Thursday, December 10, 2009

Privatize this, Part 3!

Here's a quote from  U.S.PIRG's website regarding PPPs and how the public needs to safeguard themselves:

"The city should ensure that any future privatization deals adhere to the following principles:

• The public should retain control over decisions that affect the broader public interest.
• The public must receive full value so future revenues are not sold off at a discount.
• No deal should last longer than 30 years because of uncertainty over future conditions, because the risks of a bad deal grow exponentially over time, and because long contracts transfer unnecessary control to the concessionaire.
• Contracts should require state-of-the-art maintenance and safety standards instead of statewide minimums.
• There must be complete transparency to ensure proper vetting of privatization proposals.
• There must be full accountability in which the elected legislative body must approve both the authority to negotiate a deal and any terms of a final deal.

 In addition, the city should adopt procedural safeguards for future privatization proposals that include the following:

• A minimum waiting period of 30 days between publication of the final terms of a privatization agreement and a vote (45 days for privatization of assets or services valued at more than $50 million).
• Competitive, transparent bidding for all professional services provided during the privatization process and for the privatization contract itself.
• Disqualification of city councilors from voting on privatization proposals when they have received campaign contributions from companies that bid on a given asset or performed professional services related to privatization. The Mayor’s office should similarly reject contributions from such companies and publicize contributions received for a defined period prior to the decision to consider privatizing an asset.
• Thorough, independent analysis of the valuation of assets proposed for concession agreements along with a comparison of privatization with other alternatives (including the option of bonding against future revenues with the same schedule of user fee increases without a private lease or transfer of ownership).
• Prompt public disclosure of all documents related to privatization bids.
• Clear directions for how proceeds from the sale will be allocated, along with the development of tools to enable the public to track spending of proceeds from privatization over time. These tracking tools should be integrated into a city wide budget transparency Web site that would enable citizens to have “one-stop” access to all city expenditures.
• Timely public disclosure of all documents relevant to a privatization proposal, including posting of such documents on a publicly accessible Web site.

Finally, to bolster confidence, trust, and transparency in government, Chicago should follow the example of a growing number of cities and states that provide detailed and up-todate searchable information about government contracting and expenditures on-line.

Specifically, the city should create a one-stop, comprehensive, on-line database that would enable citizens to obtain information on contracts, the current status of city accounts, special tax breaks, fee services accrued, economic development subsidies and city budgets. The Web site should provide summary information and enable residents to drill down to detailed information on city payments, including the city’s check register. The Web site should also retain previous years’ data for comparison."

I hope our City Council, City Manager, and local newspapers keep this in mind as this debate progresses.  I know I will.

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