Category Archives: Parks.&.Recreation

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans

Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

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Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Judge rules Tennessee must release outsourcing records about Fall Creek Falls purchase
Source: Associated Press, June 29th, 2017

A judge has ruled in favor of a media group that sued the state of Tennessee to release records about its attempt to outsource services at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government says Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young on Tuesday ruled that the state must produce records to City Press Communications LLC, parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post, and reporter Cari Wade Gervin. …

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The Untapped Wealth of American Cities

Source: Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak, CityLab, August 6, 2017
 
Americans who travel abroad sometimes wonder why many of our airports are lacking in comparison to the best international airports. Or they want to know why other nations seem to do a better job with public transportation and the management of other public assets, from ports to parks. The answers we are tempted to give are that we do not invest as heavily in public infrastructure as many other nations and that a market-oriented American ethos with an entrepreneurial culture prefers private solutions (cars versus trains) to public ones. … But there’s another answer: Compared to many other nations, in the United States government has more direct control of public assets such as airports, convention centers, and transport, water and sewer systems (just to name a few). And the government does not, for the most part, manage them well, failing to leverage the market potential and value of the assets they own. Far from being broke, many cities and counties have enormous untapped wealth, which could be used to finance not only infrastructure but investments in children and other critical needs. …

There is a better way, teased out in detail and with great authority in The Public Wealth of Cities, a new book co-authored by Dag Detter and Stefan Folster, two Swedish experts in public finance. The pair have studied public asset management and are promoting a third alternative to political management or full privatization—public ownership that relies on professional, private-sector management.… The authors’ core argument is a disruptive idea in public policy that links management systems, public asset value, intelligent financing, and the proper role of politicians in a democracy. …

Operators picked for privatized state parks near Delta

Source: Sam Friedman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 3, 2017
 
The Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation announced earlier this summer that, because of budget cuts from the Legislature, parks employees would cease providing services such as trash pickup and outhouse cleaning at six state parks around Delta Junction.  The state put those maintenance services out to bid in July. Under the contracts, the businesses are to provide services and collect fees from park visitors for amenities such as parking, camping and boat launch use. In return, the businesses pay a flat fee to the state as well as a percentage of revenues from the businesses. …

Warning: Trump Administration Wants To Privatize National Park Campsites

Source: James Jimenez, KRWG, July 8, 2017

… U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently announced that he wants to privatize our national park campsites. There are a lot of problems with this—primarily that prices will very likely be raised. Also, there is generally much less accountability when private companies run government programs. It becomes not only more difficult to determine just how our tax dollars are being spent, but there is also more room for subtle forms of discrimination to take place. By definition privatization means an economic focus on the use of public lands rather than a conservation and equity focus. Sec. Zinke’s desire to privatize public campgrounds is just one small symptom of a bigger illness that has this presidential administration in its grip—the illness of commodifying everything and anything that can, in any way, be made to profit someone. …

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As Trump moves to privatize America’s national parks, visitor costs may rise 
Source: Mary Catherine O’Connor, The Guardian, June 25, 2017 

America’s national parks need a staggering $11.5bn worth of overdue road and infrastructure repairs. But with the proposed National Park Service budget slashed by almost $400m, the Trump administration says it will turn to privatizing public park services to address those deferred maintenance costs. … But some public lands advocates are concerned that privatization would drive up costs for visitors and put the egalitarian nature of visiting a park out of reach for some. … If you’ve visited a national park, especially a busy one, such as Yosemite or Grand Canyon, there is a good chance you’ve patronized a private operator. Concessionaires operate a range of services including lodging, restaurants and transportation – ferries to Alcatraz and Liberty islands, for example. All told, the NPS has issued private concession contracts at 100 places within the park system. In recent years, disagreements over park contracts have led to costly lawsuits for the park service. … It would take a tremendous increase in such contracts to generate enough revenue to help the park system. … But despite his bullishness on infrastructure spending, Trump has proposed cutting the NPS budget by nearly $400m, which will force job cuts. …

N.J. Lottery Sales Fall Short Following Privatization

Source: SNJ Today, April 18, 2017

Those hoping to win big in the New Jersey State lottery are spending less on their dreams.  State lottery sales are down for the third year since being privatized.  Lottery operations management firm Northstar New Jersey promised a return of more than $1.4 billion over 15 years when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie moved the games to privatization in 2013.  Since then, Northstar has missed its income projections and spent $20 million in allowance funds to cover financial shortfalls. …

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Privatizing lottery isn’t lucrative deal for New Jersey
Source: Michael Catalini, Associated Press, January 9, 2016

New Jersey might get $1 billion less out of its state lottery as part of an amended 15-year deal with the private company that runs part of it, according to an Associated Press analysis. The deal, unveiled by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on New Year’s Eve, also reduces the amount the company must generate to avoid penalties. The revenue targets that Northstar New Jersey has to meet have been lowered by about $76 million per year over the contract, which was struck in 2013. The total revenue projection was decreased from nearly $16 billion to about $15 billion. … The underperformance — including a $5 million drop in revenue in 2015 — has raised questions from Democrats about the privatization strategy championed by Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who promoted lottery outsourcing as a way to shrink the government’s payroll and bring in more cash. The lottery brought in $960 million in fiscal year 2015, down from initial expectations of a little more than $1 billion.

