April 10, 2012

Private agencies spring up, let governments sidestep scrutiny
Local governments are creating private development corporations at a rapid rate, allowing them to spend tens of millions in tax dollars outside the public view and with minimal state oversight, a Journal News investigation shows. It’s a loophole that lets governments award contracts without public bidding, sell tax-exempt bonds and take public property for resale or development. Local development corporations, or LDCs, are booming because they sidestep state restrictions on tax breaks for nonprofit groups. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino says that is exactly why he created the Lower Hudson Valley’s newest LDC. There have been other issues. In Ramapo, taxpayers could be left with as much as $60 million in debt after town officials created their own LDC to bypass local and state laws in order to build an independent-league ballpark that had been soundly rejected by voters. Lohud.com

FL: Delray considering whether to privatize code enforcement position
In a move to save money, Delray Beach city officials will consider privatizing a code enforcement position that was recently created. At their meeting Tuesday City Commissioners are expected to weigh in the benefits of contracting with an outside firm — savings in benefits and pension plans — against the disadvantages of having a private company provide what the city considers a very personable service….The city has been talking to Calvin, Giordano & Associates, Inc., of Fort Lauderdale. The company has contracts with the cities of Weston, Pompano Beach and Pembroke Pines, providing a range of services from total privatization of code enforcement, building, administration and engineering services..Victor Kirson, who is the president of the Tierra Verde Homeowners Association, said the city is better equipped to deal with issues that are unique to Delray. “You privatize something like this and you have no control whatsoever,” Kirson said. “But the code enforcement department does need to be retrained to deal with some of these newer issues.” Sun-Sentinel

AZ: Brewer vetoes Arizona’s voucher-like program expansion
Governor Jan Brewer surprised school-choice advocates in Arizona last week when she vetoed a bill that would have expanded the state’s voucher-like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts…Opponents of the bill cheered Brewer’s decision. “We were very excited to see the governor’s action,” says Janice Palmer, director of government relations and public affairs at the Arizona School Boards Association, which has challenged the current incarnation of the ESA program in court. “We feel that those dollars should be invested in our public schools.” Brewer has previously proclaimed herself a champion of school choice, and Arizona is home to the largest percentage of charter schools of any state in the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Her veto came one day before the legislature in Louisiana passed legislation, backed by Governor Bobby Jindal, that would greatly expand its current voucher program. But Brewer’s move may have been more tactical than ideological. The governor cited concerns about increased state costs and the timing of the measure in her veto letter, but indicated that she would be willing to revisit the bill down the road. Stateline