.A. Times (nothing makes a gal more libertarian than watching big-city public policy get made up close). Excerpt from that:

Contractors should be competing on how to provide essential services most efficiently (indeed, that's what they're contracted to do), not on how many admirable social goals they can help achieve. Each additional mandated hoop to jump through—living wage, minority ownership, zero-carbon emissions, whatever—reduces competition and pushes the contracter further afield from the original idea of earning taxpayer money by doing a job well.

And the process creates another, perhaps more worrisome side-effect—jurisdictional creep. Once politicians realize they can subcontract social policy wherever the private sector intersects with the public, the sky's the limit. So, a living wage ordinance that once affected only businesses that contracted directly with the city gets extended to companies that do business adjacent to LAX, because LAX is owned by the city. Developers who buy property to build projects that are legal under local zoning rules get squeezed during the permitting process to add affordable housing, create locally guaranteed jobs (unionized, *bien sur*), or slap on a green roof. People engaged in private activity are tasked with social-policy goals every time they visit City Hall.

Well, at least they wouldn't impose all those "social justice" surcharges on something as sacrosanct as retirement security, right?

Link via Ed Driscoll.

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  • ||

    I wish I could review the movie for you, Matt, but the only Chuck Norris movie I will watch is Way of the Dragon.

  • ||

    nothing makes a gal more libertarian...

    Matt, is there something you want to tell us...NTTAWWT, of course.

  • rather||

    Nothing wrong with a man getting in touch with his inner bitch

  • ||

    I just realized that rectal is Buffalo Bill.

    It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again.

  • rather||

    you deserved it

  • ||

    An analysis by the General Services Agency found that in the last complete fiscal year, 2009-10, the city paid $9.8 million to "possible third-party brokers" - vendors that may be pass-through companies.

    Why does SF overpaying for everything because it is larded with do-gooder bullshit feel like . . . justice, to me?

  • Hammers R' Us||

    Nothing wrong with "Pentagon-style purchasing."

  • ||

    I suggest we make city governments live off the land, by scavenging and growing small crops. It would distract them from checking on the status of my 'tropical hardwood' desk.

  • sounds real good||

    should be right up the SF city council's alley, if they were willing to practice what they preach.

  • "Guido"||

    Using the contracting process as a tool for social engineering almost always ends up in tears

    Boo fuckin' hoo!

  • GSL||

    When you see them driving hard bargains like this, it's hard to understand how San Francisco could have ended up with a $306 million budget deficit.

  • ||

    San Francisco...

    ...sucks.

  • Paul||

    ntractors should be competing on how to provide essential services most efficiently (indeed, that's what they're contracted to do), not on how many admirable social goals they can help achieve

    Nina Totenberg asked the administrator of CalPERS if he was going to slow down on the social justice issues with their investments now that their financial ass was in a sling.

    He said that because their financial ass was in a sling, it was now more important than EVER to push social justice issues.

    You can't win.

  • Paul||

    So, a living wage ordinance that once affected only businesses that contracted directly with the city gets extended to companies that do business adjacent to LAX, because LAX is owned by the city.

    Matt, you do realize that in the progressive hive mind, this is a feature, not a bug.

    The idea is that at some point you won't be able to physically escape 'living wage' ordinances, and as a result, one day everyone has to pay a living wave. Poverty be gone!!!

  • ||

    ...disclosing historic ties to slavery

    Wait, what? Is this for real? Christ, I thought it sucked here in MA. I'm trying to be grateful to San Francisco for reminding me that things could be worse, but unless gratitude feels the same as a migraine it isn't working.

  • Paul||

    Progressive silliness is always held in high relief when the piggy bank is empty.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I'm not even sure I understand what that means.

    Can someone fluent in retardease translate for me?

  • jtuf||

    virgin redwood

    Most trees lose their virginity by the time they are 20 years old. The average forest has very few virgins, so rev up the chain saws.

  • Coeus||

    While I support your right to be a dendrophile, I'd rather keep the government out of it entirely.

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