May 2, 2012

Headlines
The peril of Rahm Emanuel’s public private partnerships – Cohen
Senators urge USPS to delay post office, plant closures
Ravitch: A primer on the group driving school reform
GA: Private collection firms go after public debt in Fulton
GA: Committee votes against commercializing Briscoe Field
OH: OSU parking privatization worrying students
PA: Union: Wash. auction shows Pa. liquor privatization unrealistic
WA: Privatization of liquor sales may not boost public safety after all
CT: Charter school model not permitted for turnaround schools

The peril of Rahm Emanuel’s public private partnerships – Donald Cohen
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing a bold new plan to rebuild the city’s aging infrastructure. He has lined up financing giants including Citibank NA, Citi Infrastructure Investors, Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc. and JPMorgan Asset Management Infrastructure Group willing to invest $1.7 billion in Public Private Partnerships with the city. The city council is balking because Chicago knows from experience how partnerships can sour. Former Mayor Richard Daley’s sale of the city’s parking meters is now widely recognized as a poorly negotiated partnership that locked the city into a bad deal (for the city, not the investor partners) for 75 years. And now the ink is dry and Chicagoans have to live with it — a deal’s a deal. Dozens of websites and tons of business literature warn about the perils of partnerships. They all say: pay attention to the details now or pay the price later in litigation over ambiguities, poorly drafted language or the unanticipated and unpredictable future; make sure you really trust your new partner shares your interests and vision; and above all don’t rush into it until you are absolutely certain. Huffington Post

Senators urge USPS to delay post office, plant closures
The U.S. Postal Service should freeze plans to close several thousand post offices and processing plants until Congress signs off on a comprehensive fix for the cash-strapped mail carrier, four key senators told Postmaster General Pat Donahoe in a letter released Tuesday. Federal Times

Ravitch: A primer on the group driving school reform
Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights…This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education. Washington Post

GA: Private collection firms go after public debt in Fulton
Anyone who thinks they got away with blowing off a citation written in Fulton County — even a decade ago — should think again. Fulton County is turning over to collection firms the names of people who not paid code violation fines or parking tickets. Expect letters and phone calls from strangers who don’t give up easily…Concerns have been raised about the potential for harassment by profit-driven debt collectors as well as the possibility of errors on cases that are so old…The county has hired Chicago-based Harris & Harris, Texas-based Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, Texas-based Municipal Services Bureau and Pennsylvania-based Penn Credit Corp. All four have generated complaints in other parts of the country, such as claims of people being hassled to pay tickets they already settled. Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the Georgia Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, said that with the firms going so far back, there are bound to be thousands of people who don’t get the letters because they’ve moved. There could be erroneous claims and cases of mistaken identity, he said. He would prefer governments keep collections in-house. “This might be the easiest and fastest way,” Baxandall said, “but they should do it in a way that would be best for residents.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

GA: Committee votes against commercializing Briscoe Field
An airport citizens review committee voted Monday against privatizing or commercializing the Gwinnett County airport, reports the Gwinnett Daily Post. ..The vote was led by members who have protested a proposal to add commercial flights at Briscoe Field. That lead to a split vote on the majority of measures considered by the group — with six members voting in favor and five abstaining, the newspaper reported. Some members of the committee were bothered by what they saw as a rush to vote and said they would have liked more time before a decision was made…The citizens board said if the privatization or commercialization is approved by Gwinnett officials, they recommend a “full and exhaustive public review” of financial risks to the public for infrastructure, as well as a review of how the project would affect the environment and public safety, the paper reported. Atlanta Business Chronicle

OH: OSU parking privatization worrying students
OSU students are going public with their concerns about possible private ownership of campus parking garages. OSU officials say privatizing parking could net the university up to $400,000,000. But at a Tuesday protest, students told ABC 6/FOX 28 that such a deal would allow the purchasing company to raise parking rates up to 7 1/2% each year for a decade. ABC6OnYourSide.com

PA: Union: Wash. auction shows Pa. liquor privatization unrealistic
…Washington last week announced the results of an online auction for the licenses of its 167 liquor stores. Voters last year passed a referendum privatizing the system.  The auction earned $30.75 million, or $184,000 per license. Yet, privatization advocates have claimed Pennsylvania could raise nine times more per store, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 said in a statement. Republican State Rep. Mike Turzai is the lead sponsor of a privatization bill that would auction 1,250 licenses, doubling Pennsylvania’s 621 existing liquor stores…A figure of $2 billion works out to $1.6 million per license. “Licenses just do not sell for that amount anywhere in the country,” Local 1776 President Wendell Young said. The Washington numbers suggest Pennsylvania would earn just $230 million from selling 1,250 licenses, the UFCW said. Central Penn Business Journal

WA: Privatization of liquor sales may not boost public safety after all
Remember that firefighter who wanted you to privatize liquor? Echoing others who also starred in last fall’s ad campaign for Initiative 1183, the firefighter told TV watchers: “1183 dedicates millions in new revenues for local law enforcement and public safety programs across the state.” Voters giveth and the Legislature taketh away. The Costco-backed measure passed in November, locking in a guaranteed extra $10 million for local governments, but state lawmakers cut a different $10 million from cities’ and counties’ liquor haul. The local governments want Gov. Chris Gregoire to veto that diversion of money when she signs this year’s key budget-balancing bills into law Wednesday. The Olympian

CT: Charter school model not permitted for turnaround schools
Charter school advocates were stunned — and now are angry — that the latest proposal for education reform does not include charter schools as an acceptable model to turn around low-performing schools. …Malloy’s original education bill gave the commissioner the authority to turn around a network of low-perfoming schools by choosing from among a variety of school models, including charter schools… However, a staff member for the Senate Democrats suggested contacting Kenneth Saltman, a professor in education policy studies and research at DePaul University in Chicago, who is writing a book to be published in June called “The Failure of Corporate School Reform.” In an interview Tuesday, Saltman criticized charter schools as less accountable than public schools. He also said charter schools have high teacher turnover; can be used as a tool to get rid of teachers unions; and that nationally, charter school students perform on standardized tests about as well or worse than students who attend traditional public schools. The Hartford Courant

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