Pot, Meet Kettle

In opposition to a proposal for park privatization in Utah:

Mary Tullius, director of the Division of State Parks and Recreation, doesn't think so.  She says the state prides itself on giving Utah families affordable destinations like state parks. And if those destinations were made private, the quality would suffer.

"History has told us that whenever you privatize something people are so focused on making money that they don't pay attention to the infrastructure or to the maintenance of the facility. What happens after five years and they've run something and they haven't taken care of it and they turn back to the state? And then the state has a much bigger problem," she said.

This is hilariously wrong.  As readers probably know, my business is the private operation of public parks.  The number one problem we have in taking over government parks is that they are usually terribly run down.  By the time the government is finally willing to turn to private companies for help (generally in the category of "last resort") the government has typically been ignoring the capital maintenance needs of the parks for years.  As I have written before, government is terrible about appropriating sufficient amounts of capital maintenance dollars.  We see it in everything from parks to the Washington metro.

Nowadays, as a condition of taking over the operation of public parks, our company is generally asked to make a large up-front contribution to tackling deferred maintenance in the park.  In fact, in our newest contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority, we actually have rebuilt the entire park and campground from the ground up.

I am sure there are some private operators who have let things run down, but in general this has occurred when the public authority has insisted on giving the operator a series of 1-year contracts rather than a real 10-20 year contract.  Who is going to replace the roof if the contract only lasts for another 6 months.  On the other hand, who is going to fail to keep things nice if he knows he is going to be there for another 15 years?

I hear this kind of rant from people within the government all the time.  They seem to believe it, but it is hard to find an example where it is true.  When I worked for an oil company, they planned on having to totally rebuild their retail stations every 20 years or so.  What legislature plans for this kind of expenditure?

My current proposal to keep a number of Arizona State Parks open is here.

  • hanmeng

    They gotta believe. Otherwise, they'd have to go to work every day realizing their jobs were a joke. (I work for the state, so I know.)

  • Ron H.

    What?!! Where do these people go to school? If I were king, 2 years of economics would be required to graduate from high school. The first full year would be Austrian economics, and the textbook would be "Economics In One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt.

  • http://herdgadfly.blogspot.com/ gadfly

    Forget "sticks and stones may break my bones but words . . ." because government bureaucrats dread the "P" word.

  • Pat Moffitt

    As another person that has toiled in the privatization business (where full time personnel were required) - government not only asked the private operator to save money but do so while retaining all the politically appointed people, add the missing expertise, actually perform the required maintenance all at a reduced cost to the government. I am no longer in this business.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    By the time the government is finally willing to turn to private companies for help (generally in the category of “last resort”) the government has typically been ignoring the capital maintenance needs of the parks for years.

    One of the 5 AZ Republic paying subscribers who comments and can spell on their site said, in response to this, “Government is designed to be the most responsive.”

    ?

    This is one of the most bizarre things I have read in the entire universe, and is a likely reason for the current condition of state-run parks, public facilities, public healthcare, public transportation, public dog kennels, and public voting.

    Let’s be very clear here: people who think like this deserve to die in a fiery bus crash (since they frequently utilize public transportation).

  • wintercow20

    Coyote, you are wrong.

    In the face of severe underfunding and facilities deterioration for the publicly run national parks, we still get things like the million dollar Glacier NP outhouse and the $333k elaware water gap outhouse built.

    If your (private) company was making decisions, those things would NEVER get built! I think that is what the Looter quoted above means. When private businesses make decisions, they can't just steal money from their customers to build unnecessarily lavish facilities that no one will use, and don't generally award the construction contracts to politically favored groups.

    Silly Warren, all this time you have been trying to argue on the basis of evidence and good economics. As you well know, public park management (or management of anything for that matter) has nothing to do with serving the public.

  • MikeL

    All that the parks really need is more fruit from the magic money tree. Then they would be whole again.

    All that you "privatizesrs" want to do is ruin it by telling little kids that Santa Clause is just some manifestation of Wal-Mart and is not real!

  • MJ

    “History has told us that whenever you privatize something people are so focused on making money that they don’t pay attention to the infrastructure or to the maintenance of the facility.

    Hmmm. I wonder if this woman has ever been to Disneyland or Disneyworld? Or one of the Six Flags locations?