PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

Stone Proposes Sure Fail Solution To Money Crisis

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 3, 2011

From Milwaukee County First:

State Representative Jeff Stone has issued a proposal to resolve MilwaukeeCounty’s crisis regarding finding sufficient funding for the transit and park systems.  His answer to the funding issue is to lease or sell Mitchell Field airport.

Keep in mind that just a few weeks ago, Stone wasfuriously backpedaling from the notion that he’d ever suggest privatizing the airport.  Something or someone  (read Scott Walker) must have changed his mind in the past six weeks.

Regardless of the cause of this change of heart, Stone’s suggestion is still a very poorly thought out one.  There are several reasons why privatizing the airport would be a very bad idea.

Mitchell Airport is highly successful.  Almost every month it has been setting a new record for the number of passengers that pass through.  On top of that, not one dime of tax payer money goes to its operation.  The entire thing is operated with funding from user fees.

By privatizing it, the County would be losing control of a self-sufficient operation.  The people that would  lead it would be appointed and thus unaccountable to anyone but the investors and the parent company.  If they so chose, they could expand at will.  This should cause neighboring residents quite a bit of concern, seeing that it could be there very homes that are taken away in the name of expansion and progress.

Even worse, they would have no one they could hold accountable, as they do now, with the County Board and the County Executive.  Their only recourse would be a lengthy and expensive court battle, something which most people couldn’t afford.

Privatization would also be a bad idea due to the fact that the County would lose a valuable asset for what is more or less a one time payment which they would have to try to stretch over the next fifty or hundred years, if not forever.  When that money runs out, a new source of funding would still need to be found.  Most business people, as well as politicians, would agree that it is bad practice and irresponsible budgeting to turn over a successful and growing source of revenue for a short term gain.

Even more alarming about the idea of privatizing the airport is that it has never been successfully done anywhere else in the country.   Only one airport was ever converted, only to revert back to public control in a very short period of time.  Such a move to privatization would not only mean higher ticket costs and user fees for the passengers, but the tax payers would also probably be on the hook to either pay for some of the wishes of the controlling faction or to bail it out once the inevitable failure happened.

In summary, privatization would cause higher fees for passengers, higher tax bills for Milwaukee  County residents, and would be at best, a very temporary fix to an ongoing problem.

The best solution for the parks and the transit system would be a continuing source of revenue, such as a dedicated sales tax, with corresponding property tax relief.

But the idea of privatizing the airport is irresponsible , both fiscally and socially, and is one idea that should be grounded immediately.


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