Republicans Not Worlds Apart
Don't blame conservatives: I enjoyed the touching and informative article "Worlds Apart" [Lauren Smiley, Feature, 6/9]. It opened my eyes to an issue I had not been aware of. I would like to offer one criticism and some advice.
The article delves into partisan politics. I am a white, Christian, conservative, heterosexual, Republican veteran who supports equal rights for gays, including marriage and openly gay service in the military. That view comes from my core conservative beliefs in individual liberty, the limited powers of government, and God's love for all humanity.
I am not unique among my Republican friends. Although we are not in the majority of our party, I believe many of the rest will change their minds if we appeal to values they hold dear rather than insulting them.
I've lived in eight states and have met many antigay Democrats. These people strongly support labor unions, affirmative action, and government programs, but they despise gays. Other Democrats will quickly betray gays, as many California Democrats did on Proposition 8; as Bill Clinton did with "don't ask, don't tell"; and as Barack Obama and Joe Biden have done. Whether that comes from political expediency or bigotry, the civil rights of human beings should not be treated like a political football.
The civil rights acts of the '60s were passed through the efforts of Republican Senator Everett Dirksen and were supported by a large majority of Republicans in Congress. Many venerated Democrats stood firmly in the way of progress. Dirksen, in his memoirs, quoted Victor Hugo by saying, "Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come."
We don't want a mere majority of citizens or elected officials, mostly from one party, to support an idea whose time has come; it must be widely accepted. Stories like "Worlds Apart" can put a human face on issues that touch the core values of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Together, we can make a persuasive case to our compatriots in support of civil rights and liberties for everyone.
J. Nicholas Rowe
Private Serving Public
Driving home the point: The article on the decision to rebuild Doyle Drive through a public-private partnership ["Doyle Drive's Costly Pothole," Matt Smith, Column, 6/9] communicated a number of misrepresentations, two of which stand out — the claim that Doyle Drive is being privatized and that it will cost more. I'll address each claim.
Doyle Drive is not being privatized. The California Department of Transportation owns and will continue to own the roadway at all times. Public-private partnerships are widely used internationally and increasingly in the U.S. The contractor is selected through a transparent and competitive bidding process to complete design and construction of Phase II of the Presidio Parkway to replace Doyle Drive. The contractor will also operate and maintain the entire facility for 30 years and then transfer operations and maintenance responsibility back to Caltrans.
Caltrans and the [S.F. Transportation] Authority have conducted a detailed analysis of the cost to deliver Doyle Drive, comparing traditional and public-private partnership procurement methods. As we are all painfully aware, large and complex infrastructure projects almost always cost more to complete than expected. A risk analysis concluded that if delivered by traditional contracting means, the final cost would be approximately $680 million, not the $499 million reported by SF Weekly. On the other hand, because the public-private partnership procurement method transfers most of the risks to the contractor, construction costs alone are expected to be about 16 percent lower. The resulting agreement is a fixed-price, fixed-schedule contract. Most of the risks of cost overruns and delays belong to the contractor, who receives no payment until the work is completed to Caltrans' satisfaction.
Delivering this project as a public-private partnership will significantly reduce the risk of large cost overruns and schedule delays for the Presidio Parkway and provide an optimally maintained and long-life facility.
José Luis Moscovich
San Francisco County
Matt Smith responds: It is not a "misrepresentation" to call this type of private concession agreement "privatization," as it is a descriptive rather than legal term that refers to private takeover of public functions. Additionally, the story made clear that there was a disagreement between state analysts' $499 million project estimate and privatization backers' cost estimates.