Santa Ana Officials Speak on Graffiti

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I couldn’t get any Santa Ana officials to call me back as I was reporting my story on the city’s proposal to outsource its graffiti cleanup that ran last week.

But after the story was published, I got a call from Raul Godinez, head of Public Works. He and Will Hayes, the city’s maintenance services manager, wanted to tell the city’s side of the story, saying that members of the union that represents the graffiti workers provided misleading information.

First, they took issue with claims by the union that the city’s graffiti contractor does shoddy work. The contractor, Los Angeles-based Graffiti Protective Coatings, Inc., is supposed to be able to color-match when painting over graffiti marred facades, an ability city workers supposedly don’t have.

Yet Philip Lecours, an abatement worker, insisted that the contractor was screwing that up weekly and that city workers were constantly being called out to do the work right.

“That is definitely not the case, period,” Godinez said when defending the contractor’s work. Godinez went on to say that evidence of poor cleanup work submitted to him, when investigated, turned out to have been done by city employees.

Godinez and Hayes said there is always variance in the contractor’s color-matching, a problem they blamed on the slightly inexact nature of mixing paint. But, they said, it was better than leaving a facade with a coat of paint that is at times a completely different color. Doing that, they said, left a canvas “calling out” for more graffiti.

Godinez and Hayes also addressed the union’s claim that the contractor’s version of graffiti tracker — a graffiti image database that is used to assemble cases against taggers and currently costs the city $120,000 annually — is useless because there’s nobody analyzing the images.

They said the contractor’s workers will be taking pictures with their iphones and uploading the images themselves — essentially, they’ll also be doing the graffiti moniker analysis on the spot.

But the program is in the early stages of development, and it hasn’t been fully developed, they said, partly because the contractor is wary about not getting the contract. But, they said, the contractor has promised the city it will be just as effective.

Godinez and Hayes admitted that there is generally some risk in contracting out city services. They said that sign maintenance had been contracted out — but was then brought back into the hands of city employees because the contractor was waiting too long to replace important signs.

“We’re not beyond hiring people back if it doesn’t work out,” Godinez said.

There are also cost savings involved, Godinez said. According to Godinez, the current program costs approximately $2.2 million annually while contracting out will cost almost $1.7 million, though it could be a few years until those savings are realized because they plan on losing employees through attrition.

Ultimately, however, Godinez emphasized that the outsourcing was about enhancing the quality of work.

“I would characterize this as we have been improving, and we continue on that trajectory,” Godinez said.



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