Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Privatize Alexandria’s Public Works Department?

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Privatize Alexandria’s Public Works Department?

Alexandria’s public works department, T&ES, is a force unto itself. Responsible for streets and sewers primarily, it’s disconnected from the public which pays its salaries and funds its projects. It's time for our city council to privatize this organization.

Currently. T&ES (Transportation & Environmental Services) surprises citizens with after-the-fact explanations to justify its accomplished work or work well into the planning stage. We're treated like mushrooms in a cave; that is, kept in the dark, consulted only after a T&ES project has been decided upon; often already funded.

Privatizing T&ES will compel it to treat citizens as clients who have the ability to say no especially to make-work, costly projects before it seeks authorization and funding from, respectively, the city manager and council.

Examples of its imperial attitude abound: With no community foreknowledge, it obtained funds to destroy a section of the Taylor Run creek and the trees surrounding it; also with no forewarning, it eliminated overnight precious parking spaces to install Bike Racks on city streets; it planned and created Bike Lanes never sought by any Alexandria community, and it funded and executed a multi-million-dollar curb replacement project in lieu of repairing a few deteriorating ones. Because its presumptive conduct is so ingrained in its culture, only privatizing T&ES will allow it to change, especially its planning process whereby, like any contractor, it addresses only work first agreed as essential by its clients; in this case, affected Alexandria communities.

T&ES can easily be privatized in place; literally using the same offices, budget and compensation they now receive from the city. Once privatized, a contract with the city can include needs assessments; that is, periodic evaluations of city infrastructure the improvement findings of which can be presented to affected communities for their endorsement and subsequent presentation to the city manager for disposition. Privatizing T&ES will make citizens its valued clients and responsive to their expressed need for infrastructure improvements. Best of all: if they don't do a good job, then their contract can be awarded to another infrastructure services firm. Competition after all is the American way.

Jimm Roberts