Playing Privatization Russian Roulette

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Dwindling budgets and skyrocketing costs have municipalities across Florida looking to save a buck by privatizing city-run services, including solid waste and recycling. Sanitation services are just one of the often under-appreciated services provided by our cities. These essential services keep our neighborhoods clean and eliminate serious public health hazards. When sanitation services don’t work, the whole community pays the price. Is privatization of essential services worth the risk? Or is it more like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber?

Advocates of sending tax dollars to private companies promise that privatization can deliver the same service for less money but many times the projected savings fall short and quality declines. Private companies deliver cheaper services by cutting expenses like workers’ healthcare and hourly pay, and by cutting maintenance costs for their collection vehicles. What this ultimately means is that although the service is cheaper, the service, the employees, and ultimately the local community, suffer.

Because employees make less money, they have a reduced impact on the economics of the local community. And, the municipal tax dollars enrich the foreign companies and their CEOs, further reducing the recirculation of tax dollars in the city. This impacts local businesses who depend on local residents’ spending their money locally. What we then see is something more like cost shifting. The costs are shifted from city coffers to the shoulders of local businesses. When you consider the downstream effects of privatization on the local economy, it hardly makes sense to take the chance that your city will be the one to dodge the bullet.

But, Mayor George Vallejo, and the North Miami Beach City Council, are doing just that. Looking only at numbers on a balance sheet that does not consider the impact of downstream effects, the city is looking to generate huge savings by privatizing essential city services. They are considering a proposal to outsource the jobs of the city’s dedicated sanitation workers that will strip them of their voice on the job and reduce their pay and benefits.

The reason for privatizing this essential service is due to a bloated budget rife with pet projects. Blaming the cost of sanitation services for poor budgetary decisions is like blaming the life boat because the ship is sinking. Wise fiscal decision-making means understanding the distinction between a “need” and a “want”. Sanitation is an essential service that once privatized, can be difficult to undo.

Playing Russian Roulette with city services and taxpayer dollars is rarely the right public policy decision. Sanitation workers, their families, labor and community supporters will rally outside the North Miami Beach City Hall on August 4th at 5:30p.m. They are asking the Mayor and City Council to consider the wider implications of their decision and keep tax dollars in the city, working to improve the local economy, and not lining the pockets of private companies and CEOs.

For more information, check out the event on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1716578108578268/

Can’t make it to the event? Sign the Petition at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-north-miami-beach-from-gutting-quality-public-services

Janice Coakley is the president of AFSCME local 3293.

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