Posts tagged ‘Greg Patterson’

The Government's One Cost Advantage: It Can Exempt Itself from Regulation

Greg Patterson brings us this example from the AZ legislature, but this sort of thing is ubiquitous:

Just before I got to the Legislature, there was a big move to regulate day care facilities.  Naturally, the government has a role in establishing basic health and safety standards for facilities that take care of young children, so I thought it was a good move.

Then a funny thing happened.  The Legislature established one set of standards for private day care facilities and a different (lower) set of standards for public or non-profit day care facilities.  Some Legislators dared to ask why the health and safety rules would be different depending on what type of entity owned the facility.  After all, if a rule is really in place to keep a child healthy and safe, why should a publicly owned facility be exempt or have a lower standard?

The answer, of course, is that there's no reason for publicly owned facilities to have a different regulatory regime than private facilities and that these bills were really just disguised attempts to ensure that private day cares couldn't compete with public ones

We are facing something similar in my world.  As you may know, my company operates government parks and campgrounds on a concession basis (which means we get no government money, we are paid by the user fees of visitors).  This makes sense because we can do it less expensively and usually better than the government agency.

Recently, the Obama Administration has imposed an executive order that we concessionaires on Federal lands have to pay a $10.10 minimum wage.  Since most of our costs are labor, this is causing us to have a to raise fees to customers substantially to offset the higher costs.

In response to these fee increases, the US Forest Service in California is in the process of taking back traditionally concession-run campgrounds to run themselves, in-house.  Their justification is that they can do it cheaper.   Part of this is just poor government accounting -- because many costs (risk management/insurance, capital assets, interest on investments) don't hit their budgets but show up on other parts of the government's books, what appears to be lower costs is actually just costs that are hidden.  But their main cost savings is that since the Federal government is exempt from labor law and this new executive order, the Forest Service can staff the park with volunteers.  They are allowed to pay a minimum wage of ... zero!

This is just incredibly hypocritical, to say with one statement that private companies need to pay campground workers more and with the very next action take over the campground and staff it with people making nothing.

Media Accountability -- When The Arizona Republic Tried to Get Scottsdale To Bankrupt Itself

Three cheers for Greg Patterson holding the media accountable for their past support of costly corporate welfare.

You may have seen the recent Wall Street Journal Story about the financial fiasco that is Glendale Arizona.

Here's the Republic's take on it. 

Glendale ranked second in the U.S., according to the story, thanks to a $26.6 million negative fund balance at the close of fiscal 2012, due largely to sports-related debt.

Glendale has made a lot of mistakes, but I think that there is near universal agreement that the critical error was their decision to build the hockey arena.

Yep.  I have written about the egregious hockey deals that have bankrupted Glendale on several occasions.  George Will even quoted me on the topic.

Greg Patterson went back and looked at what the Arizona Republic was writing before the Glendale deals went so noticeably bad.  I have written before about how the media goes into full cheerleader mode on those crony stadium deals.

Before Glendale bankrupted itself to subsidize the hockey team, Scottsdale was offered the "opportunity" to do so and turned it down.  The local paper Arizona Republic excoriated Scottsdale for passing on the chance to subsidize rich sports team owners, saying that "Once-in-a-lifetime projects are just that".  Here is the best quote from the 2004 Republic editorial:

Our view is that Scottsdale's mishandling of the arena idea was a leadership blunder of biblical proportions. Enough with the blame game. We hope that Scottsdale at least has learned some tough lessons from the disaster.

And this is classic:

Some city officials seemed content to nitpick, complain, second-guess and haggle over details. They're right to be diligent. Certainly nobody endorses a Pollyanna-ish panel of rubber-stampers. But at the same time, people who are forever looking for stuff to complain about always seem to find it.

I bet Glendale wishes it had more second-guessers on its city council.  The whole thing is worth reading.

Postscript:  This is one recommendation from the Republic I can agree with:

Think twice about ever launching a redevelopment effort like this again. Sensing that the Los Arcos Mall area was hurting economically, the council formed the Los Arcos Redevelopment District in December 1995. The council adopted a redevelopment plan the following July, and the Ellman Cos. subsequently acquired the 42-acre site. Not too surprisingly, Ellman was the only one to answer the city's request for proposals.

Ellman owns the Los Arcos property. That gives him a lot of advantages, including a position of negotiating authority. It allows him to stoke political outrage by wearing down the patience of neighbors who would like to see something built on this key corner. Got a great idea about what should be done at Los Arcos? Too bad. Ellman still owns it. Condemnation is not a viable political or financial course for the city, and Ellman knows it.

Redevelopment almost always means "crony giveaway" nowadays.

How Newspapers May Survive

Local blogger Greg Patterson writes:

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Gannett will soon be adding USA Today to it's local papers.

With this change, the Republic and USA Today are essentially a hybrid.  As print revenue continues to slide the USA Today side will grow and the Republic side will shrink.  Eventually, your morning Republic will consist of a copy of USA Today with enhanced local coverage.

This is a change I have expected for a long time.  The wire services have always existed as an attempt by local papers to share costs in national and international news gathering, but I would have expected this next step of national consolidation some time ago.  The internet allows not just the text, but the entire layout of newspapers to be transmitted instantly across the country.

The whole situation reminds me of television broadcasting, where local affiliates exist mainly as a byproduct of past technological limitations in signal transmission.  Satellite and cable have eliminated these restrictions, but still local affiliates exist, in part because there is some demand for local content but in part because of the fact that the government protects their existence (by law, cable and satellite operators must give you the local affiliate, they cannot give you the national feed).

This is what I wrote back in 2009

I actually think the problem with newspapers like the Washington Post is the "Washington" part.  Local business models dominated for decades in fields where technology made national distribution difficult or where technology did not allow for anything but a very local economy of scale.  Newspapers, delivery of television programming, auto sales, beverage bottling and distribution, book selling, etc. were all mainly local businesses.  But you can see with this list that technology is changing everything.  TV can now be delivered via sattelite and does not require local re-distribution via line of sight broadcast towers or cable systems.  Amazon dominated book selling via the Internet.  Many of these businesses (e.g. liquor, auto dealers, TV broadcasting) would have de-localized faster if it had not been for politicians in the pocket of a few powerful companies passing laws to lock in outdated business or technological models.

Newspapers are ripe for a restructuring.  How can one support a great Science page or Book Review section or International Bureau on local circulation?  How much effort do the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, SF Chronicle, etc. duplicate every day?  People tell me, "that's what the wire services are for."  Bah.  The AP is 160 years old!  It is a pre-Civil War solution to this problem.  Can it really be that technology and changing markets have not facilitated a better solution?

The future is almost certainly a number of national papers (ala the WSJ and USA Today) printed locally with perhaps local offices to provide some local customization or special local section.  Paradoxically, such a massive consolidation from hundreds of local papers to a few national papers would actually increase competition.  While we might get a few less stories about cats being saved from trees in the local paper, we could well end up not with one paper selection (as we have today in most cities) but five or six different papers to choose from  (just look at Britain).  Some of these papers might choose to sell political neutrality while some might compete on political affiliation.

Apparently, Jeff Flake is Not A Conservative Republican. Good.

Local Conservative blogger Greg Patterson is already testing campaign messages for 2012 and the election to fill Jon Kyle's vacating Senate seat.  Apparently Jeff Flake is  RINO, and, gasp, a libertarian and not a Republican.  Well, good.  I will observe that Flake has had far more backbone on issues Republicans care about (e.g. spending) than most "true" Republicans in Congress have had.

As an aside, I could get all litmus-testy as well and be disappointed that Flake voted for the Patriot Act reauthorization.  And I fear that Arizona politics will pull him further to the right on immigration.  But Flake still strikes me as a far better choice in terms of the energy and passion he brings to key issues than some establishment Republican.  He has stirred up far more trouble in the House than one might expect given his lack of seniority and plum committee assignments.

Straight From the Insatiable Statist Playbook

University of Arizona President Robert Shelton absolutely berates the state legislature as a bunch of Neanderthals for slashing his budget:

During this period, we have seen our state appropriation cut by nearly one-quarter, going from approximately $440 million to $340 million. The impact of these cuts has been amplified because they have come at a time when we have been asked to grow our enrollment substantially, and indeed we have done just that, setting records for enrollment in each of the past four years.

So the sound bite for this year is that we are being asked by the state to do much, much more, while being given much, much less....

The sad thing, though, with some of these legislators is that they have no idea how much they risk our state's future (and the quality of life for people who live here) when they try to lay waste to the single greatest engine of economic mobility that has ever been created. Because that's what public higher education in this country is.

Here he gets over the top -- look at the words he uses for the state legislature

When malevolent people talk about wanting to dismantle and destroy great universities, all they achieve is dire consequences for the human condition.

I am sure for the children shows up in there somewhere.  But is he right.  Well, technically, the legislature did cut his general fund appropriation.  But then they gave it back to him, and more, in different budget categories.  As it turns out, Shelton is being unbelievably disingenuous about this, and only the fact that most of his students went to public high schools and therefore can't do math lets him get away with such an address.  Greg Patterson tracks down the facts:

I contacted the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and asked for UA's total funding.Here's the response:

Mr. Patterson

UA's originally enacted FY 2008 General Fund appropriation was $362.4 million, and their current year (FY 2011) General Fund appropriation is $271.3 million, which is a decrease of $(91.1) million.

UA was appropriated $117.7 million in Other Appropriated Funds in FY 2008 and $219.3 million in the current year, which is an increase of $101.6 million.

UA's Non-Appropriated and Federal Funds budget was $786.7 million in FY 2008 and $911.3 million in FY 2011, which is an increase of $124.6 million.

In total, UA's FY 2008 budget was $1,266.8 million and their FY 2011 budget was $1,401.9 million, which is a total increase of $135.1 million.

So the University of Arizona's total budget has increased by $135.1 million--over 10%--during the period in which the "malevolent" state leaders have been "slashing" the funding.

Unbelievable.  I am so sick of statists crying budget cut when in fact their budgets are increasing.  Mr. Shelton goes on for thousands of words of drivel about the poor state of public discourse in Arizona while simultaneously dropping this turd in the punch bowl.  How is public discourse supposed to improve when the president of one of our two state universities is spewing out what he must know are outright fabrications and misrepresentations.  Pathetic.

If You Have to Go Negative...

Greg Patterson has an interesting post (at least to political neophytes like me) on how not to write a political hit piece.  For example:

The theme of the piece is that Jim Ward is an outsider and that Schweikert is a career politician.  Then lead quote is incumbent Congressman.  Dude, that's awesome.  I like John Shadegg, but he's been in Congress for 16 years.  So Ward is telling me that he's an outsider by showing me that he's been endorsed Arizona's longest-serving Republican Congressman?