The Parks and Recreation Student Association at Arizona State University had me in last week to speak. However, through some diligent efforts of their leader, the speech really turned into a symposium on the pros and cons of private recreation management. The speakers were:
- Grady Gammage, Jr. from ASU’s Morrison Institute, and author of a recent report on funding Arizona parks
- Warren Meyer, president of Recreation Resource Management, a national operator of 150 public parks
- Sandy Bahr, head of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club
The video is a bit more than an hour long, but should be a helpful resource for those considering ways to keep public parks open. Careful observers will see confirmation of two of my frequent complaints about criticism of public private partnerships in recreation:
- It is fairly clear that most vocal public critics have not even studied actual implementations of privatization models that exist right here in Arizona, and are instead working off of hypothesized approaches that bear little reality to how things actually work on the ground
- There is actually a lot of room for agreement between myself and critics. Many of the fears the Sierra Club representative expresses are for functions most private companies in this business do not aspire to take over.
To the latter point, my key slide was probably this one:
I emphasized that private companies had few designs on the activities on the left, and were focused on the activities on the right. The right-hand side tends to be a huge portion of the budget, with large opportunities for cost reduction, and I find most groups skeptical of privatization are generally more comfortable with it when it is clear the state will retain control of left-side activities.
Anyway, here is the video: