Jack Kemp: RIP

So much has been written about Jack Kemp, but there is much more to say.

When I was Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia, he called my office and asked if I “had time to meet with him.” He was no longer in office but from my view who would not have time? The Virginia Public Private Transportation Act of 1995 (PPTA) had recently been signed into law and offered opportunities for the private sector to be involved in transportation projects including capital projects, maintenance and operations. (In the history of public-private partnerships (PPPs), 1995 was the equivalent of the “stone age” for the US.)

I met with Jack. He was not lobbying for a specific project or firm, but reached out because of the idea. He had some interesting thoughts and ideas as to where to start. He really felt this it was important work and a big opportunity. He also thought that it was important to “get it right” the first time coming out of the box. He viewed PPPs as giving a government agency (such as the Virginia Department of Transportation) a new tool. He also suggested that perhaps Virginia could lead the way in changing the way state governments conduct business.

As I look back, he had many helpful suggestions and he continued to be a quiet cheer leader. Several years later, Virginia passed legislation to extend the private sector opportunities to other infrastructure: schools, water and waste water, university facilities, etc. I am sure Jack was quietly fanning the flames with suggestions. Jack was about ideas, change and making government more efficient. Virginia has been a leader in PPPs and benefitted from Jack’s sage advice.

Reason’s research on privatization here.

Reason’s research on transportation here.