New Jersey Having Second Thoughts After Privatizing Lottery
Source: John Reitmeyer, NBC Philadelphia, October 8, 2015
Two years after New Jersey turned over some state lottery functions to a private venture under a controversial long-term deal, lawmakers are questioning why revenues have not met expectations and whether the privatization contract is worth it. The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing on October 19 to review New Jersey’s deal with Northstar New Jersey to address concerns raised in recent weeks about fees Northstar is collecting even as it has failed to meet net-revenue targets. An Assembly committee is also scheduling a hearing on the deal. … Gordon, the Senate committee chairman, said the hearing on October 19 will also review the broader privatization issue, and whether the state is up to the task of monitoring such large contracts. He cited problems the state has had with private companies handling some of the recovery efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as another reason to broaden the scope of the hearing.

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Bill to Ban Outsourcing Sails Through Committee

Source: Sam Stockard, Memphis Daily News, March 29, 2017

A Senate panel approved legislation Monday prohibiting the outsourcing of jobs at state parks less than a week after the State Building Commission renewed plans for rebuilding and privatizing the inn at Fall Creek Falls. The measure sponsored by Sen. Sara Kyle would prevent privatizing maintenance, operation and preservation of state parks, including buildings, facilities, structures and improvements on park property. Plans call for a $22 million project to hire a contractor to demolish the Fall Creek Falls inn and build a new facility, which would be run by the new vendor. … The measure, which moves next to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee, received no discussion, a sign senators are cool to the idea of outsourcing state parks.

… The executive committee of the State Building Commission last week approved renewal of a request for proposals to hire a vendor to oversee construction and operation of the inn at Fall Creek Falls, a technical move to re-insert its authority in the building process. An amendment to the RFP shows the state intends to select a vendor in early May and seek State Building Commission approval May 22 before awarding a contract a few days later. …

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Proposed Fall Creek Falls outsourcing process back on track with tighter oversight
Source: Andy Sher, Times Free Press, March 24, 2017
 
The State Building Commission will now have firmer control over building-related aspects of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plans for outsourcing Fall Creek Falls State Park’s operations under amended rules for bidders approved on Thursday.  But Treasurer David Lillard, a commission member, made it clear during the commission’s executive subcommittee meeting that the panel’s oversight jurisdiction does not extend to the request for proposals’ other major area: The outsourcing of hospitality functions at the popular Upper Cumberland Plateau park in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties. …

Panel looks to amend Fall Creek Falls outsourcing plan
Source: Andy Sher, Times Free Press, March 20, 2017

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration hopes to get its controversial outsourcing proposal for Fall Creek Falls State Park back on track this week. A committee of the State Building Commission is set to hear changes to the proposal sparked by political fireworks shot off by influential architects and engineers and alarmed state employees. When the State Building Commission on Dec. 8 unanimously approved the original request for proposals, which called for issuing a single contract to build a new inn and operate the park’s hospitality services, no public questions were asked by members. But state workers already had fretted about losing jobs and benefits under a private operator. After the vote, architects and engineers charged the RFP marked a dramatic departure from the commission’s oversight over the selection of designers, engineers and builders. … As Haslam’s fellow Republicans in the General Assembly became concerned and began applying heat on building commission members, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation abruptly postponed its March 2 deadline for responses. The purpose was to revise the RFP after getting a clear message to do so. Changes are expected to address architects and engineers’ concerns only, with the State Building Commission’s responsibility limited to facilities and leasing issues. … Stamps remains concerned Haslam likely will seek to outsource management in other state parks. ….

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15 Lawmakers Plotting to Privatize America’s Public Lands

Source: EcoWatch, March 17, 2017

…Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America’s public lands and only want more. In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of “Public Lands Enemies” that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
1. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
2. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st District)
3. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
4. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz., 4th District)
5. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
6. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah, 2nd District)
7. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, At Large)
8. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
9. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho, 1st District)
10. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, 3rd District)
11. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev., 2nd District)
12. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
13. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M., 2nd District)
14. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif., 4th District)
15. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

Read full report.

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How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign To Sell Off America’s Public Lands
Source: Matt Lee-Ashley, ThinkProgress, June 18, 2014

…According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website. Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions….

