Cities and Privatization: Prospects for the New Century

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9780130294425: Cities and Privatization: Prospects for the New Century

This concise, readable book focuses on privatization at the municipal level, blending theory with practical matters, and containing real-life examples of privatization. It presents the practical arguments and theoretical frameworks for and against using privatization, summarizes the evidence on efficiency between public and private organizations performing similar tasks, and includes numerous examples of privatization taken from the real-world of city management. Chapter topics cover cities and the privatization debate; the evidence on efficiency and the use of privatization by cities; examining various dimensions of municipal privatization; successes, failures and persistent urban issues; and prospects for the new century. For anyone that is interested in privatization at the municipal level.

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The writing of Cities and Privatization: Prospects for the New Century stems from a long-standing personal interest in politics, economics, public policy, and urban studies. Specifically, the book focuses on cities and privatization. Privatization was one of the most significant public-policy issues of the past century, and the policy debate has carried over into the new century. Privatization involves increasing the use of the private sector for producing and delivering a broad range of public services. The services range from collecting garbage in our cities to providing human services, such as social welfare or public health care. Privatization comes in many forms, ranging from completely getting government out of the business of producing and delivering certain services to simple contractual arrangements with private firms. Although using private firms to provide services for government has a long history in America, during the 1980s privatization quickly evolved into an intense, ideological policy debate because it threatened to alter a fifty-year pattern of government expansion. Privatization also became controversial because it involved politics and money. The critical choice involved in the debate is between market or government provision of services that were once considered to be the exclusive domain of the public sector. There are consequences for using either method to deliver services, as we shall see in this book.

This book deals with the policy debate over and the use of privatization in the real world. For cities, stressed to find ways to pay for expensive public services, privatization provides the possibility of maintaining or even expanding service levels without raising taxes or having to search for alternative revenue sources. The promise of privatization rests on the fact that private firms can produce services more efficiently (for less money) than government can. Why would this create a debate that spans more than a quarter of a century? There are many reasons that will be discussed in this book, but foremost among them is that politics is interwoven into the debate and in the implementation of privatization in the real world. Politics is about power, and those in power usually do not voluntarily give away their advantages. Privatization also involves money, and in many instances it is about taking money from city coffers that was once used to fund in-house city departments and paying private contractors to perform the same tasks for less money. Turning over functions to the private sector might cause some public employees to lose their jobs, and no one usually volunteers to give up his or her job. In the real world of cities numerous services must be provided, many of which most of us take for granted. Cities must provide these services within an environment that is affected by many factors that influence their finances. And when cities run low on funds to pay for services (a condition referred to as fiscal stress) they often look toward alternative ways to provide services: Privatization, in one form or another, is one of the alternatives.

Cities and Privatization: Prospects for the New Century is intended to be a supplemental reader for undergraduate and graduate-level urban politics, public policy, and state and local government classes, or a freestanding book for anyone who is interested in privatization at the municipal level. Although many excellent books have been published on privatization, the inspiration for writing this book came from the lack of a concise book that focused on privatization at the municipal level, blended theory with practical matters, and included real-life examples of privatization. This book blends many dimensions of privatization into a short, readable text. It contains the practical arguments and theoretical frameworks for and against using privatization, summarizes the evidence on efficiency between public and private organizations performing similar tasks, and includes numerous examples of privatization taken from the real world of city management. In short, the purpose of this book is to take the reader on a brief journey through the world of cities and their experiences with privatization. The book closes by looking at the prospects for privatization in the twenty-first century I hope that you enjoy reading Cities and Privatization: Prospects for the New Century.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book represents an interest in privatization and cities that spans many years. Writing a book is a unique endeavor, and along the way one becomes indebted to those who have helped turn an idea into a product that can be shared with others. Special thanks must be given to Paul Herrnson, a professor at the University of Maryland and the editor of Prentice Hall's Real Politics in America series, and to Beth Gillett Mejia, former political science editor at Prentice Hall (now director of marketing). It was a pleasure to work with such competent, high-quality professionals. Both were instrumental in developing Cities and Privatization: Prospects for the New Century into its final form. I would especially like to thank Paul Herrnson for his assistance in editing the original manuscript and his helpful suggestions. I would also like to thank Nicholas L. Henry of Georgia Southern University and Michael E. Milakovitch of University of Miami for reviewing the manuscript and making helpful comments. Finally, I would like to thank the students at the University of Montana who read the early drafts of chapters. It was important for this book to be written in a style that was readable for both undergraduate and graduate students; the University of Montana students provided valuable feedback toward that end.

Jeffrey D. Greene

Review:

"Urban governments in the United States contract out services more than do governments in any other country. This book fills a significant vacuum by reviewing and evaluating an impressive amount of empirical data on the topic. It is an excellent volume for students of urban studies and practitioners of urban affairs, combining, as it does, thoughtfulness and insight." - Nicholas L. Henry, Georgia Southern University"This book is easy to read and user-friendly, while at the same time rigorously researched. Greene treats the 'politics of privatization' in an intelligent and even-handed manner, giving credit to both sides of the argument while forming his own conclusions based on the evidence." - Michael E. Milakovich, University of Miami

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