March 5, 2015


Where Have All The Teachers Gone?. . . Why have the numbers fallen so far, so fast? McDiarmid points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching’s image as a stable career. There’s a growing sense, he says, that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment. The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you’ve got the makings of a crisis. The job also has a PR problem, McDiarmid says, with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media. “It tears me up sometimes to see the way in which people talk about teachers because they are giving blood, sweat and tears for their students every day in this country. There is a sense now that, ‘If I went into this job and it doesn’t pay a lot and it’s a lot of hard work, it may be that I’d lose it.’ And students are hearing this. And it deters them from entering the profession. NPR

CCA & The case against privatization of our public marine resources. . . This is the last opportunity to make the case against privatization of our public marine resources, this time to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Amendment 40 proposes to take almost half of the recreational quota of red snapper and reserve it solely for the charter/for-hire industry for its own use. It is the first step to enacting a catch share program for charter/for-hire operators, modeled on the ownership program for the commercial red snapper sector in which less than 400 individuals own 51 percent of the entire fishery. The Eagle

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp. . . Until recently, America’s workers could rely on a compact struck at the dawn of the Industrial Age: They would give up their right to sue. In exchange, if they were injured on the job, their employers would pay their medical bills and enough of their wages to help them get by while they recovered. No longer. Over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year, a ProPublica and NPR investigation has found. The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty. ProPublica

NY: Affordable Housing Needs a Reset. . . The mayor’s plan tracks the pattern New York City has religiously followed for quite some time of trying to “incentivize” private development. The city effectively pays a fortune to private developers to build this kind of stuff. Here is a frightening statistic from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development: in 2013, New York City gave private developers a pass on $1.2 billion in taxes in order to stimulate the building of 153,000 units of housing ― just 12,000 of which met the messed-up definition of affordability. Hard to believe we couldn’t have done a lot better by simply collecting those taxes. . .We desperately need to press a reset button on all of this. Far from doing that, the mayor’s plan just doubles-down on the same game of “leveraging of private capital with public dollars” to create the appearance of a huge initiative. There may have been a time in the 1970s when it made sense to respond to urban decay by offering substantially unconditional subsidies and tax abatements to stimulate economic activity. But in an environment of virtually unchecked gentrification and social stratification, such tools and their underlying philosophy are totally misplaced. They don’t ameliorate the problem, they fuel it.   Huffington Post

FL: Opinion: Privatizing prisons prioritizes profits over humans. . . I voted for Rick Scott, not that I liked him, but because I was actually voting against the other guy. In many aspects, I think the governor has done a decent job. But not when it comes to private prisons. If anyone chooses to investigate, a journey through Google offers eye-opening horrors on what has gone on inside American private prisons. Warehousing human beings cannot be treated as a low-value commodity. Slavery ended 150 years ago. Yes, many inmates are criminals who committed dastardly deeds. But not all are murderers and robbers. Thousands are in for nonviolent offenses, particularly drug possession. When inmates are treated inhumane and invisible, without a voice, we citizens will reap the results when they are back among us. After giving it a trial, Canada discontinued private prisons. So did Israel. So should we. Florida Today

TX: Texas: Judge Rejects Traffic Camera Company Attempt To Block Public Vote. A Tarrant County, Texas judge on Tuesday did not buy the argument of a red light camera company that the public had no right to vote on whether cameras should be used in their community. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed for an emergency injunction last week in an attempt to keep the residents of Arlington from casting a ballot in the upcoming May election on the subject of automated ticketing. The Arizona-based firm found someone local who claimed he would suffer injury if fellow residents were allowed to vote.

CO: Boulder Drivers Should Be Raising Cain Over US 36 Proposed Tolls. . .US 36 is one of the only decent ways to travel from Boulder to Denver. And seemingly knowing that drivers have little to no choice in the matter, the private company who will run and maintain the road is taking full advantage of the situation. If drivers do not have a pre-purchased pass and have the temerity to want to use the express toll lanes during peak hours, they will likely pay nearly $14. If you are in the same position on I-25, you will pay $7. That’s right, getting out of Boulder is twice as valuable than getting through Denver. . . I’m surprised that Boulderites are not up in arms over the obvious way they are being abused by this system. I understand that a private firm can do essentially what they want and if people will pay it, why not charge as much as possible. But beyond the basic economic lesson here, we also need to examine how a major city in Colorado is being treated by civic planning policies in the metro area. CBS Local

NJ: City of Bridgeton to create water study committee to examine privatization. . . With basically everything from cuts and changes in certain services to tax increases being considered, Kelly is asking the water study committee to examine privatization of the city’s water utility to see if it would be something that could deliver the service with less strain on the city’s budget and at a reasonable cost to residents, the news release said. Kelly also said that because much of city’s water and sewer infrastructure is more than 100 years old, maintaining and upgrading the system is difficult and expensive.

NJ: Letter: Liberty State Park still not free from threat of privatization. . . There has always been a broad public consensus against the privatization of this sacred American public resource, the free and green park behind Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. I am concerned that the commission would be used by the governor to privatize and commercialize the park without the traditional public hearings and public comment periods provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

IN: Counties Finalizing Indiana Toll Road Bid. Two northwest Indiana counties are finalizing their tax-exempt bond-financed bid for the bankrupt Indiana Toll Road. Bids are due on March 15. Bond Buyer

March 4, 2015


The Tragedy of Privatizing the Commons. . . Absentee owners rarely have the same sense of stewardship and restraint as local owners. A group of local owner-operators (say, fishermen) have a strong incentive to stick it out through a difficult negotiation to agree on self-imposed restrictions that preserve their fishery. After all, they have most of their life savings tied up in their trade, they don’t have skills that they can readily apply to other businesses, and they may want their children to be able to follow in their footsteps. They’re in it for the long term. From an economists’ standpoint, the investment horizon for local owner-operators is measured in decades or more. But a corporate owner that seeks only a financial return will have a much shorter time horizon when making decisions. It may simply not be worth it to preserve the future productivity of a natural resources if that means forgoing a much greater profit today. All of this says that privatizing the commons may not work in a lot of cases. The incentive to chase a quick buck may outweigh the financial and social rewards of long-term stewardship. Ownership is not necessarily stewardship. U.S. News & World Report

The Perils of Privatization. . . Blackwater went into the annals of government contracting as one of the great disgraces of privatization. A staff report prepared for the Oversight Committee found that Blackwater billed the government $1,222 per day per guard, “equivalent to $445,000 per year; over six times more than the cost of an equivalent U.S. soldier.”. . . As Blackwater showed, many of the efficiencies are spurious, because contractors cut corners. The notion of market discipline can be short-circuited by political influence that steers contracts to favored companies despite their poor performance. Often, apparent savings are bogus because of costs that are passed along to the government. In some cases, privatizing something as necessarily public as national defense is convenient because the contractor, not the government, takes the fall when something goes wrong. This is precisely the opposite of accountability. The American Prospect

My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked. . .In America, libertarian ideas are attractive to mostly young, white men with high ideals and no life experience that live off of the previous generation’s investments and sacrifice. I know this because as a young, white idiot, I subscribed to this system of discredited ideas: Selfishness is good, government is bad. Take what you want, when you want and however you can. Poor people deserve what they get, and the smartest, hardworking people always win. So get yours before someone else does. I read the books by Charles Murray and have an autographed copy of Ron Paul’s “The Revolution.” The thread that links all the disparate books and ideas is that they fail in practice. Eliminate all taxes, privatize everything, load a country up with guns and oppose all public expenditures, you end up with Honduras. Salon

FL: Florida’s Privatized Prison System Is Chronically Underfunded. . . Prisons weren’t discussed as a priority for either Scott or legislativeleaders on the campaign trail, but budget records reviewed by the Herald/Times show the private prison industry was given special attention. Over the past four years, lawmakers and the governor increased spending on prison vendors by creating new programs and steering millions to them in state contracts, even as the public prisons crumbled and became more dangerous for inmates and staff. Governing

PA: Does privatization work? Ask Harrisburg. . . . [A]s part of the city’s deal to get out from under its incinerator debt, the city parking authority’s “assets” were leased in a complex transaction. . . . First, parking rates doubled. Well, OK, they needed to as part of the deal to bail out the city; the private partner was only going to be interested if it was worth their while. But beyond that, according to PennLive reports, the new system has been one snafu after another: Its zero-tolerance enforcement is so zealous, its agents sometimes try to ticket drivers as they are walking to the payment kiosk. Technical glitches and operator errors have led to mass ticketing of drivers who have properly paid. Making sure a ticket is paid on time to avoid a penalty (the grace period is all of four days) involves either paying on line, which carries an extra credit card surcharge, or a trip downtown to pay in person. . . . Private enterprise doesn’t exist to serve you, it exists to make money. If it can make money by serving you well – it’ll do that. If it can make more money by serving you poorly – why wouldn’t it do that? That’s the difference between a system owned by the public, which has an express duty to the public, and a private operator whose chief duty, always, is to the private operator.. LancasterOnline

PA: Liquor privatization faces uncertain future in Pennsylvania. . . Just like the previous time the House voted for privatization, the proposal faces an uncertain future in the state Senate. Lawmakers there are interested in improving consumer convenience and selection, but aren’t as adamant about privatization as the House.

IN: Rutter: Toll Road fever grips gullible investors. . . The chance that no one listens also does not dissuade you from shouting at government officials in Lake and LaPorte counties. Do not borrow $4 billion to take the white elephant Indiana Toll Road off the hands of international investors and operate the 157-mile road the state of Indiana still owns. If the two counties actually do possess the creditworthiness to borrow billions, is the Toll Road what anyone would want to rent for 67 years? Yep, say the involved public officials who insist the auction is too good to pass up. They might even get a sweet deal because it’s an auction. All that is required is entering a seven-figure deal with the bankruptcy court to bail out an international money operator whose dealings have been called “like wrestling in the dark with a ghost.” What possibly could go wrong? Chicago Tribune

WI: Kathleen Vinehout: Another awful Scott Walker idea: privatizing Family Care. . . “You have got to be kidding!” a Chippewa Valley advocate responded when I told her about a plan to potentially turn Family Care over to a for-profit insurance company. Family Care and its fee-for-service sister, IRIS, provide thousands of Medicaid-eligible frail elderly and disabled people the help they need to remain in their homes . . . If the current version of the governor’s budget becomes law, it will mean big changes to care for frail elderly and disabled people of modest means. For the rest of us, it could mean many more of our neighbors and family members end up in expensive institutions. Worse yet, folks could be stranded at home without the services they need to independently live and work.

OH: Ohio highway projects get boost from bonds, logo sales. Partnering with private businesses, offering sponsorships along highways and selling $1 billion in Ohio Turnpike bonds are among ways Gov. John Kasich’s administration has worked to boost transportation revenue amid lagging federal outlays. Akron Legal News

TX: Israeli firm wins first big US job: $800m Texas toll highway. Three years after setting up an office in the US, an Israeli firm has won its first major road-building job there – making toll lanes on a 10-mile stretch of state highway near Houston, Texas. Infrastructure firm Shikun & Binui is a 50% partner in a consortium called Blueridge Transportation Group, which was selected by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to design, build, finance, operate the new toll lanes on SH-288 in Harris County. Under the public-private partnership agreement, once they build it, Blueridge will collect tolls on the road for 52 years. Spain’s ACS Servicios y Concesiones, and InfraRed Capital Partners are the other two consortium members. Global Construction Review

NC: Widen I-77: Toll roads benefit the wealthy. . . The Widen I-77 group has filed suit against NCDOT and contractor I-77 Mobility Partners. The group is seeking a court order to stop the project. I-77 Mobility Partners has filed its own motion asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit because “it has no basis in law.” . . . Kurt Nass of the Widen I-77 group was the plaintiff’s only witness. Nass presented elaborate and detailed cost analysis that he says proves the toll road would be much more expensive in the long run that hiring a private contractor to build general purpose lanes. Nass says the widening is really only needed in the Cornelius area, not for the 26 miles north of Charlotte. He says toll roads only benefit the wealthy. “If you are wealthy enough to use the road then you have solved the congestion problem.” Nass estimates the cost of the toll will be around $20 round trip. Between 30 and 40 members of the group were in the courtroom Tuesday. WBTV

March 2, 2015


McDonald Tells Congress VA Will Not Completely Privatize Health Care. Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Bob McDonald told lawmakers on Thursday he has no plans to grow the agency’s payroll or bureaucracy, or to completely privatize VA health care. McDonald also countered the perception that VA officials and personnel deliberately would thwart programs such as the Veterans Choice program – which permits veterans to get care from non-VA providers. . . . ” We’ve got to have a combination of VA care and non-VA care to properly care for our veterans.” But McDonald, responding to lawmaker and veterans’ groups concerns that VA may promote the Choice Act as a substitute for VA healthcare, said leaders view it only as a supplement to the system.

TX: North Texas lawmakers taking aim at toll roads. North Texans with toll road fatigue have found champions in the Texas House. Reps. Jeff Leach, Scott Sanford and Matt Shaheen are pushing a series of nine bills that aim to dismantle the bureaucratic and financial mechanisms that have paved the way for a litany of toll projects in the state. Dallas Morning News

CA: Charter school group is political force in LA Unified board election. In Tuesday’s election, this role has shifted to a statewide charter school group, which is raising money, sending mailers and rallying parents in an effort to become a permanent political force.  Los Angeles Times

IN: LaPorte, Lake counties move ahead on Toll Road. LaPorte and Lake counties are pushing ahead in their effort to gain control of the Indiana Toll Road, taking their bid proposal to their respective governmental bodies for approval. . . . In addition to considering the final bid, officials from both counties will be voting on the structure of the Northern Indiana Toll Road Authority, the not-for-profit entity separate from government that would oversee the highway’s private operator. The NITRA would be supervised by a board of directors made up of elected officials from both counties as well as non-elected professionals with substantial experience overseeing large scale projects in fields like tourism, hospitality, transportation, education and health care. There would also be one member of the board representing the profit operator of the Toll Road, officials said. The Toll Road’s current private operator, ITR Concession Co., is in bankruptcy and putting the lease up for sale to help satisfy creditors. USB Bank is conducting and coordinating the bidding process. South Bend Tribune

LA: Regents look at privatizing public universities. Years of deep cuts to state funding for Louisiana’s colleges and universities — and the threat of even further reductions in the near future — have some leaders looking at drastic measures that could change the face of Louisiana higher education. One idea that has recently been floated: Why not encourage some of the state’s public schools to go private? The Advocate

FL: Privatizing prisons could be Scott’s end game – opinion. . . The cynic in me is starting to believe that the Scott administration doesn’t want to fix the problems at the department and doesn’t want to fully investigate the abuse that has been and still is occurring. In the meantime, people in state supervision are dying, and the state is exposed to costly litigation and liability. Perhaps this is the means to an end, and Scott’s true mission is to fully privatize Florida’s prisons — at any cost.

February 26, 2015


For-Profit School Students Challenge Education Department By Refusing To Repay Federal Student Loan. . . Corinthian, once one of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains with more than 110,000 students, is effectively shutting down under the weight of numerous state and federal probes that allege it cheated students by lying to them about job placement and graduation rates. Though the chain has previously disputed allegations from state and federal authorities that it defrauded students, it recently sold more than 50 campuses under pressure from the U.S. Department of Education, and Canadian authorities last week forced another 14 into bankruptcy. A contingent of former students, backed by prominent student advocates, the Massachusetts attorney general and more than a dozen Senate Democrats, has demanded the Education Department forgive federal student loans that thousands of people took out to attend Corinthian’s schools. The department has the authority to cancel loans in instances where students demonstrate that schools defrauded them. Huffington Post

The Secret World of Government Debt Collection . Government agencies across the country are hiring private debt collectors to go after millions of Americans over unpaid taxes, ancient parking tickets and even $1 tolls. CNNMoney

Where Lottery Privatization Went Wrong – William Weld. . . As economic growth remains fragile, governors must look for non-tax ways to raise revenues and avoid painful spending cuts. When I sat in their shoes, I looked at all avenues to plug gaps in the financial position of the state. Improving performance at the state lottery is one reasonably easy opportunity to increase revenues without stifling growth. But even as a long-time proponent of private management, I am constrained to say that the results obtained by private managers in Illinois and New Jersey have been a disappointment. . . . But the real problem with these arrangements lay earlier—in a flawed procurement process. Forbes

IL: Chicago surprise: Why Rahm Emanuel faces a runoff – and can he survive it?. . . While finishing first in the mayoral race, Emanuel, at 45 percent of the vote, failed to garner the majority needed to avoid the first runoff since Chicago switched to nonpartisan elections 20 years ago. . . . The election results have also been interpreted as a blow to the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, led by Mr. Obama, who campaigned with the mayor. . . .Commissioner Garcia, who is backed by the left-leaning online activist group, has portrayed his opponent as the mayor of the privileged 1 percent. Born in Mexico but raised in Chicago, Garcia, a former state lawmaker and Chicago alderman, campaigned on the theme of social equality. . . . Meanwhile, Emanuel still faces criticism over his decision in 2013 to close almost 50 public schools seen as low-performing. During Emanuel’s term, public schoolteachers staged their first strike in 25 years. The Chicago Teacher’s Union is backing Garcia. Christian Science Monitor

NJ: Governor Christie Sells Off New Jersey to the Highest Bidder . . . Early in his first term, Governor Christie created a privatization task force, creating a virtual road map for transferring billions of dollars in public assets to private profit driven companies. And throughout his tenure as governor, Christie has pushed to privatize public television, parts of the New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway, public parks, inspectors, and now our water. Governor Christie just signed a bill will open the floodgates for water system privatization in New Jersey. Food and Water Watch (blog)

VA: Delegate Ramadan Continues SCC Push On Dulles Greenway Toll Rates. Legislative efforts aimed at curbing tolls on the Dulles Greenway proved unsuccessful over the past few weeks, but Del. David I. Ramadan is continuing the fight on another front: through the State Corporation Commission. Ramadan (R-87), of South Riding, noted last week that with bills introduced by him and other Loudoun County lawmakers being defeated in this year’s General Assembly session, he’s concentrating on his request for the SCC to investigate the toll structure of Greenway operator Toll Road Investors Partnership II. Leesburg Today

PA: With 3Ps – privatization, paycheck protection and pension reform – it’s open season on unions. . . [T]he Pennsylvania Legislature is the most conservative it’s been in years this year and that’s been reflected in the top priorities in the state House and Senate. The state House is set to take a vote this week on liquor privatization and should the push be successful (and that’s a big if), thousands of state store employees represented by Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union could be looking for work. In the Senate, a bill banning the state from collecting political and other dues from employees’ paychecks cleared a Senate committee earlier this week. And a push to reform the state’s underfunded pensions has some employees worried for their retirements.. . . Despite the current siege, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is opposed to privatization and, while he acknowledges the pension funding problem, isn’t a fan of the GOP-backed remedies making the rounds. (blog)

PA: Liquor privatization takes another step forward, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto looms. Pennsylvania is one step closer to pulling out of the liquor business after a House committee voted 15-10 in favor of a privatization bill along party lines. . . . Wolf, however, has vowed to veto the legislation. He has already made his own pitch, for modernization, which he said could include expanded Sunday hours and more liquor stores inside existing supermarkets.

KY: Public-private partnerships bill approved. Despite strong protests of Northern Kentuckians who say it is a step toward approving tolls on a new Brent Spence Bridge, the House budget committee on Tuesday approved the bill authorizing public-private partnerships for road and bridge projects. . . The bill authorizes state government to contract with private sector partners who will finance and build bridge and road projects. Just as state law currently lets a state university to contract with a private company to build a dorm and then be repaid with student housing fees, the bill would let the state contract with a highway contractor to build a road or bridge and be paid off with toll revenues. The Courier-Journal

IL: Chicago Charter School Teachers Demand a Union. Teachers and staff at Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies and North Lawndale College Prep (NLCP) announced on Friday they are seeking to form a union, joining the growing movement to organize charter school teachers in Chicago and around the country. . . . As hostility to teachers unions by some education reformers and government officials has risen in recent years, the number of charter schools—schools which are largely publicly funded but privately run—has seen a dramatic increase. As the New York Times reports, many charter school backers see teacher unions as incompatible with charters, as they say the schools “are more effective because they are free from the regulations and bureaucracies that govern traditional public schools.” Supporters of charter school unionization say collective bargaining allows teachers to secure the resources and conditions that create quality teachers and stable schools. In These Times

February 24, 2015


Risk Disclosure for Public-Private Partnerships Under Scrutiny. Public-private partnership (P3) risks are on the agenda of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, which sets financial reporting standards for the federal government. An exposure draft issued in October called for more disclosure of the risk of deals where the government turns to the private sector to provide infrastructure, goods and services. Comments on the draft closed in January. Wall Street Journal ($)

PA: Pennsylvania liquor privatization bill clears House committee hurdle. A proposal to sell off most of Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor system and its wholesale distribution network is moving ahead, but its prospects for passage remain unclear. Allentown Morning Call

OH: Union bids to regain job of feeding Ohio prison inmates. Seeking to recapture jobs its members once held in prison kitchens, the largest state employee union says it can feed inmates cheaper than the oft-criticized contractor the state plans to rehire. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association submitted a one-year proposal on Monday to feed inmates for $1.216 per meal, a price it said would save $2.9 million a year over the price offered by Aramark Correctional Services. . . . Despite problems with maggots in kitchens, staffing and food shortages, and inappropriate employee conduct with inmates, prison officials quietly moved on Oct. 30 to renew Aramark’s contract. Columbus Dispatch

RI: Gov. Raimondo cites tolls, public-private partnerships as options to fund state’s highway projects. After more than a year of wrangling over the much-criticized Sakonnet River Bridge toll, Rhode Island lawmakers announced last June that they had created a “long-term solution for financing Rhode Island’s roads and bridges,’’ that would avert the need for the toll. From fee hikes and gas tax increases, they anticipated enough new taxpayer revenue to raise the amount available for Department of Transportation projects. Raimondo put the potential for “tolls” back on the bargaining table in a weekend Associated Press story about the poor condition of many of Rhode Island’s roads and bridges – and the uncertainty about future federal highway funding. “We need to take a comprehensive look at solutions, everything from public-private partnerships to tolling,” Raimondo said. The Providence Journal

TX: Proposed bill would put sunset clause on Texas tollways. . . “HB 1734 returns tolling to its traditional purpose: a temporary funding mechanism that is removed once the roads are fully paid off,” Shaheen said in a statement he issued on Monday. “We cannot allow the toll fees for roads we use every day to become a de facto tax into perpetuity.” The bill would also limit the North Texas Tollway Authority’s ability to renegotiate its toll road financing if it extends the term of the bonds. Austin Business Journal (blog)

CT: UConn Asserts Contracting Watchdog Has Only Limited Power Over It. The University of Connecticut has told the watchdog agency that oversees state contracting that it has only limited authority to investigate allegations made against the school. “The constituent units [of higher education] are not ‘state contracting agencies'” under the law, UConn’s Office of the General Counsel wrote to the state Contracting Standards Board in an email earlier this month. UConn receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the state each year for operating costs and construction projects. Hartford Courant



February 23, 2015


TX: ABC 7 Investigates: AEDC & Local Public-Private Partnertships. . . .The Commerce Building transaction has prompted a federal inquiry into the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC). Now, we’re digging deeper into other real estate transactions facilitated through public private partnerships with the Prana Development Group, the AEDC and other local academic institutions in our area. . . . . The overlap between business and philanthropy is evident when looking at the Commerce Building transaction. The Commerce Building was purchased by a Prana-connected company for 1.675 million, sold to the AEDC for 3.1 million, and later gifted to WT for the Downtown Amarillo Center. The WT Foundation Board includes Alan Rhodes, Kathy Cornett and Dyke Rogers, who are also investors in the Prana Development Group. Prana through the sale of the Commerce Building is connected to the AEDC. Another connection is through the Eastport Business Park, which is marketed by the AEDC . The AEDC also manages the Centerport Business Park, which has property that is owned by Prana. Since the AEDC has facilitated many of these deals, some are calling for more scrutiny when public money is used. The ultimate oversight over the AEDC is the Amarillo City Council.

OH: Stronger beer, prison privatization, guns among issues raised in new Ohio House bills. Under House Bill 73, sponsored by two Youngstown-area Democrats, the governor couldn’t close, sell or privatize any state prisons or other institutional facilities before getting permission from a newly created state facilities closure commission. The proposed 13-member commission would include lawmakers, state agency heads, people with experience working in the agency targeted by the change, and a union official.

OH: More charter school controls wanted by the left and by Auditor Yost on the right. State Auditor Dave Yost, shown here announcing a recent audit of discrepancies in charter school enrollment and kids who actually show up for class, says that charter school reform proposals from Gov. Kasich and House Republicans do not go far enough.

KY: Kentucky bill would aid Brent Spence Bridge privatization effort. . . Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, is the lead sponsor of the bill to permit the state to work together with private groups to get needed road and bridge work done. She is one of 10 House Democrats to attach their names to the bill. State lawmakers approved a similar effort one year ago after a provision was added by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, to prohibit adding tolls on any interstate project that connects Kentucky and Ohio. Simpson said at the time he preferred to take a “wait-and-see” approach to tolls in northern Kentucky. However, Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the bill. The Democratic governor said in his veto message it was a bad idea to eliminate any funding options for the project to replace the bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 into Cincinnati. The existing structure is toll free. This year’s version, HB443, includes a provision that would require approval of a joint resolution by the Kentucky Legislature for partnerships that involve projects with the state of Ohio. Land Line Msgazine

NJ: Trenton council, residents speak out on privatization of trash pickup . . . Although a formal vote on the issue was not taken because it was a study session, statements made by three members of the council indicate they are in favor of outsourcing, while four expressed they’d rather keep the job in house. Southgate News Herald

FL: Charter School Operator With Four Fs Gets Cash to Open More. A charter school management company with a history of operating failing or shuttered schools has been approved for two more schools in Panama City, leaving some South Florida parents wondering why millions in public money continue flowing to the company and the schools it manages. “Unbelievable,” said John Wai, who was told two weeks into this school year that a Sunrise school managed by Newpoint Education Partners was shutting down because it could not find suitable permanent classroom space. NBC 6 South Florida

IN: Lawmakers struggle to pay for roads. After years of spending billions from the lease of the Indiana Toll Road, the state is in the same boat as the rest of the nation – coping with gas tax revenues that are not keeping pace with inflation and wondering what the long-term solution is. “We can’t hook to the gas tax because it’s a losing proposition going forward,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. . . . When Toll Road lease revenue dropped off in 2013, it brought down Indiana Department of Transportation spending by about $300 million the next year. . . . The General Assembly is waiting for a study commissioned last year that INDOT is undertaking to present options on funding. It is set to come out this summer. . . . One idea getting traction in some states is a tax or fee on miles driven or on the sale of high-mileage cars. Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

PA: House set to vote on liquor privatization bill despite concerns that members may not know what’s in it. In its first significant piece of business in the 2015-16 legislative session, the state House of Representatives is poised to vote this week on a bill that would get the state out of the liquor business. But some wonder how many legislators casting votes really know what the bill would do. Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, and a union official suggest even the bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, seems confused about what’s in the legislation based on comments he made during a recent PCN Call-in Program.

February 19, 2015


Some Debt Collectors Get Away With Shady Behavior When Collecting Debt For Government. . . According to “Above The Law,” an in-depth investigative piece from CNNMoney, government agencies — federal, state and local – have long hired private debt collectors to go after millions of Americans with unpaid taxes, tickets, bills and other debts. One of the country’s largest and most connected private debt collectors is Texas-based law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, which holds contracts for 2,300 clients in 21 states. . . . But CNN claims that Linebarger sometimes do things that other private collectors aren’t allowed to, like charging exceptionally high fees and employing threats against debtors. Such powers makes it relatively simply for collectors like Linebarger to transform small debts like an unpaid road toll from just a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, like the Texas driver whose unpaid $7.50 toll ballooned into a collections bill for $157.50. The Consumerist

GSA’s Hashmi: Private clouds aren’t really ‘cloud’….”The right long-term direction for the industry and government is to make the public cloud providers that have scale that none of us can ever match become secure enough that they can actually meet our expectations,” Hashmi said. He admitted his position is on the extreme side of conventional wisdom but believes that is where the market is headed. Federal Times

SC: Gov. Deal Wants State to Take Over, Privatize Struggling Schools; Democrats Offer Alternative. One week after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, unveiled a proposal to enable state takeovers and privatization of struggling schools, State Senate Democrats have put forth an alternative plan they say addresses the root causes of failure in the education system. . . . The legislation would create a grant program based on the Community Schools model, which has been implemented in several states including Ohio, Kentucky, and Oregon. Under this model, schools are transformed into community centers that offer an array of services tailored to the needs of each individual school. Atlanta Progressive News

IN: Hoosier School Heist book spotlights information within Indiana public school system. Indiana native Doug Martin’s book titled Hoosier School Heist: Corporation and Theocrats stole Democracy from Public Education details the assault on Indiana public schools and gives the dirt on the billionaires, theocrats, and corporations who are really calling the shots from behind the scenes. Hoosier School Heist, Martin follows the scandals, the corruption, and the money. Shockingly Martin shows violations in Open Door Laws; for example, felons, Republicans, people who did time in prison (and many more who should have), and child abusers. Indianapolis Recorder

IL: The Billionaire Governor Goes After Workers. In November, Illinois voters narrowly decided – after one of the most expensive gubernatorial elections in the nation’s history – to elect Bruce Rauner, a hedge fund billionaire, to lead the state. Consider it an experiment in class politics. How would a man of the 0.01% address Illinois’ many challenges? . . . Rauner has already frozen all “non-essential” state spending and hiring, with an exemption, apparently, for a $100,000 a year Chief of Staff for his spouse. The war on public workers will be accompanied by a continued assault on public schools. The piecemeal privatization of public education will be accompanied by piecemeal privatization of more public services. CounterPunch

FL: Letters: State foolish to privatize services. Last Thursday, the headline on the front page was “State may throw out $1B (billion) in contracts” regarding the health care afforded the inmates of our state prisons. The care of prisoners is not limited to inadequate health care provided by independent contractors, but also includes the independent contractors in charge of the prison system. This is what happens when the pro-business state decides to privatize an industry previously handled by the government. It is penny-wise and pound-foolish. In searching to improve their bottom line, contractors end up cutting services. They are responsible to their shareholders, not to the state that provides them with substantial contracts. Palm Beach Post

JIM HIGHTOWER: Exciting new democracy movement. Under the banner of “Reclaim Chicago,” a dynamic, politically savvy progressive coalition has emerged, engaging thousands of grassroots Chicagoans in a people-led democratic movement to reclaim their city from the cabal of corporate elites and corrupt politicians now reigning over them. . . . ndeed, the problem in Chicago has been that “one” has been in charge, imposing corporate rule that further enriches the rich, while holding down everyone else. At present, the city’s Numero Uno is Rahm Emanuel, the strong man mayor and Wall Street Democrat who uses everything from privatization schemes and tax favoritism to harsh budget cuts and arbitrary police action to shift money and power away from the people and the common good, into the coffers of the moneyed elites. Emanuel’s plutocratic ruthlessness is surpassed only by his blimp-sized ego – “Mayor 1-Percent,” as the people have dubbed him, thinks he’s untouchable. Stillwater News Press

February 18, 2015


MO: Toll option still on the table for I-70 rebuild. In a report to the governor on tolling options, MoDOT estimated that a trip across the state on I-70 would cost $20-$30 per car and $40-$90 for trucks. If tolling moves forward in Missouri, a study would need to be done to determine rates, toll plaza locations and governance of the roads. None of those decisions can be made until lawmakers act. State Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said all options are on the table for I-70. But he thinks the more pressing issue is the overall funding crisis for MoDOT’s entire system. If lawmakers were to move forward with the toll option, it would still have to go before voters. A proposed sales tax to fund the I-70 project was voted down last year. MoDOT has approval from the Federal Highway Administration to rebuild I-70 as a toll road. But that approval will expire if something is not done.

SC: Columbia City Council passes ordinance to avoid privatization of water, sewer system. Columbia City Council unanimously passed a measure Tuesday night to allow City Manager Teresa Wilson to receive proposals to make the city’s system efficient without turning over control to a private company. Council convened within the past week and brought back an ordinance that would keep privatization of the water and sewer system off the table as city officials try to repair public utilities. “Often times we want it both ways,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “We have to seek efficiencies, but at the same time we have to invest in our system. If, in fact, we’re going to improve infrastructure, we have to invest.”

WI: As Scott Walker mulls White House bid, a spotlight on his jobs agency. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private body set up by Walker shortly after he took office in January 2011, was supposed to help the state climb out of recession by shedding bureaucratic rules and drawing on private-sector expertise. But the WEDC has fallen short of its own goals by tens of thousands of jobs and failed to keep track of millions of dollars it has handed out. One reason for the agency’s disappointing performance: Walker’s overhaul of the state bureaucracy drove away seasoned development workers, economic development experts who work closely with the agency told Reuters. Critics say the WEDC’s struggles highlight a significant gap in Walker’s resume as he lays the groundwork for a likely Republican presidential bid in the 2016 election: his middling record on job creation. Reuters

OH: Kasich budget plan increases funding to all charter schools. Charter-school funding in Ohio could exceed $1 billion by 2017 under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget, which provides increases to every school. Columbus Dispatch

OH: Ohio highway projects get boost from bonds, logo sales. Partnering with private businesses, offering sponsorships along highways and selling $1 billion in Ohio Turnpike bonds are among ways Gov. John Kasich’s administration has worked to boost transportation revenue amid lagging federal outlays. . . . The state opted against selling naming rights along the turnpike — say, to sports teams — after negative public feedback. But it has let companies promote themselves by putting their names on road signs, trucker lounges, snow plows and pet-walking areas. The Trucker

IL: A look at Rahm Emanuel’s privatized Chicago – audio. Writer Rick Perlstein joins Rick Kogan to talk about his latest piece for In These Times, “How to Sell Off a City“, The article looks at Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago’s trend of privatization: the transfer of the ownership of public resources (schools, government services, etc…) to owners who turn a profit from their use. WGN Radio

ID: Sportsmen rally against federal land-grab by state. A packed Montana Capitol rotunda Monday played host to hundreds of opponents rallying against the proposed transfer of federal land to state ownership, with speakers blasting the idea as the first step toward privatizing public lands, according to a story in the Helena Independent-Record. Sportsmen and conservation groups organized the rallies in Montana and Idaho. The Spokesman Review (blog)

NJ: Now They Want to Privatize Wildlife Management – No, I’m Not Kidding. . . As if Gov. Christie’s recent privatization of NJ’s water resources wasn’t bad enough, they’ve gone way too far now. And this one has the Keep It Green Coalition and/or NJ Audubon’s fingerprints all over it. I am referring to proposed legislation (S2624), sponsored by Republican Senator Kip Bateman, that would establish a “private wildlife” management program.

FL: RCBOE voices concerns over new ‘failing’ school legislation. The legislation, unveiled last week, calls for a statewide “district” of “consistently failing schools” scoring under 60 on the Department of Education’s College and Career Readiness Performance Index for three consecutive years. The state of Georgia could assume complete operation of a designated “failing” school, partner with local school districts to run it, convert it to a charter school or close it. . . Board member Charlie Hannah said the new legislation not only comes at a stressful time for school districts, but could also “hurt the students that need the most help.”. . . If this is passed, I’m afraid it will lead to increased privatization of schools … and that will just hurt underprivileged kids the most.” The Augusta Chronicle

NY: SUNY New Paltz to host ‘Challenging the Attacks on Public Education’. SUNY New Paltz will host a panel discussion “Challenging the Attacks on Public Education: Carrying on the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement” on March 3. While corporate education policy makers claim to be advocates of civil rights, their policies have instead undermined the civil and human rights of students, parents, educators and local communities, according to a press release about the event. The Daily Freeman

Opinion: Politicians should ditch ALEC. In December, eBay became the latest major company to cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). More and more U.S. corporations are growing wary of public backlash from the think tank’s legacy of controversial policy advocacy. . . . The company’s exit follows Google’s, Yahoo’s, Facebook’s and Yelp’s decisions in September to end their membership in ALEC. Coca-Cola, General Motors, Walmart and a number of other Fortune 500 companies have severed ties with ALEC over the last two years as well. Corporate leaders are realizing that the conservative think tank is too radical to represent their interests. ALEC promotes state and local legislation to eliminate the minimum wage, privatize public education and oppose campaign finance reform. It is time our politicians also recognize that ALEC is out of touch with mainstream American values and stop treating the group as a constructive player in our legislative processes.   Al Jazeera America

February 17, 2015


A “Grand Alliance” To Save Our Public Postal Service. The conservative/Wall Street/1-percent/Republican anti-government strategy is to set government up to fail (usually by starving it of funding). Then they point to the resulting “crisis” they created and say that it proves that government doesn’t work and that we should therefore “privatize” it — in other words, rig the system against the majority by handing our common wealth over to a few wealthy people to harvest for personal profit. Now they’re coming for the U.S. Postal Service. Huffington Post

Citizens worldwide mobilize against corporate water grabs. The US and other governments are pushing a failed model of water privatization, writes Victoria Collier – but water is a human right, not just a commodity to be traded for profit or monopolized by corporations, and citizens and communities worldwide are fighting back, from Detroit to Cochabamba, from Berlin to Malaysia, to reclaim their water commons. The Ecologist

Rep. Jim Bridenstine seeks to privatize NOAA weather satellite program. . . As new chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment, whose responsibilities include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its subagency, the National Weather Service, Bridenstine is in a position to begin implementing his ideas for changing the way NOAA does business. . . . “There is a large commercial industry that has incredible potential to assist us in providing accurate information,” he said. “Considering options that reduce the burden on massive government satellite systems (would) allow us to more accurately predict the weather.” Bridenstine takes over chairmanship of the subcommittee at a pivotal moment for NOAA. Its two primary satellite systems, one in polar orbit and the other in stationary orbit over the United States, are both nearing the end of their operational lives. Their replacements, however, are not expected to be in orbit and fully functioning until months or even years after the existing satellites are scheduled to go silent. . . Bridenstine’s support of commercial satellites and data-gathering have led some to think he wants to end the ongoing NOAA projects, but in interviews and again Thursday he said that is not the case. Tulsa World

NE: Nonprofits criticize lack of county support during health center privatization.  . . . Many former clients expressed concern about a lack of information about which mental health center services would be continued and which wouldn’t, and how the changes would affect them. Other former clients said they were satisfied with their new therapists and caseworkers. A particular area of frustration for many former clients was the brief interruption of medication management services during the transition. There were two periods of a few days each when medication was not available for pick-up by consumers. One woman said she went a week without her meds because she didn’t have the information she needed. Lincoln Journal Star

WI: School Board Member: Scott Walker’s plan for charter schools outdoes ALEC in privatizing education. Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to privatize authority over charter schools is a trifecta of bad public policy, “untested, excessive, and irresponsible,” Madison School Board member Ed Hughes on his blog. Walker’s plan, as laid out in his 2016-2017 budget proposal, would privatize and politicize charter schools beyond what is being done anywhere else in the country, Hughes wrote.

MI: Lawmakers propose privatizing Michigan Lottery. The bills — one in each chamber — would require state Lottery Commissioner M. Scott Bowen to seek bids from private companies for management of the state lottery, though the legislation wouldn’t require the commissioner to accept those bids. Both bills were just referred to committee and haven’t yet had a hearing. WZZM

TX: Smaller Trinity toll road: a legitimate plan or political ploy?. . . Opponents view the findings – and the consultants’ privately funded task itself – as a political distraction that ignores the financial and bureaucratic realities of a road whose designs call for six lanes and several large interchanges. Dallas Morning News

February 13, 2015


An experiment in privatizing public land fails after 14 years. . . The Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank, is of that opinion and has developed models to replace federal agencies with private interests. What many people don’t know is that Congress implemented one of the Cato Institute’s ideas in 2000, on the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. For some critics of the federal government, this was the experiment in land management that would signal the end of the BLM and Forest Service in the West. The Cato experiment in New Mexico, however, failed, chewed up by the friction between monetizing the “services” that landscapes provide — recreation, timber, grass, wildlife — and fulfilling citizens’ expectations for public access and protecting natural resources. For example, New Mexicans had very little tolerance for paying high fees to visit public property that had already been paid for using federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. High Country News           

New Alliance Takes on Corporate Push to Privatize the Post Office. CWA and more than 60 other labor, public interest, faith, community and civil rights organizations have formed the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service. Communications Workers of America

NY: Report Faults Charter School Rules on Discipline of Students. Most of New York City’s charter schools have disciplinary codes that do not meet either state or federal requirements, according to a report by a children’s advocacy organization that is to be released on Thursday. New York Times

NY: UUP pushes back against efforts to privatize SUNY hospitals. The president of the United University Professions, Frederick Kowal, weighed in against the governor’s budget this week, testifying at a joint legislative budget hearing that it “continues a trend of the state’s disinvestment in public higher education.” Of particular concern to UUP and other public employee unions is the budget’s weakening support for SUNY’s public hospitals. “Once again,” Kowal said, “the governor is attempting to privatize our SUNY hospitals by allowing corporations to own and operate these facilities.” Albany Times Union (blog)

TX: New commissioner spotlights toll authority. . . Shea, who took office last month, is hoping to install a “watchdog” to look out for environmental and social justice concerns on the board of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which has been tasked with building the controversial Texas 45 Southwest project. Her efforts are drawing backlash from the mobility authority, which Shea has said is dominated by real estate and development interests….Shea, who co-founded the Save Our Springs Alliance in 1992, has led the charge against the road, which is planned to be built over the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, potentially harming endangered species populations and topographical features such as caves. Austin American-Statesman

NC: MNPS Audit Looks for Savings Through Outsourcing, Raises Questions About Charter Costs. The audit focused on seeking private contractors for some or all of the district’s nutrition, transportation and energy programs as well as some facilities management, saving between $2 million and $13 million per year, beginning in year two. In an official response from management, the district plans to hire an in-house energy manager and implement a comprehensive energy management program, but keep the jobs with MNPS instead of an outside firm. MNPS rejected some of the audit analysis on transportation and nutrition programs, arguing that the audit started with flawed assumptions. Nashville Scene

SC: Firestorm of protest hits Columbia city council over possible privatization of privatization of city water, sewer. In fiery speeches to Columbia city council members, more than a dozen Columbia residents Tuesday night denounced any effort by council to allow a private company buy or lease the city’s water and sewer systems. “Water is the new oil,” Howard Duvall told council members at a regular meeting, stressing that profit-minded companies have only one goal – to tap into the city’s lucrative revenue streams. “Companies are accountable to shareholders –not consumers,” Elaine Cooper told council. Like many in the audience, she wore an anti-privatization badge. Hers said, “NO!” over the image of a water faucet. The State

PA: Pa. Senate Democrats to counter liquor privatization plan….Wolf unequivocally disagrees with the concept of privatization, and instead supports expanded Sunday hours and opening state stores inside supermarkets. Tribune-Review