Local privatization efforts get some national recognition

While members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus try to overturn the incorporation of several cities in Fulton and DeKalb counties through a federal lawsuit, one of those cities, Sandy Springs, is getting national recognition for its mostly privatized approach to government. This video from Reason.tv is worth watching in full:

As for that lawsuit, and why it’s relevant to the Reason video:

My hunch is that the lawsuit has more to do with protecting public-sector jobs — many of which could become endangered if the north Fulton cities split off to form Milton County, shrinking Fulton’s tax base — than with protecting minority voters. After all, if racial minorities feel disenfranchised by being in these majority-white cities rather than in majority-minority Fulton and DeKalb, why did thousands of them flock to these very cities during the past decade?

– By Kyle Wingfield

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52 comments Add your comment

Carl

April 13th, 2011
5:55 am

Kyle: We tried privatizing garbage pickup in Jonesboro, cost skyrocketed for customers and service plummeted. Clayton County tried privatizing vehicle repair several years ago with the same result. If you have enough volume and you have honest, competent employees why do you think adding a profit component to public service will reduce cost?

DeborahinAthens

April 13th, 2011
6:39 am

Privatizing almost never reduces cost, and most always results in worse service. Kyle, show us a LONG-TERM study where this has worked. As a matter of fact, the rapid privatization of the prison systems across the country has been a disaster with government bonds(taxpayer money) being floated to build prisons that were supposed to profit the corporations. In a few systems not only are the prisons empty, but in Illinois (I believe) there was a scandal because a judge was sentencing minors to prisons for innocuous things. After he destroyed the lives of these kids, it was discovered he was getting payments from the prison for each person he sentenced. Look at the EMT systems around the state. I don’t think that the private companies are going to be likely to pick up some poor soul dying in the projects (no insurance!) whereas the public EMTs (Grady) are wherever they need to be when they need to be there. They lose money taking care of the indigent. So, for-profit companies won’t do it. Creating a profit motive for most things is not usually a really good idea. We are where we are today in this country because the leadership in this country have crammed the idea that greed is good down the throats of the people in the US. And again, Kyle, cite us some long-term studies showing that the profit motive bodes well for tax paying citizens.

arnold

April 13th, 2011
6:48 am

Privatization of government services is just another way to help the right wing business interests profit. Why else do you think the push for privatization comes from the right wing? Do you think it’s an altruistic offer by conservatives? :-)

Aquagirl

April 13th, 2011
7:32 am

Sorry, couldn’t watch the whole video. I can’t handle that level of nausea.

Azazel

April 13th, 2011
7:44 am

Yeah, public money should not be used to subsidize privatization, since that would create government jobs by proxy. Halliburton and KBR and Pinkerton and the company formerly known as Black Water would be excellent replacements for local services, prisons and police.

independent thinker

April 13th, 2011
7:48 am

Privatization has made Sandy Springs one of the best run cities in the country. Joseph Lowery and his legions of lazy overpaid public workers who are basically on the public dole are the reason the cities in North Fulton County needed to break away from Fulton County.

Jan

April 13th, 2011
8:03 am

If privatization means a govt committee contracting with one private firm to perform a service that the govt previously performed, then perhaps those of you against privatization have a point. If privatization means open, transparent choice of which garbage company to pay for service, then the company providing the best service/price combination wins. If I can choose my garbage company or firehouse or cell phone provider then they have to win my business. If the city govt takes my tax dollars and chooses for me, then it isn’t really privatization. It’s just the city hiring a company instead of hiring workers.

JKG

April 13th, 2011
8:05 am

Anybody who’s ever had to deal with employees of the city of Atlanta or Fulton County (and that certainly includes airport employees) knows good and well why privatization is a great idea. When you hire based on political patronage, you get worthless employees and lousy work. Period, dot.

BoBo

April 13th, 2011
8:12 am

privatization absolutely works. it opens up competition and allows for under-performing companies and individuals to be replaced instead of dealing with a bureaucracy whose sole purpose is to perpetuate itself.
As for the profit motive, by allowing companies the opportunity to bid for work there is at least some effort to keep costs down as opposed to the government system which is worse than a monopoly because the services are mandatory and the payments, ie. taxes, are as well.
There are a few areas in the Sandy Springs model which are not privatized, public safety is one of those.

