Should Clayton Privatize the Taste of Clayton?
A friend emailed me this story from the Sun-Times about the City of Chicago continuing its privatization efforts. According to the article, officials are considering privatizing the famous Taste of Chicago, which I have attended a couple of times. My friend’s response was, “Why wasn’t it fully private in the first place?”, which I completely agree it should have been (no surprise there).
So, I started thinking about St. Louis’ own premier restaurant festival — the Taste of Clayton. I quickly learned two things about Taste of Clayton: I assumed it was private, but it has actually been run by the city; and, it isn’t happening at all in 2010. The Taste of Clayton was always run as a nonprofit event. The restaurants donated their time and effort, the city made all its expenses back so that taxpayers didn’t foot the bill, and the rest went to charity. (See pages 38 and 43 of the Clayton budget if you want the financial data.)
So, if the city really is considering new ideas for 2011, here is a simple one: Allow a private organization or entrepreneur to operate it as a for-profit enterprise! Charge them for the costs of street and police services at the event, and allow them to make money off of it.
But back to Chicago. Mayor Richard Daley says some terrific things in this story (ellipses in original):
But, Daley said he’s determined to hold the line on property taxes and all other taxes and fees and there are precious few alternatives.
“People don’t want to see government growing. They don’t want to see their taxes growing. … People are suffering,” he said.
“What can you do if it costs you more and more money? … You have to look at government differently. If you don’t look at government differently, you live in the past.”
I would dispute the line about precious few alternatives. Chicago could choose to fire the thousands of its city employees that essentially do nothing, including the infamous “Boiler Watchers” who do nothing but monitor public building boilers that have had internal alarm sensors for decades now. But that would mean taking
machine party hacks dedicated public employees off of the public payroll.
Nonetheless, the proposal (and other similar privatization ideas) is getting the predictable response from the public employees’ union:
Phillips has said he’s “totally against” farming out recycling because it’s “less jobs for us” at a time when his members are taking unpaid furlough days and comp time instead of cash overtime.
I appreciate the honesty there. Government work is not about providing services; it’s about jobs for their union members. It’s almost refreshing to hear it said.
I commend Mayor Daley for these ideas (not that he cares what I think), and hope that our big city mayors in Missouri can learn from them. Although, to be fair, the Chicago system gives the mayor much more power there than is the case in St. Louis or Kansas City.