Friday, July 29, 2011

None Dare Call It Privatization

Dispatch from a high-powered conference spelling out a new strategy for raiding the commons
by Tom Tresser

At the Hyatt Lodge Hotel on the McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, June 24, the other wingtip dropped.It happened at a conference called “It’s Not Privatization: Implementing Partnerships in Illinois”, organized by The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Metropolitan Planning Council .

The conference revealed the corporate sector’s designs on the commons in Illinois, and how they intended to duck the increasingly unpopular label of privatization.

In recent years Chicago has become an epicenter of privatization.

In 2005 Mayor Daley assigned the Skyway Bridge connecting the city to Indiana to a consortium owned by Spanish and Australian companies. That deal got the city $1.83 billion for a 99 year lease. One analysis of the deal shows that the new owners stand to reap between $5 to $15 billion, depending on the traffic volume and how high they jack up the tolls.

In 2009 Mayor Daly gave our parking meters to a group of investors led by MorganStanley, which included the oil-rich sheikdom of Abu Dhabi. Chicago got $1.15 billion for a 75 year lease. The investors will earn in the vicinity of $11.6 billion over the life of the deal. Parking rates have skyrocketed, meters appeared in places that never been been metered before and the hours for paid parking were extended.

In each case, all the major planning bodies, civic watchdog groups and various park and public watchdogs were silent. Many supported these privatization schemes.

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