September 11, 2012


Amtrak Funding Caught In Crosshairs Of Presidential Race. The platform Republicans adopted at their convention included a call for full privatization and an end to subsidies for the nation’s passenger rail operator, which gobbled up almost $1.5 billion in federal funds last year. “It is long past time for the federal government to get out of the way and allow private ventures to provide passenger service,” the platform said, arguing that taxpayers dole out almost $50 for every Amtrak ticket. Long a political cudgel in the halls of Congress, Amtrak is among a number of transportation functions Republicans say should be turned over to the private sector – including airport security, also on the chopping block in the GOP platform. At its core, the debate juxtaposes differing visions about what role government should play in ensuring public access to services – even if they’re losing money hand over fist.  Huffington Post

MI: Prison employees in Michigan fight against privatization. A public employees’ union says it will offer a counter-proposal if the state goes ahead with plans to privatize prison health care. Governor Rick Snyder has ruled out privatizing entire prisons. But corrections officials think there may be savings to be had if the state turns to private companies to provide health care services. Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, which represents many of the corrections employees who would be affected. He said the union will offer its own plan to save taxpayers money by reducing the costs of management and outsourcing. Michigan Radio

CA: Huntington Beach City attorney warns against outsourcing her office. City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said the City Council has no authority to outsource her office, and even if it could, contracting with outside counsel would end up costing the city at least $1 million more each year.  McGrath issued an analysis and an opinion last week after the city compiled a list of firms that offered to take on the city attorney’s office work. She also urged the council to hold a meeting to address and clarify the direction it wants for the city…Twelve law firms have responded to the city’s request, and now the city manager has set up a selection committee to determine which of those firms qualifies to represent the city before presenting the findings to the council, McGrath said.  Huntington Beach Independent

NC: So many toll-road transponders, so little TriEx traffic…The state Department of Transportation last week told a legislative oversight committee that overall traffic counts are running about 7 percent below projected levels. Some drivers now choose other routes to avoid the toll collection that started Aug. 2. But David Joyner, the turnpike authority director, said the flow of paying customers on this part of 540 is about twice as heavy as the road’s planners had expected.  News Observer

IL: Teachers’ Strike in Chicago Tests Mayor and Union. This city found itself engulfed on Monday by a sudden public school strike that left 350,000 children without classes, turned a spotlight on rising tensions nationally over teachers’ circumstances, and placed both the powerful teachers’ union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a risky, politically fraught standoff with no clear end in sight… Teachers also clearly saw the strike as a protest not just of the union negotiations in Chicago but on data-driven education reform nationwide, which many perceived as being pushed by corporate interests and relying too heavily on standardized tests to measure student progress…Steve Parsons, a teacher, said he believed the city was ultimately aiming to privatize education through charter schools and computer programs that teach classes online. “We need to stay out as long as it takes to get a fair contract and protect our schools,” he said.  New York Times