Hampton Roads / Local / Norfolk / Politics / Virginia

Port privatization: happening without us

Editorial writer Shawn Day’s column in Sunday’s paper returned to a theme that I often espouse, beginning with the very first column I wrote for the paper. Day focused on the poll results provided by the Pew Research Center on the SCOTUS healthcare ruling, in particular, the 45% of folks who “say either that the court rejected most provisions (15%) or do not know what the court did (30%).”

No doubt each of us knows someone who didn’t understand what happened with the ruling. I got a phone call from a niece of mine, asking me to explain it. (At least she realized what she didn’t know.) But in this day of information, it can be difficult to understand why folks simply don’t take the time to look at it.

The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make t drink,” applies. And that’s what allows politicians to say whatever they want – true or not – with little fear of being caught. It’s what allows outright lies to be passed from person to person, because no one stops to check. And it gives electeds unfettered ability to pretty much do whatever they want, because the public simply isn’t paying attention.

Which brings me to the privatization of the Port of Virginia. Oh, forget the “public” part of the “public-private partnership” deal. What’s happening is that one of our state’s most prized assets is about to be sold (ok, leased for a really, really long time) to a private operator.

And it appears they are going to do it without any input from the public.

We’ve seen this play before, most recently with the implementation of tolls on the tunnels in our area. We also are seeing it locally, as both Norfolk and Virginia Beach take on new zoning plans. The honchos get together, decide what they want to do, and then present it as a fait accompli to the public. Why bother engaging the public? Not only is that messy – gee, you actually have to spend some time informing them of the issues – but it just delays the inevitable.

I think we have more information available but are less informed than ever, partially because we don’t look at what’s out there and partially because those who are supposed to be looking out for our interests stonewall us.

Wish there was a way to make the horse drink.

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8 thoughts on “Port privatization: happening without us

  1. Privatization is upon us at all levels. I had been involved with a study on privatization for the last two years. There are a couple things which seemed obvious to me.

    First, if you ask 5 people to define what privatization is you will get 5 different answers. Some think it is just outsourcing jobs like garbage collection and services. Some see it having corporations run agencies like the Corp of Engineers or the Justice Department. Some see it as selling off our assets such as National Parks, bridges and ports. However, it is really a combination of all of the above.

    The other thing I realized is that there is a large segment of the population that believes if we turn over agencies and assets that the corporations will run them better, the service will be better (or at least the same) and the corporations will make a lot of money so we don’t have to pay for what ever is privatized. In most cases we studied you were lucky if you got two of those usually one. In a few very bad cases all three were not accomplished.

    The difference from what I saw in the good examples vs bad was that the successful ones were thoroughly researched. Many what ifs were considered and put into the contracts and there were a required set of things to accomplish or the contract would end. Also transparency was the main factor in keeping out of bad contracts. Also an open bidding or RFP process is important. Lastly, oversight in making sure what ever is privatized is running to what was agreed upon is important after the fact.

    For those that think privatization is some magical solution that will solve all their problems they are mistaken. I hope they just don’t rush in and sign anything that is put in front of them without thinking the process through or how the people will be effected in the future.

  2. The good and the bad are being illustrated by the 1%’s as less government and more privatization and the bad as being government not proving oversight and accountability to the people.

    If we could get our fellow citizens to see what is really happening – i.e. we are losing more and more of our individual freedoms for the sake of capitalism and less government which is the oversight and accountability of our democratic state. Our democracy is suppose to be balanced with the executive, judicial, legislative branches and “we the people” being and having the ultimate say in our nation.

    As an individual, we need to take every person next to us and explain in very simple terms, how their empathetic position and lack of participation is destroying our great democracy and allowing the 1% to dictate our great democracy and lives.

    Just look at our education system – a national disaster; voting rights for only “Black Americans” have to be re-established and immigrants who become naturalized do not have this requirement; a Congress which has personalized their jobs for individual gains; a global dislike for American; immigration laws not being enforced; our fundamental liberties eradicated; our consumer rights, we have none – corporations dictate how and when you can spend your money (bind you into contacts where you cannot redress through the judicial process) and where there is no service or the consumer has to be cognizant of the laws of various states (Internet/POS transactions) – mail your payment in one State, speak to someone in a foreign country, corporate officials not accessible, consumer has to verify their personal data, but the physical addresses and non-toll free telephone numbers cannot be given to the consumer etc.; our commerce is lopped sided – manufacturing and trade, Communist and third world countries controlling and manipulating our currency for their gains; our food supply conveniently changed to

    Let us start taking back our democracy by voting this election year and remove every single Congressional official that voted for their personal gains and not for the best of our country. Our elected officials need to provide us a monthly report on what legislation they have proposed, supported and had enacted and their voting records. This is essential and will hold them somewhat accountable. We are a great nation with a democratic state consisting of “a Government for the people, by the people, and of the People. Let us not forget this!
    Thanks for the opportunity to vent some of my frustrations.

  3. The major problem with this being done without public input is the same problem I had with Gov. McDonnell’s ABC privatization plan, which is: If our representatives are going to sell off (or lease) and asset that belongs to the Commonwealth, that asset belongs to us, the taxpayers. They have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to get the best price possible. In the case of both licenses to sell liquor and a franchise to operate the port the best possible price is more likely to be reached through a public bidding process than by state officials and representatives of the buyer negotiating behind closed doors.

    • Oh they will hold a couple of public meetings – like the one scheduled for July 17 at 1pm, as if we don’t have to work – and then complain that no one is there.

      They are going to do what they want – because the masses simply choose not to try to hold them accountable.

  4. No disagreement on the rest, but the Virginia Beach proposal is based on a lot of public participation stretching back over six years. You can quarrel with how the public involvement was conducted, but all the people who wanted to be involved were given the opportunity and many took it and worked hard.

    • I think you’re missing the point. The number of people who participate in these things is small, when compared to the population. So regardless of how long the process has been – and certainly the tolls on the tunnels was a long, public process as well – the fact remains that people choose to not participate.

      And we can’t make them.

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