There is a difference between greed and competition and the reference to indigent healthcare has nothing to do with the Sandy Springs business model

Azazel

April 13th, 2011
8:35 am

Arguments for privatization focusing on Human Resources, costs and service quality are sound and feasible. But, what about accountability? It is one thing to decide on a garbage service and grade them on Angie’s List; but, a quite different issue for fire and police — who decides where firehouses or police precinct stations are located, who pays for the facilities, how are these services standardized and regulated, what recourses are available to citizens for false arrest and property damage, etc…

fulldawg

April 13th, 2011
8:55 am

After having a Piedmont Water Company (a private company) for 14 years and receiving the worst possible customer service (not to mention mud-water) I was finally able to move to Oconee County Water where I have received the best water and customer service. Having responsible elected officials who one can call in charge can work and be cost-efficient. Privatization may work in some places (like Lake Oconee where Piedmont has high dollar interest) but probably not for the average person. Hey Mimi!

Dumber and Dumber

April 13th, 2011
9:08 am

Hey Privatization of parking enforcement has worked great in Atlanta. You hane carte blanche to a for-profit company to write tickets and, voila, tickets are written on streets that do not have meters or parking restrictions or at times when the parking restrictions don’t apply or a written for legally parked vehicles that have paid at the meter.

Sure you can fight that $35 ticket by spending the day in traffic court. Meanwhile small business suffers because people give up and go elsewhere.

Its brilliant, but not quite as smart as what Chicago did when it gave up the rights to regulate parking on its streets for 50 years. First thing the for-profit company did? Triple the parking rights.

Privatization is great for the politically-connected companies that get the business, but its a loser for small business …. but when did that matter to Kyle?

BoBo

April 13th, 2011
9:15 am

the public safety department is NOT part of the privatization, taxpayers pay for firehouses and police stations just like everywhere else, and the guy the takes care of the water department is not an elected official in ANY city. There is still a city government comprised of elected officials, mayor and city council, it’s just that the guy that fixes the potholes is NOT a city employee.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 13th, 2011
9:44 am

If the city govt takes my tax dollars and chooses for me, then it isn’t really privatization. It’s just the city hiring a company instead of hiring workers.

Good point. It’s an excellent way for somebody’s buddy to get a contract.

Peter

April 13th, 2011
9:45 am

Keep avoiding the issues Kyle….. you do that well……

Nuclear catastrophe…… Government spending out of control…. thank you Republican’s….but hey “Deficit’s don’t matter” according to Republican’s.

Rafe Hollister

April 13th, 2011
10:11 am

Black lawmakers are suit happy as someone stole their golden goose, i.e., law abiding productive workers. Who is going to support their big Government minority set asides initiatives now?

Privatization works, if the government stays out of the process. In Cobb, if you want your trash collected you make arraingements with one of many companies to collect it. If you are unhappy with the company, choose another one. If Gov selects the company from amongst political contributors and gives them a long term exclusive contract, corruption takes hold and service is nonexistant, much like government.

Do the Math

April 13th, 2011
10:31 am

Some privatization is great but corporations have to be watched and mamaged just as much as public employees have to. As soon as you look the other way service quality and safety will slip.

How do you rate the privatization of Japan’s nuclear facilities?

Using saw dust and newspaper to slow radioactive water from leaking in to the Pacific Ocean probably saved the power company a bundle, right?

joe

April 13th, 2011
10:41 am

Peter, “government spending out of control”–news flash…it’s Obama leading the spending charge along with Ried and up until Jan Pelosi, and They’re all Dems. GOP, esp Tea party, are the ones leading the Cut out the Spending charge.

joe

April 13th, 2011
10:44 am

I used to live in Cobb, where my trash collection cost $15 per month. I moved closer to the city in Fulton for my job and trash collection costs $85 per month and I cannot choose another trash provider because the city government dictates the only choice I have is to use their service. Am currently saving my $$ to move back to Cobb, but may consider S Springs now, or Milton county if it comes back in the future. I’ve had it with city of Atlanta government waste and do-nothing, slow, uneducated workers.

Ivan Cohen

April 13th, 2011
10:54 am

So privatization is being hyped on this forum as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Very interesting, especially the Cobb county example where it was said that one could change trash collection companies if they were not satisfied. What got left out is whether the county had a contract with the current collection agency and whether they would be subjected to a lawsuit should they void the contract before it expires. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why the minorities flocked to those majority-white cities, although I was struck by the fact that no minority was interviewed in the Sandy Springs video along with the scene that just depicted minority males on a basketball court. The media both print and electronic scared the bejesus of minorities by always harping on the crime in their communities. Because of this fact, no company or amusement park will set down roots there. Someone else also had it right with privitization, if that company alone has a monopoly on the service they will charge you up the wahzoo and they also will not return your phone calls.

independent thinker

April 13th, 2011
11:01 am

Please someone explain why the race bater Joseph Lowery is claiming that Sandy Springs and other north fulton cities are violating civil rights laws? Could it be some lazy inept Fulton conty workers lost their government perks because competent employees now are doing their job for less money. Fubnny thing is taht Fulton county is running a surplus without all those lazy inept overpaid workers. I guess that makes Lowery think someone is not getting their share of the goodies.

Georgia Voter

April 13th, 2011
11:02 am

For every anecdote of privatization gone good, there are ten anecdotes of privatization gone bad.

Just last year the AJC reported that John’s Creek was taking more services in house, to save money, and reducing it’s contract with CH2M Hill by 70 percent. Remember City of Atlanta and United Water? What a nightmare that was. The City of Smyrna recently fired it’s recycling company and brought it in house—to save money.

Overall, neither private schools nor charter schools have not been shown to provide better outcomes than public schools. Blackwater turned out to be a terrible investment for the U.S. in Iraq, and in many ways, their independence backfired and hurt our relations with Iraqis. Remember how billions were given to private Contractors in Iraq, including Halliburton, in return for substandard services or to simply have the money disappear entirely ($12 billion is still completely unaccounted for). Books can be and have been written about how privatization has led to plunder

In addition, I can think of a few private businesses that recently had to be bailed out by the government, and there are tens of thousands that would never have gotten off the ground without assistance from the government. To this day, many of the biggest companies in the world receive government subsidies include the biggest agriculture, pharmaceutical, and oil companies.

And it’s worth remembering that many, if not most, private companies ultimately fail…big and small. So the notion that private is all good and government is all bad is about as naive as the belief in Santa Clause. However, this fact won’t stop the corporate media from continuing to push privatization onto us as if it doesn’t have an extremely sordid and mess past.

Peter

April 13th, 2011
11:27 am

HA HA HA………joe …….

Bush lead all charges gee by the time he left office we had 11 plus Trillion in debt, two wars he started and of course Republican’s start wars…and let someone else finish them.

Of course we won’t mention leaving America bankrupt….un-employed, and almost in a depression, where we had to bail out numerous groups so the entire economy would not implode worse than what we have today.

Yes Cheney said exactly what all Republican’s believe…… “Deficits don’t matter”…. SO they spend like drunken sailors.

Georgia Voter

April 13th, 2011
11:29 am

I watched the video, and the fellow being interviewed said, “we haven’t raised taxes, uh, property taxes…” If my information is correct Sandy Springs has among the highest sales tax rates in Georgia at 8 percent.

Notice how easily sales taxes increases recently passed in several Atlanta-area municipalities? Cobb County, for example, just voted to increase their sales taxes by one percent. At the same time, people are raising cain about the notion of increasing property taxes by 1 mil.

Let’s look at a Cobb County household that takes in $100,000 per year, spends just one-third of that income in the county they live in on taxable items, and owns a home worth $200,000. By fighting against raising property taxes this household has saved itself approximately $80 per year. By voting to increase sales taxes by one percent, this household has raised its own taxes by about $330 per year.

Again, the media has done an excellent job of convincing the voting public that progressive, or even less regressive tax increases are tax increases. On the other hand, sales tax increases are somehow, well, not tax increases. They are. They’re least fair, and for most of us, the most damaging kind of tax increases. We just don’t feel the pain because it’s death by a thousand cuts.

Bleeding Independent

April 13th, 2011
11:43 am

I would say the privatization of our gas service providers has kept the price of our energy bills and dont forget about our healthcare insurance (sarcasm font)

yuzeyurbrane

April 13th, 2011
11:45 am

In theory, privatization can have benefits. But it must be closely scrutinized or the profit motive will kill service. Also, there is a difference when a private co. is given a monopoly. Historically, many services were private once that became public because of the rampant corruption and price gouging that occurred with private companies. One place to experiment with a new model will be the water reservoirs approved by recent legislation which will be public-private jt. ventures. It could be great or it could be a honeypot for corruption. Let’s try to set it up right.

Intown

April 13th, 2011
11:48 am

Sandy Springs had some unfair advantages in establishing its Ayn Rand like utopia. (1) They incorporated in 2005. (2) they saddled Fulton County with legacy costs of having saved them from the bankrupt Milton County and actually having run the community for the last 80+ years. (3) Sandy Springs has the benefit of having a completely built out water system (courtesy of the City of Atlanta) and sewer system (courtesy of Fulton County) that the City of Sandy Springs has not paid a dime for. (4) It is an affluent bedroom community with a largely economically homogenous population so it needs fewer services.

Any moron with all those advantages could run a stellar City whether it outsourced all its services or not.

DebbieDoRight

April 13th, 2011
11:49 am

Sorry, couldn’t watch the whole video. I can’t handle that level of nausea

:lol: :lol:

Classic!!

Freedom Lover

April 13th, 2011
11:57 am

The problem with the typical conservative approach to privatization is that is just transfers the horrible government monopoly for service provision to a new private monopoly on service provision. The libertarian approach on the other hand simply eliminates the government provision and allows all competitors to compete to provide the service to the customers they can secure. It should be no surprise that the new monopoly is as horrible or worse than the old government monopoly. Of course in typical greedy government fashion, the government typically charges the new monopoly a fee for the monopoly priviledge so the new company now has to cover its costs, make a profit, AND pay off the government. As well, typically government can never fully account for their costs because of the lack of pricing and value in a socialist system. If a customer is being charged, the rate is typically set by political means (keeping the idiot citizens believing they are getting something for almost nothing while socializing the true costs somewhere else like business taxes, fees, etc.).

Government is a failure. They should just get out of the way and let the private competitive free market address all of these needs.

Intown

April 13th, 2011
12:09 pm

Libertarians are really anarchists. They live in a fantasy world and believe that the absence of government is the key to their freedom. There is no place on Earth since the advent of agriculture where that has been a successful model for a long, happy and prosperous life.

BoBo

April 13th, 2011
12:21 pm

Residents of Sandy Spring pay for water and sewer like every other citizen of the metro atlanta area. Costs for water and sewer infrastructure are passed along to consumers through usage fees. The city of Atlanta has been and continues to be compensated for expenditures made to upgrade the water and sewer system.
Whatever costs Fulton County incurred in saving bankrupt Milton County were more than made up decades ago by a constant flow of tax dollars southward

Jefferson

April 13th, 2011
1:21 pm

There will never be a Milton County again.

carlosgvv

April 13th, 2011
1:34 pm

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus is unhappy because Sandy Springs schools are mostly white, and so they are suing. Do they not know that many schools in the Atlanta area are mostly black? Will they sue over that too? If not, why?

joe

April 13th, 2011
1:48 pm

HA HA HA…………..Peter………………

Obama has raised the debt by 3+Trillion and climbing in his 2 years in office, continued those 2 wars (which were started by the terrorists via 911 not us) and added a role in a 3rd (libya) which all need to be finished by someone other than our current Marxist-in-chief…and before you say Iraq was an unjust war, isn’t Obama authorizing the same thing in Libya?? Answer, YES.

America isn’t bankrupt yet, but will be soon if spending continues as is under Obama. Unemployment was 5% when bush left office, double that under Obama…plus all the unnecessary bailouts, er handouts he has given out since he took office…which were all caused by the housing mess thanks to Barney Frank making Fanny & Freddy loan money to people who couldn’t afford the houses they were buying, which caused the economy to collapse, yet another idiotic policy enacted by the Dems that got us to this point today.

