September 14, 2012


TX: As officials mull HOV lane changes, North Texas’ toll-filled future comes into focus…Fee-based express lanes – open to all drivers, but with discounts only for vehicles with three or more people on board – start next year on the LBJ and DFW Connector highways that are being reconfigured in an effort to ease congestion. And as officials look for ways to safely integrate those changes into the current system – and eventually transition existing HOV lanes to some kind of a toll – they are weighing what to do with the tens of thousands who already frequent the carpool lanes every day…“Motorists don’t like toll roads,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday at a Regional Transportation Council meeting in Arlington. “But what they really don’t like is when something free becomes a toll road.” No matter what officials decide in the coming months – and the grandfathering option seems to be the favorite right now – the debate underscores of the reality of Dallas-Fort Worth’s major road improvements now and in the future: tolls, tolls and more tolls.  Dallas News

IL: Push to Add Charter Schools Hangs Over Chicago School Strike. Of the issues that remain to be settled in the contract dispute here between the teachers’ union and the city, expanding charter schools is not officially on the table. Related… But the specter of those plans — an oft-cited goal of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — hangs heavily over the teachers’ strike. “Even if it’s not explicitly something that we’re bargaining over,” said Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, “everyone knows it’s the elephant in the room.” While 350,000 students here remained out of school for the third day of the citywide teachers’ strike, about 50,000 who attend the city’s 96 charter schools went to class as usual. The charters, which are publicly financed but privately operated, are not required to hire unionized workers, and a majority of them do not. Experienced teachers at charter schools make about $15,000 to $30,000 less than their counterparts at traditional district schools, where the average salary is $75,000. New York Times

IL: Rahm Emanuel’s Privatize Chicago Plan – opinion. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years waging war on progressive politics. He’s a corporate predator turned politician… He’s handing over as many city functions to corporate profiteers as possible. He launched what he calls “a public private partnership.” The sky’s the limit. He bought off unions with promises to invest pension funds in profitable enterprises. Instead of investing in Chicago’s future, he’s giving it away to corporate friends and cronies. His schemes are still unfolding. They involve city airports, water system, community colleges, public transportation, parks, public health, schools, and various infrastructure projects.

FL: Critics attack ‘back door’ prison health outsourcing. On the eve of a key legislative vote, critics of outsourcing all inmate health care in Florida promised Tuesday to file suit if the proposal goes through as expected… Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, and Tom Brooks, an attorney for the AFSCME public employee union, criticized the proposal as a misuse of the legislative budget commission and an end-run around the entire 160-member Legislature. (The Senate last session defeated a proposal to privatize all prisons in a 19-county region in South Florida). The Legislature, in last year’s budget (fiscal 2011-2012), included fine-print language known as proviso directing the health care outsourcing. But when a new fiscal year began July 1, the old proviso language died. Now the state is pushing ahead, claiming it has the authority under state law — an action that surely would be the crux of a union legal challenge. Tampa Bay Times

FL: Jackson Memorial Hospital holds privatization meeting. It got heated inside a Jackson Memorial Hospital board meeting where doctors, nurses and county leaders asked board members to stop plans to privatize. Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Financial Recovery Board is discussing plans to outsource the hospital’s emergency room and Rape Treatment Center. “Jackson has morphed, in the nation, as the best hospital in the country and I would hate to hear that diminished,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan. “So, you don’t do the entire hospital, but you take the heart of Jackson. Over 70 percent come through your emergency room.”

MO: KCI bus privatization decision is delayed. A proposal to privatize the blue and red bus system at Kansas City International Airport stalled Thursday, but a City Council vote is likely later this month. The proposal would replace 58 shuttle bus drivers and eight managers at KCI with employees of Standard Parking.  The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday split 2-2 in a vote on whether to move the contract forward, so it stalled in committee. But later Thursday, committee chair Russ Johnson used a procedural move to place the contract on the full City Council’s docket. A vote could come as early as Sept. 27… KCI is one of the few airports in the country that still operates buses with city employees. The drivers and their union representatives say privatizing the system would eliminate good city jobs and could hurt customer service… Under the private contract, drivers would not get a pension, as they do with the city, and their base wages would drop from an average of $17 per hour to $11 per hour. Standard Parking argues that tips would increase the average wage, but the city drivers are doubtful. The Kansas City Star

Privatizing War. There’s a new link in the chain that operates U.S. forces in war zones. You can see it in the Air Force’s own crash reports. Usually, there’s a section up front called “Unit Information,” and it deals with the outfits involved in the accident. In this recent case, for example, the units involved were — starting with the biggest — the 12th Air Force, the 366th Fighter Wing, and the 391st Fighter Squadron. But in the case of a recent drone accident, the units involved were the 432rd Wing, the 18th Reconnaissance Squadron, the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, and “Battlespace Flight Services, LLC (Based in Las Vegas, NV).” Huh? Well, according to the accident report – which blamed the Feb. 14 accident in Afghanistan on a material failure compounded by operator error – Battlespace seems to do everything for the drones deployed to Afghanistan except fly them. Time