Category Archives: Parks.&.Recreation

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract

Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

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Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

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Harwell: No Privatization of Tennessee Park Services as Gov

Source: Associated Press, September 14, 2017

Republican gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell says she won’t privatize services at Tennessee state parks if she is elected governor. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Harwell’s position is at odds with term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam’s longtime pursuit of outsourcing more functions at the parks. Harwell, who is the speaker of the state House of Representatives, said privatizing hospitality, food and other services at state parks is a “touchy point for our rural areas,” and that she would not pursue Haslam’s goals in that area. …

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Haslam leaves privatizing state park management decision to next Tennessee governor
Source: Andy Sher, Times Free Press, August 24, 2017
 
The Haslam administration is abandoning all efforts to outsource management of Fall Creek Falls State Park and other state parks and will instead leave the volatile issue of privatizing operations to Tennessee’s next governor.  State Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau made the announcement Thursday during an appearance before a legislative study committee taking a critical look at administration outsourcing across state government. …

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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Silicon Valley billionaire loses bid to prevent access to public beach

Source: Sam Levin, The Guardian, August 10, 2017

A California court has ordered a Silicon Valley billionaire to restore access to a beloved beach that he closed off for his private use, a major victory for public lands advocates who have been fighting the venture capitalist for years. An appeals court ruled on Thursday that Vinod Khosla, who runs the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and co-founded the tech company Sun Microsystems, must unlock the gates to Martins Beach in northern California by his property.
The decision is a major blow to Khosla and other wealthy landowners who have increasingly tried to buy up the internationally celebrated beaches along the California coast and turn public lands into private property. …

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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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. …