Privatization, as any public policy issue, has its proponents and its opponents and is subject to the not-always-efficient world of politics. Anti-privatization sentiment lies in concern for public job loss and loss of governmental control. At the September 17th City Council meeting, during a discussion on the resolution to solicit bids for solid waste collection, Councilmember Thais Peterson stated, "I don't see a relationship with a private contractor allowing the same oversight I think voters gave me the responsibility to show." She later added, "If we give up to privatization, we have no control." Peterson is particularly concerned about recycling. "The people in Ann Arbor are committed to recycling. Even if it's not profitable, they are willing to spend energy and money [to do it]. If the market changes, nothing guarantees that the private sector will follow through with recycling."
Councilmember Anne Marie Coleman raised an important point at the September 17th meeting: "I believe the City employees we have do a good job. We have responsibility to check out and make sure we are doing the best job with respect to trash collection. We must make sure the RFP includes everything, including hidden costs." Coleman expressed concern for non-profit organizations who currently receive refuse collection service without paying for it.
These fears, however, have been confronted and conquered by local public-private partnerships across the country. As Ann Arbor's Director of Central Services, James Amin, enumerates in his "Privatization Analytical Process: A Checklist Approach," privatization is a never-ending process, beginning with a detailed, fair and competitive bid/selection process. Once a service has been privatized, the participating private firms must be consistently monitored and evaluated based on strict performance guidelines, reporting requirements and citizen feedback.  The City should retain the "right to revoke" a contract at any time set service levels are violated. Contracts should be subject to re-bidding every three years.
Other councilmembers see requesting bids from private contractors as a great opportunity for the City of Ann Arbor. Mayor Jernigan said, "[This resolution] doesn't denigrate City employees. It allows us to get a handle on our costs and compare. This is an exciting time, looking at new ways the City does business. It doesn't mean anyone will be eliminated."
"We owe it to City residents to provide the best service at the lowest cost," said Councilmember Jerry Schleicher. "I would commit myself to look to alternate sources where costs do not increase and service increases. I hope most of you, if not all of you, are committed to provide the best service at the lowest cost." Councilmember Mark Ouimet added, "Just because we have done something in the past a certain way, we must examine all sides of this. We do not want to do away with jobs, we want to evaluate the most cost effective way of handling solid waste. We owe it to taxpayers to examine these kinds of avenues."
When the City Council decides a service is ripe to be bid for private contract, the City department currently delivering that service should not be eliminated. On the contrary, that department should be welcomed to bid and challenged to meet the efficiency, innovation and resourcefulness of the private sector. The goal of privatization is not to erase governments, but to replace the monopolistic/bureaucratic inefficiency usually accompanying governments with free market, performance-based competition.
Controlling the loss of public jobs can be mediated in many ways. Ann Arbor's current three-year contract with AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), which was just re-negotiated in August of 1990 and awaiting Council approval, stipulates that the City may contract-out for services as long as such action does not result in the layoff of any union employees. In order to privatize any of the above services, Ann Arbor may have to wait until this contract expires, or pursue, through deliberation with the union, one of the many innovative techniques being implemented around the country. In the case of solid waste collection, public employees have sometimes been the first hired by expanding private firms; those workers already know the job best. When this does not occur naturally, a city can negotiate for a contract to guarantee public employees the "right of first refusal" for jobs in the private firm. The number of public employees can be gradually reduced through attrition. Employees could be retrained using the money saved through privatization or even entitled to a share of that money.