Labor agreements impede shared services, cities say

Source: Rob Ryser, News Times, March 23, 2017
 
… The inability of willing neighbors to share services when it makes sense for both sides is part of what keeps local governments from finding more efficiencies, Boughton said, and one reason he was in the state capital this week. Boughton spoke in favor of legislation that would waive certain restrictions in municipal labor contracts when towns and cities make agreements to share services. … The bill, which was extracted from a larger report containing recommendations by the statewide Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, was the subject of public hearings this week in the state legislature’s Planning and Development Committee. … In Danbury, Boughton and the City Council have been exploring partnerships with neighboring Putnam County – a six-town region of 100,000 people across the border in New York, and with Waterbury, the state’s fifth-largest city. Neither partnership needs the legislation pending in Hartford to proceed. The agreement with Putnam County involves a potential deal to provide city sewer service to a Brewster-area commercial zone, and the potential to capitalize on mutual economic interests such as infrastructure projects, recreation initiatives and cultural events. The proposed partnership with Waterbury aims to build an economic development zone along the Interstate 84 corridor, anchored by the two cities. …

LePage plan to outsource state park jobs questioned

Source: Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald, March 10, 2017
 
LePage administration proposals to outsource two dozen state park jobs and eliminate conservation-related positions received a chilly reception from some lawmakers and advocacy groups Friday.  The administration wants to hire contractors to fill 15 seasonal assistant park ranger jobs and nine laborer jobs  out of roughly 200 seasonal, primarily summertime jobs at state parks. Walt Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said the shift makes sense because contractors can do many of the maintenance and other basic jobs more efficiently, especially considering the poor shape of some state equipment such as lawn mowers. But Rep. Thomas Skolfield, R-Weld, said wanting to outsource seasonal workers because of lousy equipment “is sort of like saying a state trooper’s cruiser is dying, so we ought to eliminate the trooper” position. …

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Critics question LePage plan to outsource park jobs, cut management positions
Source: Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald, February 27, 2017
 
Conservation advocates are raising concerns about Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to outsource two dozen jobs at Maine’s state parks and to eliminate management positions involved in overseeing historic sites or public lands.  But LePage administration officials say the changes – including the shift to seasonal contract laborers – are aimed at improving efficiency and refocusing resources at a time when the state parks are adding programs and setting visitation records. … Lawmakers are expecting a spirited discussion next month when they begin diving into LePage’s budget proposals related to Whitcomb’s department. … One of the major changes proposed by LePage in his two-year, $6.8 billion budget is to hire contractors to fill 24 seasonal positions within the parks bureau: 14 full-time assistant park rangers, one part-time assistant park ranger and nine full-time laborers. The potential shift to contractors is not expected to save the department money – the $410,000 in payroll for the state employees is transferred to a contractor fund. Instead, Whitcomb said he believes jobs such as lawn maintenance can be done faster and more efficiently by contractors, especially considering the “antiquated” equipment owned by the state. …

Study: $389 Million Of Park Service Backlog Is Responsibility Of Concessionaires

Source: National Parks Traveler, February 12, 2017

The $11.9 billion maintenance backlog cited by the National Park Service inflates the true cost of high-priority infrastructure needs and elevates the risk for privatization and corporate giveaways in America’s parks, according to a report by an independent, nonpartisan policy institute. The analysis, released Friday by the Center for American Progress, noted that only $3.5 billion – or less than 30 percent – of the backlog is labeled as “critical systems deferred maintenance,” and only $1.3 billion is serious enough for the agency to consider a priority for necessary maintenance. In addition, the review found $389 million worth of items in the backlog that it says should be the responsibility of private concessionaires that run businesses in the parks, not taxpayers. … This is the second report in the past two months that urges the Park Service to reconsider how it approaches deferred maintenance. Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a 54-page report that said the Park Service must to do a better job of prioritizing its maintenance needs and stopped short of concluding that the agency is hamstrung by congressional appropriations. The deferred maintenance list is a tool for Congress to determine how much funding to allocate to national parks.

… By including maintenance at facilities like hotels, restaurants, and gift shops operated by concessionaires in the $11.9 billion total, the CAP report argues that Congress and the Trump administration could direct taxpayer funding to these businesses, which grossed $1.14 billion in 2012, instead of trails, historic sites, and conservation projects. Most contracts with the Park Service put the burden of maintenance costs at these facilities on the concessionaires. … The Park Service last year told the Center for American Policy that these items are included because taxpayers are ultimately responsible for these costs if a contractor does not pay to maintain a facility. The CAP, which says it “does not support or oppose candidates or political parties,” is concerned that President Trump “could allow companies to financially benefit from the national park brand and name” if he intends to pursue a privatization agenda. The report calls for the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General to investigate concessionaire-operated NPS facilities to ensure that the concession industry is paying its appropriate share of maintenance costs. The brief also argues that Congress should not ignore investments needed in public lands administered by other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Read full report (downloads PDF).