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Monday, April 2, 2007 | Taxpayers rightfully want to see their tax dollars used effectively and it’s disappointing that Scott Lewis feels this is “stinginess.” It’s also unfortunate that his lack of understanding of public-private partnerships resulted in a piece with such little insight on the reason these agreements are proliferating. Since cities, counties, redevelopment agencies and transit boards are all creatively and cost effectively using public-private partnerships, it should suggest there is some advantage beyond Lewis’ analysis.

Like any business, the public agency needs to know what the value of the land is, and what their long term needs are. Not every piece of government owned land is a candidate for this type of development. But government agencies have an advantage over the private sector, which was completely missed by your writer: The agency will receive taxes from the development in addition to the fair market value for use of the land.

Frequently, a government agency is not in a position to utilize the full development potential of a piece of property. In these instances, the addition of private development can effectively reduce or eliminate the public sector cost, a second major advantage.

A closer look at the county’s property on Kettner Blvd would make these advantages clear to most people. Lewis suggests that perhaps we would be better off just building a parking structure, stingy taxpayers be damned. This would cost the county in excess of $20 million and would result in no new tax revenue. A public-private partnership could very well result in eliminating this cost completely and the county receiving an annual payment in the form of property taxes.

Like anything else, each public-private partnership needs to be looked at individually, and also thoughtfully. It’s disappointing that your writer was not able to do this.

Ron Roberts is the Chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

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