September 28, 2012

News

Romney pledges to privatize foreign aid. Mitt Romney pledged Tuesday to shift foreign aid toward the private sector and deprioritize humanitarian aid in favor of promoting free enterprise and business development around the world. In remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney laid out his most detailed proposals on foreign aid thus far, including his plan to move foreign aid to rely more on public-private partnerships that enlist American corporations to the cause of helping the developing world. Foreign Policy (blog)

What is ‘The United States of ALEC?’ Most people have no idea what ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, is or does, but everyone should. This week, Bill Moyers is helping get the word out with a detailed look at it on PBS stations.  ALEC calls itself a “nonpartisan public-private partnership,” but this is a case of false identity. What it actually is is an organization that writes “model legislation” on a variety of topics that its membership of conservative legislators use in state after state to make new laws that promote privatization in every part of American life: education, health care, the environment, voting rights, etc.  The Washington Post

Private Prisons: Immigration Convictions In Record Numbers Fueling Corporate Profits. This spring, a group of inmates at a privately operated federal prison in Mississippi — most of them undocumented immigrants from Mexico — rose up against their guards, setting fires, taking hostages and ultimately killing one correctional officer. The riot, the latest in a string of uprisings at low-security private prisons housing undocumented immigrants, came after complaints from prisoners about “substandard food, medical conditions and disrespectful staff members,” according to a federal court affidavit filed by the FBI. The inmates incarcerated in the Mississippi prison and more than a dozen private facilities across the country are not awaiting deportation in the immigrant detention system. Instead, many are serving prison time for the crime of crossing the border, a federal offense that prosecutors are filing in record numbers as part of a government crackdown on illegal immigration.

Highway Toll Hikes Inflate Prices, Slow Recovery. As the gap between federal highway improvements and state transportation needs continues to widen, some states are quietly jacking up tolls to finance repairs, light rail projects and bridge maintenance. This tactic by the states in response to a virtual freeze on federal gasoline tax revenues and the recent five percent reduction in federal transportation funds for the coming fiscal year is having a significant impact on commerce – especially the trucking industry – and could prove to be another drag on the economy as average Americans get hit with higher fees. The Fiscal Times

The Life and Death of Schools…Ravitch sees a terrible confluence of forces at play among the reformers: policymakers who know nothing about public education, allied with organizations that expressly want to see it dismantled. She said, “There’s a tremendous push for privatization, and privatization does not bring about equity.” It’s not just charters and vouchers: The “Reform” movement is now promoting “parent trigger” bills, which – using test scores as the unexamined standards – would allow parents to take over neighborhood schools and turn them straight over to charter school companies. Unsurprisingly, right-wing bill machine the American Legislative Exchange Council has been pushing such trigger legislation in multiple states. Then there are establishment Republicans, like former Florida governor and educational businessman Jeb Bush, who are shilling hard to expand for-profit, “virtual” schools – even though many have been abject failures. The Austin Chronicle

CA: Plan to Privatize LA Zoo Stopped. The plan to privatize operations of the Los Angeles Zoo has collapsed, officials with the non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association announced Thursday. Negotiations between the zoo association and the city broke off Sept. 21 over the amount of autonomy a private non-profit operator would have in running the zoo….But in recent months, the biggest stumbling block has proven to be over control of zoo operations.  In a letter to City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana released Thursday, the zoo association said that it broke off negotiations because existing city policies and regulations made it too difficult for a private operator to function. Los Angeles Business Journal

PA: Allentown council hears concerns about water, sewer privatization … Opponents of the lease held a news conference before the meeting, holding signs that read “water is a right not a commodity.” Later they packed council chambers, groaning loudly during the presentation and applauding anti-privatization speakers. Guridy stopped the meeting on several occasions to quiet the crowd. Al Wurth, who spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club before the meeting, said the lease will be a burden to taxpayers, regardless of whether it will raise income for the city. A private water and sewer operator will raise rates to compensate for the city’s asking price, he said. ”There is no income or advantage to the citizens of Allentown,” Wurth said. Seth Gladstone of Food and Water Watch called the plan “taxing through the tap.” Morning Call

NE: Colleges experience mixed results in health center outsourcing. With the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s move to privatize the University Health Center, UNL would become the only Big Ten Conference school with an outsourced health center. Outsourcing student health centers has, historically, been a big hit or a big miss at other colleges, according to several collegiate health officials. Daily Nebraskan

OH: ODRC: No More Privatizing Ohio Prisons. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) on Tuesday said it will not seek further privatization of state prisons. The announcement was made less than a week after CityBeat published an in-depth story detailing the various problems posed by privatizing prisons. Cincinnati CityBeat

