Commentary

Through Privatization, Indy Seeks Funds for Infrastructure Program

Francesca Jarosz at the Indianapolis Star takes a deeper look at Indy’s current large-scale privatization initiatives today in an interesting article. In addition to tapping privatization to modernize its water & wastewater systems and parking operations (discussed here, here and here), the city is also conducting an inventory of city property to identify divestiture opportunities and considering long-term contracts to upgrade golf courses.

One of the more interesting aspects is that, given Indy’s long history as a privatization pioneer, one of the recurring themes in the current batch of initiatives is that they’re taking services or assets that already utilize some form of privatization and extending the model further (e.g., longer terms, more responsibilities, etc.):

Privatization experts say long-term contracts like the ones Indianapolis is seeking for its already privatized operations can be beneficial in a couple of ways. A longer term allows companies to make capital improvements and can increase trust between the city and the private operator, said Sergio Fernandez, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs who studies privatization.

But, the long-term deals also can bring risks. For instance, the lease of Chicago’s meters could be an unwise move because after the initial payment, the city loses out on the revenue. Evan McKenzie, an associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago who has written on privatization since the 1980s, equates it to “having a garage sale to pay your mortgage.”

Indianapolis leaders say the difference in their efforts is that the revenues would go toward long-term infrastructure improvements, rather than operating costs. They also say they’ll vigilantly monitor contracts to avoid another possible risk of long-term privatization: neglect on the private company’s part.

“Monitoring is very important,” Fernandez said. “One of the ironies about privatization is that it takes good government to make it work.”

Investing in long-term infrastructure improvements would be a fiscally responsible use of the revenues from privatization, as I write here.

And indeed, it does take good government to make privatization work, or at least a government that knows how to manage contracts well. That’s the key determinant of a successful privatization initiative. Government doesn’t just walk away once the contract is signed. By definition, there are two parties to the contract, and it outlines the expectations and responsibilities of both over the term of the relationship. Hence, the relationship between client and contractor is an active one. Once the contract is signed the public sector’s role shifts to contract management and oversight. Hence, governments interested in privatization need to be cognizant of the need to have good procurement specialists to build a solid base of expertise to ensure that goals are achieved and that the contractor delivers.

Ã?” Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2009
Ã?” Reason Foundation’s Privatization Research and Commentary

Leonard Gilroy is Senior Managing Director of the Pension Integrity Project at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. The Pension Integrity Project assists policymakers and other stakeholders in designing, analyzing and implementing public sector pension reforms.

The project aims to promote solvent, sustainable retirement systems that provide retirement security for government workers while reducing taxpayer and pension system exposure to financial risk and reducing long-term costs for employers/taxpayers and employees. The project team provides education, reform policy options, and actuarial analysis for policymakers and stakeholders to help them design reform proposals that are practical and viable.

In 2016 and 2017, Reason's Pension Integrity Project helped design, negotiate and draft pension reforms for the state of Arizona's Public Safety Personnel Retirement System and Corrections Officer Retirement Plan, which both passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the state legislature and were signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gilroy is also the Director of Government Reform at Reason Foundation, researching privatization, public-private partnerships, infrastructure and urban policy issues.

Gilroy has a diversified background in policy research and implementation, with particular emphases on competition, government efficiency, transparency, accountability, and government performance. Gilroy has worked closely with legislators and elected officials in Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, California and several other states and local governments in efforts to design and implement market-based policy approaches, improve government performance, enhance accountability in government programs, and reduce government spending.

In 2010 and 2011, Gilroy served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Arizona Commission on Privatization and Efficiency, and in 2010 he served as an advisor to the New Jersey Privatization Task Force, created by Gov. Chris Christie.

Gilroy is the editor of the widely-read Annual Privatization Report, which examines trends and chronicles the experiences of local, state, and federal governments in bringing competition to public services. Gilroy also edits Reason's Innovators in Action interview series, which profiles public sector innovators in their own words, including former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and more.

Gilroy's articles have been featured in such leading publications as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Weekly Standard, Washington Times, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arizona Republic, San Francisco Examiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sacramento Bee and The Salt Lake Tribune. He has also appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business, CNBC, National Public Radio and other media outlets.

Prior to joining Reason, Gilroy was a senior planner at a Louisiana-based urban planning consulting firm. He also worked as a research assistant at the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech. Gilroy earned a B.A. and M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech.