The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 19, 2011
California state engineers' union asks to stop road project

100609 gavel.jpgThe state engineers' union has asked the California Supreme Court to intervene in a San Francisco road project, contending that it violates state law.

The Friday filing by Professional Engineers in California Government asks the high court to review the public-private Park Presidio road project, which is being built as a public-private partnership, or P3 in governmentspeak.

The case raises again the classic debate over the performance and cost-effectiveness of government versus the private sector. So far, PECG has twice lost the court fight, despite the Presidio project's estimated cost tripling from $473 million when it was competitively bid to $1.4 billion as a no-bid P3.

The union has argued that the project presents conflict-of-interest public safety concerns, since it can be built and inspected by the same private entity. PECG has also questioned whether the Presido project itself meets the technical definition of a P3 and whether it must be funded with user-toll fees.

PECG is worried that if the Presidio project moves ahead that it will set a precedent that "will impact billions of dollars worth of highway projects," the union's court filing says. The inspection component is a big deal, too, because it would directly take away jobs traditionally performed by PECG members.

The union has lost in the trial court and the appellate court.

The construction industry has long countered that privatization is cost-effective for government in the long-run because the state can hold down hiring and the lifetime costs that go with it. As far as safety inspection goes, private industry advocates say companies risk losing future government contracts if they cut corners.

Here's PECG's filing to the state Supreme Court.

PECG - Appellants' Petition for Calif. Supreme Court Review filed 9-15-11

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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