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City for sale: The politics of privatizing infrastructure

Our first episode of Need to Know’s new format begins with a question being heard in this year’s campaign: What is the role of government? Are there things that citizens, or even private companies can do instead of government?

Our story comes from Chicago and Harrisburg, Pa.: two of the many cities that face urgent budget problems despite deep spending cuts and tax increases. Now you remember that old joke about selling the Brooklyn Bridge to an unsuspecting tourist? Well these days, there are private companies who’ve said they’d like to at least lease your city’s bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. It would save cities the headache of running and repairing them, and raise money immediately. Chicago is among those places that said, “sounds like a deal.” and some in Harrisburg think it is too. Correspondent Rick Karr reports.

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

  • thumb
    Main Street: Findlay, Ohio
    Need to Know travels to Ohio to assess how workers are faring after the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 35 years.
  • thumb
    Following the money: Tax breaks
    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
  • thumb
      Certifiably employable
    Rick Karr recently visited Seattle to look at a program designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to find jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.


  • Yfk01

    So?   Already doing that in a number of other countries such as Great Britain, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mexico, etc. Why not here? 

  • jan

    Why not here?  Because “doing it” is short sighted and stupid.

    Didn’t your mother ever tell you that its not a good idea to do something just because someone else is doing it?    

  • Drpepperdude1

    Extraction of assets. These people will sell and buy just about anything as long as there is no risk on the buyers side. They wonder why the U.S. is falling, here is oneof the answers.

  • Mideca55

    The city of New Orleans has been doing it for years…It sucks. They contract out the hiring of meter people to a company in Chicago. The people who write the tickets get a commission on every ticket they write, whether it is a valid violation or not. I used to work for a company in New Orleans, that had a company van, that was allowed to park legally in a commercial zone. We would get ticketed almost every day. The only recourse to disputing the charges was to take the day off, and go to traffic court, and the fines were dismissed. The city had to pay the court costs, the meter people would get their commission, and the company in Chicago was ecstatic. A win-win for them. Oh, and did I mention? the former mayor of New Orleans that signed this deal, was given a hefty donation by the Chicago company’s owner….his cousin.

  • Mideca55

    We are not them!

  • Borg

    Lets see who would buy Chicago?  Buffet, Gates, Trump? Really you think this is even an option?  Look how casino’s are run.  Private owned and Govt, run and corrupt.  Rackateering at best!  Ilegal for Mafia to run them this way but ok for Govt, agency.

  • D Winsted

    Indianapolis just “leased” all their parking meters to a private company for 50 years and got a LOT of money up front. It’s too soon to tell how well it’s going to work, but at least they’ve put in new parking meters that you can use a credit/debit card in as well as coins. But of course the parking fees went up…………………….

  • Gconverse1601

     Because its  a bad idea. Selling assets is a short term game.