Mike Klein Online

What China Might Teach America About How To Build Highways

Mike Klein

Georgians who drove to work this morning likely did so while giving little thought to what kinds of new roads should be constructed, whether tunnels are reasonable alternatives to above ground traditional highways, how to implement electronic payment on high speed tollways and whether public-private partnerships like those building roads in China could also build roads in America.

Where most folks only see concrete, Sam Staley sees opportunities.  “As one of the fastest growing regions in the United States, you have a lot of challenges,” Staley told Georgia Public Policy Foundation members Tuesday at the Georgian Club in Atlanta.

Staley has a twenty-year reputation as one of the nation’s leading land use and transportation policy experts.  Much of his time the past four years was invested in chronicling and advising China on the massive expansion of its new national highway system.  He is currently providing counsel to Illinois on a proposed almost total redesign of Chicago-area transportation.

The following excerpts focus on four primary content areas that Staley emphasized Monday.  Click here to view his entire presentation on the Foundation’s YouTube site.  Click here to follow his power point presentation.  Click here for a biography on Staley who is director of urban growth and land use policy at the Los-Angeles based Reason Foundation.

Establishing National Priorities

“Transportation issues are second and third order priorities in Washington, DC.  They are never first order priorities.  Transportation will never be able to compete for the attention of congressmen when they have to deal with Medicare, Medicaid, defense, flare-ups in the Middle East, you name it.  There are going to be a dozen or more issues that are going to rise to more important levels than transportation.

“To be honest, the reason we have been able to do as well as we have up until now is because most of our presidents have ignored transportation, let the transportation secretaries basically handle it, and we’ve had a dedicated revenue stream in terms of the gas tax to fund it.

“The gas tax is going to be gone within the next 20 or 30 years. Some people think it’s the green technology investments that will drive it.  It’s really not.  It’s India, China, Brazil and Africa.  As their growth begins to ratchet up the demand for oil …that is going to put the pressure on gas prices in the U.S.  If you think $4 a gallon is bad, it’s going to get worse.  But here’s the key:  We’re not going to give up our cars.  What we’re going to do is figure out a different way to power those cars.  We’re simply going to change the fuel.”

Atlanta Managed Lanes Initiative

“I love at this point, first blush, your managed lanes networks.  You’re thinking about this as a network, not as individual facilities.  What we learned from Chicago is that most of the economic benefits … come from having a network that works well and functions efficiently.  So the fact you’re thinking about building this all out is really pretty darn critical.

“It’s not about building one segment of ten miles. While that certainly benefits the people that use it directly, where you get the regional benefits is your ability to link all these disparate destinations together in a system very similar to what we are proposing for Chicago which will allow you fast access to most major points within the region.”

Funding Next Generation Transportation

“We believe there’s no choice about where we’re going in terms of finance.  It has to go toward more direct user-paid, beneficiary-paid type of finance because that is the only one that is going to be sustainable.  The other is to make sure, particularly in this climate, that those facilities are delivered efficiently and cost-effectively which means public-private partnerships have to be a critical part of the solution.  They are not a panacea, but they are a critical element.

“Irrespective of whether you think high speed rail is effective as a project, it clearly diverted attention from bread and butter issues and an even bigger discussion about who really should be responsible.  My view is that when we talk about roads on a day-to-day basis, really those discussions need to be moved to the state level because they are in the best position to determine what the priorities are.”

China Public-Private Partnerships

“Why did communist China start using public-private partnerships? … Remember, we’re talking about the early-to-mid 1980s.  Well, it was very simple.  They didn’t have any money.  The economy did not generate any revenue.  The question is, how do you build highways, how do you build transit systems, how are you going to build this infrastructure if you don’t have money?

“Well, you go across the border to Hong Kong.  You go to all those private capitalists and you say, if you have money to invest we have a place for you to invest it.  Twenty years later they’ve got the equivalent of the U.S. interstate highway system linking up all the major cities of China.

