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  1. #1

    Default privatization of state parks (Alabama)

    Alabama has an Amendment attached to the national election concerning the funding of our state parks.

    https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Rule...ndment_2_(2016)

    What is your opinion / experience with the privatization of state parks in your state?
    Is this a good idea?

    I am sort of torn as the funding is not there and our fine (not so) government has already closed five parks with many more slated to be closed. If something is not done, we will lose them.
    Promoting their use would help or solve the financial issues as the majority of funding comes from the visitors.

    Thank you all for your insight.

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    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...

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    NO! Our situation is slightly different, but has similar outcomes. Our Rep. candidate wants to make all Federal lands in the state come under the management of the state. When it comes down to funding we'd be broke in a few years with the costs of wildfires and other expenditures. Wyoming is one of the few states that has a balanced budget, isn't in debt up to their eyeballs and has a rainy-day fund...we'd lose all that.

    Public lands need to stay public-owned for the enjoyment of all. I'm even okay with some places needing to implement an daily/weekly/annual fee card (like the NPs) to help offset costs to keep the trails open and maintained...so many I've recently discovered are overgrown and not kept up, and thus easy to get lost.

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    Either it's a state park operated and funded by the state or it's a private (i.e. for profit) park. What do you want?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DuneElliot View Post
    NO! Our situation is slightly different, but has similar outcomes. Our Rep. candidate wants to make all Federal lands in the state come under the management of the state. When it comes down to funding we'd be broke in a few years with the costs of wildfires and other expenditures. Wyoming is one of the few states that has a balanced budget, isn't in debt up to their eyeballs and has a rainy-day fund...we'd lose all that.

    Public lands need to stay public-owned for the enjoyment of all. I'm even okay with some places needing to implement an daily/weekly/annual fee card (like the NPs) to help offset costs to keep the trails open and maintained...so many I've recently discovered are overgrown and not kept up, and thus easy to get lost.
    To your point, Ammoland has been writing about this recently (thanks TTS for mentioning this in the podcast) I was glad to read that such a conservatives news source is also acknowledging how bad an idea this is.



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    The link doesn't work.

    As you describe the proposal, it could range anywhere from delegating the park operations to concessionaires, while leaving control in the hands of the state, to selling the land to developers in fee simple. The former is Mostly Harmless - many states contract out some, if not all, park operations. The latter is, of course, a disaster - destroying the parks entirely.

    Lately, this sort of thing comes up during every budget squabble. It's because parks are the most visible item of discretionary spending. People have all visited them - it's a government service that virtually everyone has enjoyed. And yet, it's fundamentally at odds with the peculiar American work ethic. Having time to spend in a park, and access to one, is a luxury, and, whenever a budget comes up, one side tells us that luxuries are something that nobody can afford!

    "The funding is not there" together with "the majority of funding comes from visitors" sounds like a bit of an inconsistency. To me, it's politicians saying, "we are not willing to consider parks to be a public good, and are therefore not willing to allocate money from the public coffers to operate them. Nevertheless, we are not willing to adjust prices to a level where they will be self-sustaining." This policy is, no doubt, a mandate from the electorate. You can't both accept the premise that state parks are a public good for the citizenry, while simultaneously stating that the state ought not to fund them.

    At least, a closed park can be reopened when people come to their senses. A park that has been sold to a private developer is lost forever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Secondmouse View Post
    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...
    Correct, private companies are much better at a lot of things such as at chasing short term profits, laying off worker, taking away benefits, outsourcing, reducing services and declaring bankruptcy than the government could ever be.

    Have you looked at what happens when private companies take over for the governemnt? Nearly every example I have seen is little more than broken promises of cost savings and reduced services. Just look at chsrter schools, prisons, the private parking and toll contracts in the Chicago area, or the concession companies who are trying to claim trademark rights over the national parks. I'm not saying this as a political argument, simply stating that when objectively compared private companies don't automatically do a better job when taking over services that were provided by the public sector.
    Last edited by Sarcasm the elf; 11-02-2016 at 12:25.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    Correct, private companies are much better at a lot of things such as at chasing short term profits, laying off worker, taking away benefits, outsourcing, reducing services and declaring bankruptcy than the government could ever be.

    Have you looked at what happens when private companies take over for the governemnt? Nearly every example I have seen is little more than broken promises of cost savings and reduced services. Just look at chsrter schools, prisons, the private parking and toll contracts in the Chicago area, or the concession companies who are trying to claim trademark rights over the national parks. I'm not saying this as a political argument, simply stating that when objectively compared private companies don't automatically do a better job when taking over services that were provided by the public sector.
    What he said.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Secondmouse View Post
    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...
    Clearly that is correct, but it can't be used as an excuse to give away our state parks. Government screws up often and I'm sure that transferring control of state parks to private hands will be no exception. It gets complicated. Are they going to sell the land? Who gets to bid on the land sale? How will the money be used? What restrictions will there be on the use of the land? And remember there is absolutely no way to prevent the change of those restrictions in the future.

