Stop Charlie

Sell one of our most traveled freeways to some foreigners? Might as well just give 'em a Budweiser.

For instance, the FDOT says the state will share in any "excess revenues" from the Alligator Alley lease. Unfortunately, we've been through that drill before. Remember that the Florida Panthers' arena in Sunrise (now called BankAtlantic Center) involved millions for taxpayers in revenue sharing. Somehow, almost all the revenues we were supposed to split never materialized.

"That's like a movie producer who tells you you can share in the net profits," Eidson says. "Net profits always get eaten up in the books."

Crist, though, doesn't need to listen to Eidson or Bernstein or any South Florida politician to realize that he's skipping down a fool's path. All he has to do is look at what happened this month in Pennsylvania. Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat who's often mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick for Barack Obama, planned to privatize one of the best-known toll roads in America, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The state went through the same process that Florida has begun, with many of the same international players (from Portugal, Italy, and Australia, among other places) vying for both contracts.

Kyle T. Webster

He told his state that it "couldn't afford to wait" to do the deal and collect the upfront money for repairing and building roads. Abertis, a Spanish company that was working with Citigroup, won the bid, and the state hammered out a deal that involved a $12.8 billion upfront payment. When it was announced on May 19, Rendell declared, "This is a great day for Pennsylvania."

Some might argue that a better day came a month later when the Pennsylvania House voted 185-12 against allowing Rendell to execute the deal. The plan was basically killed in committee on July 4.

Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Markosek said lawmakers discovered that the actual money that would get to the state wasn't $12.8 billion but $8.5 billion. And tolls could rise to exorbitant rates with little accountability. In short, he said, it was "simply a bad business deal."

Markosek was properly outraged by not only the specifics of the deal but by the concept itself.

"Clearly, the private sector's priority is not providing a top-quality highway but finding a way to make the most money," he said at the time. "Concerning public infrastructure, I find this philosophy outrageous... What do we do for the future generations that follow and will be shortchanged... and we no longer have control over one of our most valuable assets?"

Let's hope Charlie Crist, if he's paying attention at all, takes those words to heart.

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