January 3, 2012

News summaries
The perils of privatization
Long story short, where selling land to a private owner is viable it’s something that deserves consideration (note that since cities tax landowners but don’t tax themselves, this is a double win for public finance) but when it’s not then the city really ought to just try to do a good job of managing the land. Creating special purpose franchisees takes a political economy problem and makes it worse. Slate Magazine

Between the lines

That prized garage space or curbside spot you’ve been yearning for may be costing you—and the city—in ways you never realized. A journey into the world of parking, where meter maids are under siege, everybody’s on the take, and the tickets keep on coming. Los Angeles Times

FL: Mavericks schools hope to profit from education – but at what cost?
..In the past two years, eight Mavericks high schools have opened in Florida..The schools, all publicly funded and tuition-free, aim to succeed where many public schools fail. They promise to help kids who would otherwise drop out earn enough credits to graduate…But so far, Mavericks’ lofty goals haven’t materialized. Most of their schools graduate less than 15 percent of eligible students. On state report cards, the schools get “incompletes” because so few of their students are taking the FCAT. In Miami, two former teachers filed whistle-blower lawsuits alleging the Homestead school is inflating attendance records and failing to report grades properly. Plus, there are rampant financial questions, cozy ties between Mavericks and local politicians, and a legal fight with former celebrity spokesman Dwyane Wade.
Mavericks has become a poster child for the problems that have long dogged charter schools in Florida. How can they help troubled kids while also turning a profit, especially when they are run by a man whose brother is next in line for the White House? “Join us in our mission,” Biden says. “If you don’t feel a little bit of this energy today, then there’s something wrong with you!” Broward New Times

January 2, 2012

News summaries
IN: NW Ind. city’s mayor floats idea of selling water to Illinois communities

A mayor in northwestern Indiana wants to turn his city into a water merchant he predicts would collect millions of dollars by selling water from Lake Michigan to communities in adjacent Illinois. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Friday that the city is exploring the possibility of selling water to Illinois municipalities on its own or by privatizing Hammond’s water company.  “It’s an amazing opportunity,” he said. “We would be one of the wealthiest cities in the state, if this goes through.” The Times of Munster reported that McDermott’s idea would capitalize on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed water rate increases on Illinois communities that buy Lake Michigan water through Chicago. Chicago Tribune
KY: Gov. finds proposed public-private hospital merger not in best of KY
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear rejected a proposed merger of University Hospital in Louisville and two other hospital systems on Friday, saying it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the state. The decision ends months of talks about joining University Hospital with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System…”Significant legal and policy concerns have been raised about this proposed merger, including constitutional and public policy questions about the influence of a religious entity on a publicly-owned institution, especially regarding reproductive issues,” Beshear said in a statement. “In addition, if for some reason in the future the merger partners were forced to separate, the potential costs of that unwind could be significant and have a detrimental impact not only on University Hospital, but also on the taxpayers of this state.” The Republic

FL: For-profit virtual schools a bad deal for kids
Gov. Rick Scott’s movement to “reform” public education is a laboratory experiment for the rest of the nation. Scott’s proposals of vouchers, charters, privatization and “virtual” schools,” as well as vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by “for-profits,” were among the first in the nation…What is going on is that Gov. Scott would like to privatize education and take its funding out of the state budget. In Florida, the push to educate students at the Florida Virtual School at a savings of nearly $2,500 per student less than at traditional schools has been sold as a budget fix. These schools have poor or nonexistent track records. The rush to privatize education allows for-profit companies to administer public schools completely online with no classroom buildings or traditional teachers. And this opens the door for education industry lobbyists to achieve an unprecedented investment in for-profit education. Lobbyists made 2011 the year of virtual education reform, achieving sweeping legislative success by combining the financial power of corporate clients with the apparent legitimacy of privatization minded think tanks and foundations. This is sold as mere attempts to improve education through technological enhancements prompting little public debate or opposition. Gainesville Sun

NY: Privatized line takes keys from LI Bus
About 1 a.m. yesterday, the last-ever MTA Long Island Bus trip and the first-ever Veolia NICE Bus trip crossed in their respective runs between Jamaica and Hempstead….Skeptics have a hard time believing that Nassau will be able to deliver on its promise of better service at a lower cost to taxpayers while Veolia manages to turn a profit. They predict Veolia eventually will resort to drastic service cuts and steep fare hikes…But the chief concern for the half a dozen other riders interviewed yesterday morning was that new management would raise fares – even though the agreement between Veolia and the county freezes the $2.25 rate through 2012…In June, Mangano chose Veolia Transportation, the largest private bus provider in the United States with more than 200 contracts, to take over. Despite Veolia’s reputation for success, critics questioned the company’s ability to run the system with a county contribution of $2.5 million a year…Now, with the MTA having literally handed over the keys to Nassau’s bus system, even those who are skeptical of Mangano’s privatization say they have little choice but to wish for the best. Newsday