Another Nail in the Coffin of the Big Public Sell-Off

**From GOVERNING's Outlook in the States and Localities 2010** If consolidation is the watchword for what cities and counties will do to help manage during ...
by | February 2, 2010
 

**From GOVERNING's Outlook in the States and Localities 2010**

If consolidation is the watchword for what cities and counties will do to help manage during the economic downturn, I was also interested in what local governments won't be doing.

According to Dan Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, one option municipalities likely won't be exploring is the idea of selling off major public assets to be managed by private companies. Large-scale sell-offs -- like the Chicago Skyway and the Indianapolis Toll Road -- are a thing of the past, he said. "These deals have had a number of problems," he said.

He's right, of course: High-profile deals like the $1.83 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway to a private company in 2004 sparked a lot of interest in other cities. But public outcry over these types of deals has made them increasingly hard to push through. When Chicago tried to find a buyer for Midway airport last April, nobody stepped up. We covered the shifting nature of public-private partnerships in a September story: Still For Sale.

Borut's point, though, is that this is probably a good thing.  Or at least it wouldn't really help cities right now to be making these kinds of deals. "If you put that money [from a sale] in a permanent fund, like in Alaska, it will last a long time," he said. But when times are this tough, the temptation to spend is just too great. "There's still interest in [these sorts of deals], but I don't see it growing in any real way."

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