May 22, 2008

PA: Turnpike roles not conflicts of interest, Citigroup says
The great government sell-off
US infrastructure attracting global players
CA: Feds to hold hearing on O.C. toll road

VA: At one university, tobacco money is a secret
MS: Lawmakers ok toll road financing
NC: Mental health staffing suffers acute shortage
FL: Private firm to handle permitting

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News Summaries
PA: Turnpike roles not conflicts of interest, Citigroup says
One part of Citigroup was trying to save the state’s Turnpike
Commission while another branch was bidding to take it over. Turnpike
officials say they’re certain the employees of Citigroup Global Market
who have been advising them since early 2007 did not share financial
data with Citi Infrastructure Investors, or CII, which is bidding to
lease the toll agency. The situation has prompted lawmakers, who are
considering Gov. Ed Rendell’s turnpike lease proposal, to question
Citigroup’s motives. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The great government sell-off
Is it any wonder that investment banks and private equity firms are
hiring infrastructure experts at a rapid clip? Dealogic reports that a
total of $53 billion in privatization deals have been announced this
year through May 20, 2008, more than triple the $13 billion in the
comparable period last year. The New York Times Blogs
US infrastructure attracting global players
The 359-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike system services one of the most
highly developed regions of the U.S., linking the major urban areas of
Philadelphia, Scranton, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and links up with
toll roads to Boston, New York and Chicago. If award of the contract
were eventually approved, it would be one of the largest public private
partnership initiatives ever undertaken in the U.S. The U.S. represents
a strategic market for abertis and its partners where Abertis is
already present via its airport business that manages the
Orlando-Sanford airport and the Atlanta international terminal, one of
the busiest in the world. It also affords the consortium a position
from which to embark on additional growth opportunities and boosts its
scope for expanding into other sectors in the U.S., the largest market
in the world.
CA: Feds to hold hearing on O.C. toll road
The U.S. Department of Commerce said Wednesday it would hold a public
hearing on a state panel’s rejection of a controversial toll road
through southern Orange County. The decision was hailed as a victory by
toll road opponents and downplayed by officials with the Transportation
Corridor Agencies, who wanted to avoid another raucous meeting like the
one before the state Coastal Commission. The February meeting drew more
than 3,500 people to the Del Mar Fairgrounds and was the largest in
commission history. It ended near midnight with a 8-2 vote rejecting a
proposal by the Irvine-based TCA for a 16-mile toll road that would cut
through San Onofre State Beach. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a project
supporter, did not renew the state Parks Commission terms of
actor-director Clint Eastwood and Bobby Shriver, the governor’s
brother-in-law. Both attributed the move to their opposition to the
toll road, although the governor’s office denies it. Los Angeles Times
VA: At one university, tobacco money is a secret
On campuses nationwide, professors and administrators have passionately
debated whether their universities should accept money for research
from tobacco companies. But not at Virginia Commonwealth University, a
public institution in Richmond, Va. That is largely because hardly any
faculty members or students there know that there is something to
debate — a contract with extremely restrictive terms that the
university signed in 2006 to do research for Philip Morris USA, the
nation’s largest tobacco company and a unit of Altria Group. The
contract bars professors from publishing the results of their studies,
or even talking about them, without Philip Morris’s permission. If “a
third party,” including news organizations, asks about the agreement,
university officials have to decline to comment and tell the company.
Nearly all patent and other intellectual property rights go to the
company, not the university or its professors. The New York Times
MS: Lawmakers ok toll road financing
The House and Senate on Wednesday both passed a bill to allow private
financing to build toll roads. The plan could speed up the process of
getting an alternate pay-to-drive route between Jackson-Evers
International Airport and downtown in Mississippi’s capital city. The route
has been discussed more than a dozen years. The Sun Herald (Biloxi)
NC: Mental health staffing suffers acute shortage
When mental health reform privatized the delivery of services, the
safety net was shredded, said Mike Hopping, a psychiatrist who left the
system five years ago, early in the state’s mental health reform. He
says he left because of the immorality of a system that puts more stock
in regulations than it does in the people serves.When mental health reform
forced the area programs to stop offering mental health services and treatment,
social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists were laid off, and they no
longer were eligible for state benefits in the new privatized system. Many
jumped ship before they could be laid off, going to other state jobs where
they would be able to keep their pensions and health benefits. Citizen-Times (Asheville)
FL: Private firm to handle permitting
Developers and builders will have an easier time working in Bonita
Springs once a private firm assumes the city’s community development
services. After hours of debate, the Bonita Springs City Council
Wednesday voted unanimously to hire CH2M Hill to handle its permitting
and building inspections for $1.5 million.