While the city of Sandy Springs shifts away from its pioneering model of outsourced government services, the chief architect of the concept has a new privatization-utopia project in the works: forming a new city-state in an unnamed Latin American country.
“My current involvement, high-level involvement, is in the creation of what almost amounts to a new country in Latin America,” said Oliver Porter, the Sandy Springs engineer and artist who led the city’s formation in 2005, in a phone interview.
Porter said he cannot yet name the country or reveal full details of the project, announcements that might come later this year. But he said it involves “carving out” a new city akin to Hong Kong or Singapore.
“It would be a government within a government. We’d have our own taxation, our own laws… Eventually we’ll have our own money, a blockchain-type money, I would expect,” said Porter. “And it will be privately run. Not only the services… the entire thing is privately owned. It’s funded by venture capital.”
Porter described the project as a new development that would aim to expand and encompass some existing nearby cities. And while he would not identify the country, he described it as “crime-ridden, full of political shenanigans and [with] a lousy economy, and it would help the U.S. tremendously to aid its economy.”
“So this is the ultimate of public-private partnerships…,” said Porter, using the term for the Sandy Springs model of competitive contracts for government services, and predicting it will be an “economic boon to that country.”
In terms of direct political involvement, Porter said he has “been named to the council of the entity down there” that is forming the new city-state, adding with a laugh, “I don’t even speak Spanish.”
Porter, 82, served as Sandy Springs’ volunteer interim city manager during incorporation and wrote two books about the privatization of cities based on his experience, calling it the “21st century paradigm” for municipal government. He continues to consult about privatization and competitive contracting with governments around the world, particularly in Japan, where debt-stricken cities have considered the model, though none have yet adopted it.
Sandy Springs itself recently made a surprise shift to a largely in-house, traditional form of city government, while retaining some contracted services in a “hybrid” model. Porter has expressed some strong “concerns” about that shift.