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Public Profits from Private Contracts: A Case Study in Human Services

Privatization is a term that has triggered passionate debate in recent years. Here in Massachusetts, a law to stop it has been enacted. What we are really debating, however, is not true privatization at all. Privatization implies a complete withdrawl of government from provision and finacncing of a formerly public service, usually through the sale of government owned assets. Rather the debate has been about “private contracting,” whether government should contract with private vendors for provision of services instead of providing services directly. Opponents of private contracting fear that any savings will come largly from lower wages and reduced fringe benefits. Others are concerned that, while private contracting may be beneficial for services such as snow removal or highway maintenance, […]

Missing the Bus: The Fight to Contract Competitively for MBTA Bus Service

Public transit agencies across the nation are struggling to control costs without reducing service. One effective strategy used by a growing number of public transit agencies is to contract competitively for bus operations. Almost without exception, these agencies report that private bus companies can deliver equal or better service at a 20 to 30 percent lower cost. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) wants to use the same strategy and has accepted two bids to run 40 percent of its bus operations. The MBTA’s cost analysis shows that it will save 23.1 million over five years. However, a 1993 antiprivatization law (commonly called the Pacheco Law) sets up a series of tests that an agency must pass before it can […]

Challenging Convention(al) Wisdom: Hard Facts About the Proposed Boston

As the political leadership of Boston and the Commonwealth consider investing $700 million in a new publicly owned convention center in South Boston, plans are already in place to enlarge facilities in the nation’s capital and in San Francisco. Disccusions have also begun in New York City, Atlanta, and SanJuse to enlarge or replace facilities in those cities. In each case the goal is to bring in more out-of-state visitors and the dollars that come with them. The success of each project is invariably assured by feasibility studies and civic pride. Challenging Convention(al) Wisdom: Hard Facts About the Proposed Boston Convention Center

If We Build It Will They Come? And Other Questions About the Proposed Boston Convention Center

In 1965 Boston’s War Memorial Auditorium (later Hynes Convention Center) opened to great fanfare and anticipation. But, by the mid 1970s, Boston officials were already proclaiming Hynes too small for growing conventions and promising that an expanded convention center would draw far more meetings and visitors to the city. An expansion of the Hynes was begun in 1985. When it finally opened three years later, the expectations were as optimistic as 23 years earlier. The center was expected to bring $500 million into the city’s economy and create 8,000 new jobs. Yet the convention business did not expand at the new Hynes. Even with the promise of free rent for meetings that booked early, the Hynes attracted in 1990, 1991, […]