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Privatization of Mass Transit

February 06, 1987

We were not surprised that Supervisor Pete Schabarum (Letters, Jan. 27) took advantage of your editorial (Jan. 19), "Overhaul at RTD," to sing the praises of his favorite idea--privatization.

Supervisor Schabarum has never made any secret of the fact that the main reason he favors privatization is that it will eliminate the union contracts he detests so much. He prefers a reverse Robin Hood theory, whereby money is taken from the poor--or at least the working class--and given to the business entrepreneur. You might call it the "trickle-up" theory.

The supervisor points to the downtown Los Angeles shuttle service known as DASH as a prime sample of the privatization theory at work, citing " . . . a net savings of $400,000 over what it had previously cost the RTD to operate the same service."

What he doesn't point out is that despite the fact that the DASH service operators were paid so much less than their RTD counterparts, the actual savings to the city was not $400,000, but was only $38,270. These are the city's own figures, and you can be sure that the Department of Transportation did everything it could to make those figures look good.

So what happened to the rest of the money? It was a gift of equipment and profits to the owners of DASH from the taxpayers of the City of Los Angeles.

Now Supervisor Schabarum wants to do the same thing on a larger scale with the San Gabriel Valley Transportation Zone--and he cites multimillion-dollar savings. But where will those savings go? If you think the taxpayers will get them, and not the private entrepreneurs, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in buying.

What privatization does, plain and simple, is take the money out of the pockets of working men and women and give it to private business people.

It sounds like it should be against the law, but the Reagan Administration, aided by persons such as Supervisor Schabarum, and others in the City of Los Angeles who should know better, have figured out a way to do it.

EARL CLARK

General Chairman

United Tranportation Union

Los Angeles

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