The July/August issue of the Freeman Magazine, interviewed Oliver Porter, the creator and implementer of the public-private partnership model in Sandy Springs, Georgia titled, “The Man Who Outsourced the Government“.
Are Public-Private Partnerships Crony?
The fact that the elected officials are prohibited from meddling in the day-to-day operations—including the bidding of contracts, hiring and firing of employees, and the granting of license and permits, etc.—is a deterrent to improper dealings. All contracts are granted through competitive bidding that is open to public scrutiny. The initial contract bids were thoroughly scrutinized by a citizens’ committee, then by a volunteer group appointed by the governor, and finally by the elected council.
Best of all, the profit motive serves as a natural incentive to reduce cost and operate efficiently. The preferential hiring of friends and relatives or the granting of favors has become a non-issue, according to Porter, as is with traditional models by governments.
Porter’s model is a definite step in the right direction. The limiting of government in the life of the citizen is always a good thing. The city of North Oaks, Minnesota has taken it a step further by going completely private.
North Oaks is a suburb located about ten miles northeast of St. Paul with a population of about 4,469 as of the 2010 census. Situated on Pleasant Lake, it began as a source for St. Paul’s waterworks. Later, the railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railroad fame, purchased the land and expanded it into a 5,000 acre hobby farm. His son, Louis Hill owned
the North Oaks Farm until his death in 1950 where it changed hands to his children. With preserving the natural beauty of the land in mind and to warred off urban sprawl, the Hill’s incorporated into the North Oaks Company. The land was subdivided and sold off with warranty deeds which created the North Oaks Home Owner’s Association. The deed’s placed the owner’s property line half way into the street, leaving all streets private. The city owns no property. The association owns the park, recreation areas and trails. Even emergency services such as police and fire are private. Instead of a sheriff, North Oaks has a Community Service Officer (CSO) who patrols the streets and public areas, takes minor reports, investigates trespassing complaints, monitors signage violations, responds to animal concerns, coordinates law enforcement details, manages Operation Clear View (keeping private foliage 5 feet from the road), and administers the Home Watch List.
Fire services are provided by the Lake Johanna Fire Department, a private non-profit organization. Starting with one truck and a few volunteers, it now boasts 4 stations, 16 trucks and some 60 paid on-call fireman. All schools are private as well.
North Oaks Home Owner’s Association in 2008 told Google to keep out. No street views of their citizen’s property in Google Maps was going to be tolerated. With the recent news of 4th amendment violations by the NSA, the NOHOA takes the privacy of it’s residents far more seriously than our elected officials.
With cities like Sandy Springs and North Oaks it is easy to see how private citizens are finding solutions to public problems without the aid of government. With the ever continuing threat of municipalities going bankrupt as in Harrisburg, PA and Detroit, to name only two, solutions that are spawned by private innovation are the trend that will hopefully continue. It’s good to know that profit incentives and a natural desire to pursue one’s happiness, unhindered by government, are still alive and well. As powerful and wasteful as the State is, the human spirit is even more inventive and far more resourceful when set free.