October 2, 2012

News

NJ: Lawmakers seek to tighten rules on public contractors

State lawmakers hoping to strengthen scrutiny on contractors privatizing government services moved forward with a measure to make vendors deliver savings, while also tightening rules on cost-cutting…Madden urged lawmakers to find a “balance” between two different concerns: that governments determine that private contractors provide services which are really less expensive, while also blocking the contractors from simply paying their workers less than state employees would earn in pay and benefits. The newly combined proposal means vendors with contracts worth $250,000 or more would have to show they could provide services at lower cost than government could through use of innovation and streamlining, not just lower pay. Bidders for those state and local government contracts would have to provide payroll estimates to back up that claim, under the bill…Unions for state workers who might lose work to a private company would have a chance to review and revise their own cost estimates during an agency’s search for bids for cheaper services. NorthJersey.com

NC: GOP, environmentalists mount fiscal challenges to DOT toll projects

Republicans have scheduled a showdown this week in their push to kill the $650 million Mid-Currituck bridge, a toll project long favored by coastal Democrats to speed the beach drive for tourists who visit North Carolina’s northern Outer Banks…Meanwhile, environmental lawyers are mounting a broad challenge to the state’s way of justifying the need for major toll roads and bridges.….. Mid-Currituck would be North Carolina’s first big public-private partnership venture, planned in concert with a private consortium that hopes to turn a profit by collecting bridge tolls for 50 years. “I think the Currituck project smells of political cronyism,” Sen. Bill Rabon, a Brunswick County Republican and Senate Transportation chairman, told the Road Worrier. News & Observer

MI: Detroit workers striking in defiance of federal court order: ‘We’re not going anywhere’

Striking water department workers continued to picket Monday afternoon despite being ordered back to work by a federal judge…”We are fighting to stop the contracting out of over 80% of our jobs… The workers have been demanding better staffing, training and equipment to improve water quality for years, and management has always lent a deaf ear. Now, with the disingenuous claim of ‘environmental protection’ they are simply union busting and privatizing.” Workers from the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant walked out and began picketing Sunday, protesting a planned 81 percent reduction in the city’s Water and Sewerage Department. A federal judge this morning ordered the striking water department employees back to work, but union attorneys plan to challenge ruling, arguing that U.S. District Judge Sean Cox himself caused the labor dispute. A spokesman from Mayor Dave Bing’s office praised the court ruling in a news release. “It is imperative that there be no interruption in the service or an impact on the quality of water provided to our citizens or any negative impact on the environment,” said Bing’s Chief Communications Officer Bob Warfield.  MLive.com

VA: Should Virginia Put Its Port On the Auction Block?

Largely out of sight in the Northern Virginia media, there has been a controversy raging in the Hampton Roads area about the privatization of Virginia’s Port. Governor McDonnell is very passionate about privatizing government functions. Everyone is familiar with his effort to privatize the state liquor stores. He has also announced multiple efforts to privatize Virginia’s roads by selling tolling rights to foreign investors for I-95, US 460 and a new tunnel between Portsmouth and Norfolk. Patch.com

CA: Union threatens lawsuit over plans to outsource REU’s call center

A labor union representing employees at Redding Electric Utility’s customer service department has filed a grievance, warning of a lawsuit if the city tries to outsource the call center. The city has until Oct. 8 to respond to Service Employees International Union’s letter dated Sept. 19, which argues Redding is breaking the labor contract by considering outsourcing jobs to a private company and transferring the call center workers to other city departments… Cutty said outsourcing issues are cropping up throughout Northern California. SEIU’s attorneys are involved in six different cases, he said. “Outsourcing mat be cheap in the short-term but in the long-term, it may be more expensive,” he said. “Once you privatize, what drives you are the profits … not the services.” Record-Searchlight

Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?

