Thursday, April 25, 2013

A conservative critique of speculative jail privatization: Montgomery County edition

The blog Texas GOP Vote has an interesting and detailed critique of the financing mechanisms behind the speculative Joe Corley Jail in Montgomery County. Here's a notable excerpt:
Texas law allows Counties to issue Revenue Bonds, which are secured by the revenues of a project, without voter approval. But it is inconceivable that the legislature intended this provision to be used where the source of the revenue is not a third party. That is exactly the situation created by the Joe Corley Jail financing. The County established a special purpose company and then made itself the source of the revenue to repay the bonds. While this arrangement may have met the letter of the law, it is unimaginable that it met the spirit of the law. The members of the Commissioners’ Court who participated in this deception should be ashamed of themselves. It appears that the only conceivable reason this financing was structure this way was to avoid having to ask voters to approve the County using their credit for a deal like this. And that is outrageous.
The blog offers a conservative critique of a financing scheme that's been all too common in Texas counties that mostly are perceived as conservative bastions:
the mess we have with the Joe Corley financing is exhibit number 1 as to why taxpayers do not want their elected officials expanding government into areas where we are on the hook for commercial risks. So far, what has happened to the Joe Corley financing is due to the County making a commitment on the jail’s utilization that made no sense. But the commercial risk continues, since there is no way anyone knows whether the federal use of the facility, which is committed only for 100 day increments, will continue. And if it doesn’t, does anyone really believe the County will risk its credit rating by not continuing to appropriate the lease payments?

Joe Corley is a classic example of what happens when government gets into activities it shouldn’t. This expansion of government is a liberal action taken by people on the Montgomery Commissioners’ Court who claim to be conservative. This is not an example of limited government; it’s an example of expansive government. It is also, sadly, appears to be an example of not only a total lack of transparency, but possibly an intentional effort to dupe and bypass the voters. It is an example of why the Tea Party exists and why it is so important. We the people have negligently assumed our elected officials would behave responsibly. This appears to have been extremely na├»ve.
This outcome was both foreseeable and foreseen. See past Grits coverage, including this 2008 item which presciently concluded, "who will be surprised if Montgomery County's projected $2 million profit on the jail turns into a $4 million annual debt payment for which the county is on the hook?"

Related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Conservatives are having to learn--faster and faster these days--that incumbency breeds contempt at all levels and all political parties--witness conservative frustration with the "do-nothing" Republican House in Washington. Granted, most of us conservatives want a "do nothing" congress, but when it fails to act on conservative ideas that it could act on, well, we get pissed off too.

Bill Clinton, no conservative, used to say, "we have term limits, they are called elections". That's true as far as it goes, but unfortunately most voters ARE "low information voters" who don't really pay attention to what aldermen, commissioners, legislators or congressmen are up to. Unfortunately after a term or two most seem to be interested in their own officeholding longevity and personal political power.

Break out the torches and pitchforks.

Ryan P said...

Especially at the local level, political party means very little in terms of how those local officials will act.

And, also at the local level, the political party of the voter won't mean they'll oppose something that they'd oppose at the federal or state level.

(We get all "they're infringing my rights" whenever the feds do anything while we support adding restrictions on the color of bricks residents can use to build their houses at the local level. And some of the biggest supporters of having Dallas build and own a hotel - the very definition of socialism - were Republicans with the biggest supporter later running for the Senate as a fiscal conservative).

It seems like local government exists only for two reasons - to control other people through property restrictions and to get involved in "economic development" which often seems to (at the very least) bring in far less economic development than was claimed.

Political party doesn't enter into it (either in terms of the office holders or the voters).

blog.jake said...

The overcrowding of jails and the increased cost of interning prisoners in them leads to many states shortening the sentences of prisoners and allowing them to reenter society without any attempt at resocialization. The consequences are obvious: more crime, less order.
Privatizing jails not only lowers state spending to maintain those facilities; it also becomes less of a burden on taxpayers, which is the mission of the TEA party. Any government intervention in the new system should be negligible and only serve to enforce certain standards.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bubbles, what do you think is happening to the U. S. economy with Obama borrowing more and more and printing unlimited dollars. Obama is the biggest bubble of the past 100 years and he is held aloft by the delusions of the politically correct "progressives.".

We can't afford to imprison the expanding number of criminally minded members of our population (almost all of whom, by the way, voted for Obama). Wake up for a minute from the Obama mania and do the accounting. Check the books.