It’s Only Money

Crain's Cleveland Business - April 29, 2002

Crain’s Cleveland Business

Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades in the White House were the invention of a vast rightwing conspiracy, and the state of Ohio s mounting outlays to private contractors to
perform work for the government are the politically biased concoction of a public policy
research group controlled by Democrats.


It was almost laughable last week to read the comment by Gov. Bob Taft s
spokeswoman, Mary Anne Sharkey, to a Plain Dealer reporter who was asking the
governor s office for its thoughts on a report by a group known as Policy Matters Ohio
that showed how annual state spending on private contractors has tripled over the last
decade. Ms. Sharkey is quoted as saying that the board of directors of Policy Matters
Ohio is a who s who of Cuyahoga County Democrats, the inference being that the
group s report was suspect because a Cuyahoga County Democrat, former county
commissioner Tim Hagan, is running this year against her boss, whose Republican
party has ruled the roost in Columbus for more than 10 years.

We say Ms. Sharkey s comment was almost laughable because, if the figures from
Policy Matters Ohio are anywhere close to correct, it isn t funny how much money the
state is shelling out to outside contractors. The totals in the last five years in particular
have escalated sharply, to an estimated $609 million last year from $340 million in
1997, according to the group s numbers.

We re all for keeping the state s payroll in check, but it s a false economy if the state
merely is handing off to private companies work that had been done or could be done
by government employees without evidence that outsiders can do the job better and/or
cheaper than people performing those duties in-house.

In its report, Policy Matters Ohio calls for the state to implement accountability
measures that, among other things, would require state agencies to make cost
comparisons between the public and private provision of services before contracts are
put out for bid, and would force the state to publish annually a list of its largest vendors,
the amount spent with them and the reasons for using those vendors. We d say those
are sound recommendations, regardless of the political leanings of the group that
made them.

Jury of one

James Traficant couldn’t be more right in claiming last week that he wasn t tried before
a jury of his peers when he was convicted on federal corruption, bribery and
racketeering charges. That s because no one else is quite like the member of
Congress from Youngstown. He truly is without peer.

Beam him up, Scotty.

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