Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mayor Dean flirts with the privatization trap

There is beaucoup information on the pitfalls of privatization (click on the "Privatization" link below to read more) of public toll roads, utilities, etc. Generally, when private companies take over public services prices go up and quality (and sometimes delivery) of service degrades. Giving services to private companies moves accountability steps away, since the companies do not directly answer to the public.

Nonetheless, Mayor Karl Dean is considering privatizing parking meters in Nashville:

NewsChannel 5 Investigates team obtained an internal document that lays out a controversial proposal to privatize the city's parking.

It comes as Metro leaders prepare for what may be a tough budget battle ahead.

Last week, as Metro Council debated whether to build a new convention center, some members predicted huge budget shortfalls. "I think we are going to have a train wreck of monumental proportions come May," said Michael Craddock.

That's where the city's parking meters and parking lots might become valuable, as Finance Director Rich Riebeling emailed the mayor back in November. (Read the email.)

"We might be able to essentially privatize our parking operations and generate significant upfront cash," Riebeling wrote. "If want to possibly get done for upcoming budget, need to move ASAP."

Dean's response: "Let's talk today."

On Monday, Dean told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "This is just something that we are just thinking about. We have taken no steps to implement it. No steps to move forward on it."

But in a proposal -- marked "Preliminary & Confidential" -- financial giant Morgan Stanley lays out a plan in which private companies might bid for the city's 2,000 parking meters and another 2,000 parking garage spaces -- paying the city now and keeping income from those spaces for years to come.

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