Privatization continues to gain national visibility, thanks to the work of the Reason Foundation. The most recent example occurred in April when Newsweek did a one and a half page story titled "Want to Buy a Fire Dept.?" (April 25, p. 55). Photos above the headline featured private fire departments in action in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Grants Pass, Oregon, with the latter photo the same one we had used as the lead for our March cover story. Newsweek obtained much of the information in the article from two hour-long interviews with me in which I discussed the work of our Local Government Center, plus copies of our November 1982 (police contracting in Reminderville, Ohio) and March 1983 (fire services competition in Grants Pass, Oregon) issues.
ABC News quickly followed up on the Newsweek story. World News Tonight sent camera crews to Scottsdale and Grants Pass and taped an interview with economist Steve Hanke, a frequent REASON contributor. At press time, the report had not yet aired.
Our January cover story exposing SEC censorship of financial newsletters continues to have impact. The Wall Street Journal agreed with our assessment in a March 15 editorial, "Trashing the First." Syndicated columnist Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune did a hard-hitting column on the SEC and press freedom in April, citing the REASON article. And Sen. Jesse Helms (R–N.C.) has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate SEC expenditures for regulation of the media, saying that he is "deeply concerned about the Securities and Exchange Commission's efforts relating to the licensing of financial magazines and newsletters."
In "Free-Lance Transit" last November, Gabriel Roth recounted case after case of economical, responsive transit services being provided by entrepreneurs, without subsidy, in major cities overseas. As we noted then, the article was based on a terrific new book by Roth and George Wynne called Free Enterprise Urban Transportation, published by the Council for International Urban Liaison (818 18th St., NW, Washington, DC 20006). A number of our readers attempted to order copies of the Roth/Wynne book from the council, only to learn that it was "unavailable." Why? It seems that UMTA—the Urban Mass Transportation Administration—had funded part of the research that went into the book and that UMTA bureaucrats were upset that the book criticized as "a somewhat illogical position" UMTA's determination to continue providing capital grants to US metropolitan transit agencies while phasing out operating subsidies. UMTA, therefore, had ordered the council not to sell the book, even though thousands of copies had been printed!
Enter REASON magazine. We called the UMTA bureaucrat responsible for the decision, asking what had happened and when the book would be available so our readers could purchase copies. Startled by the fact that the press was aware of this little attempt at censorship, the bureaucrat promised to look into the matter. Recently we checked back with the council and learned that—lo and behold!—the embargo had suddenly been lifted and the council was now filling orders.
Sometimes a single article can make a profound difference. One such case was Roland Kidwell's story on the harassment of the National Institute for Rehabilitation Engineering (Aug. 1981). As we reported here earlier, the publicity from our story helped ward off further state harassment of NIRE and eventually led to a settlement. NIRE director Don Selwyn has written to tell us that "if it had not been for REASON, NIRE would have been utterly destroyed." As it is, though, the organization has managed only barely to survive. Though it is no longer being harassed by the state, the state agencies that used to purchase devices and services from NIRE have experienced sharp budget cuts and no longer do so. NIRE has survived thanks to a lot of volunteer effort and a few small grants from industry. It recently devised an affordable talking typewriter for the blind—priced at between $1,000 and $2,000 rather than $6,000 to $13,000. But sales have been slow, probably because of the recession. NIRE is a tax-exempt public charity, so your contribution to help with its efforts to develop technological aids for the handicapped will be tax-deductible. Send it to the National Institute for Rehabilitation Engineering, 97 Decker Road, Butler, NJ 07405.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Notes".