This article originally appeared in the fall 2001 issue of IMPACT!, the quarterly newsletter of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Sometimes Michigan public officials are happy to acknowledge the powerful role Mackinac Center for Public Policy ideas play in the debate over environmental policy, labor law, education reform, and other key issues.
But other times, policy-makers are content to pursue Mackinac Center recommendations quietly. The most recent examples come from Saginaw and Flint, two mid-Michigan cities facing budgetary difficulties.
In May 1999, the Mackinac Center urged Flint Mayor Woodrow Stanley to reconsider contracting out city garbage collection services to improve quality and save local taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses. Five years earlier, Stanley had proposed privatization before accepting a new city employees' plan that initially saved a smaller amount of money, but which has not contained costs. "The mayor should once again ask forbids from firms to do the collection work of city employees," wrote Policy Analyst Michael LaFaive in Michigan Privatization Report (MPR ), a Mackinac Center journal received by over 14,000 state and local policy-makers including Stanley.
This June, the Flint City Council unanimously approved Mayor Stanley's new budget, which contains an initiative to privatize garbage collection. A spokesman for the city's public works program told the Mackinac Center that the process for soliciting bids from private contractors is underway.
The city of Saginaw also is using privatization to alleviate financial problems including a reported $1.8 million shortfall in its $38 million budget. City Manager Reed Phillips recently contracted out management of Saginaw's recreation department to the local YMCA for an estimated $200,000 annual savings.
Officials also are interested in other ideas they have found in "Saginaw Needs Privatization," an MPR article detailing ways the city can better use its resources, and a Viewpoint on Indianapolis's successful privatization of many city services.