“One of the interesting things I learned about China was how much of this construction was not driven by the national government, in fact, almost none of it.  All these public-private partnerships were controlled at the state and municipal level.  The national government did the planning.  They said okay, the ends have to connect, but they backed out on the financing part.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debt, Failure to Educate Are Biggest Threats to U.S. World Power

Mike Klein

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers predicted the economic future of the United States will be decided by how the country educates children when he addressed a Georgia Public Policy Foundation audience.  “We cannot continue to nibble around the edges when you consider the problems we are facing,” Rogers told Foundation guests last week at the Georgian Club.

Rogers’ presentation can be viewed on the Policy Foundation’s YouTube channel: http://tinyurl.com/286fk8x.

“I can say unequivocally the United States is the greatest nation on earth today and the greatest nation God ever created,” Rogers said.  “American exceptionalism is a reality.  I really believe we were divinely inspired as a nation and put here to do many good things which we’ve done.

“Do we get it right every time?  Absolutely not, but when you consider that we live in a nation that has given more treasure and more human lives to the purpose of freeing other people around the globe, there is no shame to that.  That is what American exceptionalism is all about.”

As state Senate Majority Leader, Rogers already had a platform from which to influence how Georgia spends education dollars. Then this year Rogers was selected to join the national Digital Learning Council established by former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Bob Wise of West Virginia.  The DLC goal is to advance digital learning as an important national initiative.

“We have the opportunity to continue to be the greatest power that the earth has ever known and a cause for what is good and right.  We have been given, as individual Americans, one simple requirement… That is, to take this incredible treasure we have been given known as the United States of America and leave it better off than we found it.”

Rogers said two factors threaten U.S. superpower dominance:  Public debt, now $13.8 trillion at the federal government level, and failure to educate children.  Last year the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said American students’ rank 27th worldwide in math, 22nd in science and dead last in reading among the 32 most developed nations.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers

“I’m not exactly sure how we remain the nation the rest of the world wants to immigrate to because of freedom when we will become simply economic slaves to our debt holders,” Rogers said. “Thirteen point eight trillion dollars of debt is not going to be erased when we are near the bottom of the world in those things that prepare our child for a global economy.”

Rogers told 75 Public Policy Foundation guests the United States “will crumble under debt that is going to be accumulated because we simply cannot compete on the worldwide marketplace in the next generation if we don’t prepare our children to do so.  These numbers are inexcusable and frankly, they are an embarrassment.

“For us to simply stand here and pat ourselves on the back and point to a single educational facility that may be doing a halfway decent job, or at least in our mind we think they are, and say ‘We’re doing okay,’ we’re not doing okay,” Rogers said.

National Assessment of Educational Progress tests show one-third of American 4th graders and one-fourth of 8th graders are functionally illiterate.  “We’re not even close to doing okay.  If this country’s future matters to you, if you believe as I do that we have one single responsibility to leave this (country) for our children better than we found it, then you have to admit we’re failing.”

Rogers grew up during the 1960s in what was then rural Cobb County.  Education was available in two styles: one private school and Cobb County schools. It was brick-and-mortar or brick-and-mortar.  You just had to choose between the public version and the private version.

Education today comes in evolutionary styles: traditional brick-and-mortar schools, virtual schools, hybrid public schools that blend traditional and online learning, home schools, private schools and home school hybrids that mix home instruction with brick-and-mortar school classes. “Wouldn’t it be nice if every parent had a choice from among all of them?” Rogers said.

“We’ve got to provide educators – whether they are public, private or parents – with the tools they need through digital learning and then we have to give parents the opportunity to choose that setting that is best for their individual child.   No longer can we ignore students’ abilities (and) their interests, by simply giving them one option and that is a brick-and-mortar setting based on (their address). That is foolish, has been for some time and it has got to stop.

“I don’t know how else to say this but literally our future depends on this,” Rogers said.  “Again, (the United States is) 27th in math, 22nd in science, 32nd in reading among industrialized nations, $13.8 trillion in debt, mainly to foreign nations who now don’t even want to use our currency.  We are in a whole world of trouble and the only way we get out is to produce the next set of children who will compete in the global marketplace and maintain American superiority.”

Rogers noted that long-ago American President John Adams asked, “Why do we spend money on education?”  Adams answered his own question:  “It’s because an educated society is a lot cheaper than an uneducated society.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment