Up for sale
Last year, Chicago sold the concession on the city’s downtown parking system and is currently planning to privatize Midway Airport. Other cities have sold the concessions on their toll roads. American City & County asked readers of its weekly e-mail newsletter if the sale of concessions on transportation assets is a good way to raise money without increasing taxes, or if it gives the private sector too much influence over public services.
“In the future, local governments are going to have to continually find creative ways to fund basic municipal service provisions in light of decreasing federal transfers and domestic spending cuts. If monetizing assets produces dependable revenue streams [and lower] maintenance costs, then more local governments may begin to examine these types of arrangements.”
— Gary Hamer, capital planning and research analyst, Tulsa, Okla.
“The sale of transportation assets [could lead to financial stress similar to that faced by rail and air transportation]. [It is fair to use] application of user fees, such as tolls and tickets, to support our right to travel, but the risk [of] preventing that right by eliminating services due to poorly managed competitive private interests concerns me. The responsibility of protecting [the right to travel] rests with the general population, not a boardroom.”
— Nancy Reger, data manager, Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Cols, Ohio
“The current political mythology is that the private sector always does things better, cheaper and more efficiently. This just isn’t true. Publicly owned assets are very often well run with pride, care and good stewardship. Private enterprises are often run so that assets are left to deteriorate while [upper level managers keep the profits].”
— Jeff Ekola, real estate agent, Madison, Wis.
“I am concerned that once [a public asset is] in the hands of privateers, maintenance will go down the tubes [if costs rise]. Assets constructed with tax dollars should remain the property of whoever built them (or in a perfect society, the property of those who paid for them — the taxpayer) and not the bidder with the most money.”
— Ramon Dinsdale, retired city engineer, Cleburne, Texas