The end of the Chicago teachers’ strike was but a temporary regional truce in the civil war that plagues the nation’s public schools. There is no end in sight, in part because — as often happens in wartime — the conflict is increasingly being driven by profiteers. The Real News Network (blog)

 

October 1, 2012

News

WI: Feds Slam Wisconsin Public-Private Partnership for Economic Development…The state was faulted for granting “forgivable” loans to a range of companies and giving $20,000 per job created to a manufacturing company called Kapco, twice as much as allowed under its own policies, the Journal reported. Two companies receiving $1.4 million were not properly assessed for financial soundness, the paper said. HUD was critical of the structure of the new public-private partnership and the “hasty” handoff of activities traditionally undertaken by traditional state agency employees at the now-extinct Department of Commerce. HUD ordered the state to hire a high-level administrator to monitor and oversee the new group’s activities and ensure proper compliance with state and federal laws.   Stateline

MI: State workers bid for own jobs as prison health union battles private sector. Nearly 1,300 health and mental health jobs are on the line in Michigan’s prison system as state officials begin to review bids to privatize them…. The push for privatization is part of an effort by the Republican-controlled Legislature to find new ways to save money. ..But it also puts state employees in an unusual position of competing directly with the private sector to maintain their livelihoods. Holman said state employees remain concerned about the push for privatization, adding union officials are convinced that privatizing prison services is simply a bad idea. Lansing State Journal

MI: Hearing scheduled over Detroit’s health department outsourcing. Lawyers for the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing will appear Thursday before a judge hearing the council’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the Bing administration’s outsourcing of the city’s health department to a nonprofit group. The council says privatizing the department would cost jobs, violate the city charter and endanger services to poor and elderly residents. Bing seeks to do the same with the city’s workforce development department. An arbitrator ruled this week that the city could not move forward with the transition — among cuts the Bing administration says the city must take under its fiscal stability agreement with the state. Detroit Free Press

NE: University moving ahead with plans to privatize health center. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln plans to privatize its health center operations — a plan being closely watched by university staff, faculty and students. Student body president Eric Kamler says he’s rarely used the University Health Center, but he likes to know it’s there and that he can count on it.  “I think the biggest concern that students have that we’ve heard at student senate and in our offices is maintaining the same quality of health care and services,” he said. The Republic

FL: Lake commissioners’ priorities skewed with thoughts of privatizing ambulance service – commentary. This  county is served by Lake EMS, a nonprofit organization and one of the finest ambulance outfits in the country, literally. Having the best of something is a claim this county rarely gets to make. Yet commission Chairwoman Leslie Campione and Commissioner Sean Parks want to find the cheapest company possible to attend to your stroke, complaining that the $5.4 million annual subsidy that the county pays EMS is too high. What Campione and Parks fail to mention in this offensive tirade is that THEY are the ones responsible for both paying the subsidy AND for spending it. They sit on both the commission that makes the grant and the board of directors of the agency that spends it. Neither of them ever has mentioned during an EMS board meeting during the last 11 months that they thought there was the slightest problem.  Orlando Sentinel

Working America: 10 Reasons Not to See ‘Won’t Back Down’. The Walden Media film “Won’t Back Down,” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, opens in theaters today. The film dramatizes a parent fighting to improve her child’s school, but it’s actually a dishonest Hollywood portrayal of the problems in our educational system—funded by the very people who want to privatize and profit from our schools. Here are 10 reasons to skip it.  AFL Blog

Political and Class Issues Complicate a Colorado Land Dispute. This is a story of a quiet billionaire and a middle-class mountain town, of class divisions, small-town quarrels and competing visions of the future of the West. But at its core, like so many stories here in the aspen-dappled hillsides, it is really all about land. Specifically, it is about a belt of public land that cuts straight through a ranch owned by the industrialist Bill Koch, whose brothers Charles and David are top contributors to conservative Republican causes. The New York Times

The sobering consequences of privatizing NPR – opinion. Evidence indicates that as public radio has increased its reliance on private revenue sources, the programming is adversely affected. An elimination of federal appropriations likely would accelerate that process. I recently completed a study of NPR from 2000 to 2010, examining the impact of privatization on news content. The public radio system has seen an 8 percent swing away from public funding sources toward more market-sensitive sources. This was accompanied by a shift in NPR content away from the mission of public broadcasting, which is to rovide diverse and in-depth coverage responsive to local communities. Analysis of programs “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” reveals a decline in the type of news stories that public radio is intended to provide. There was a 23 percent decline since 2000 in the amount of in-depth topical news content on those programs. Public radio’s mission is to provide content that serves communities in a way that conglomerated commercial media cannot. If the trend of privatizing public broadcasting continues, we may be left with a monolithic presence of syndicated content that is insensitive to the diverse nature of North Carolina.  The Charlotte Observer