Out of Control Policy Blog

Privatization City

An Atlanta suburb's 30-year struggle for independence is over. Sandy Springs (population 87,000) is now free from the bureaucracy of the ATL, free to try a new model:

    And when leaders asked themselves what kind of government best suited them, a clear vision emerged: as little government as possible.

    So when the city of Sandy Springs opens for business Jan. 1, private corporations may be called in to manage storm water programs, street maintenance, building inspections, human resources, accounting – in other words, nearly everything except police, fire and emergency services. The city, one community leader said, will add personnel only when it becomes clear that it is necessary.

And what's this?

    Sandy Springs' leaders also have reached out to the Reason Public Policy Institute, a California think tank that promotes privatization. Geoffrey F. Segal, who recently visited Sandy Springs, said the budding city's ability to experiment "truly is unique."

    "You can imagine these kinds of discussions taking place when this country was forming," said Segal, the institute's director of privatization and government reform policy. "If a year from now, 70 or 80% of functions [in Sandy Springs] are being handled by private contractors, maybe it shows other cities that it can be done and they don't need the bells and the whistles."

Sandy Springs was impressed with Westin, Florida:

    a community of 65,000 in Broward County with a $100-million annual budget and three city employees.

    Weston was not conceived of as an experiment in minimum government, but after it incorporated in 1996, planners recognized the appeal of contracting for services, City Manager John R. Flint said.

    "It all fell into place," Flint said. "We're not going to have any employees. We're not going to build a city hall, and no one is going to build an empire ..."

The idea might have wider appeal:

    [S]everal communities around Sandy Springs are watching the process, attracted by the idea of keeping tax revenues closer to home.

And now for the obligatory dose of hyperbole:

    State Sen. Vincent D. Fort, a Democrat who represents Fulton County, predicted that Sandy Springs would be the first in a series of suburbs to gain autonomy, and that the shift would force county planners to gradually eliminate social services like libraries or Meals on Wheels.

    "You're going to have this different tax distribution that is going to have an impact," Fort said. "That's nothing but apartheid."

Efficient city services = Apartheid? Really?

    The system of apartheid was enforced by a series of laws passed in the 1950s: the Group Areas Act of 1950 assigned races to different residential and business sections in urban areas, and the Land Acts of 1954 and 1955 restricted nonwhite residence to specific areas. These laws further restricted the already limited right of black Africans to own land, entrenching the white minority's control of over 80 percent of South African land. In addition, other laws prohibited most social contacts between the races; enforced the segregation of public facilities and the separation of educational standards; created race-specific job categories; restricted the powers of nonwhite unions; and curbed nonwhite participation in government.

More here.

Back to reality. How might Sandy Springs affect the Free State Project?

Ted Balaker is Producer


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