Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Three strikes against Gilbert's Big League Dreams ballpark

Dear Gilbert Taxpayer—

In case you missed the ABC 15 news story on the Big League Dreams ballpark controversy, I have pasted the URL for the video and the write-up here:

“Big League Dreams has taxpayers crying foul,” by Josh Bernstein, ABC 15 Investigators

Today’s related story by Tribune reporter Beth Lucas

For the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers, a state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, there are three strikes against the Big League Dreams project in Gilbert:

1) Cities should not use taxpayer money to pay private companies to build and operate recreational facilities. Instead, cities should take competitive bids and award concessions to private entities that can build, operate, and maintain recreational facilities using their own funds. If a city’s park spaces are sufficiently valuable, the city could even charge companies rent for access to the spaces. Instead of saving the city money, schemes such as Gilbert’s Big League Dreams facility threaten to become drains on taxpayer wallets.

2) Cities should structure their public-private partnership contracts so as to discourage cost overruns. Big League Dreams got the ballpark contract because it said the facility could be built for $23 million. The final cost looks to be around $40 million. It is difficult to imagine a private contract allowing a contractor to get away with a cost overrun of that magnitude. Governments must protect taxpayers from having to write blank checks for the costs of poorly-designed public-private partnerships.

3) To help prevent the possibility of cost overruns, feasibility studies should ideally be done by third parties, preferably consulting firms that depend upon maintaining good reputations for producing accurate estimates.

The current controversy stems from the fact that Gilbert had Big League Dreams do its own feasibility study. But Gilbert really struck out because the project began as a giveaway of taxpayer money, and then became an even bigger giveaway thanks to an absence of contractual safeguards against cost overruns. Hopefully, other cities in Arizona can learn from Gilbert’s costly errors.

Tom Jenney

Executive Director

Arizona Federation of Taxpayers

a State Chapter of Americans for Prosperity

(602) 478-0146

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