Further & More
PRIVATE AYES OR PRIVATE NAYS?
"The experiences of several small towns has proved that even police services can be privatized." So concluded REASON in November 1982 ("Cops, Inc.").
Newsweek saw it differently. When in April 1983 the magazine published a report on privatization that picked up on several REASON stories, it said that Reminderville, Ohio, and neighboring Twinsburg Township were having second thoughts about contracting out their police protection to Corporate Security, Inc.
Now REASON has learned that Corporate Security's contract was not extended when it came up for renewal this fall. But Newsweek's negative story may have had a hand in that.
Where REASON had pointed out the cost savings when the private firm purchased used police cars and equipment, Newsweek called the used cars "well-worn old battleships." And where REASON had countered "rent-a-cops" charges with the information that Corporate Security had hired academy-trained, certified police officers, Newsweek referred to them as "guards."
Reminderville's council members were disturbed by Newsweek's implication "that we were being protected by security guards instead of professional police officers," councilman Tom Schmida told REASON recently. He and other council members wrote Newsweek to that effect, but no letter was ever published, he said.
Schmida told REASON that Corporate Security's service was "excellent." But Reminderville had "come to a point where we were ready to set up our own police department." Schmida mentioned some difficulty getting mutual aid agreements with nearby communities and some problems with insurance. But in the end, one wonders whether it wasn't Newsweek's disdain that needled the town into opting for "our own police department." Twinsburg Township followed suit, even though taxpayers in both towns will be footing bills larger by yet-unknown amounts.
Meanwhile, Arthur Robataille, president of Corporate Security, isn't too worried. His company's reputation has spread, and he told REASON that he's negotiating with another Ohio town to provide local police service where none now exists (he's keeping mum about the location). He expects that a final decision will be made early next year.
THE RIGHT ROAD
The voters of Harris County, Texas—which contains metropolitan Houston—in September approved by a margin of more than 2 to 1 a $900-million bond issue to construct three toll roads to improve the area's traffic situation. Only three months prior to the bond approval, these same voters had decisively rejected a $2.35-billion bond issue to build a rail transit system (see "Houston Voters Derail Boondoggle," Trends, Sept.). The bonds will be paid off with revenue collected at the toll booth, instead of, as is more usual, revenue siphoned from taxpayers' pockets.
As Tom Hazlett reported in our November issue ("They Built Their Own Highway…"), the rapid growth of booming Houston—the nation's fourth-largest city—has strained the area's road capacity somewhat. But once again, the Harris County citizenry appear to have made the wise choice. For, if Jeff Riggenbach was right when he suggested in these pages that the nation's most dynamic cities are those catering to the automobile ("Vroom to Grow," Jan.), it may just be that Houston—notwithstanding its phenomenal growth to date—ain't seen nothin' yet.
• House sale sailing. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is making swift progress in selling off much of Britain's 6.5 million state-owned "Council" houses. John Blundell, in our February issue, had reported that the housing sale was going at a quick pace ("Margaret Goes to Market"). Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reported in September that 250,000 of the Council houses had been sold.
• Curbing city hall. Are local governments liable for antitrust violations when they award exclusive franchises (like cable TV), regulate local industries (like taxis), or monopolize local services (like refuse collection)? States are exempt from federal antitrust laws, and for many years local governments were thought to have such immunity by extension. But in 1982, as REASON has had occasion to mention several times, the Supreme Court ruled that the immunity does not necessarily hold (a state law must very specifically authorize the local government's trade-inhibiting activities). Now a federal district judge has ruled that an Arizona law allowing cities in that state to award cable TV franchises does not also provide antitrust immunity.