Better, Faster, Cheaper

The Myth That Privatization Is Always the Solution

When it comes to regulating the privatization of government services, it seems that one person's mindless bureaucratic obstacle is another's essential accountability mechanism. Thus it is in Massachusetts, where an exemption from a state law governing privatization is being sought in the name of fixing Boston's troubled mass-transit system.

The policy debate over privatization in Massachusetts, which raged during the 1990s and 2000s, calmed down during the past two terms of a Democratic governor but returned to war-cry mode when the new Republican governor, Charlie Baker, proposed repealing the law as it pertains to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). READ MORE

Another Beanball for the Taxpayers

As long as governments are made up of human beings, we can't expect them to be perfect. But they should learn from their mistakes, such as the whopper Rhode Island state officials made in 2010 when they plowed $75 million into 38 Studios, a now-defunct video-game company started by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

Fast-forward five years, and another proposal that combines baseball, business and politics is on the table in Rhode Island. The owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston's top farm team, are asking for millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies as part of a plan to build a downtown ballpark in neighboring Providence. READ MORE

San Francisco's Holistic Approach to Helping the Homeless

Local governments taking on homelessness struggle with several serious challenges: how to measure success; how to coordinate services when the issues faced by homeless people are so varied; and how to provide help without encouraging undesirable consequences, as happened in New York City years ago when the homeless could jump the queue and acquire scarce Section 8 federal housing vouchers.

To address these complex questions, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and his director of housing, Bevan Dufty, launched in March the city's Navigation Center. The innovative new facility is part of a larger pilot project that aims to get San Francisco's homeless population off the streets and into housing by rethinking the traditional shelter model and by consolidating and streamlining resources through public-private partnerships and cross-agency collaboration. READ MORE

When Privatization Isn't an Option

In the aftermath of the enactment in 1993 of the nation's most restrictive state privatization law, introducing competition to the delivery of state services was a hot-button issue in Massachusetts. More recently the issue has receded, with the Bay State's public managers adapting to an environment in which privatization has been, for the most part, a tool unavailable to them.

But privatization is back in the headlines in the wake of the collapse of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) under the weight of the snowiest winter in Boston's recorded history. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's proposed plan to fix the transit agency includes exempting it from the so-called Pacheco law, which is named for its main sponsor. READ MORE

How Our Legislatures Are Designed for Inefficiency

When the Founding Fathers were considering how American democracy should be structured, they decided on a bicameral national legislature, based in some ways on the one they were familiar with from Great Britain. And while our current state of partisan congressional dysfunction might suggest otherwise, it's a system that generally works on the federal level. But for state governments, bicameralism creates unnecessary and costly duplication.