Not saying Bush was best pres ever, far from it, but way better than our un-American Barry the magnificent.

Logical Dude

April 13th, 2011
1:55 pm

I think there are just too many counties in the first place. There should only be a dozen counties in Georgia. This would eliminate. . .(wild guess). . . 80% of local government costs by removing 150 or so unneeded county infrastructures.
It won’t change the actual cost as much because you still need regional offices, school buses, etc.

But if there was just one large “Atlanta” county taking over the 25 or so local counties around Atlanta, that would reduce much of the county infighting that happens. AND it may just lead to a better transit infrastructure with the “we are all in this together” mindset instead of the “I want what best for MY county” based on imaginary lines in the map.

Peter

April 13th, 2011
2:06 pm

ha ha ha Joe……. What happened to Bush balancing the budget as planned ?

What happened for paying for the WARS ?

Obama ended up with such a mess that we are lucky we are not in a depression currently.

A bunch of Obama’s new debt is keeping the country afloat, continuing the band aid approach helping out the US Businesses that Bush started helping before he left office….and the interest from Bush’s 11 Trillion debt.

Who will pay for the Iraq War debt ?

How is the Iraq War helping American’s ?

Why would Republican’s mix abortion into the budget ?

Please tell us about Cheney’s statement…. Deficits don’t matter .

Peter

April 13th, 2011
2:14 pm

Hey Joe…

Get it together about Freddy and Fanny….They paid a Republican Lobbyist group $2 Million dollars to stop legislation 3-4 years before the housing crises, so they could do business as usual.

What Bush and his folks never saw it coming ?

Tell me about the regulations Republican’s want in place because of the housing crises ?

Tell me why the Republican’s want to make the EPA defunct currently ? To protect ordinary American’s from big business ?

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jd

April 13th, 2011
3:19 pm

Interesting, Sandy Springs found that privatization does not mean “cheaper”. You get what you pay for…

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 13th, 2011
4:06 pm

Privatization never leads to a taxpayer obligation for an unfunded contingent liability for pension.

Emma

April 13th, 2011
4:18 pm

Don’t forget what Emma Darnell said “Were going to teach Whitey how we do things in Fulton County”

Nuff Said

Emma

April 13th, 2011
4:45 pm

“Sandy Springs has the benefit of having a completely built out water system (courtesy of the City of Atlanta) and sewer system (courtesy of Fulton County) that the City of Sandy Springs has not paid a dime for.”

News Flash **INTOWN** The City of Atlanta AND Fulton County didn’t pay a DIME for the water and sewer – the citizens of the city and county did!! GEEZ!!

Mary

April 13th, 2011
4:49 pm

I’m kind of new to the state and although I heard about “true ignorance” before coming here, seeing it first hand is mind-blowing! Don’t T-Party people read??!! Do they reason- at all??!! Where were they when the cause for the economic melt-down was analyzed every possible way by economists, academics, and business owners – large and small- and the determination of FACT was that the ‘Bushwhacker” lied this country into a war, failed to include the cost of that war in the annual budget, permitted (actually encouraged) corporations to write the rules for their own oversight, and determined that “debt doesn’t matter”, all this while making sure that his corporate buddies prospered mightily, and the middleclass disappeared. How in God’s name could any reasonable, intelligent person expect any President, Obama or anybody else – to undo in 2.5 years the economic havoc that was heaped upon this country for 8 years?! It’s so much easier to expect the impossible from Mr. Obama, then blame him for everything that’s going on, expecially things like huge national debt, etc. Hey, if you have the “answer” write your representative, or write the President and tell him. Meanwhile, enjoy your socialist programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security – and shut the — up!

Emma

April 13th, 2011
4:58 pm

**Mary** Wish you could read, this blog is about Sandy Springs and Fulton County…

Peter

April 13th, 2011
5:12 pm

Gosh Mary..You must be thinking…..WOW….

Yes Bush left us with over 11 Trillion in debt……so I imagine in 15 days a Democrat should be able to wipe that out !

Mary

April 13th, 2011
5:12 pm

On the topic of education let me say that the state of GA is light years behind all Northern states. What GA students are learning in grade 8, Northern, and even “Up South” students ( PA., NC,, VA) students learn in grades 5-6. Students are not even taught the truth!! My grandson was taught that Black people did not want to be freed from slavery so they fought for the South to remain in slavery!! Students use books that claim Egypt is not in Africa but in the Middle East! What is this the new jim crow?!! Hey, wake up! This is the 21st century and those non-Black Americans who still want to claim that their way is THE way should just get over it!! You really should. Especially since non-Black Americans will be the largest minority group in about 4 years. America has changed, and by the Grace of God will continue to do so – for the better. Live in peace, as a decent hard-working American, or live in pieces – as a miserable, backward thinking pitiful person not much good to self or country. You may want “your America” back, but it’ll never happen. YOUR America is gone forever!! Hallelujah!!

Mary

April 13th, 2011
5:25 pm

Hey Emma, thanks for your well wishes! LOL. Did you read Peter’s remarks/comments to which I responded? Maybe not. So what’re you trying to do – establish for me what I should talk about – if my comments don’t jibe w. yours? Well, sorry – I’m a big girl now and I set my own agenda. The economic condition of our country is DIRECTLY related to the topic of the Republican agenda – privatization. Lest you can’t/didn’t read, the GOP wants to privatize everything – Social Security, the right to be a town ( already deciding that an appointed “manager” can dismiss elected officials if the town is experiencing economic straits), among other things. It’s abundantly clear that give them a privatization inch and they will take a mile. Besides, there is NO evidence that privatization works better or cheaper than government-run services. However, I’m always ready to learn. If anybody has evidence to the contrary, please let me know.

itpdude

April 13th, 2011
5:42 pm

Wingnut has 47 comments today? Not bad.

For Wingnut.

Mary

April 13th, 2011
5:46 pm

Hey Joe, How do you suggest the country gets out of the mess we’re in? Privatization – preferably at the hands of the same people that created the mess in the first place? As a student of history, I see that the discussions RE: debt – are nothing more than misdirection – like the magicians use. By turning our attention away from how we got into this mess in the first place, so as not to make the same errors again, we are instead misdirected to focus on the consequence of the mess. Anybody ever hear of F.D. R and the “New Deal”? The country was failing – in just about every economic way possible. F.D.R. put the country deeply in debt by creating jobs at the expense of gov’t. When people went back to work, they spent their paychecks that in turn financed small businesses and American was able to recover. Of course it was a Republican that put the country into the depression in the first place. The rules that were put into place worked for more than 50 years – right up to the “Bushwhacker” – who got rid of those rules and our jobs. So all you folks who want to “privatize” – the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Of course, if the unspoken rationale is to “own” a whitefolks town.. well, that’s another discussion. My family is entirely integrated -Black, White Brown, Yellow, Native American — but that doesn’t make us blind. We have chosen to be like Cisco – the human family. Privatization seems to mean something more than privatization. H-u-n-nh!

concerned citizen

April 13th, 2011
6:24 pm

What is the substantiation to claim that it is more economical than public servants? There is no historical model; it’s a new city. However, look to other cities in Fulton County that have tried privatization, it’s not working folks:

“Once a trendsetter, Sandy Springs tweaks the model

http://www.ajc.com/news/north-fulton/once-a-trendsetter-sandy-903431.html

“CH2M Hill is familiar with this process: Milton and Chattahoochee Hills terminated deals with the company in 2010, while Johns Creek cut its contract from $17 million in 2010 to $5 million in 2011. The cities cited cost-cutting as the main reason.

“I think the initial idea of outsourcing everything had some merit at the time,” Johns Creek City Manager John Kachmar said. “The performance was good but the pricing wasn’t sustainable.”

Sandy Springs officials have not publicly griped about the costs but they have pledged to strike the best deal for residents.”

There are about 120 private employees in sandy springs. Their contract is 24.6 million per year. Do the math. That’s $205,000 per employee. What public entity pays ALL of their employees 205k in salary and benefits?

Instead of sending our money to south fulton, we are now sending our money to Denver.

I hope not one penny of my tax dollars was used to create a video that is so self-serving to the private contractor.

On an unrelated note, we pay 30% surcharge for our water in Sandy Springs.