Letters & Comments, January 21, 2010 | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Letters & Comments, January 21, 2010

"Who needs elected officials to run what is essentially a conglomerate of private corporations?"

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Privatize City Hall?

Re: "The Case for Selling Off the City" by Mick Dumke, January 14

Who needs elected officials to run what is essentially a conglomerate of private corporations? Surely the people of Chicago would be better served by a more qualified group of business people managing the affairs of Chicago. Also, why do we need aldermen making six figures? Privatize the whole leadership system. Too many middlemen doing too little.


Yes, let's turn over the basic necessity for human life to a pure profit motivated entity. What could go wrong?


Prescott, there are many good reasons to oppose the privatization of city assets. But yours is not one of them. Do you think that food is a basic necessity of human life? When you the last time you purchased food from anyone other than a pure profit motivated entity? In fact, a major sector of the economy, farming, depends on the industry being profit motivated. I would say that clothing is also a basic necessity of human life. But unless you purchase your clothes from the Salvation Army, you buy them from a pure profit motivated entity. So it is ludicrous to suggest that the privatization of the distribution of a basic necessity to life is something completely unheard of.

The original IAC

Through the first part of the article, Schmidt argues that privatization works better because private companies will charge "market" rates that government entities lack the political will to charge. He's right there. But then he argues that privatization is good because private companies' efficiency of operations can save taxpayers money. Which is it? Are we privatizing to raise revenue, which will cost taxpayers more in taxes and/or fees, or to cut costs and save taxpayers money? Or is it a combination of both theories—private companies cut costs AND raise fees, resulting in huge profits that go into their pockets rather than the public treasury, all at taxpayer expense?

We'll never know of course, because the City does not do any studies about the effects of privatization. We need an honest appraisal of how much a program or service costs to produce under private operation compared to public operation and whether it provides the same level and quality of services for the same or better price. So far some privatizations (like Head Start in the 1990s) resulted in reduced service delivery, and others (like the Skyway, the garages and the parking meters) resulted in higher costs to consumers.

Where is the example of a privatization plan which resulted in a net benefit to taxpayers and consumers through increased service or decreased costs? Does it exist anywhere but the fantasies of those who line their pockets with the windfall profits of privatization?

Aviva Patt

Dumke's interview of John Schmidt is propaganda for those who believe that private corporations run entities better than government can is preposterous.

In 2008, we learned that our financial system was about to collapse. Was that government running it, or the private enterprises that Mr. Schmidt shills for? Unbridled capitalism without strict regulations will eventually fall on its ass. And who gets to finance the cleanup? It is the taxpayers.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that once you sell off all your assets, the only monies you can raise are more taxes and loans. The Skyway deal was preceded by the city rebuilding it to pristine condition at some $600 million. After the bonds were paid off, the city was left with much less than the sale. Now, the city will not get the annual revenue from the Skyway for another 99 years, when a one-way toll will likely be some $30. All the revenue generated by tolls will fill the pockets of the buyers.

If parking meters were underpriced, then city government should have raised the rates themselves. But that brings another dilemma; suburban malls charge nothing to park and allow you to take off your coat while strolling inside the mall. The city should have been more proactive themselves by countering with low cost, multi-level parking in major shopping areas around the city. This would put merchants in Chicago on equal footing with their suburban counterparts.

Finally, as each asset is sold, the revenue disappears. Once all is sold, we can kiss this city good-bye, as there will be no amount of taxes that will fill the shortfall.

James Ally

The Usual Suspects

Re: "Hyperlocalism Spreads Across the North Side," posted by Michael Miner, January 14

Aren't communities like this exactly the ones where you'd expect to have this kind of Web site, this kind of coverage? No knock against the neighborhoods or the organizers of the site at all, but as the major dailies retrench and these hyper-local sites pop up—in very limited areas—I see even greater gulfs in coverage throughout the city in the future.

Tower B12

Technically Speaking

Re: "Who Deserves to Be Disqualified?" by Ben Joravsky, December 31

I don't see what good it does to remove a candidate from the ballot over a technicality such as what is described. No good is served by Mr. Raoul running unopposed in the primary and, short of some as yet unproven and intentional fraud on the part of Mr. Hofeld, there seems to be no compelling reason to remove him from the ballot (and save your 'he withdrew' statements—he withdrew because of the challenge).


It should be pointed out that when President Obama first ran for the seat in question he was not the incumbent and he actually was able to kick the incumbent off of the ballot.


Thalidomide's Back

Re: "Stripping Away the 'Gimp Mystique'" by Cliff Doerksen, January 14

It is true, as Cliff Doerksen writes in his review, that after the birth-defects scandal in 1961 thalidomide was taken off the market. However, in recent years it has been reintroduced in some countries (not Europe or the USA) as a treatment for various chronic diseases. There are very tight restrictions on its use by women of child-bearing age.

Nina Gaspich

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