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Privatization: Should You Be Against It?

February 13, 2013

There’s not a lot of news today, outside of the hastily called rail and transit transportation subcommittee meeting this afternoon to present Rep. Jacob’s bills, HB 264 and 265. Things that transit advocates could take issue with included in these bills:

*State mandated privatization of MARTA jobs including paratransit and customer service reps
*Suspension of the defined benefit pension plan for future employees (a union thing)
*Revision of collective bargaining including allowing the governor to appoint an arbitrator or a retired superior court judge (another union thing)
*Lifting of the 50/50 restriction with the exemption that these funds can not be used for an increase of wages or benefits (which MARTA employees haven’t had in five years now)
*Reconfiguring the MARTA board including taking board appointees from South Fulton for North Fulton and giving an appointee to the governor.

You can find out more about these bills at:

HB 264
HB 265 (not really important, it basically just eliminates the MARTA provisions in the old HB277, because Jacobs doesn’t like having anything to do with MARTA being housed outside of the MARTA act itself)

The meeting will take place at 12:30 at room 606 in the Cloverdale office building beside the Gold Dome.

So why should you be concerned? For starters, who thinks the state should get more control over something they have no investment in? I am perfectly willing to give the governor an appointment to the board if he will give us some state funding, but with the state in a billion dollar deficit, I don’t see that happening, and isn’t MARTOC enough of a burden to bear? As far as I see it, he already has two appointments to the board in the GDOT and GRTA staff members, anyways.

The employment stuff? Happy employees are better employees, and infuriating the union by taking away what they see as their rights will only make for grumpy employees, which will then make the customers grumpy, which will then make everyone grumpy.

And for privatization? Let’s not forget how a few years ago MARTA did outsource paratransit operations and ended up bringing it back in house because it was so unsuccessful. I’m all for outsourcing when it makes business sense, and that certainly applies for administrative functions, but remember that happy employee thing and think about if you’d like your job to be sold off to the lowest bidder. But because I’m all psychologisty and stuff, here’s some studies that, as far as I’m concerned, come from some unbiased sources (*ahem* not the Cato Institute):

The University of California, Berkley, found that “while contracting appears to have the potential to substantially reduce costs, the trade offs involved may be considerable, and the broader social objectives of transit need to be kept in mind.”

The Economic Policy Institute also finds that privatization establishes the wrong priority for for transit.

Leland and Smirnova took a twenty-five year look at privatization and found that it is no more efficient than public agencies themselves.

I’m not saying this shouldn’t be considered, I’m saying that MARTA shouldn’t be mandated to privatize without fully vetting if it’s in the agency’s best interest. And who is a state with no stake in the game to determine that?

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