New York City Council Overrides Veto in Stiff Rebuke to Bloomberg

New York City Council Overrides Veto in Stiff Rebuke to Bloomberg

December 09, 2011 at 12:41 pm

The City Council voted unanimously yesterday to override a mayoral veto of the Outsourcing Accountability Act on Friday — taking a stand against outsourcing and the mayor, too.

Speaker Christine Quinn spoke at Thursday's Council meeting. The Council voted unanimously to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of the Outsourcing Accountability Act. Photo courtesy of William Alatriste for Gotham Gazette.

The bill, dubbed a “no-brainer” by Councilmembers, aims to save the city money and keep contracts with city workers. The Council passed it unanimously in October, but the Mayor vetoed it last month saying that it keeps the city from getting the best deal for their money.

Keeping The Work In-House

“The bill asks, ‘can the service be provided more cheaply by city workers?’” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said during the stated meeting. “If the answer is yes, why would we possibly contract it out?”

The bill 624-A will require the City to perform cost benefit analyses for some outsourcing contracts, give public notice of planned service contracts to allow for more competition and bidding, and if possible at a cheaper rate, award the contracts to city employees.

The vote continues the Council’s departure from their ordinarily cooperative relationship with the Mayor, which was kicked off last week when Quinn announced that the Council would sue the Bloomberg administration over a policy requiring people to prove their homeless status before receiving shelter.

Quinn, who is leading this move, is a likely mayoral candidate in the upcoming election; Bloomberg has seen his approval ratings slip as his third term drags to a close.

Contracts Under Fire

The city has come under fire this fall for a lack of oversight in city contracts, leading to fraud and hiked prices. The Department of Education was overcharged by at least 6.5 million by an outside firm, the city’s special commissioner of investigation recently found. And who can forget the notorious CityTime, a payroll system which was supposed to prevent fraud, but ended up costing the city $760 million dollars and leading to a federal criminal investigation?

“Unwise” and Unconstitutional?

The Bloomberg administration has argued that private contractors can deliver services more cheaply than city workers, though Quinn is quick to note that the bill increases oversight, it doesn’t stop the city from hiring private companies if indeed the service comes cheaper.

When he vetoed the bill, Bloomberg said that adding such an oversight process creates inefficiency and red tape. “My administration has sought to work with the Council to strike the proper balance between accountability and efficiency in the City’s procurement process,” the Mayor wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, this bill goes further than past efforts and crosses from the questionable to the clearly unwise and impermissible.”

Bloomberg has also questioned such a bill’s constitutionality, which may bring the whole matter to court, though a mayoral spokesman wouldn’t comment on that yesterday.