June 13, 2012

Headlines
NY: Fracking research and the money that flows to it
FL: Faced with budget crunch, Hernando County will study privatizing utilities
PA: Push to privatize Pa. liquor losing steam?
PA: Audio: Privatization of public transit
WA: Audio: Privatizing parks
NH: NH seeks ‘over the shoulder’ consultant in prison privatization decision
NJ: For some E-ZPass Big Brother is already here
Public-sector issues erupt in presidential campaign

NY: Fracking research and the money that flows to it
…But some faculty members have questioned why the new research entity, the Shale Resources and Society Institute, was created this spring without consultation with the faculty senate or before putting an advisory board in place. “Our mission as a public institution is to protect the public interest,” said Martha McCluskey, a law professor and member of the faculty senate executive committee. “We should make sure that our research efforts don’t look like industry public relations efforts.” Nancy L. Zimpher, the chancellor of the SUNY system, has asked the university to respond to the criticisms of the study, which a public accountability group says includes skewed data and the reuse of previously published material without proper attribution. New York Times

FL: Faced with budget crunch, Hernando County will study privatizing utilities
..On Tuesday, Commissioner Dave Russell dropped a bombshell when he suggested that it was time for the county to analyze the marketability of one of the county’s largest services — its water and wastewater utility. “We have an asset in the Hernando County Utilities Department that is pretty significant when you look at it,” Russell said. “There are a lot of questions that need some answers.” His fellow commissioners nodded in agreement…As Russell explained after the meeting, the Utilities Department at one point last fall had $212 million in assets compared to just $63 million in debt. “That’s 3-to-1,” Russell said. “As a businessman, that makes my ears perk up.” TampaBay.com

PA: Push to privatize Pa. liquor losing steam?
The legislative pulse of a measure to privatize Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores went as flat Tuesday as the head on a stale beer. The House adjourned with no discussion, let alone a vote, on the much-talked-about proposal to get the state out of the wine and liquor business. This after debating the issue for more than three hours Monday, with the expectation that discussions would resume Tuesday — leaving many to question whether the measure was dying for lack of support.  The proposal’s key sponsor, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), could not be reached for comment after the House adjourned. Earlier in the day, Turzai spokesman Steve Miskin insisted that the measure had enough votes to move forward. Philadelphia Inquirer

PA: Audio: Privatization of public transit
Is privatization exactly what we need to keep mass transit viable in Allegheny County? The conversation continues. House Bill 10 will allow for private companies to begin operating bus routes in Allegheny County. Essential Public Radio

WA: Audio: Privatizing parks
Paving Public Parks: A few decades ago, the federal government started a program aimed at helping state and local governments fund public parks. Today, one of those parks is a hotel. Developers are converting another to an upscale private resort. And yet another nearly wound up as a beachfront McDonalds. Investigative reporter Robert McClure joins us to tell the story of a promise broken. KUOW,org

NH: NH seeks ‘over the shoulder’ consultant in prison privatization decision
The state of New Hampshire may not only be moving toward privatizing its entire prison system, but it is also partially privatizing the process involved in making the decision. June 5 was the deadline for a private prison consulting firm to respond to a request for proposal for a firm that can look “over the shoulder” (in the RFP’s words) of state officials from two departments as they sift through as many as 20 binders of documents and some 900 drawings submitted by four vendors who are seeking to operate the state’s prison system. That weeding-out process should take from July 11 to Sept. 30. If a bid is approved by Gov. John Lynch and the Executive Council, New Hampshire would become the only state to turn its entire prison system over to a private company. New Hampshire Business Review

NJ: For some E-ZPass Big Brother is already here
Caught without change on the Garden State Parkway, Pat Arias thought she’d appeal to the toll collector at Bergen toll plaza, but the toll booth was closed. “They only had exact toll lanes and E-ZPass,” said the North Bergen reader who was driving her son’s car. “I don’t want to get him in trouble, so how do I get in touch with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to pay the toll?” It’s a common source of confusion – and it could get even more confusing next July when the toll collectors’ contract expires and electronic billing may take over. Not everyone is thrilled. NJ.com

Public-sector issues erupt in presidential campaign
In the wake of organized labor’s defeat in Wisconsin last Tuesday, the role of government and the clout of public sector unions are emerging as major issues in the presidential campaign. President Obama and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney both found themselves over the weekend explaining comments they made involving the public sector…Meanwhile, labor unions attacked Romney for what one called his disdainful attitude toward the middle class when the former Massachusetts governor said of the president, “He wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” Stateline

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