A persistent commenter has suggested that the City will be floating RFPs with the end of privatizing the shelters, turning each over to a 501 to run. This is hard to believe.
However, Laura Chick published a report suggesting the possibility last month:
http://www.ci.la.ca.us/CTR/audits/FinalControllerP3_122208.pdf (Pages 76-77).
Commenters to this blog have suggested this might be a disaster in terms of privacy and transparency issues. Some have suggested the RFP cannot include conditions such as requiring open records on the performance of the group with respect to measuring its primary function: saving the lives of animals.
I would absolutely oppose privatization if some sort of monthly statistics—auditable—were not made available, as well as the Rabies forms and perhaps a Maddies style accounting.
Also, as Winograd points out below, if the City unions are brought into the private shelters, you have privatized the existing bad employee problems.
Anyway, I wrote to Nathan Winograd about his take. Here is his response:
First, the move cannot require the not-for-profit to keep the city union. While I am very supportive of unions generally, unless there is management and political will, I've seen over and over how they stifle innovation in sheltering, particularly when the political leadership isn't there to enforce standards. For example, where there is a role for volunteers to provide additive services (driving animals to/from offsites, doing offsites), the union can fight that and prevent more lives from being saved. Particularly in a city like Los Angeles, firing under performing workers also becomes a challenge unless management and political leaders step up to the plate to provide written policies, training, and then accountability. As you know, that is absent and has been for some time.
Second, I don't agree that transparency is any better in the not for profit world. In fact, in many cases, it is less so. Some states do not allow Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Laws to reach to private organizations, even when they are getting public tax dollars to do a government function by contract. In many ways, they can be less transparent, except for what they file on their IRS 990 and that will basically just show income and expenses, and where they CLAIM the money is going by percentage.
What we want to know is how many animals are going in alive and out of alive, broken out in detail, and I am not convinced that is a more transparent process in a not-for-profit. It is sort of cagey the way the commenter focuses on profit and loss (finances) to talk about more accountability. We'll know what the contract to run the shelters will be worth, so we don't need the IRS for that because it will be a public bid. It's not the finances that we worry about when you talk about secrecy. There's a public budget. Its the internal workings and the animals and the policies, all of which you can get at through the PRA with government, but not necessarily a not-for-profit. In fact, unless it is required by the RFP or contract or law (e.g., for any agency receiving public moneys....), this will lead to less transparency.
Third, all you have to do is look at some of the large non-profits which do municipal contracting around the country and you'll see that they aren't necessarily doing a better job. In fact, Philadelphia Animal Control was a 501(c)(3) in 2002-2004, and it was killing 88% of the animals. St. Louis animal control was run by a not-for-profit and slaughtering most of the animals. NYCACC is technically a not-for-profit.
What the animals need is shelter reform legislation. What we need to do is regulate shelters the same way we regulate hospitals. We've seen nationally when you don't have adequate regulation, you have inefficiency and highway robbery. Hence, the economic meltdown, Enron, AIG, the subprime market, et. al. If they privatize to improve innovation, fine, but it must come with measurable lifesaving benchmarks, increasing every year, as a condition of the RFP. And we need either in the RFP or enabling legislation like the Companion Animal Protection Act (http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?page_id=213) that forces the provider to operate their shelters in a progressive, life-affirming way, removing the discretion which has for too long allowed shelter leaders to ignore what is in the best interests of the animals and kill them needlessly.
So given the above caveats, I could get behind this (in fact, it is what many are pushing for in King County WA) but only because LAAS has shown it is incapable of running a humane animal control program, and for no other reason.