Free Enterprise: Indianapolis Mayor Calls on Private Sector to Get the Job Done

By Jewell, Anthony | Nation's Cities Weekly, January 22, 1996 | Go to article overview

Free Enterprise: Indianapolis Mayor Calls on Private Sector to Get the Job Done


Jewell, Anthony, Nation's Cities Weekly


In San Francisco it's a proposal to rename Candlestick to 3Com Park. In the District o Columbia, Wilkinsburg, Pa., and other places they're hiring companies to run the schools.

But when it comes to privatization, nobody tops Indianapolis. Golf courses, wastewater treatment, trash pickup, city pools and other services have all either been privatized or opened to competitive bidding.

The result: a city budget tumbling by $26 million in four years and expected savings of $132 million over the next decade.

And, to the delight of City Hall, it all means a surge of interest in the program devised by Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, a Republican with a near lock on reelection this year and a likely candidate for Indiana governor in 1996.

Indianapolis has been one of the real leaders in this effort in the 1990s," said Stephen Moore, director of budget policy at the Cato Institute, a fibertarian think tank in Washington.

Goldsmith hosted a privatization conference in April that drew officials from all over the country. And New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, both Republicans, have visited to see how it's done.

"It's politically advantageous to privatize if you can hold down taxes, for example," Moore said. "Indianapolis has held property taxes constant for almost a decade. That's in sharp contrast with many major cities across the country."

Privatization of an Airport

The latest step came when a British company took control of Indianapolis International Airport.

BAA USA Inc. will manage the airport for 10 years and should save taxpayers $100 million, city officials say.

The company plans a mall-like atmosphere to boost retail income. It will also try to save money in the operation of airport parking, maintenance and other services through greater efficiency.

Indianapolis last year cut its own rename-the-stadium deal, like San Francisco, Chicago and its United Center, the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, Target Center in Minneapolis and others.

Thomson Consumer Electronics, parent company of RCA, agreed to pay the city $10 million over 10 years to take down the letters "Hoosier Dome" on the fabric-topped Indianapolis stadium, and make it the RCA Dome.

Goldsmith, a former prosecutor in his first term as mayor, said it's all part of a necessary evolution in government.

"I planned on doing it to this scope, but I didn't plan on it being this successful or getting this much publicity," he said. …

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