A better way to 'reform' the Pennsylvania Lottery
Privatization has a ring to it. It appeals to those who believe that government should be run like a business. And it has reared its seductive head once again with the pending privatization deal with the British company Camelot Global Services to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery.
But privatization is not always the lifeline politicians expect.
“The Great Bamboozle of 2010,” the proposal by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to turn over the city's parking facilities to out-of-town investors, is an example of privatization almost gone disastrously awry. City Council thankfully scuttled that deal, considering the havoc a similar misadventure has caused in Chicago.
There, parking rates continue to soar and the taxpayers are locked into a bad deal for 75 years. Worse, Chicago's inspector general has said that the city shortchanged itself around a billion dollars on the sales price. And now, the city must pay to close streets for neighborhood events and reimburse the management company for disability parking permits.
“In the Public Interest,” a resource center on privatization, says that insourcing, and not outsourcing, is now the way to go. In San Diego, public employees successfully competed with private companies to provide essential public services. By eliminating the profit required by private companies, the costs are competitive and the public employees have proven to be more responsive to public management.
This is what G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young described in their recent Politically Uncorrected newsletter, claiming that government “must become entrepreneurs.” The Pennsylvania political pollsters called outsourcing the “zombie-like application of yesterday's techniques to today's problems.”
There is even a promising half-step between the public and private alternatives, successfully used by the Sophie Masloff administration in the early 1990s to save the Pittsburgh Zoo, Phipps Conservatory and the city Aviary. Instead of privatizing those regional attractions, the city nonprofitized them, transferring them to nonprofit organizations composed of volunteers who embraced their missions, raising outside funding and allowing each to flourish.
Madonna and Young do credit the Camelot deal with providing a “blueprint” for how government can become more entrepreneurial. According to the pair, Camelot is owned by the Canadian Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund, which will be using the profits from managing our lottery to keep its own pension fund solvent.
Ironically, just last week, the Pennsylvania Public Employees Retirement Commission issued a serious “call to action,” providing a list of painful options to address the pension fund crisis right here. Most of them will hurt either the taxpayers or those who live on the pensions they have earned.
But if Madonna and Young are right and our own pension funds formed a management firm to run our own lottery, profits would help retire our own $41 billion pension debt. Increased revenue would still go to our senior citizens and those good jobs slated for elimination would be saved.
If it's not too late, that might be a gamble worth taking.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shale oil, gas finds put Mon Valley on path to renaissance, leaders say
- Penguins forward Downie becoming a hit with teammates
- Opposing defenses find success against Steelers by eschewing blitz
- Ebola watch lists to shrink
- Legal titans prepared to tussle in Ferrante cyanide homicide trial
- Steelers looking for Spence to step up game at inside linebacker
- Scottdale appoints borough solicitor
- Pittsburgh photo exhibit shines light on ‘Good’ work
- Freeport falls prey to Montour firepower
- Customers rarely utilize right to cancel a contract
- Monessen police break up fight