April 17, 2008

Texas: Authority gets green light to build $1.2B toll project
PA: Rendell says bids nearing on pike lease
GA: DOT adviser says drop toll road proposals
Chicago group sues over public park
The sound of failure
MI: Northville schools assess privatization
TX: No privatization of school bus fleet planned
AZ: Board’s advice to county: Privatize home health care

News Summaries
Texas: Authority gets green light to build $1.2B toll project
The North Texas Tollway Authority is still on track to build the $1.2
billion State Highway 161 after the Regional Transportation Council
accepted the NTTA’s "last and final offer" for valuing the toll road
project. By a narrow vote of 16 to 13 Tuesday, the RTC, a
transportation planning consortium of governments in the North Texas
region, signaled its preference for the NTTA’s offer over private
bidders for the project. However, authority will not make a final
decision on whether to build SH 161 until June at the earliest,
chairman Paul Wageman said. The NTTA must first get assurances from the
rating agencies that taking on the additional debt will not prompt
another downgrade. The RTC’s recommendation now goes to the Texas
Transportation Commission, which supervises the Texas Department of
Transportation. TxDOT typically follows the recommendations of the TTC.
Setting a market value for toll projects is required under a new law,
SB 792, passed by the Legislature last year. If the NTTA and TxDOT
cannot agree on the market value, TxDOT can seek bidders from the
private sector. Jose Lopez, president of the North American division of
Spanish developer Cintra Concesiones Infraestructura de Transporte,
told the RTC his company would value the project at $1.7 billion.
The Bond Buyer
PA: Rendell says bids nearing on pike lease
By the end of April, Gov. Ed Rendell will announce the highest bid for
the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and he hopes the Legislature will vote by
mid-June to lease the toll road to a private operator. He has a good
chance of getting the votes of legislators whose districts lie along
the Interstate 80 corridor, because the turnpike leasing proposal would
scrap the state’s plan, approved in July, to impose first-time tolls on
I-80. But he’ll face some opposition from members of his own Democratic
Party. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
GA: DOT adviser says drop toll road proposals
The multibillion-dollar project to build toll lanes along I-75 and
I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties is unlikely to be financially
feasible as proposed by the private consortium Georgia Transportation
Partners, and it should be dropped, the state Department of
Transportation’s financial adviser told the DOT board Wednesday. Very
little private investment was included in the plan, but hundreds of
millions of dollars would be invested by the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chicago group sues over public park
The fight over a soccer field under construction in Lincoln Park moved
to the courts Wednesday, as a residents group filed a lawsuit hoping to
put a stop to construction. The $2 million field, which is being funded
in part by the private Latin School in exchange for priority use of the
property, has become a source of rancorous debate in the North Side
neighborhood. Some residents said the project was approved without
proper public hearings. They also are upset that a public meadow will
be replaced with an artificial-turf field. In exchange for paying for
the field to be built, the Latin School will have exclusive use of the
field for about 25 percent of the time it is open. In February, Park
District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said the arrangement
reflects a public/private partnership that benefits the
neighborhood.Critics charge that the school has reserved the field for
its peak times, including weekday afternoons and weekends. Chicago Sun Times
The sound of failure
When Homer Simpson fouls up he makes this wonderful sound: D’oh! As he
repeats the mistake, repeatedly, he makes the sound again, and again
and again. All of the above makes me wonder what sound politicians, and
long-suffering IRS officials, make when the rediscover this fact of
life: Hiring outside debt collectors to replace IRS agents may not be
the way to go. Apparently it is not cost-effective nor soothing to the
taxpayers. Mike Causey’s Federal Report
MI: Northville schools assess privatization
Anxiety among Northville Public Schools workers is increasing this week
as administrators begin evaluating a long-debated plan to privatize
operations and maintenance services. Board of Education members on
Monday began reviewing bids to outsource custodial and transportation
work and say proposals to contract food service operations are in the
works. Officials expect savings to range from $400,000 to $1 million.
Currently, about $7 million is budgeted annually for salaries, benefits
and supplies in the three departments. The Detroit News
TX: No privatization of school bus fleet planned
Contrary to recent rumors, Tyler ISD Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid said
the school district is not planning to privatize its transportation
department. The district, however, did allow a private transportation
company that approached it to look at whether it could save the
district money. "We were approached by a private transportation
provider who just came in and talked to us about the idea. They’d
talked to other districts in East Texas about it and basically wanted
to know if we would be interested in having them give us just a review
of our transportation services and whether privatization would be
something that could even provide a savings to the district," Reid
said. Tyler Morning Telegraph
AZ: Board’s advice to county: Privatize home health care
The Pima County Board of Health voted Wednesday to recommend transitioning
the Pima Health System’s home health program to 21 private Tucson companies.
The program helps disabled and homebound clients with nonmedical needs,
such as getting out of bed, bathing and light housekeeping. Board member
Carolyn Trowbridge, said the 275 people who showed up – clients, care
workers and family members of clients – made a good case against privatization.
The supervisors decided in December to hold public hearings on the issue, which
would affect about 350 clients and 350 to 375 part-time workers. The majority
of people who showed up at the meetings asked that the program be left as it is.
Clients expressed concern that they would not get the same level of care from the
companies as they now receive. Tucson Citizen