May 4, 2012

Headlines
TX: Citizen activists target red light camera expenditures
PA: Who’s killing Philly public schools?
PA: Businessmen arraigned for stealing $800K in privatization deal
PA: Hundreds oppose sale of county-owned nursing home
AL: Senate OKs charter schools bill
NY: Privatizing Nassau County’s sewer system is a disaster waiting to happen
CT: Privatization an issue in Conn. education bill
AZ: Arizona’s budget giveaway to the private prison industry
LA: Grass-roots organization assembles ed reform protest
Private water industry defends ALEC membership

TX: Citizen activists target red light camera expenditures
League City, Texas is violating state law governing the use of proceeds from a red light camera program, according to a local activist who filed an official complaint yesterday. Under state law, a municipality may only use its photo ticketing profit to pay for “traffic safety programs.” League City appears to be using the revenue to create a slush fund for the local police department. “They went on a spending spree that would make a drunken sailor blush,” Byron Schirmbeck, director of saferbaytown.com told TheNewspaper. “How can you have a program that’s meant to punish lawbreakers when you’re violating the law yourself?” League City’s camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems, issued over $5 million worth of tickets. After the state government and the Australian company took their share, $1.3 million remained in the municipality’s photo enforcement war chest. They spent less than half that amount on “traffic system improvements. The Newspaper.com

PA: Who’s killing Philly public schools?
…The plan is bold — after all, closing just eight schools this year prompted an uproar. It’s also terrifying, says former Philadelphia School District superintendent David Hornbeck, considering the poor academic records and corruption at many charter schools. “What is being proposed, in effect, is ‘charterizing’ the whole district, when there is a lot of evidence that at best [charters] have no positive effect on student achievement, and there is a lot of evidence they cost more,” he tells City Paper. And “charters in many instances, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, have served private interests — sometimes of public officials.” Philadelphia City Paper

PA: Businessmen arraigned for stealing $800K in privatization deal
Two Lackawanna County businessmen were arraigned Thursday in Northampton County Court on felony charges they bilked a Lehigh Valley township of more than $800,000 in a streetlight privatization project…The pair is accused of stealing $832,460 from Bethlehem Twp., while doing little of the work the company said it would do…Mr. McLaine and Mr. Kearns were company principals of Municipal Energy Managers Inc.,, a Lackawanna County firm. MEM claimed it could reduce municipalities’ electric rates by having town’s buy back their utility poles; MEM would maintain the lights rather than PPL.
The company is also at odds with Scranton, claiming the city owns it $657,000. The city has refused to pay it partly in light of the criminal charges. The Times-Tribune

PA: Hundreds oppose sale of county-owned nursing home
“When we privatize, something has to give,” said Dr. Richard Stiles, an emergency room physician at Chester County Hospital whose mother, too, lives at Pocopson. “Invariably, that will be the quality of care” that patients there now receive, he said, telling the commissioners that his experience is that private facilities in the county do not provide what Pocopson does.  Their comments, and the comments of others, drew thunderous applause from those who attended the meeting, perhaps the largest public meeting in recent memory for the county commissioners, and certainly the largest held in their new administrative building.  The Mercury

AL: Senate OKs charter schools bill
Senate Republicans pushed through legislation Wednesday that would allow school districts in the state’s largest cities to create charter schools to replace failing schools, while allowing other areas flexibility in addressing their needs…The GOP made charter schools a top priority in the current session, although the version the Senate passed 23-12 included a variety of changes and limits charter schools to Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville. The number of charters also would be capped at 20 statewide.  Charter schools have been a controversial issue, but vocal opposition was minimal during the relatively brief debate Wednesday evening. Montgomery Advertiser

NY: Privatizing Nassau County’s sewer system is a disaster waiting to happen
Nassau County executives should heed the wise words of the New York State Comptroller’s office who referred to such privatization deals as ‘budget gimmickry.’ Furthermore, United Water’s claim that it will increase system efficiency is groundless. Studies indicate that private water service providers are no more efficient than public ones, but they are a lot less accountable to the public. “The sewer system in Nassau County needs to remain in public control. Privatizing this essential asset will not solve anyone’s financial troubles, except perhaps, United Water’s.” NorthcentralPa.com

CT: Privatization an issue in Conn. education bill
The prospect of greater privatization of Connecticut schools has emerged as a hurdle in closed-door negotiations over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposals to overhaul public education. Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. told the Associated Press this week that Malloy’s proposal to give the state’s education commissioner the discretion to allow private companies to run certain low-performing schools “continues to be one of the many ongoing issues” being discussed in the closed-door talks, even though language to that effect was stripped from the governor’s original bill last month. Williams said he has serious concerns about the prospect of state money being spent to “enrich private vendors” instead of benefiting students. “It’s a critical discussion that’s going on across the country: How do we define public education?” he said. “Is public education truly public? Is it run and accountable at the local level with input from parents in the community, or is it turned over to private companies where, as time goes by, accountability and local input disappears?” Lawmakers and the governor are facing a May 9 deadline, when the regular legislative session is scheduled to adjourn. AP via CanadianBusiness.com

AZ: Arizona’s budget giveaway to the private prison industry
Yesterday, the state legislature approved a compromise budget they negotiated with the Governor. The budget agreement would: Fund 500 state-run maximum security prison beds we don’t need. Fund 1,000 private prison beds we don’t need. Pay for these prison beds by stealing $50 million from a mortgage settlement that was intended to provide relief for victims of the foreclosure crisis. Remove the requirement to study the quality and cost of public vs. private prisons. In his defense of her “don’t bother me with the facts” decision, spokesman Matt Benson said the Governor believes the cost comparison and quality review is, “of little utility to us.”  Our Governor has just publicly stated that she has no use for facts if the facts stand in the way of her corporate backers’ agenda. There could be no clearer proof that the legislature is putting the interests of their private prison pals ahead of kids, victims of the housing crisis, and the 99%.  Tucson Citizen

LA: Grass-roots organization assembles ed reform protest
Even though Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed sweeping education reforms, parents, teachers and community members say they will not be silenced from expressing their concerns. The various Caddo Parish residents gathered in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse on Wednesday after to protest “the privatizing of education” under the voucher and charter school bill approved this legislative session and to announce the formation of a new grass-roots education group tasked with starting a new conversation for real education reforms…Wednesday’s protest brought together personalities not normally seen as bedfellows from school board members to teachers’ organization members and parents agreeing the answer to public education is not found in the new laws. “If we really care about public education, we should address the real issue, and that is socioeconomic,” said Jackie Lansdale, president of Red River United.  Shreveport Times

Private water industry defends ALEC membership
An influential trade association representing companies that provide water services to one in four Americans says it will continue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that has worked with the energy industry to create loophole-filled water protections and opposes federal oversight of fracking. The National Association of Water Companies represents the far-reaching privatized water utility industry that serves “nearly 73 million people every day,” according to the association’s website. NAWC represents more than 150 private water companies, each of whom pay an annual fee to the association. Its board of directors is drawn from the leadership of some of the country’s largest water companies. Huffington Post

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