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Airport Privatization for Atlanta?

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Airport a potential cash cow

By CHUCK CLAY

Chuck Clay is a Republican state senator from Cobb County.

In the not-too-distant future, Atlanta taxpayers are going to be charged water and sewer fees comparable to what many homeowners pay in property taxes elsewhere in metro Atlanta.

An annual water and sewer bill of more than $2,000 is ridiculous to say the least. Thanks to environmentalists who sued and won a consent decree against the city, taxpayers will have to pay as much as $3 billion to rebuild Atlanta's sewers.

I applaud Mayor Shirley Franklin for facing the sewer problem. However, with this bill inevitably coming due, the city is wrong to look to the state or federal government for a bailout. The mayor and City Council should look at every alternative to raising taxes on homeowners and businesses in Atlanta.

Nor should they pass the buck to Georgia taxpayers or the federal government, neither of whom is responsible for this problem. Tripling water and sewer fees isn't acceptable, either.

That's why Atlanta should stop pressing for a handout and instead look inside the city limits for a solution. A huge cash infusion is available just south of City Hall at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and I will introduce legislation during the 2004 session of the Georgia General Assembly to permit privatization of the airport.

The Airport Privatization Act will establish an airport operations board that could lease any and all parts of Hartsfield to the private sector. Under a pilot program administered by the Federal Aviation Administration, any revenue generated by a private sector agreement could go toward other city costs, including sewers.

Privatization of Hartsfield-Jackson is not a new idea. The Fulton County Taxpayers Association has pushed for this, especially after a respected think tank published a study on the potential benefits of privatization nationwide. Unfortunately, after a hearing last December, the Atlanta City Council shot down the proposal and has since refused to discuss it.

As is seen with Lake Lanier Islands and Stone Mountain Park, private companies can be more efficient at managing government services. Companies that manage airports also help consumers by welcoming additional airlines -- something that hasn't happened in Atlanta for some time. Competition will help drive down prices as it gives consumers more choice.

City officials are squeamish about turning over management of some or all of Hartsfield-Jackson because of the fear of relinquishing power. The airport has been perhaps the largest source of patronage for many city officials, who over the past 25 years have given jobs and concessions to supporters.

The privatization concept comes down to two succinct issues: Will city officials sacrifice power to keep water and sewer fees within reason; and will they lobby the airline industry to keep taxpayers from being soaked?

As Gov. Sonny Perdue said, the state is not and will not be in a position to aid the city with its sewer crisis. It's unlikely the federal government will, either. Instead, city officials must take responsibility for their own problem, even if it did not happen on Franklin's watch. It's time to pass this legislation and begin privatization talks.

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I think Georgia should go to a completely privatized state.

All public services should be banned and should be given to the private sector to deal with - including water, electricity, transportation building (completely abolish the Georgia DOT and refuse money from the USDOT), and completely abolish all state-owned hospitals and give them over to a private chain like HCA out of Nashville (and these hospitals should not be allowed to recieve any federal, state, or local government funding to operate).

The entire education system should be abolished and there should be a take-over from private groups - from religious centers to corporations who deal in education. Every grade should be charged tuition, with no "vouchers" from the government.

All federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control should be relocated to other regions. Only private research facilities should be allowed to exist (like Emory). And private research centers such as Emory should not be allowed to recieve tax breaks (mind you they'd only be paying a military tax anyway) or any type of subsidy from a government entity to operate.

All police officers should be private corporately employed officers that simply are required to enforce the law - if they don't, they shall be taken to court and dealt with. But no taxation should be required, only have basic minimal policing.

Georgia should be exempt from paying federal taxes what-so-ever; with exception to a special military tax and justice system tax (we need to enforce the law and have protection, right. Although it is socialist, I think libertarians agree we need to work together to have at least those two functions).

You may think I'm joking, but I would like to see a true libertarian state set up (as long as I don't have to live in it) - and Georgia would be the perfect example. And I mean pure libertarian - no half washed corporate-welfare based private industry state.

I seriously want this. I think libertarians should be given a chance to set up their idealistic setting - and we should offer them a chance. And it has to be absolutely no government except military and judicial, only allowing the legislature and executive branches to meet at select times every 3 years or so to worry with changes in law.

It would be interesting. If not Georgia, fine, let's make Tennessee an example.

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Sounds like a good idea. We could get former MCI and Enron former execs to run it.

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