July 22, 2014

News

IL: Illinois Man Sues Over Chicago Redflex Fraud
Crime should not pay, says an Illinois motorist red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems. Matthew G. Falkner, an investment banker, argues that the Australia firm unjustly enriched itself to the tune of $100 million from vehicle owners in Chicago through bribery and corruption. He does not want them to get away with it. TheNewspaper.com

FL: Gov Scott’s fundraiser comedy gold for HBO’s John Oliver
. . . Zoley, who was netting between $22 million from the GEO Group between 2008 and 2012, has become a big supporter of Scott’s. Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s reelection campaign, has accepted $415,000 from Geo Group and its affiliate, Geo Care. . . . “We love prisons so much a shocking number of Americans are currently inside one,” Oliver said at the beginning of 17-minute segment that was mainly focused on the privatization of the American prison system. “We have more prisoners at the moment than China. Than China. We don’t have more of anything than China, other than, of course, debt to China.” . . . “The key problem running prisons like businesses is that prisons are then run as businesses,” Oliver said, seguing into his main example of the Geo Group. Miami Herald

CA: Countywide outsourcing? Supervisors to take up ballot option
Orange County supervisors are slated to decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve changes to the county charter that would allow more county jobs to be outsourced to private companies. The proposed ballot measure, requested by Supervisor John Moorlach, would change the county’s charter to allow the county to privatize more county work than currently is permitted by state law. OCRegister

MI: Detroit suspends water shutoffs for 15 days
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills. . . . The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a policy that has been framed as a human rights issue for low-income residents who can’t afford to pay their bills. It also was announced n the same day that a group of Detroit residents filed a lawsuit in the city’s bankruptcy case asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore water service to residential customers. Detroit Free Press

The GOP’s real shame on the border: ignoring an industry that makes billions off immigrants to give to politicians

Private prisons have taken up immigration as a profit center, based on assembly-line ‘justice’ of the Bush era – and kept alive by Republican presidential contenders who look the other way.  The Guardian

July 21, 2014

News

As Investors, Officials Meet, a Warning Note on Public-Private Deals
Even as President Barack Obama was headed to Delaware on Thursday to promote public-private partnerships to finance infrastructure, Peter Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, was telling a conference of officials and investors who put together such deals that there’s growing resistance in Congress to the “P3s” trend. Even proven programs such as the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program “could be subject to cuts or elimination” by Congress, Ruane told the conference.  Roll Call (blog)

Reinventing the American highway: The promise (and pitfalls) of learning to love tolls
Want a glimpse of the future of roads in this country? Look elsewhere. As Congress juggles stopgap solutions, the U.S. road network is in the beginnings of a profound structural shift towards privately run turnpikes. . . .Progressives, too, have reason to be concerned. Tolling isn’t a less equitable way to raise money than the highly regressive gas tax, but building roads with profit in mind does influence planning decisions. According to a recent report from the Dallas Fed, “road placement has generally occurred in areas where personal incomes have been higher, making the toll collection used to repay bonds more predictable and, thus, supporting the credit rating.”  Salon

Our Voice: Must we keep going down the same road?
. . . President Obama used the same cliché on Tuesday when he announced the Build America Investment Initiative, a program to encourage public-private partnerships to improve infrastructure. Rep. Raul Ruiz issued a statement on Tuesday supporting the short-term fix, but he also encouraged his colleagues to work toward a “pragmatic, long-term solution to ensure appropriate investment in essential infrastructure across the country.” . . . . Raising gas taxes and tying the rate to inflation is the most equitable long-term solution. Drivers who wear out roads should pay for the upkeep. The Desert Sun

The privatization of public campground management
If you camp at a U.S. Forest Service campground this summer, you’ll probably hand your fee directly to a host employed by a private company, rather than stuffing it into a little brown box on the honor system or giving it to a retiree volunteering for the Forest Service. That’s because the majority of the agency’s campgrounds are now managed by for-profit companies called “concessionaires.” High Country

John Oliver Calls Out America’s Racist, Broken Prison System: ‘We Are Doing A Terrible Job’
After dropping the bombshell that the United States has more people in prison than China, Oliver detailed the racial inequity in incarcerations, the horrid conditions in which prisoners live, thanks in no small part to privatization, and how most Americans are so disassociated from caring about prisoners, “prison rape” has become a common and acceptable punchline in mainstream media.  Huffington Post

FL: Private Prison CEO Will Host Florida Governor At $10K-A-Plate Fundaiser
Over the past few years, private prison firm GEO Group has become known for inmate abuse, workplace violence, and fraudulent reporting at its U.S. facilities. One federal judge found that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles. But on Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will headline a $10,000-per-person VIP fundraiser at the home of GEO Group Chief Executive Officer George Zoley, Mother Jones reports. Attendees can also attend a general reception for $3,000 per person. The proceeds will go to both Rick Scott’s gubernatorial campaign and the Republican Party of Florida.
ThinkProgress

FL: Despite state money, private schools skirt public records laws
. . . Private organizations typically aren’t subject to the public records laws, though there are circumstances when they may be subject to them, said Jason Bent, an assistant professor of law in Stetson University’s College of Law. He said it would not appear that private schools like Warner meet the current test, which considers the level of public funding, as well as whether the activity was conducted on publicly owned property and whether a public entity created the private entity. Daytona Beach News-Journal

MI: Outsourced in Michigan
Colleges and universities have outsourced lots of services in the past several decades, from food preparation and delivery to bookstores to sanitation. But to many academics it is taboo to even consider outsourcing the faculty. Not in Michigan. In recent years, a handful of community colleges in that state have outsourced the recruitment and hiring of adjunct instructors – who make up the overwhelming majority of the community college teaching force – to an educational staffing company. Just last week, the faculty union at a sixth institution, Jackson College, signed a collective bargaining agreement allowing EDUStaff to take over adjunct hiring and payroll duties. Inside Higher Ed

DC: DC charter board member has $195000 contract with DC charter school
A member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board is receiving $195,000 to do consulting work for a network of schools that the board is responsible for overseeing, according to a list of recent contracts the board published on its Web site. Washington Post

July 18, 2014


News

Obama Shifts to Urge Private Investment in Roads, Bridges
. . .Speaking beside a project to repair a closed interstate highway bridge in Wilmington, Delaware, Obama called for making it easier for states and local governments to access private capital for roads, bridges and other infrastructure. “So far Congress has refused to act,” said Obama, who criticized lawmakers for failing to fully fund federal infrastructure projects through the Highway Trust Fund. “I’m going to do whatever I can to create jobs rebuilding American on my own.”. . . The focus on private money for road projects marks a shift for the administration, which had previously resisted efforts to seek commercial resources for highways and other pieces of the country’s transportation system. The result may be more tolls for drivers as companies look to make profits by operating roads and bridges. Business Week

Water Wars and Creeping Privatization
The newly enacted Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act holds promise for life in a world shaped by climate change. However, privatization proponents are working hard to privatize ownership and control our water infrastructure. Truth-Out

WI: A War Worth Fighting
Voucher supporters in Wisconsin and across the nation want to set up exclusionary schools on the public dime. The federal government shouldn’t let them. For three years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating Wisconsin’s school voucher program for systematically discriminating against students with disabilities. . . . Very few students with disabilities in Milwaukee or the rest of the state use private school vouchers, either because they perceive that the program is only for non-disabled students or because the schools themselves push children with disabilities out of the program. This has had the effect of segregating students with disabilities in the local public schools, while cannibalizing the local district’s resources through the diversion of money from public schools to private institutions.  ACLU

MI: How a Bogus, Industry-Funded Study Helped Spur a Privatization Disaster in Michigan
. . . Officials in Michigan are already regretting a recent move to privatize food services for inmates in the state’s prison system. Early results have proven disastrous. . . .Maggots in the kitchen and on the chow line. Workers caught smuggling contraband or engaging in sex acts with inmates. Food shortages and angry prisoners. . . As Michigan’s legislature debated prison privatization, the Free Press ran an op-ed by Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone, two economists at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The scholars called for “a debate rooted in data and facts,” and touted their research ostensibly showing that privatization saved states money without compromising the quality of correctional services. What Free Press readers weren’t told is that the scholars’ paper, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal, was funded by the private prison industry. Nor were readers made aware of other “op-eds they published in newspapers around the country, most with no mention of their funding source,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Their lack of disclosure of the apparent conflict of interest is the subject of an ethics complaint now being investigated by the university. BillMoyers.com

MI: What Happens When Detroit Shuts Off the Water of 100,000 People
. . . The campaign to crack down on overdue bills—which is aimed at customers who are more than two months behind on their bills or who owe more than $150—has been described by activists and scholars alike as an effort, pushed by the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, to get rid of the bad debt associated with the water department and prep the public entity for privatization. In a city where the median household income is less than half the national average, 38 percent of residents live below the poverty line and 23 percent are unemployed, it comes as no surprise that at least 40 percent of customers are delinquent on their bills. The water shut-offs have taken no prisoners. Since this year’s shut-offs started at the end of March, at least 15,000 Detroit households have had their water turned off.  The Atlantic

LA: Our View: Privatization has hurt local providers
. . . As St. Francis CEO Louis Bremer explained to The News-Star editorial board earlier this week: When an insured patient chooses University Health Conway, the costs are reimbursed by the state 100 percent. When an uninsured patient shows up at St. Francis, the hospital has a legal and Christian responsibility to evaluate the patient’s status, stabilize the patient, and inform them of treatment costs and options to transfer to Conway. Unfortunately, few uninsured are choosing the totally reimbursed Conway option, leaving St. Francis with the chore of attempting to collect medical bills from people who cannot afford to pay them. Those who have Medicaid provide a reimbursement to St. Francis of 45 percent of cost. That’s a very slick way for the state to reduce its medical bills for its charity institutions, but it’s at the cost of communities relying on long-term major employers and institutions like St. Francis. Monroe News Star

TX: Texas’ flagship toll road faces financial problems
Since 2006, the state of Texas has put a ton of trust in private companies to build and operate toll roads in exchange for a cut of the profits. Just eight years in, the state’s flagship public-private toll road, the SH 130 that connects Austin and San Antonio, is facing financial difficulties, low traffic volumes and a “junk bond” rating from financial analysts. Moody’s Investor Service, which twice downgraded the SH 130’s bond rating in 2013, announced this month that the SH 130 Concession Co. had failed to make a full debt-service payment to lenders on the money it borrowed to build Segments 5 and 6 of the roadway. According to the 50-year contract between the SH 130 Concession Co. and the Texas Department of Transportation, the builder-operator carries the financial risk while the roadway itself remains owned by the state of Texas. An actual default could lead to a termination of the contract and leave TxDOT with a decision to operate the roadway “in house” or farm it out to another operator.  Land Line Magazine

MA: Massachusetts Senate Votes Not to Lift Cap on Charter Schools 
In a surprise move, the Massachusetts State Senate voted 26-13 not to increase the number of charter schools in the state. A similar bill cleared the House by a vote of 114-35 in May. “The Senate proceeded in a separate 9-30 vote to also defeat the underlying bill that had cleared the House.”. . . “Unions, meanwhile, cheered the bill’s defeat. “We congratulate the Senate for taking a stand for public schools and for public school students, many of whom live in poverty and who need all the resources they can get. The vote against raising the cap keeps resources in our locally controlled public schools where they are most needed,” said Tom Gosnell, president of American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts.  DianeRavitch.net

NY: Nassau lawmakers expected to back sewer privatization
Nassau County legislators are expected to approve a contract today to privatize the county’s massive sewage treatment system — a deal that officials say will save taxpayers a total of more than $200 million. Newsday

July 17, 2014

News

Sweden’s School Choice Disaster
Advocates for school choice might be shocked to see how badly the country’s experiment with vouchers failed. . . . Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.  Slate

A New Gameplan for Taking Down Privatizers
. . . The new Cumbers report for the London-based Centre for Labour and Social Studies describes and compares a variety of these imaginative new forms. Some are just getting underway. Others — like Denmark’s new approach to energy policy — are already delivering rather amazing results. Denmark is nurturing innovative “public-public” partnerships. In 2001, one of these partnerships constructed off the coast of Copenhagen what then rated as the world’s largest wind farm. The partners: Copenhagen Energy, the municipally owned local utility of Denmark’s largest city, and a cooperative run by the over 10,000 local residents who had purchased shares in it. A similar cooperative-local government utility model, observes the University of Glasgow’s Cumbers, has helped the Danish island of Samsoe “become one of the first places in the world to become 100 percent efficient in renewable energy.”  Truth-Out

UK: The tide is turning against the scam that is privatization
Privatisation isn’t working. We were promised a shareholding democracy, competition, falling costs and better services. A generation on, most people’s experience has been the opposite. From energy to water, rail to public services, the reality has been private monopolies, perverse subsidies, exorbitant prices, woeful under-investment, profiteering and corporate capture. The Guardian

MI: Opinion: Hasn’t outsourcing cost Michiganians enough?
. . . With ongoing efforts to outsource public services including nursing homes and schools, the impact of unaccountable services and nebulous oversight could be devastating. The report also details the impact of outsourcing on a state-run veterans’ home. The contractor slashed wages and eliminated benefits and the results are as you might expect—higher turnover with reduced reliability and quality of care. . . . Our state’s elected leaders should work for good jobs here, not reward the CEOs shipping our tax dollars out of Michigan. Snyder has left a deplorable legacy of outsourced jobs while rewarding powerful CEOs. The Detroit News

FL: FCAT’s political aim: Privatize schools: My Word
The Sentinel Editorial Board is appalled that after 16 years of using the FCAT standardized test, the academicperformance of Florida’s kids remains basically flat. The board shouldn’t be surprised. . . .The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test has been designed to flunk a pre-set number of kids — from 40 percent to 50 percent. . . .Why would they do that? A big reason is that if public schools can be made to look bad enough, the public will be willing to hand them over to privatization. It’s always wise to follow the money.  Orlando Sentinel

OH: Teachers Deliver Alarming Allegations Against Charter School
The state board of education is launching an investigation into at least one charter school after hearing disturbing testimony from a group of former teachers. Sexual misconduct, racism, teacher intimidation, questionable testing policies, and mishandling of complaints about those claims were among the allegations the teachers brought to a meeting of the state board of education meeting Tuesday. The teachers were all former employees of the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School, a charter school managed by the Chicago-based Concept Schools. Timothy Neary taught at the high school for two years. He says he witnessed a culture racism and sexism. He also said the schools attendance reports didn’t seem right.  StateImpact Ohio

NC: Public-Private Partnerships Intertwined with Charlotte’s I-77
The deal to design and build high occupancy toll lanes or HOT Lanes on the I-77 corridor running north out of Charlotte for 26 miles has put a spotlight on several concerns including: “The price tag on this project is expected to reach $655 million. NCDOT will contribute $88 million and Cintra will invest $234 million of its own money. Cintra will borrow another $315 million in government-backed loans.” (see Civitas Institute, June 25) Cintra is a Spanish-owned company with a poor track record in toll road building and is facing bankruptcy and Moody’s downgrading in some states. (see Watchdog Wire, April 30, 2014) Watchdog Wire

July 16, 2014

News

Postal privatization protest is having an effect, so Staples resorts to trickery
Staples says it is dropping plans to administer mailing services in retail stores, but Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union claims that the the company’s announcement terminating its no-bid deal with the U.S. Postal Service is a ruse. “This attempt at trickery shows that the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ movement is having an effect,” said Dimondstein. “Staples and the USPS are changing the name of the program, without addressing the fundamental concerns of postal workers and postal customers.” Dimondstein claims the Staples announcement and a July 7 letter from the USPS make it clear: They intend to continue to privatize postal retail operations, replace living-wage Postal Service jobs with low-wage Staples jobs, and compromise the safety and security of the mail. NJ TODAY

A National Call: Come to Detroit, Link Arms to Stop the Water Shut Offs and Fight for Democracy
On July 18, thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge in downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets, and the disconnection of water to tens of thousands of low-income residents – what the UN has called a human rights violation. Demonstrators from around the country will come to rally in Hart Plaza at 1 PM to link arms with the citizens of Detroit to protest the hostile corporate takeover by Wall Street banks and their radical ALEC-led political allies in the Michigan Statehouse.  Truth-Out

OH: Maggots in food, running out of food among new complaints facing Ohio prisons food vendor 
The records show 65 instances where Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services failed to provide food or ran out of it — usually the main course, such as hamburgers or chicken patties — while serving inmates, leading to delays and in some cases security concerns as inmates grew frustrated. Substitute items were provided in most cases. The Tribune

TX: Texas launches effort to shut down Deion Sanders’ charter school
The Texas Education Agency is taking steps to shutdown the charter school started by former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders. . . .In April, Price, a former Dallas ISD trustee, told the FBI he suspected federal money earmarked for the 300 students of the school was being used improperly. When Price made the allegations sources told CBS 11 News some of the concerns centered around some 400 computers, bought with federal money, that instead of going to students were sold for profit.  CBSLocal.com

RI: Review RI’s child-service program – opinion
. . .We continue to see Journal reports and other news accounts about the growing sex-trafficking of young girls in this state. We should offer help to these young girls and make sure services are available to treat them in Rhode Island. If the networks under contract are not fulfilling their job, then a new system has to be created to take care of these children in an environment where they feel safe and wanted. The money allocated for the services should be directed to the services, not to high administrative costs. Philip Keefe, president of the Rhode Island Alliance of Social Service Employees, a public employee union, described the situation as the “collapse” of a system aimed at privatizing jobs once done by state workers. The Providence Journal

FL: Opinion: Are public schools an endangered species?
. . . The growth of charter schools and voucher credits further drains critical resources from public schools and blatantly mixed church and state with taxpayer dollars. This represents a very deliberate scheme to undermine public school success. Charter schools are not held to such high standards in either curriculum or student progress, and schools accepting voucher credits are not public schools and have no effective accountability. Tallahassee Democrat (blog)

July 15, 2014

News

A Rare Win For The Unions? Staples Abandons Postal Service Trial
. . . And on Monday, days after the 1.6 million member American Federation of Teachers said it would join the boycott, Staples and the USPS told the WSJ the pilot program would be discontinued. The 82 Staples outlets offering postal services will shift to the more established Post Office Approved Shipper program already available in thousands of retail outlets across the country. . . .A USPS spokeswoman also declined to comment on the role of union pressure. “We respect their right to their opinion,” she said. “This decision is all about expanding service to our customers.” The postal union isn’t declaring victory just yet. A statement from APWU president Mark Dimondstein called the USPS and Staples announcements a “ruse”, and said the discontinuation of the pilot program doesn’t go far enough. The company should stop offering postal services altogether, he said. Wall Street Journal Blog

Net Neutrality: Comment Period Closing
. . . The fear among net neutrality supporters is that the FCC will rewrite broadband regulations to allow broadband service providers to build private toll roads on the Internet that offer faster data delivery while neglecting investment in open bandwidth so that congestion drives customers to more expensive offerings. InformationWeek

MI: Stalking Horse: Detroit Water Crisis as Possible Precursor of Privatization
. . . . As others have observed, the suddenly vigorous efforts of Detroit Water and Sewerage to clear up delinquencies through an aggressive regime of shutoffs may be a prelude to an effort to sell a very valuable asset and infuse billions into Detroit’s fiscal picture. The battle over potential privatization of public water services is a core element of water controversies. Anna Lappé, the author of Diet for a Hot Planet, reports that privatization of public water systems “overwhelmingly leads to higher prices for cities and people and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies.” Her findings, based on a white paper from Corporate Accountability International, note significant price rises of privatized water systems in the UK and France. Although water privatizers promise that they will help balance municipal budgets, that’s not the way it happened that way in Stockton, California. The city with its private water system ended up declaring bankruptcy anyhow—and after the bankruptcy returned the water system to public ownership. The Nonprofit Quarterly

MI: You get what you pay when hiring private company for Michigan prisons: embarrassing failures
American is gung-ho for privatization these days, both to save money, and because government at all levels has become something we love to hate. Thanks to years of being told that government is bad, corrupt, expensive and inefficient, we are happy to reduce its size. Well, we may not be quite ready to hand the nuclear arsenal over to an assets management firm, but apart from that, anything goes. And frankly, there are some things that probably should be privatized. Garbage collection, for example. But Michigan decided last year to privatize food service in our prisons, and so far, it has been a highly embarrassing failure. Michigan Radio

AZ: Arizona charter school history book says whites envied “freedom” of slaves
One of the oldest public charters in the state is using wingnut history to promote racism and Christian nationalism. Salon

AZ: Arizona State University agreement with Starbucks contributes to higher education privatization
. . . The Starbucks plan only applies to Starbucks employees pursuing an online degree, which has consistently fallen short of goals around retention, passing, metrics of learning and degree completion. . . . Starbucks is not doing this for charitable reasons. It has two profit-related goals, the first of which is broad public relations. This is evident from the Starbucks press release and a variety of major news headlines falsely stating that Starbucks will fully reimburse their workers’ tuition — one headline even states that Starbucks is paying them to get a degree! . . . .The second goal is to advertise the Starbucks brand to the college.  UT The Daily Texan

LA: Gov. Bobby Jindal leases state parking garage for $2M
. . . The 91-year lease will generate less money than the state paid for the garage, while also giving away possibly millions of dollars the state stood to receive in parking revenue over the life of the contract. The arrangement is part of a Jindal administration trend of leasing and selling state property to patch short-term budget gaps.  Shreveport Times

NY: Report: Nassau sewer deal would save $158 million
Privatizing management of Nassau County’s massive sewer system would save at least $158 million over 20 years — $73 million less than County Executive Edward Mangano has projected, according to a new legislative budget analysis. . . . A range of local environmentalists support the privatization. But Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit consumer rights group on food and water safety, said of United Water’s plan to operate with fewer workers: “Experience has shown that significant downsizing following privatization frequently leads to worse customer service.”  Newsday

TX: Austin Toll Operator Denies Default, Says New Terms Reached
The State Highway 130 Concession Co. that operates a new, lightly traveled toll road outside Austin says it has reached new terms with its lenders and is not in default.  Bond Buyer ($)

July 14, 2014


News

MI: Prison food supplier has Michigan officials at wit’s end
Maggots in the kitchen and on the chow line. Workers caught smuggling contraband or engaging in sex acts with inmates. Food shortages and angry prisoners. Those are among the problems that have plagued Michigan prisons since December when the state — in a move aimed at saving more than $12 million a year — switched from using state workers to feed prisoners to a private contractor, Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia. Ongoing turmoil with the 7-month-old contract — including many instances never previously disclosed — is detailed in more than 3,000 pages of state records obtained by the Free Press under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.  Detroit Free Press

TX: High-Speed Texas Toll Road Considered in Default by Moody’s
Moody’s Investors Service has announced it considers the Texas toll road that has the highest speed limit in the country in default for failing to make its full June debt payment. . . . The privately developed and operated road that runs south from Austin to the town of Sequin located east of San Antonio has struggled financially since its 2012 opening. . . . The Texas Department of Transportation “increased the speed limit to 85 mph with the intention to pull fast-moving trucks off more local routes and Interstate 35,” Moody’s said in its advisory. Truckers have said, however, there’s little advantage in using the 41-mile toll road because most trucks are governed around 65 mph, and the road stops short of where I-35 reaches the Mexican border. Transport Topics Online

TX: The case against tolls roads on 281 and beyond
Forcing drivers to pay tolls to get U.S. 281 expanded in north Bexar County is a double-tax rip-off that won’t solve congestion. Here’s why. The expansion of U.S. 281 was already paid for with gas taxes. Official documents showed $100 million allocated to the project until mid-2008 when the money vanished into thin air and no one ever accounted for where it went. Now officials want us to pay a new tax — tolls — to get U.S. 281 expanded.   mySanAntonio.com

CA: Highway 156 private toll road concept explored
Highway 156 could become a privately operated toll road in an effort to pay for a long-delayed widening project for the crucial link between the Monterey Peninsula and the Bay Area. On Wednesday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County board of directors approved an agreement with Caltrans to explore a partnership with a private entity capable of helping pay for and construct the highway project in exchange for a share of the toll road proceeds. . . . A group of North County residents, including Prunedale’s Jeff Irwin, spoke in opposition to the private toll road at Wednesday’s meeting. They argued it could result in much higher project costs and inaccurate revenue projections that could lead to bankruptcy and an expensive taxpayer-funded bail-out. Irwin pointed to a Southern California privately operated toll road that nearly tripled in cost to build and ended up requiring a public buy-out when the operator sued the local transportation agency over planned traffic improvements. In addition, the neighbors predicted their roads would be inundated by travelers seeking a way around the toll road, and Prunedale resident Doug Kasunich promised “organized opposition” from area folks.  Monterey County Herald

KS: Editorial: Kansas’ Ruinous Tax Cuts
There was only one reason for the state’s plummeting revenues, and that was the spectacularly ill-advised income tax cuts that Mr. Brownback and his fellow Republicans engineered in 2012 and 2013. The cuts, which largely benefited the wealthy, cost the state 8 percent of the revenue it needs for schools and other government services. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, that’s about the same as the effect of a midsize recession.. . . .With less money to spend, Kansas is forced to chop away at its only hope for real economic expansion: investment in public schools and colleges. While most states began restoring education funding after the recession, Kansas has cut K-12 spending by 2 percent over the last two school years, and higher education by 3 percent since 2012. New York Times

July 10, 2014


News

Paris’s return to public water supplies makes waves beyond France
Nearly five years after Paris took the management of its water supply back into its own hands, the move is inspiring other cities at home and abroad and hurting profits at private water firms Veolia and Suez Environnement. . . . “The success of the Paris remunicipalisation, our ability to make profits and lower prices, has convinced many other cities, whatever their political colour, that public water is an option,” Celia Blauel, new head of Eau de Paris, told Reuters. Reuters

MI: Detroit’s Art May Be Worth Billions, Report Says
. . . The appraisal, commissioned by the city and the museum in advance of a federal bankruptcy trial in August, also added that such a price tag would never be attained at sale, for reasons including donor lawsuits that would delay or prevent the sale of many valuable works, weakness in the market for some kinds of paintings. . . .The appraiser, Artvest Partners, an art investment firm based in New York, said that because of these factors and the notoriety of such a forced sale from a venerable public institution, the bulk of the museum’s collection might raise as little as $850 million. . . . The collection comprises more than 60,000 pieces, which are owned by the city and considered a municipal asset.  New York Times

