(Community Matters) It occurred to me last night, watching UT Regent James Huffines on the news, there are unwavering differences in philosophies. James and most other high-level Perry appointees believe all returns on investments are measured in dollars, that you must squeeze every available *private* dollar out of public assets – provide money making opportunities wherever possible.
I don’t disagree with maximizing returns, I simply disagree that all are quantifiable in dollars – public good should carry great weight, as intangible as it may be. From the short clip of James’ comments on News 8 or at least from how it was edited, James doesn’t equivocate from this perspective – his explanation of “fiduciary” duties only taking money into account. This, regrettably, it appears will rule with UT’s Brackenridge Tract – ignore the neighbors, the eco laboratory, the intangibles of the public good.
So, would this suggest we sell off or privatize as many public assets as possible? In cases that involve a board of regents completely appointed by one governor – in a state capitol where most acknowledge the governor’s former chief of staff, now lobbyist, probably secret business partner calls all the shots – do we imagine friends and supporters will be chosen to “maximize asset returns,” maybe making a busload of money for themselves in the interim?
So, how did these same regents handle their public responsibilities in the face of Hurricane Ike’s catastrophic destruction of Galveston? Instead of engaging and supporting the community after most families & the entire city suffered the loss of life and property, the regents tried to shut down the island’s main economic engine – UTMB. Even now, I’m told they’ve laid off over one-third of the employees – at a time when government might be expected to help its citizens. Again, Perry appointees only measuring their effectiveness and fiduciary responsibilities in terms of dollars. If we look at the contracts let after the damage; however, we’re likely to find less total attention to competitiveness, to squeezing ever dollar. We’d probably find a list of major donors.
Much privatization could be good. Government doesn’t usually do the most effective or efficient job, though, we often use too short term an analysis to measure and determine. Privatization of state entitlement programs has been disastrous under Perry and his cronies, possibly not because it couldn’t be done – probably because, as under GWB nationally, the men/women appointed to oversee the projects have been either incompetent, inattentive or negligent. AND , sometimes state systems are the most efficient and effective as measured by the long term perspective that includes customer satisfaction and providing for the public good.
If their measure of success has been how much money are Perry’s former chiefs of staffs making, how much are his closet friends making, how much do the firms hired to privatize make (regardless of success), then, they are doing very well.