    Maybe this is only about hiring private contractors to maintain state parks. That would likely be positive.

    I like this solution best: Stop wasting taxpayer money on crap that is designed to keep people in their position of political power. Instead, spend that money on stuff we actually use, like state parks.

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    This is a discussion we have often here in Utah, only here it tends to center around the state wanting to "take back control" of the national parks and other federally owned lands, which are, at present, nearly two-thirds of the landscape. And naturally, the discussion has become politicized.

    To this point, parks have proven themselves a good idea. Maybe not "America's best idea," as Ken Burns put it, but a solid one nonetheless. How they're run/managed is often confused with the merit and "usefulness" of their very existence, and that's a real shame.

    As the nation gets more and more crowded, as it appears it's only going to, parks and open, accessible land will become that much more important, both for humanity's sake and the rest of the environment's (animals, plants, air, water, etc). Government, be it state of federal, is supposed to be made up of and represent we the people. It's too bad that we the people are so divided on so many issues, and likely this one too. Continued compromise (the name of the game in politics) won't likely benefit our humanistic world, and it certainly won't benefit the animal kingdom. It's too bad so many of us have become uneducated and apathetic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Secondmouse View Post
    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...
    You can have fast and cheap ... or good and worthwhile.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    Correct, private companies are much better at a lot of things such as at chasing short term profits, laying off worker, taking away benefits, outsourcing, reducing services and declaring bankruptcy than the government could ever be.

    Have you looked at what happens when private companies take over for the governemnt? Nearly every example I have seen is little more than broken promises of cost savings and reduced services. Just look at chsrter schools, prisons, the private parking and toll contracts in the Chicago area, or the concession companies who are trying to claim trademark rights over the national parks. I'm not saying this as a political argument, simply stating that when objectively compared private companies don't automatically do a better job when taking over services that were provided by the public sector.

    ......................+1

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by swisscross View Post
    Alabama has an Amendment attached to the national election concerning the funding of our state parks.

    https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Rule...ndment_2_(2016)

    What is your opinion / experience with the privatization of state parks in your state?
    Is this a good idea?

    I am sort of torn as the funding is not there and our fine (not so) government has already closed five parks with many more slated to be closed. If something is not done, we will lose them.
    Promoting their use would help or solve the financial issues as the majority of funding comes from the visitors.

    Thank you all for your insight.
    Not a "federal transfer issue back to state control question" for those that missed that...
    And stop hogging all the "S's" Swisscross

    Though I agree- if land is in federal hands- nobody will agree on anything to quickly so best to keep it there... if a state gets a big enough bug up their butt during a temporary crisis or surge in political will; a fire sale on land is the whole reason we have federal lands in the first place.

    Quote Originally Posted by Secondmouse View Post
    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...
    By that metric yes... but I'm with others; there are some government services that cannot be measured by those metrics or are government funded precisely because they are a service and not-profitable... as Elf covers below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    Correct, private companies are much better at a lot of things such as at chasing short term profits, laying off worker, taking away benefits, outsourcing, reducing services and declaring bankruptcy than the government could ever be.

    Have you looked at what happens when private companies take over for the governemnt? Nearly every example I have seen is little more than broken promises of cost savings and reduced services. Just look at chsrter schools, prisons, the private parking and toll contracts in the Chicago area, or the concession companies who are trying to claim trademark rights over the national parks. I'm not saying this as a political argument, simply stating that when objectively compared private companies don't automatically do a better job when taking over services that were provided by the public sector.
    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    The link doesn't work.

    As you describe the proposal, it could range anywhere from delegating the park operations to concessionaires, while leaving control in the hands of the state, to selling the land to developers in fee simple. The former is Mostly Harmless - many states contract out some, if not all, park operations. The latter is, of course, a disaster - destroying the parks entirely.

    Lately, this sort of thing comes up during every budget squabble. It's because parks are the most visible item of discretionary spending. People have all visited them - it's a government service that virtually everyone has enjoyed. And yet, it's fundamentally at odds with the peculiar American work ethic. Having time to spend in a park, and access to one, is a luxury, and, whenever a budget comes up, one side tells us that luxuries are something that nobody can afford!

    "The funding is not there" together with "the majority of funding comes from visitors" sounds like a bit of an inconsistency. To me, it's politicians saying, "we are not willing to consider parks to be a public good, and are therefore not willing to allocate money from the public coffers to operate them. Nevertheless, we are not willing to adjust prices to a level where they will be self-sustaining." This policy is, no doubt, a mandate from the electorate. You can't both accept the premise that state parks are a public good for the citizenry, while simultaneously stating that the state ought not to fund them.