September 27, 2012

News

NJ: Camden Rejects Bids for New Jersey’s 1st Privately Owned Public School…In January, Christie signed the Urban Hope Act, a law allowing nonprofits to apply to start up to a dozen new public charter schools in Camden, Newark and Trenton. Once a school board approves an applicant, the groups are free under the law to contract with businesses to purchase land, construct facilities and manage the schools with taxpayer money – a provision that could give companies unprecedented control over public schools in New Jersey… The board considered four applications, including one brought by affiliates of powerful South Jersey Democrat George Norcross, before voting down the proposals when the district’s school business administrator could not produce cost estimates for the projects…. Barbara Morgan, a DOE spokeswoman, declined to say whether the state would step in and override the vote.  NJ.com

GA: Georgia Archives to Cut Back Service, History to the Public. The move will make Georgia the only state without an archives open to the public on a regular basis. But this closing is simply the most severe symptom of a greater crisis facing permanent government collections in nearly every state, professional archivists say.  The New York Times

TX: With 85 MPH Speed Limit, Trucks May Avoid New Toll Road. In a matter of weeks, a 41-mile stretch of toll road with the fastest speed limit in the country will open in Central Texas. But truck drivers may steer clear of the new high-speed road, said John Esparza, president of the Texas Motor Transportation Association, which represents the trucking industry in Texas. “It’s going to be a deterrent, yes,” Esparza said of the road’s 85 mph speed limit….[M]ost trucking companies try to keep drivers from traveling faster than that speed, both out of concerns for safety and because it reduces a truck’s gas mileage, Esparza said….The American Trucking Association has urged the Texas Transportation Commission to reverse its decision ton the 85 mph speed limit for the new toll road. The group favors a maximum 65 mph speed limit for all highways.  Texas Tribune

IN: Panel delays vote on outsourcing Ind. lottery. The State Lottery Commission postponed a vote on outsourcing most lottery operations to a private business that had been scheduled for Wednesday so members could have more time to digest proposals from two possible vendors behind closed doors. Businessweek

IN: Hoosier Lottery’s aim: Avoid Illinois’ privatization troubles…In Illinois, which last year became the first state to outsource management of its lottery, results have been mixed. Northstar Lottery Group, which is a partnership between GTECH and Scientific Games, brought in record profits but fell short of the $825 million it promised the state to win the bid. ..Under Illinois’ deal, Northstar receives bonuses or pays penalties based on two thresholds: the amount of money the state projected it would bring in without Northstar’s assistance and the amount of money Northstar promised for the state in its bid. Those two different systems of bonuses and penalties have the potential to essentially cancel each other out. Northstar could bring in more money than the state would have earned but still fail to reach the amount it promised.  IndyStar.com

LA: Shreveport residents, employees rally against LSU Health budget cuts. SU Health employees and concerned citizens in Shreveport rallied Wednesday morning against the privatization of the hospital…Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson, who says they are adamantly against the possibility of privatization. “Once you privatize a facility or outsource a facility, the basic motive is profit. Once profit is in place, there’s the degradation of facility maintenance, there’s employee layoffs, there’s loss of wages and benefits and the quality of services certainly diminishes, because those institutions that purchased this facility under privatization, their main motive is profit.” Among those in the small crowd were nurses and people who say they’ve used the hospital and don’t want to see services cut, along with Louisiana State Representative Barbara Norton (D) Shreveport. KPLC-TV

The corporate education agenda behind “Won’t Back Down”… Anything that moves the needle of public opinion toward privatizing K-12 is a victory. And it’s a victory for more than just for-profit charter and private school companies. The school-choice army is increasingly diverse. It has a growing “digital learning” wing of technology and software companies eager to “individualize” and “virtualize” American classrooms.  Salon

 

 

September 26, 2012

News

CA: Outsourcing City Attorney’s Office not an option in H.B.. A discussion on possibly outsourcing the City Attorney’s Office failed to gain support after some city leaders questioned the legality of the move. City Council members on Monday were expected to consider whether or not outsourcing the office to a private firm would be the best way to save the city money after an independent attorney advised officials that it could mean getting sued and losing.  OCRegister

NJ: State Ed Commissioner Cerf says talk of privatizing NJ public schools is ‘palpable, absolute nonsense’…Cerf said he is “stunned and astonished” that serious citizens believe the state is interested in privatizing public schools. “The notion that there is some group of corporate, you know, kingpins out there who are lurking in an effort to conspire to take over … is just nonsense,” Cerf said. Critics of the Jersey City BOE’s appointment of Marcia V. Lyles as the 29,000-student district’s new superintendent have claimed Lyles – a graduate, like Cerf, of the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy – intends to collude with Cerf to close and privatize some of the district’s schools. Lyles and Cerf have denied the accusation.  NJ.com

PA: ‘Flimflam finance’ used by Pa. Turnpike, Wagner charges. Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are using “flimflam finance” to cover increasing debt and the toll road could be bankrupt in “a couple of years,” state Auditor General Jack Wagner told legislators Tuesday. State lawmakers are considering whether to rewrite a 2007 law called Act 44, which that requires the turnpike to provide $450 million a year for public transit and road and bridge projects around Pennsylvania until 2057 in addition to paying for the costs of operating the 545-mile turnpike system. To meet that obligation, the turnpike has borrowed billions and boosted cash tolls by 48 percent. Tolls will rise again in January and every year as the turnpike tries to raise enough money to pay its debt… Wagner, who has been warning about turnpike finances for months, told lawmakers they should repeal Act 44 and find other ways to pay for the state’s transportation needs. But many lawmakers and Gov. Corbett are reluctant to raise gas taxes or other fees to pay for roads and bridges and mass transit. Philadelphia Inquirer

GA: Audit a red-letter day for MARTA and its board. We already knew that MARTA would have to change dramatically. As the audit points out, the transit agency is on a collision course with financial disaster, with reserves scheduled to be exhausted by 2018…Altogether, easily outsourced functions could save the agency some $27 million over a five-year period, KPMG estimated. …Privatization, for example, is often oversold as a cost-cutting option, although the scale of potential savings identified in the audit suggests that it offers a critically important option. Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)

FL: Legislative Commission’s overreach: privatizing healthcare in Florida prisons …Undeterred by a court ruling that prohibits the legislature from changing policy through budget language, the Legislative Budget Commission last week approved a major policy change — privatizing prison health operations — with only six legislators voting in favor.  Last year, the courts struck down similar end-arounds designed to privatize general operations and health services at state prisons, saying such large policy changes must be made in stand-alone laws, not through budget language. The Legislature followed up by killing leadership’s attempt to pass a stand-alone prison privatization law with a razor-thin, 21-19 Senate vote. The bill failed after weeks of delay and arm twisting because proponents were unable to show that privatization would save money. There may be good arguments for privatizing healthcare services at our prisons. Perhaps it would improve healthcare for inmates and save the state money, but it also may result in reduced care and higher costs. Regardless, last week the Legislative Budget Commission ducked scrutiny and privatized prison healthcare after an hour of discussion among just 10 members, seven of whom were not even there in person. — Paula Dockery is a term-limited Republican senator from Lakeland who is chronicling her final year in the Florida Senate.  Miami Herald

 

September 25, 2012

News

FL: Justice Warns of Partisan Politics Undermining Judiciary. As the secretive campaign against the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention took shape Monday, one of the targeted justices warned that the future of the state’s independent judiciary was under threat…. On Monday, Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group affiliated with the Koch brothers, announced a political campaign it has been developing for months to highlight the judicial records of the justices. Starting Tuesday, the group will run television ads across the state chastising the justices for ruling against a 2010 proposed constitutional amendment intended by the Legislature to counter President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act — the one Republicans dubbed Obamacare. The Ledger

FL: Editorial: Blatant bid to politicize the courts . The Republican Party’s opposition to the three state Supreme Court justices is an effort to intimidate them as they decide challenges to public pension changes and privatizing state prisons approved by the governor and Legislature.  Tampa Bay Times

IL: Emanuel’s push for more charter schools in full swing. With Chicago students back in the classroom, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is free to push ahead with a key component in his effort to reform the city’s public education system — the aggressive expansion of charter schools. Although it was never officially part of negotiations over a new teachers contract, Emanuel’s charter school push was a factor in the seven-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union. It made the city a national flashpoint in the debate over whether privately run but publicly funded charter networks are a better formula for success than struggling inner-city schools.  Chicago Tribune

NY: Report: Cuomo intends to privatize New York’s horse racing. Andrew Cuomo intends to sign legislation dissolving the New York Racing. Association and privatize the state’s racing industry. The impending takeover of the board followed state criticism of NYRA operations. The last straw was management’s failure to implement in a timely fashion a legally required reduction by 1 percentage point in the takeout on exotic wagering, resulting in bettors being overcharged for more than a year. Two of NYRA’s top people, including CEO and President Charles Hayward, were let go as a result. The Saratogian

NY: Onondaga County health committee says privatizing nursing home could save millions. Privatizing service at Van Duyn Home and Hospital, a senior nursing home in Syracuse, could save Onondaga County $115 million in 10 years, according to the legislature’s health committee… The committee says that because of Medicaid reimbursement rates, which date back to the 1980′s, it is not sustainable for the county to fund the facility. The county signed a letter of intent to sell the nursing home to a private home operator earlier this month. CNYCentral.com

VA: State House Dems: Virginia’s seaport too important for shotgun sale. House Democrats today criticized Gov. Bob McDonnell’s hurried quest to overhaul operations at the Port of Virginia…Democratic Leader David J. Toscano and Caucus Chair Mark Sickles today called on the governor and Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton to slow down the process and allow for greater public input and transparency.  “Our concern is that the Governor, in an effort to provide a quick influx of funds to substitute for his inability to have a genuine transportation funding plan, will make a bad business decision that could shortchange the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.”  Augusta Free Press

September 24, 2012

News

CA: LA’s pension reforms may jeopardize privatization plans. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s pension reform proposal released last week could put plans to privatize the Los Angeles Zoo and the Convention Center on hold. While the mayor and Council President Herb Wesson say they remain in support of moving ahead with both proposals, the plan to bring in a private manager for the Convention Center was delayed again last week. And the proposal to have the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association take over operation of the zoo has remained stuck in the city bureaucracy with no movement in sight.  Los Angeles Daily News

IN: Hoosier Lottery Privatization Up For Debate. The State Lottery Commission could choose a private vendor to run the Hoosier lottery at a public meeting Wednesday. In a statement, lottery executive director Karl Browning said the commission wanted to test the market to determine if a private company could maximize revenues for the lottery in ways the state couldn’t.  But Browning stressed that if the commission wasn’t satisfied with the bids, they could decide not to privatize at all.  Lottery officials declined to be interviewed prior to Wednesday’s meeting.  Indiana House Democrats have criticized the effort, charging that privatization of the lottery won’t be fiscally helpful in the long run and will lead to cuts in services and rising fees. Indiana Public Media

WA: Some winners, some losers in liquor sales privatization. The increasing cost of liquor has been one of the more obvious changes after June 1, when the state handed the reins of liquor sales to private companies as required by Initiative 1183. The average price paid for spirits was up 12.4 percent in July compared to the same month last year, said Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue. What the state doesn’t know is if people decided to buy more expensive liquor. Bellingham Herald

TX: With 85 mph toll road coming, Central Texas town hopes for new business. Speed in the form of an 85 mph Texas 130 tollway extension opening as soon as next month. And the potential speed of development, fed mainly by the tollway, in a quiet county of 38,000 up to now mostly bypassed by the Central Texas population boom. Community leaders believe the four lanes of Texas 130 will spur growth — despite what is expected to be a charge of about 15 cents a mile to drive on it. The tollway, which will link Lockhart to Austin to the north and will provide a much faster route to San Antonio to the south, has drawn the attention of a handful of developers, but no dirt has turned yet.  The Statesman

TX: Efforts to stop hospital privatization continue. As GEO Care’s proposal to privatize Kerrville State Hospital reaches the final stages of review before being sent to the Legislative Budget Board, those who oppose the bill make efforts to convince the state agency’s commissioner to reject it first.  “I think it’s significant that there’s quite a large amount of opposition to what is happening,” Grassroots Leadership executive director Bob Libal said. Kerrville Daily Times

FL: 408 is ‘cash cow’ of toll system. In much the same way retailers depend on Christmas sales for survival and profits, most of the 105-mile toll road system surrounding Metro Orlando would not exist without the money generated by State Road 408… The 22-mile-long road, the second ever built by the agency, brings in 41 percent of the tolls, or more than $108 million during the 2011 fiscal year. About $158 million was collected on the remaining 83 miles of the system. Take the 408 out of the mix and there would not be enough tolls coming in to cover the debt the expressway incurred to build and maintain the system. And forget about adding new roads, such as the planned 25-mile, $1.66 billion Wekiva Parkway that would complete the beltway around Metro Orlando.  Orlando Sentinel

FL: Court Approves Detaining Motorists at Toll Booth. A family of drivers — Joel, Deborah and Robert Chandler — filed suit last year arguing they were effectively being held hostage by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the private contractor in charge of the state’s toll road, Faneuil, Inc….. The judges found it was reasonable for Fanueil to set regulations for use of the road — including the types of acceptable payment. The court decided that drivers implicitly agreed to those conditions by choosing to use the toll road. “The Chandlers have not alleged that they were forced to pay their tolls with large-denomination bills, thereby subjecting themselves to whatever delay was caused by completion of the Bill Detection Report,” the court ruled. “They chose to pay their toll with large-denomination bills. Nor have they alleged that they asked to withdraw the large report-triggering bill in favor of a smaller delay-free bill and were denied that opportunity.” TheNewspaper.com

OR: Risks exist in the privatization of mental health care – opinion…A group home is essentially a small business with the proprietor’s income based on the number of clients in the beds. Losing a client because of his/her bad behavior reduces that income — and clients are difficult to replace. So there is an economic incentive to look the other way when rules or even laws are broken. Reporting every incident is bad for business. I am far from an expert on mental health care, but I hope the real experts are aware that the growing privatization of mental health care is not without risk.  OregonLive

The Yoking of Virtual Schools and Market-Based Reforms. If you love the promise and potential of online learning, but you aren’t a big fan of the privatization of American education, then you have a dilemma on your hands. In the years, ahead, the two phenomena are going to be ever more closely entwined. That said, if you love the promise and potential of online, and you love privatization, then you’re in luck, because the advocates of these two movements have yoked themselves together.  EdWeek

 

 

September 21, 2012

News

TX:  Facilities Commission approves faster public-private partnership. Under the new procedure, the Facilities Commission’s staff would notify the public within 10 days of receiving a proposal that meets its minimum standards. That public notification also would start the clock for other developers to submit competing proposals for the same parcel of state land…The idea for a faster, more transparent start to the P3 approval process arose after three commissioners and three staffers visited their counterparts in Virginia. The Texas law creating a formal P3 process is modeled on the Virginia model. At Wednesday’s hearing, Commissioners William Derek Darby and Brant Ince pushed for notifying the public sooner instead of later in the process.  The Statesman

TX: Are toll roads the future for Central Texas transportation? Four toll roads surround the Austin area and more could be on the way as mobility planners are now considering tolling roads which are currently free for drivers. Austin YYN

IL: Privatization in Chicago Schools Still Threatens. ”[T]he biggest threat that lies ahead for the teachers is that Rahm Emanuel will continue closing schools and opening non-union charters. Given that he controls the school board, and given that he has a low opinion of public education, watch for continued privatization in Chicago” (Diane Ravitch). Truth-Out

IL: DCFS Workers Warn That Cuts, Move Towards Privatization Will Harm Illinois. As the days draw closer to October 1, when about 375 state social workers will be laid off, a group of more than 350 angry Illinois Department of Child and Family Service (DCFS) employees showed up at Gov. Pat Quinn’s Chicago office Tuesday afternoon….Now, as the state looks towards privatizing the work of Intact Services to save money, some workers who are facing a layoff say that decision could lead to many abused and neglected Illinois children falling through the cracks of the system…. “I know that working in the past with the private sector they’ve had to pick and choose the cases that they will [and]and will not take,” said Letreurna Packer, a 22-year DCFS veteran worker. “With Intact Families, we didn’t have to pick and choose. We got everything … Wherever the cases came from, we had to accept them.” Progress Illinois

IN: Dem Gov candidate Gregg outlines $3.5B transportation plan. Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg unveiled a plan Thursday to replace the nearly broke Major Moves initiative. The state has budgeted or spent the money it received as part of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road. To keep the road work moving, Gregg has proposed shifting existing resources and leveraging some of the remaining money from the lease to spend $3.5 billion on infrastructure.. Brian Vargus, a political consultant and longtime political science professor, said transportation will be an important issue for voters if the next governor can’t find a way to pay for road repairs. In addition to large projects, much of Major Moves has been spent to repave local highways, he noted, and the state will have to find a way to keep up with that work.  IndyStar

IN: Cash-strapped Elkhart may privatize airport. Elkhart is looking for yet another way to save money with less property tax money. Now, the city is considering leasing its municipal airport to a private company, but that won’t be easy. WSBT-TV

3,000 contractors suspended or debarred last year. Federal agencies suspended or debarred more than 3,000 irresponsible contractors last year, a 47 percent increase from the previous year, a new federal report shows….OMB ordered agencies in November to make greater use of suspension and debarment tools against irresponsible vendors and to take corrective action whenever a contract award is improperly made to a suspended or debarred company.  Federal Times

FL: Gov. Rick Scott standings remain low in new Florida poll. Gov. Rick Scott’s low standing with voters persists in a new Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll, and he should be more concerned about a possible 2014 rematch against Democrat Alex Sink than a challenge from a remade Charlie Crist. An even 50 percent of voters disapprove of Scott’s job performance in the poll, with 38 percent approving and 12 percent not sure. …Andrew Ianniello, a retired IBM employee in Punta Gorda, said Scott is too extreme. “Scott wants to privatize prisons and everything else, and a lot of people have lost their jobs because of that,” said Ianniello, who moved south from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to escape the harsh winters. “There’s been too much privatization going on.”  Bradenton Herald

CA: Opinion: Two-tier tuition a dangerous solution… In order to address overcrowding and underfunding, Santa Monica Community College sought to implement a two-tier tuition policy a couple of months ago. The policy would create extra courses in high-demand areas, with students paying $180 per unit as opposed to the regular $46. Rumors have circulated around Merced College that our own administration was considering adopting such a policy. … For many, a policy like this is a step toward privatizing public education and would place our community college system on a very slippery slope.  Merced Sun-Star

 

September 20, 2012

News

NE: UNL health center privatization draws advisory board’s concerns. The student board members wanted to know how the university would ensure the new provider would maintain the same quality of services the health center offers. Because students and health center faculty weren’t consulted in the decision to issue an RFP and privatize the health center, the board wanted to know how it will be able to express its opinion in the provider selection process after the RFP is due Oct. 5. Daily Nebraskan

IL: What does the Chicago strike mean for the national fight against privatization and corporate “school reform”? By early this week, the truth was hard to avoid and impossible to deny. The Chicago Teachers strike threatened to expose the vast gulf between some of the president’s rhetoric about preserving public education and protecting teachers, and the savagery of the Obama administration’s Race To The Top initiative, which ties federal education funding to how many public schools are closed and privatized, how many public school teachers fired, and how many of those remaining are evaluated according to business-friendly norms like test scores. Voice of Detroit

LA: Plan to Drive Working-Class Blacks out of New Orleans Preceded Katrina. The story of black displacement from New Orleans typically describes a post-Katrina conspiracy of white conservative elites and ambitious black politicians to change the city’s economic, political and social character. Low-income African-Americans displaced by the flood were denied financing for home repairs, and their public housing was demolished. But as John Arena demonstrates in his passionate new book, Driven From New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization, this displacement strategy was conceived, and implementation began, in the late 1980’s, well before Hurricane Katrina.  Beyond Chron

GA: Toll lanes move ahead. State transportation leaders vowed they are full steam ahead on the plan to build optional toll lanes in metro Atlanta, including building new ones on I-85 north of Old Peachtree Road.  Even so, their biggest toll project ran into unusual dissent on the Department of Transportation’s board Wednesday… But at the board meeting Wednesday, arguments about the project erupted. Board member Dana Lemon said she was “really concerned” at the “huge” amount of state gas tax money that would go toward this project alone: $300 million, or perhaps much more. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On Teachers. Teachers, educators, intellectuals, and concerned citizens of all calling rose up—in one voice, with one statement: children are not widgets. Children, they said, should be the last treated as lab rats by Wall Street tycoons fanatically invested in privatizing all public institutions; and the Bush Administration knew the fight wouldn’t end simply by facing down insurgent teachers, for bullies, in the end, are greatly unpopular. Thus the scheme of paying “good” teachers—those who followed instruction to the T—and firing “bad” ones—those who questioned why a child’s ability for greatness had to pass through channels of narrow questions with even narrower sets of “multiple” answers. And many fell for it—even liberals otherwise committed to alleviating the profound political burdens crushing teachers. And in one fell swoop, the neoliberal cast cleaned house.  Counterpunch

 

September 19, 2012

News

MI: Detroit Council seeks order halting Bing’s privatization of health department.Council members have questioned the Bing administration’s handling of the health department, saying privatizing it costs the city jobs, violates the city charter and endangers services to vulnerable residents including the poor and elderly. Detroit Free Press

VA: Toll Road Ensures 73 Years of Gridlock. A cleverly worded “non-compete” provision buried in a massive contract document puts taxpayers on the hook for paying monetary damages to toll road operator Transurban if the state decides within the next 73 years to expand the free lanes on Interstate 95, improve the highly congested Route One or make driving easier on the Occoquan Bridge. The Newspaper

NY: Nassau County budget delays sewer deal. A proposed $2.79 billion budget for 2013 for New York’s Nassau County delays by a year a plan to raise at least $700 million with a private-public partnership for the local sewer authority but advances property tax refunds, according to documents issued on Tuesday. Mangano so far has failed to persuade state overseers that a public-private partnership for the sewer and wastewater authority will help solve Nassau’s long-term financial problems.  Reuters

NY: Lawmaker Pushes Public Private Partnership Proposal for Tappan Zee Bridge..There hasn’t been much talk of late about PPPs from Cuomo, but Ball continues to discuss it. He said he’s working with the Business Council of Westchester on proposals.  “New York is the capitol of capital and our current inability to proactively fund vital infrastructure projects, small and large, is simply inexcusable. Public-private partnerships (P3’s) would better enable New York to finance public work projects, such as the transit portion of the Tappan Zee Bridge, while reducing the burden on federal, state and local taxpayers as well as commuters and ratepayers,” Ball said in a statement.   Albany Watch

NY: Editorial:  Wrong way for Amtrak, GOP. Our opinion: Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to stop paying for train travel. Do we want a country where we heavily subsidize highway travel, but ignore rail — even where it makes the most sense? …Private railroads often have a hard time breaking even. Public bailouts have become common in England and in Japan, smaller countries where maintaining service tends to be more economical.… That’s where politicians so critical of Amtrak need to look for savings, just as they should turn to the heavily traveled corridors to make smart investments. Mr. Romney might ride Amtrak from his home base of Boston to Washington. Whether or not it’s for his own inauguration, it would be an illuminating trip. Amtrak can run even better, and its finances can be fixed, if it’s allowed to follow a more sensible path.  Times Union

FL: Opinion: Make prison privatization a three-time loser… The specter of privatizing more state prisons makes many uncomfortable. For-profit companies would want more inmates in prison, despite bipartisan calls for sentencing reform. Then there are questions about security and accountability. Take the case of Ron Hyatt, a prisoner at the privately run South Bay Correctional Facility. Last week, a Palm Beach County jury awarded him $1.2 million after a fellow inmate doused him in the face with boiling water. The jury forewoman said she was “appalled” to learn that a prisoner had unfettered access to boil water in a prison microwave. This  at a prison where state inspectors last year found no one manning the front gates or monitoring security cameras. Individual anecdotes aren’t the sole basis for forming policy. But as lawmakers prepare for what may be a third attempt at large-scale prison privatization, they should consider Hyatt’s case and others like it. Palm Beach Post

OK: Study calls Gilcrease Expressway as a toll road unfeasible. A study shows completing the Gilcrease Expressway as a stand-alone toll road would not be feasible due to low traffic, but that hasn’t dissuaded Tulsa’s mayor from seeking Vision2 tax dollars for the project. Tulsa World

September 18, 2012

News

Corporate Events, on Campus. Universities have been contacting companies like Sodexo, a subsidiary of the French Sodexo Group, with its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., to manage and promote their conference centers. Rush Sherman, vice president for operations for campus services in the Northeast at Sodexo, said the company concluded that campuses were not running at capacity during the summer and saw an opportunity. “There’s a lot of space and also financial need,” he said. The New York Times

Five Looming Curses of Privatization. With the breakdown of the private financial industry, and with the decision by corporations to stop meeting their tax responsibilities, and with the dramatic surge in tax haven abuse, less tax revenue is available to state and local governments. Deprived of funding, governments are forced to consider privatization schemes to balance their budgets. But any such scheme comes with adversity and pain. The futility of diverting public funds into the hands of profitseekers has been well documented. Here are a few of the gathering curses of privatization. Common Dreams

VA: Hampton Road maritime interests decry port privatization. The proposed fast-track outsourcing of Virginia’s publicly owned Hampton Roads’ port operations will hurt maritime businesses and local governments in the region, speakers told a state legislative panel today. “The proposal would clearly be a stake in the breast” of Portsmouth, the city’s mayor, Kenneth I. Wright, told a standing-room-only meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. The city could lose 2 percent of its real estate tax revenue under one of the proposals, he said, adding: “The loss would be nothing short of catastrophic.” Richmond Times Dispatch

IN: Indiana privatization effort may soon have us all playing parking lot lottery – column. Recently the Indianapolis Business Journal carried a front-page story reporting a revolution in university life. “Indiana University is considering leasing its parking assets in Bloomington and Indianapolis.”… The university could use the argument it is not in the parking business and is withdrawing from a commercial activity it has run only by historical accident. The same argument has been used by universities shedding responsibilities for their dorms, eating facilities, book stores and other student services. The idea that the university might transfer its parking monopoly to a private firm bothers few in the Hoosier Holyland where the Indiana Toll Road was leased for 75 years. That deal has gone well for the state, thus far. It nonetheless raises the question, What is the role of the modern university in the lives of its students, faculty and staff?  Evansville Courier & Press

MS: Gautier council considers privatizing utility, public works services. City employees and residents asked the Gautier City Council to reconsider a proposal to privatize the city’s public works and utility services during an emotionally charged public hearing Monday night….There are 34 public works employees and four in utility services, but three of those would stay with the city even if privatization occurs because the council previously passed a measure to protect those with 20 years or more with the city, she said. City employee Al Stanton said he’d “earned the right to be here” after his years of service with the city. “You should do whatever you need to do to save people’s jobs … people who have been here 15 years or more.”  Sun Herald

NE: Don’t privatize UNL’s student health center – opinion….What Franco, Perlman, and the administration didn’t reveal in their address was what students will be losing in the process….Currently the University Health Center offers discounted medications and drugs in their pharmacy along with free, walk-in primary care visits with a certified medical provider. The University Health Center is allowed to do this because it is a university run and student funded entity, something a privatized health center could never offer. The University Health Center also offers free HIV-testing and counseling, of which is funded through a grant and could not be replicated by a private for-profit. But the losses don’t stop there. University students could also be losing the health education and outreach program they’ve come to rely on…,.Not only will students be losing important programs like these, but they will also be losing a physical Health Center on campus.  The Independent

September 17, 2012

News

In Prosecutors, Debt Collectors Find a Partner. In exchange for a fee, district attorneys’ offices have been allowing debt collectors to use their letterhead when going after people behind on their bills… Consumer lawyers have challenged the debt collectors in courts across the United States, claiming that they lack the authority to threaten prosecution or to ask for fees for classes when no district attorney has reviewed the facts of the cases. The district attorneys are essentially renting out their stationery, the lawyers say, allowing the companies to give the impression that failure to respond could lead to charges, when it rarely does. “This is guilty until proven innocent,” said Paul Arons, a consumer lawyer in Friday Harbor, Wash., about two hours north of Seattle. The New York Times    also Jonathan Turley Blog

U.S. Privatizes National Forests, Nonprofit Claims. The U.S. Forest Service lets private companies charge people for using undeveloped public lands, in violation of federal law, an Oregon nonprofit claims in Federal Court.… “The Forest Service issues special use permits to concessionaires that allow them to charge visitors to Forest Service areas managed by the companies even when visitors do not use any facilities or services of the area, but simply wish to enter Forest Service lands to engage in undeveloped recreation,” the complaint states. BARK claims that private companies charge an $8 parking fee at Rose Canyon Lake in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, and walk-ups must pay $1 apiece if they park at within 3 miles, regardless of whether they use any facilities or services. Courthouse News

NY: Islip weighs privatizing town hatchery. For nearly a quarter-century, the Town of Islip has operated its own shellfish hatchery, in an effort to spur growth in the clam and oyster populations in the Great South Bay. But with a tight budget planned for next year, town officials are looking to trim expenses, and the East Islip hatchery’s annual $650,000 budget may be the fiscal fat they cut. The town board is considering a range of proposals that include privatizing the hatchery and ramping up oyster spawning.  Newsday