MI: A National Call to Link Arms for Detroit, July 18
On July 18 thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge on downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets and the disconnection of water to tens of thousands of low-income residents. The UN has called the shutoff a human rights violation.  Demonstrators from around the country will rally in Hart Plaza at 1 pm, linking arms with the citizens of Detroit to protest the hostile corporate takeover by Wall Street banks and their ALEC-led political allies in the Michigan Statehouse, including Governor Rick Snyder.  PR Watch

VA: Va. Gov. McAuliffe orders review of contractor labor
Through the second executive directive of his administration, McAuliffe is ordering his secretaries of administration, finance and technology to dive into the details of a swath of contracts. “Virginia taxpayers spend millions of dollars annually on contractors for information technology (IT) and other services outside of our state workforce,” McAuliffe’s directive states. “I am concerned that state government is inappropriately dependent on expensive contract labor when traditionally-appointed state employees can perform at a higher level at a lower cost.” . . . Virginia entered into a 10-year, $2.3 billion contract with Northrop Grumman in 2005 in what was then the state’s richest-ever privatization deal. The contract has garnered much attention and while it doesn’t effectively end until 2019, choices must be made in the next four years about the future of the state’s IT services, including whether to continue outsourcing. TriCities.com

FL: Ruling May Chill School Districts Efforts To Challenge Charter School Conversions
A ruling against the Miami-Dade County Public School District was the first-ever ruling under Florida statutes, written specifically to prevent school districts from taking “unlawful reprisals” against employees who support charter school conversions. CBS Miami

CT: Bristol City Council declines to take a stand on the cafeteria worker issue
A sharply divided City Council declined Tuesday to take a stand in favor of the school cafeteria workers who may be replaced by a private food services firm. The council’s three Democrats supported a move to call on the Board of Education to abandon any legal appeals and focus instead on working with the union representing the 53 cafeteria employees who are slated to lose their jobs in the privatization bid. . . . City Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, a Democrat, said the $140,000 the school board has already spent on legal fees trying to push privatization would have been better used for classroom needs.  Bristol Press

July 9, 2014


News

Video: Profiting from the GI Bill
The Center for Investigative Reporting found more than $600 million dollars in GI bill money had gone to hundreds of for-profit schools in California with low graduation rates and high rates of student loan default.  CIRonline

EDITORIAL: Lessons of a For-Profit College Collapse
For-profit colleges are lobbying hard to weaken rules proposed by the Obama administration that would deny federal aid to career training programs that burden students with crippling debt and worthless credentials. But a recent spate of state and federal investigations into potentially predatory behavior by the for-profit sector — combined with the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, one of the country’s largest operators of for-profit colleges and trade schools — makes clear that the rules need to be strengthened and that federal oversight generally needs to be broadened. That’s the only way to shield students and taxpayers from exploitive or irresponsibly managed for-profit institutions that rely on federal student aid for up to 90 percent of their revenue.  New York Times

MI: Detroit’s fight for public water is also the nation’s
Detroit made international news this month when its municipal water board resumed cutting off water to residents with unpaid bills. With thousands of community members struggling in homes with no running water, local groups reached out (PDF) to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation to intervene. On Wednesday, U.N. officials responded, calling the water department’s actions a “violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”. . . . Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year to see the city through bankruptcy, is considering the privatization of the city’s water. According to a water department spokesman, “DWSD has no say in the matter.” Al Jazeera America

MI: Tolls unlikely to smooth Michigan’s bumpy roads – opinion
Let’s put it this way: There will be Dairy Queens on the moon before we see any major toll roads in this state, and there are billion$ of reasons why. The major stumbling block is the federal government pays up to 80 percent of the costs on many Michigan freeways and highways and, in nearly all cases, would want to be repaid for its investment.  Michigan is facing a chronic shortfall for road construction funds, but would it be expected to come up with hundreds of billions to repay the feds for I-75, 94, 96, etc.? The Detroit News

FL: Lawsuit still alive alleging Medicaid fails Florida children
A federal judge refused Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Florida provides inadequate care to children in its Medicaid program, despite state claims privatizing the program will resolve many of the problems. The state argued a massive statewide overhaul to privatize Medicaid will raise reimbursement rates, improve doctor participation and address allegations children can’t get doctor appointments. . . .Judge Adalberto Jordan said the changes are promising, but added there are too many unknowns about whether the program will actually improve access to medical care to dismiss the case. Bradenton Herald

