Hidden Agenda Revealed
By Brian Donahue
City officials plan on privatizing the city's public preschool---regardless of what parents say or do.
Top city officials outlined why the school must be turned over to private operators in a memo sent out hours before the same officials met with parents at a workshop billed as a venue for parents to "provide input."
The meeting was held last week at the Child Development Center.
An excerpt from the memo, between city finance chief Edmond Suen and City Manager Patrick O'Keeffe, leaps from an otherwise banal list of fiduciary proposals.
"At the December 15 meeting, the City Council authorized staff to issue Request for Qualifications to Providers of Infant and Preschool Child Care Services for the Emeryville Child Development Center (ECDC). This RFQ is an example of staff’s quest to identify alternative delivery mechanisms to provide equal or better services in the most cost effective manner. Obviously, there may be other considerations in pursuing the outsourcing option, but outsourcing and resource sharing is gaining traction in the face of unsustainable Agency cost structures."
The Tattler obtained this memo Friday.
A translation of the legalese reveals that behind closed doors, officials are hurrying to privatize the center along with other government functions.
Pressed for an explanation Monday, Suen sought to qualify the memo's wording, saying the idea for privatization didn't start with him, and isn't his decision. "Many agencies in these challenging economic conditions are looking at outsourcing as an option," Suen said. "We take our direction from the city council, and they have authorized an RFQ at ECDC but the decision has not been made to move forward necessarily with outsourcing at this time." An RFQ, or Request for Qualifications, is an initial step in identifying private companies to bid on a project.
Parents are nevertheless crying foul. Last week city officials were busy assuring parents that two avenues for keeping the center public were being pursued. Many parents argued that a third 'fund raising option' be considered, a concept Mr. O'Keeffe embraced at Tuesday's forum. Yet, the memo had already been written.
Emeryville resident Jaquiline Asher, activist and mother of two students at ECDC was chagrined at the revelation that the meeting was nothing more than a dog-and-pony show. "In the wake of hearing uniformly from over 60 parents that they wanted options outside the Request For Qualification options, this memo indicates they are not listening to the parents," she said. She pointed to a damning sentence that states that privatizing is "gaining traction" and this sentiment relayed by the staff shows the true agenda regardless of any public statements made by the politicians or other government officials.
Mr. Suen disputed Ms. Asher's interpretation of the memo. A "different interpretation of the staff report and specifically a different interpretation of the ECDC statement within. The outsourcing reference in the report was meant in a general way".
The Emeryville City Council is scheduled to address the issue of the Child Development Center at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday March 2nd at Emeryville City Hall.