Sunday, April 26, 2009

Idiot alert: John Oxendine

I guess I should give John Oxendine credit for having some guts.  Because it is incredibly gutsy to suggest something as stupid as privatizing MARTA.  Even if you assume that privatizing MARTA would result in some organizational efficiencies, you still have the simple fact that no form of transit pays for itself.  We subsidize highways and oil companies, and bail out car companies and airline industries (which still keep going bankrupt).  When are we going to make roads pay for themselves?

Maybe he envisions something like a state takeover of MARTA, and then hiring a company to run it, like all the north Fulton cities did with their local governmental services.  Again, we have to assume that a private company could do the job cheaper and better - not an entirely unreasonable assumption, but if the car companies and airline industries are any indication, the American transportation industry isn't exactly a shining example of great private management.  

Even if a private company did the job cheaper, they still need to get paid - I would be surprised if the government saved any money at the end of the day.  This of course also assumes that the government keeps subsidizing MARTA with a sales tax, because otherwise the system doesn't make any money at all and how does the private management firm get paid?  Maybe the Ox thinks MARTA will turn a profit if they charged $5 for a ride.

I actually think this suggesting is quite insulting to numerous folks.  Listen, I think MARTA could do better in terms of board oversight, etc., but I don't think MARTA is in need of a wholesale overhaul like the DOT, the Fulton County Commission, or Grady Hospital's board is/was.  MARTA has been run by nationally recognized figures (Beverly Scott is the chief of the American Public Transporation Association, and we lost Nat Ford to San Fransisco because he did a pretty good job at MARTA).  Will a private firm magically find people who have better experience with transit mangement?  Does the fact that these folks managed quasi-government organizations inherently mean they are stupid and ineffective?  Again, it isn't like this is the Fulton County Comission, where a pack of trained seals could run a better meeting.

Also, MARTA responded to the economic crisis by trimming staff, freezing pay, and cutting services.  I'm not sure how a private management firm would have been able to respond any differently - in fact, the private management contracts with the north Fulton cities have proven to be a problem now that tax revenues are down.  I can't decide if the GOP's hatred of MARTA is about not believing government can be effective, or if it is about something else.  An objective look at the organization, to me, suggests that it is run at about a "B" level.  It isn't fantastic, but it does a pretty good job given its level of funding and the sprawling nature of the city.  

Honestly, this idea is so stupid, no matter how I try and cut it, that Oxendine gets this year's first "Stupidest Idea of the Year" tag.  Frankly, the "privatize the airport" idea was probably deserving, and it made me too angry to even post about it.  

I think the base intention behind these sorts of privatization ideas is entirely malicious.  That knee-jerk reaction is probably a result of growing up in the city and having a certain level of built-in animosity toward the suburbs.  What I hear when someone suggests privatizing MARTA or the airport, I translate that into, "Fuck You."  Given the state legislature's treatment of MARTA this year, can you really blame me?


  1. I also translate this idea into "fuck you."

    Then again, at this point I translate anything that comes out of their mouths about MARTA as "fuck you" at this point.

  2. Agree whole-heartedley with your assessment of Oxendine and both of the legislature privatization pushes. When I hear these bumble-f's from the stix or the 'burbs talk about managing anything in Atlanta, it really makes me want to punch them in the face. These crooks can't even pass liquor-on-Sunday's laws, or solve the regions water issues. What an absolute bunch of 'holes.

  3. It bothers me that anyone being elected to any office can so fundamentally fail to grasp the realities of public services: police, fire protection, ambulances and roads are all money-losers (i.e. unattractive business prospects for a private enterprise), yet at the end of the day no one would ever dispute their being essential in a modern society. With transit, however, you hear the ‘let it pay for itself’ and ‘privatize it’ arguments from the right all the time.

    Unless of course he does understand this, in which case the real ugliness of this idea is laid bare. I agree that the underlying motives are malicious, and I think there’s a particular sort of maliciousness involved. MARTA is faced with at least two great liabilities: 1) being controlled by a majority non-metropolitan state legislature who view urban services as frivolous waste and 2) being envisioned and created during America’s last great push for social welfare and thus carrying the associated political baggage. These two intersecting conditions feed the fires of disdain for government largesse, especially when the disdainers see MARTA’s core riders as reaping disproportionate benefit from other people’s hard work and taxes. We are in disturbing times when politicians can run on such a thinly veiled 'screw the poor people' call.

  4. "...jury is still out out on (MARTA) privatization..." or "... a very important question we should be looking at..." spoken by a candidate don't strike fear in my heart.

    I wouldn't take "privatization is out of the question" from a candidate very seriously either but I'm sure we'll hear it.

    There are going to be fist fights about MARTA forever.

  5. I would LOVE to see MARTA privatized!

    Running it as a business would reveal that it needs better rail coverage in Atlanta, with parking around the perimeter; and the MARTA needs to GET OUT of the suburbs; where it can't possibly be profitable.

    Those from the suburbs who want to use it in-town would much rather park at rail stations and use the rail.

    MARTA simply needs more rail and less bus to operate efficiently, but those in charge are to married to the status quo.

    Atlanta can be a great city, but the Atlanta politicians need to quit using MARTA to take over the surrounding area; expanding their own political influence by proxy.

  6. Having met Oxendine and discussed various topics related to politics and non-politics alike, he actually is rather intelligent, so I wouldn't entirely discredit him. He definitely ordered the super-sized ego, but if I'm going to be honest, I'd have to say that if he can put his ego aside, Oxendine he has all the intelligence in the world and he could do an incredible amount of good things if he's involved with the right people. I have no opinion on MARTA because I'm not familiar with the specifics. The biggest problem I see is that people tend to work according to ego rather than intellect. If I knew Oxendine was working simply on his intellect, this is a guy I would want on my team. My suggestion is you play to his intellect. He is definitely not from the "stix" as one person put it.

  7. Roger on the 'IDIOT ALERT'

    I had to put up with his idiocy as the fire commissioner when I worked for 'howdy-doody' - how does someone without fire protection experience get that job??? Now, let me tell you how dangerous someone like that can be :-O

  8. I too would like to see MARTA privatized. B King can't put 2 and 2 together to see the obvious. All of these "money losing" industries, either public services (marta, roads, water) and bailed out failing companies (airlines, oil) all have one thing in common: goverment intervention. You don't have money losing companies in the private sector; not for long anyway. Any money losing company eventually goes out of business and has to sell its assets to a money making company.

    MARTA will one day be profitable and provide the service level we each want. The only "Fuck You" is being said by the government to us citizens who want lower fairs, better coverage, or faster trains. Only a private company that experiences profits or losses can provide what we want. Stop relying on politicians.


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