MD: Police, fire unions oppose mayor’s new pension plan
City finance officials say the privatization plan is the latest step needed to save the Fire and Police Employees’ Retirement System, which they say is struggling and carries a $765 million unfunded liability. But union officials say the threat of pension collapse is overblown, and maintain that weaker benefits will cause talented recruits to go elsewhere. “The union vehemently opposes it,” said Rick Hoffman, president of the city’s firefighters’ union. “It’s not going to get us the people we need to grow Baltimore. We are going to go back to the days where we couldn’t keep paramedics.” Baltimore Sun

July 8, 2014

News

College Group Run for Profit Looks to Close or Sell Schools. Facing heavy losses and a crackdown by government agencies, Corinthian Colleges, one of the largest for-profit operators of trade schools and colleges, will largely cease operating under an agreement with the federal Education Department. . . .The California attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, sued the company last year, charging, among other things, that it had lied to students and investors about job placement rates for its graduates and about its financial condition. For months, the Education Department has demanded job placement data from Corinthian, to no avail, prompting the department to threaten last month to cut off federal money to the company. Like other for-profit school chains, Corinthian relies overwhelmingly on government funds — $1.4 billion last year in federal student loans and financial aid to low-income students, out of $1.6 billion in revenue. So a cutoff would have quickly put the company out of business, preventing students from finishing courses and abruptly leaving thousands of people unemployed.  New York Times

TX: As Perry Exits, Texas GOP Shifting Away From Toll Roads. . . In the new platform, Republican delegates removed a provision backing “the legitimate construction of toll roads in Texas” and replaced it with language opposing some aspects of toll projects in Texas, particularly the use of public money to subsidize private entities. . . . “There is an enormous amount of toll fatigue in Texas,” said Susan Fletcher, a Republican delegate from Collin County who supported the new platform language. . . . The Republican platform urges lawmakers to “adequately fund our highways” without tolls and asserts the party’s opposition to “the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop up or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private.”  Texas Tribune

WA: Two years after liquor privatization, booze in Washington state costs more. In one of the most expensive campaigns ever waged, retailers pumped tens of millions of dollars into convincing voters that private sales would benefit them more than leaving sales in the hands of the state. Now, however, Washington state residents pay more for a liter of alcohol than residents in any other state. And though the initiative promised to fill the tax hole left by the absence of a monopoly, Washingtonians are spending less on liquor than the state had projected.  Washington Post (blog)

NJ: NJ court rules against union’s effort to stop state lottery privatization. . . Despite months of objections from Democratic lawmakers and union leaders, the state announced last June that it signed a 15-year contract for a private company, Northstar New Jersey, to manage the sales and marketing branches of the lottery. . . . The union claimed the plan violated the state constitution and included a bid that was unlawfully approved by the state Treasury Department. The three-judge panel ruled against both arguments today.  NJ.com

PA: Liquor privatization effort kicked? With the passage last week of a state budget, Republicans’ bid to get Pennsylvania out of the booze business is looking tapped out.  The Morning Call

NC: For NCDOT Official, A Thorough Grilling Over I-77 Tolls. . . Since state officials signed a preliminary contract on June 26, 2014, with Spanish contractor Cintra Infraestructura, the DOT has continued to work on a final financial deal, which could close by Dec. 31. The DOT is looking at a toll lane project with a private partner because it says there’s not enough money to pay for all the state’s highway needs. “In our recent re-prioritization of projects we had 3,100 transportation projects from across the state,” Rochelle said. Altogether they would cost $70 billion to build. That’s money the state doesn’t have, he said. . . . The potentially high cost of tolls is a major sticking point for opponents. The only data made public so far about the project – a 2012 report from Stantec, a consultant for the DOT – estimates that drivers making the full 26-mile commute at peak hour between Mooresville and Charlotte would pay $9 inbound and $11.75 outbound. Gilroy borrowed a term common elsewhere, calling the toll lanes “Lexus lanes.” Those who can’t afford to pay or won’t pay will be “condemned to congestion.”  WFAE

MI: Charter school authorizers could be suspended for poor performance. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has a clear message for charter school authorizers across the state: Shape up or prepare to face stiff consequences. The Michigan Department of Education said Monday afternoon that Flanagan, the state’s top schools officer, would use his powers under state law to prevent authorizers from opening new charter schools if they don’t comply with transparency, accounting and academic requirements. “It’s my authority in state law and I will be using it,” Flanagan said, citing a recent investigation by the Detroit Free Press into charter school practices.  MLive.com