    At least, a closed park can be reopened when people come to their senses. A park that has been sold to a private developer is lost forever.
    Illinois, which I recently fled... has been closing parks now for several years. But there is little to no talk of selling them thankfully.
    I would accept closure of a park for lack of funding. I would never accept simply selling a property though... and I would imagine we are not to far away from some "brilliant" lawmaker arriving at the "logical" argument via creative accounting that if we simply sold one property it would pay to keep nine properties "open".

    I can almost see the headline... we have negotiated a deal to keep 90% of the parks open, which after the deal goes through will mean that 100% of the state property in question will be open... please vote for me on the 8th!"

    My definition of open is permanently preserved. If there are additional services that's fine... but if the land is preserved for a better day financially that costs nothing and I would be fine with such austerity measures if needed.

    The Will County Forest Preserve in Illinois closes all it's parks in the winter to save money on snow plowing operations as one fine example of a temporary closure for budget reasons. If they tried to plow it would blow the budget for the year; so fair trade in my opinion.

    The Cook County Forest Preserve (Chicago) has one of the more extensive forest preserve systems in the country, though none of it open to (legal) camping until very recently. After many years of begging and pleading someone did realize they could further monetize those assets through some development and six such sites have recently been opened for business. Unfortunately sites run from $35-$60+ per night so not exactly camping friendly budgets for most here who are used to paying free-ninety-nine. http://fpdcc.com/camping/ However... many people here are very exited about it and plan to use the sites. And people who wouldn't normally camp are camping.

    I have also watched many things in Chicago and Crook county be sold off and/or privatized. If the government (with no tax burdens, mortgage/rent or lease to pay) cannot make money then simple accounting tells me that some serious slashing/burning or rate raising will be needed for a private company to make a profit and pay taxes and rent. This is basically what Elf also mentioned happening... some decent income jobs were cut for crap jobs, services provided went down, and rates paid went up. So while some companies are well run... some public service/sector accounting never makes sense. If it did; I find it hard to believe that someone in the land of opportunity has not found a way to make a buck off it. Often the only profitable benefit to the public good to occur is the one that involves a company agent bribing a public official.

    One funny example being the Cook county FP golf courses; which were so miserably unprofitable because of the summer help the county workers hired stealing all the money from the till. So the solution was to privatize them. A few of the courses did just fine as it was the county superiors who were the ones encouraging (and taking their cut) which was the reason for the extremely high level of theft. All they had to do was remove the county workers supervising the summer help, which also resulted in many unhappy county supervisors who suddenly were short pocket change and had no real need to be employed. On the flipside; Another course sued the FP for misrepresenting the expected incomes (which the FP estimated based upon who knows what as they claimed all the money was stolen) when in fact the simple matter was that nobody used that particular course much and the private company was able to break their lease and get paid for their trouble as a result of the poor attendance. So all the profitable courses were privatized and all the unprofitable ones required settlements to take back as the agreements were signed on a property by property basis.

    The point being... the parks in all cases were still state owned properties preserved for their intended purpose- only the management was sold.
    Illinois State Parks are sitting there waiting for a better day (or even for them to simply pass a budget so they can be funded as Illinois is not really as broke as it seems).

    Cook County Properties have sat forever and suddenly they are now open but not for lack of funding- but to raise money for the county.
    Ironically it was a new county board president who chased out many of the corrupt employees... which solved a good bit of the "budget crisis" in much the same way not stabbing yourself in the back often prevents bleeding to death.

    As Kevin said, people, politicians, political will and financial "crisis" come and go... so long as the land is there safe, sound and in the public trust; it will find public use and value again.

    If nothing else... it is highly likely in my son's lifetime that America's preserved lands will become (after water) the most valuable resource on the planet. So if you want dollars and cents... the rest of our balance sheet is nothing to be too proud of and that massive asset sitting down towards the bottom is appreciating in value at a staggering rate and will likely eclipse our national debt in value several times over in the next generation or two at most.
    Last edited by Just Bill; 11-02-2016 at 15:19.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    Correct, private companies are much better at a lot of things such as at chasing short term profits, laying off worker, taking away benefits, outsourcing, reducing services and declaring bankruptcy than the government could ever be.

    Have you looked at what happens when private companies take over for the governemnt? Nearly every example I have seen is little more than broken promises of cost savings and reduced services. Just look at chsrter schools, prisons, the private parking and toll contracts in the Chicago area, or the concession companies who are trying to claim trademark rights over the national parks. I'm not saying this as a political argument, simply stating that when objectively compared private companies don't automatically do a better job when taking over services that were provided by the public sector.
    +1 Thank you - you saved me a lot of writing. Privatization is nothing more than a means of funneling public dollars into private hands.

