A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Aug 15, 2011

100% Support of Public Private Relationships-When I Can See Them

In the past few weeks, there has been a whirlwind of opinion and activity around the City of Los Angeles considering a public-private partnership to operate the Northeast Valley Animal Shelter.

I am 100% in support of public-private partnerships.  Very often, they work to eliminate redundancies and showcase the strengths of all parties – as you can see at the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center in Long Beach. 

Here are my thoughts – which I recently shared with the Los Angeles City Council and other key members of the Los Angeles infrastructure.
     Let the Sun Shine: City Business Should be Conducted in the Open

Who is responsible for overseeing the dealings of the City of Los Angeles, its Mayor and City Council?

It has been suddenly revealed that, behind closed doors, a sole source contract was negotiated between the City of Los Angeles and Best Friends -an out of state (Utah) animal sanctuary - to lease the Northeast Valley Animal Shelter from the City, the details of which are unknown even to the council members.

The allegation that an RFI (Request for Information) was issued and no one else applied, asserted during the August 12th City Council meeting, sounded lame in context. When asked how the RFI was issued, the details of the outreach and its posting were carefully skirted by the City. If legitimate local, Los Angeles animal welfare organizations knew nothing about it they could not apply.  In fact, no subsequent RFP (Request for Proposals) was actually distributed.  

But for the fact that spcaLA, after hearing that the Northeast Valley shelter was closing, contacted the Mayor’s office and offered assistance, we would not have know that a deal with Best Friends was in its final stages. 

At the council meeting this past Friday, it was apparent that many council members did not realize the secret nature of this deal, that they were shocked that an actual contract was presented to them for execution, that no study of existing public-private models were conducted to ensure the best arrangement for their constituents and our animals, and, that Councilmember Alarc√≥n, in whose district the shelter resides knew nothing about it!   The above notwithstanding, some of our council members were still willing to approve this.

Let me be clear. Brenda Barnette is not to blame. These “goings on” preceded her. 

I must insist on clarity. What is the source of this “collusive” relationship between Best Friends and our City officials?  Who is their secret best friend such that a sole source contract should evolve and the terms of said contract should escape public scrutiny? Does simply leasing part of a shelter create public-private collaboration or should there be a true collaboration where public and private entities work side by side to maximize services and benefits to constituents and our animals in a cost effective matter.  Is there a master plan to privatize the Department of Animal Control and its multiple service areas in a way that each location will play to its strengths so that the whole becomes greater than its synergistic parts?  Is there a comprehensive business plan? 

Frankly, the clearly embarrassed and uninformed council needs to demand that this issue be brought into the light of public scrutiny, that a plan of action to manage the animals while proper vetting of the plans and their respective applicants can occur, and to put procedures in place that prevents this from happening again.  

Indeed, those who wish for nothing more than to best help the animals and people of Los Angeles could do so in collaboration for a reasonable period of time while the intricacies and implications of the public-private model for Los Angeles Animal Services and non-profit organizations are studied. I would be more than happy to facilitate this.

The City business is required to be conducted in the “sunshine”. The fact that it wasn't is my complaint.

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