Niagara County to privatize jail medical services. The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office plans to privatize medical services for county jail inmates as of Jan. 1… He said negotiations are under way with Armor Correctional Services, a Florida company that provides medical services at several jails, including in Nassau County on Long Island. In 2010, Niagara County privatized mental health services for inmates, and this is a continuation of that trend. It’s presumed there will be savings from the move, but the price of the Armor contract is not yet settled. Armor was the lowest of three bidders “after we compared apples to apples,” Beatty said.  Buffalo News

FL: Florida Law Requires Public Hospitals to Justify Their Tax-Supported Status…But the new law, approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by GOP Governor Rick Scott last April, also includes a more far-reaching mandate: All of Florida’s 29 public hospitals must now evaluate themselves to determine whether another type of ownership, most likely non-profit or private, would be cheaper or result in better medical care. The Bert Fish scandal alone probably would not have prompted that provision had it not been accompanied by the ascension of Scott as governor. Scott is the former chairman of the behemoth Columbia/HCA hospital chain, and he has been outspoken in his belief that the private sector can run virtually any enterprise—from hospitals to schools to prisons—better than the government. In effect, the law forces an existential question on all of Florida’s public hospitals. The self-examination could lead to the transformation of some or all of them from tax-supported institutions into tax-exempt or even tax-paying facilities, perhaps generating savings or new revenue for the cash-strapped state.  Stateline

FL: Unions Sue to Block Privatization of Health Care in Prisons. A pair of unions went to court late Friday in an effort to block plans to privatize inmate health-care services in state prisons. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Federation of Physicians and Dentists/Alliance of Healthcare and Professional Employees filed suit in the 1st District Court of Appeal against Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker, saying he doesn’t have authority on his own to allow private companies to handle health-care services. The action comes two days after the Legislative Budget Commission passed an amendment to the state spending plan that shifts money around to allow DOC to continue its privatization push. Opponents say the full Legislature would have to approve the decision to contract out the services.  Sunshine State News

IN: Former school superintendent argues against privatization. When you privatize schools, “you get what you pay for,” according to former Lafayette School Corporation superintendent Ed Eiler… Eiler has an issue with the rhetoric used in arguments about using vouchers for public schools. Using the word “choice” is a misleading concept for parents, he said. “(Choice) is like using mothers, puppy dogs and apple pies,” he said. “They say it’s important for children and parents to have a choice. The reality is that it’s not giving them the choice. It’s giving the schools the choice to choose students. That’s the real choice being created.”With voucher systems, teaching concepts such as a specific religion, holding an anti-evolution stance or being able to segregate schools with taxpayer dollars are all possible, Eiler said. Another reason education is such a hotly contested issue is $800 billion are spent on it annually, and private businesses will make the government seem like it is incapable of providing good education so “businesses can get a bigger piece of the pie.” “There are tons of foundations, such as Amway, a company based out of Michigan, that go so far as to post on their website a pledge to the separation of school and state,” he said. They don’t refer to public schools as public. “Instead, they say government schools. This isn’t the millionaires club, it’s the billionaires club.”  Purdue Exponent

LA: Louisiana AG: Jindal’s OGB privatization contract must be approved by legislature. The Louisiana Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell’s office, has determined that the proposed contract between the Office of Group Benefits (“OGB”) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, which has been pushed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration in its efforts to privatize state government functions and in this case the Office of Group Benefits requires review and approval by the Louisiana Legislature.  Bayoubuzz

DE: Editorial: Privatization of Delco prison was a bad idea. More than 15 years ago when the Daily Times editorialized about the questionable wisdom of privatizing the Delaware County Prison. Delaware County Council members took exception to the suggestion. Since then, their successors have regularly had to clean up the mess created by their ill-advised decision. In 1995, Delaware County Council members insisted that putting prison operations in the hands of a profit-driven company would save the county money, and so they awarded a contract to Wackenhut Corrections Corp. to build a state-of-the-art facility for $58 million and run the prison for five years for $70.6 million. But the false economy of the move became apparent almost from the outset.  Delaware County Daily Times

Anatomy of a Campus Coup…Hunter Rawlings, the chief executive of the Association of American Universities, calls Sullivan’s forced resignation the “most egregious” case of boardroom intrigue he has ever witnessed. But the situation was not unique. “There was once a consensus in America that higher education was a public good,” Rawlings says. “What is new now, and radically different, is that after five, six, seven years in reductions in state funding for higher education, the whole system is under stress.” He notes that the leaders of a dozen or so other state institutions, including those in Oregon, Wisconsin and Illinois, have recently departed under similar pressure. “It’s just one after another, after another,” he says.  The New York Times

UK: 70% want end to Britain’s rail privatisation. Seventy per cent of people want to see Britain’s railways renationalised, according to a new survey. ]..Results showed that 70 per cent would like to see the railways returned to public ownership, with 28 per cent disagreeing and two per cent having no opinion. Mich Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union ASLEF, said that the “experiment had failed”. He added: “This is the biggest ever survey result in favour of returning rail to public ownership. “It shows clearly that the public is fed up with the franchising farce, a system that is now so discredited that the government stands in total isolation in supporting it. “The time for tinkering with the existing system is over.”  Rail.co