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    State parks is one of the the last functions a state government should close, it is the people's connect to the land a basic right of humanity and the basic trust of any government. We should first privatize the legislature before any park.

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    In South Carolina, many of the state parks and forests were donated lands or land owned by the Feds and "given" to the state to manage for the public. I understand that some of the parks came with stipulations that the land could not be sold. Over the past 10 or so years, there has been a vocal minority, both in and out of government, in favor of selling off our state parks and forests. I have yet to hear anyone from this group discussing the matter other than saying sell, sell, sell.

    I agree with the above quote from Offshore,





    +1 Thank you - you saved me a lot of writing. Privatization is nothing more than a means of funneling public dollars into private hands.






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    I feel compelled to make an 'all is not yet lost' post to revive my spirits after continuing to read this thread.

    I account myself fortunate to live in New York, where with an hour-and-a-half drive I can reach trailheads in either the Adirondack or Catskill Parks. New York's State Parks have come and, alas, occasionally gone. The Adirondack and Catskill Parks are different in that they're enshrined in the state constitution. They're the only parks anywhere, as far as I know, to enjoy that level of protection. In New York, the easiest way to pass a constitutional amendment is by approval of the attorney general, majority vote of both houses of the state legislature in two consecutive sessions, and then approval of the electorate in a general referendum. (I do fear what might happen if voters call a constitutional convention in the 2017 election. A convention can be called by the legislature putting the convention call on a general election ballot, which they can do at any time up to a constitutional limit of 20 years. Voters in 1957, 1977 and 1997 rejected a convention call.)

    The constitutional article begins:
    The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.

    While the Forest Preserve has had a long and sordid history, the amendment protecting it has stood for over a century - long enough that 'old second growth' is beginning to emerge in places. It has been amended twenty times, but all have been comparatively minor land deals. The most significant were the damming of New York City's great reservoirs, construction of the Olympic complex at Lake Placid, the Whiteface, Gore, and Belleayre ski areas, and Interstate 87.

    Even the couple of amendments that were commercial in nature were net wins. National Lead has been allowed to resume limited operations at the Tahawus mines near Newcomb, and the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad to reopen its line to the mines. The company gets some titanium ore, discarded because the mines were extracting iron, and sitting in tailings on the site. The state gets a major cleanup of a dump site, since the tailings will be removed, the structures demolished or stabilized, and the site remediated. And at the end of the process, title to the mines reverts to the state. Similarly, the NYCO Minerals holding lets the company mine 200 acres of forest preserve, in return for more than ten times that acreage in outstanding recreational land added to the forest preserve, and title reverting to the state at the end of the mining operation.

    The two parks are vast: the Adirondack Park would fit Yellowstone, Everglades, Cascade, and Glacier within its borders, with room to spare. In other words, it's larger than Massachusetts or Slovenia, just short of the size of Vermont or Belgium. The Catskill Park is 'only' a tenth that size, which is still a holding comparable, say, to the Great Smoky Mountains. Roughly 120 miles of the New York Long Path are in the Catskill Park, and that is an astonishing section of trail. The Adirondacks are home to some challenging alpine hiking rivalling New Hampshire and Maine. The Adirondack Great Range Traverse is of difficulty comparable to the Presidentials, and has additional features such as a long cable route over slick gneiss.

    New York has not found it necessary to resort to a permit system like most Federal lands: the Forest Preserve is still 'come and go as you will.' The day is not far off when they'll have to enact some sort of capacity management in High Peaks, but the rest of the areas are still able to absorb the impact that they see.

    With any luck at all, there won't be a constitutional convention to wreck the place. 'Forever Wild' is a popular phrase in New York. It would take a really skilled demagogue preaching the gospel of austerity to convince the electorate to sell it off. A lesser politician proposing such a stupid idea would be ridden out of town on a rail.

    So, all is not yet lost.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Secondmouse View Post
    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...
    But at what cost?

    I went to a Government Funded (everyone had a 100% scholarship including room and board) boarding high school which was then contracted to a private contractor to do the "board"/food stuff. And sure it was cheaper. But the food was nigh inedible brown slop, very few fresh vegetables, and only the cheapest of foods such as rice and waffle batter were tolerable. Cheaper than had the government run the cafeteria to be sure. Because the government would have provided growing children with vegetables and those are more expensive than canned brown slop.

    As a result of that, I am wary of always going the cheapest route. If the quality is the same, then no need to overpay. But let's make sure that the administration of these parks isn't going to be a reduction in quality for users in order for the company to still manage a profit at that price before worshipping the bottom line, shall we?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    I account myself fortunate to live in New York...
    I think that's the first time I've ever heard anyone say that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Secondmouse View Post
    there is nothing, short of national defense, that a private company can't do better/faster/cheaper than gov't. and even that is debatable...
    Totally! What have the Romans ever done for us?

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