Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
A recent out-of-court settlement between Virginia and a private-consortium shows that bad things can happen when government fails to understand the risks of public-private partnerships. Under that settlement, Virginia taxpayers will lose over $200 million that the state paid to the private consortium to build a 55-mile highway that was never built.
Virginia’s 1995 public-private transportation law was hailed as a way to enable state and local governments to stretch their tax dollars by entering into partnerships with the private sector to build transportation projects. But, there were significant flaws in the way the 1995 law was designed. Disastrous results often followed when those flaws were combined with the frequent mismatch between the technical and legal expertise available to the private sector (usually superior) compared to the public sector (usually inferior).
The public-private partnership contract to build U.S. Highway 460 was negotiated under the administration of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. After Terry McAuliffe became Governor, he asked his top transportation official, Aubrey Layne, to look into this troubled project. Layne described what happened next:
[A]fter he had a chance to get into the nitty-gritty of the contract …, he learned that the risks associated with obtaining a construction permit for the road rested on the state, not the contractor, as he and others on the Commonwealth Transportation Board had been led to believe. That meant, Layne said, that the contract called for [the private partner] to keep getting automatic payments regardless of whether it had the permits to build anything. Moreover…the deal was structured to front-load state payments to the company, with the justification being that doing so would lower borrowing costs and save the commonwealth money. In fact, the arrangement ended up doing the opposite.
Governor McAuliffe has just signed the new public-private partnership transportation law designed to cure the flaws in the old law.
Implications for Arlington
At the end of 2012, with inadequate public notice, Arlington rushed to enact its own local guidelines for public-private transportation partnerships. Those guidelines are now obsolete because they are based on the old law.
Virginia wisely has recognized the many flaws in its old public-private transportation partnership law and procedures. It’s time for Arlington to do the same.
The financial calamity exposed by the U.S. Highway 460 settlement also raises a broader issue. Public-private partnership agreements, whether or not they relate to transportation, often can be complex. Arlington needs to take care that it knows what it’s doing before it signs them. The County Board’s recent directive to the County Manager to explore a public-private partnership to redevelop Ballston Mall challenges the County government to see if it does know what it’s doing.
Good Monday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
More Arlington properties could be impacted by 100- and 500-year floods, according to new federal flood insurance rate maps. The county estimates some 300 buildings, up from 172, now risk…
Costs are creeping up for a courtroom makeover in Arlington. County Board members approved an extra $200,000 this past Saturday to complete renovations in Courtroom 10B, a project ambitiously dubbed…
Gardens with abundant native species could soon have an official definition in county code: “managed natural landscape.” This definition would protect Arlingtonians who grow the kinds of native grasses, wildflowers…
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Our local therapy practice is delighted to welcome Stacey Cali, Resident in Counseling, who has openings now for new clients. Stacey specializes in therapy for women, couples, teens and families. A graduate of George Mason University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Masters Program, Stacey is also passionate about working with people with addiction.
Stacey’s approach: “Therapy’s a powerful combination of reflection, support and action. You’ll find sessions are filled with empowerment, compassion, goal setting and a metaphorical shovel to dig deep to find the root of your difficulties and how to move past them.”
Adds Stacey, “As a therapist who works with women, teens, couples and families, I use a personalized style of counseling, tailored to you as an individual. You’re the expert in your life, I’m just here to guide you towards transformation and healing.”
Stacey grew up in the area and decided to stay here, “since it’s close to beaches, mountains, and cities.” “In my spare time you can find me doing yoga, hiking, or gardening. I also love lounging and streaming shows or movies. I enjoy trying diverse restaurants and trying new food, my favorites now are sushi & Mexican.”
Whether you’re expecting your first baby or you just had your first baby, we want to meet YOU! All those feelings you’re having are NORMAL and it’s not just you. Please don’t isolate yourself – that’s quicksand.
Mamistad groups are