September 16, 2013


Diane Ravitch: School privatization is a hoax, “reformers” aim to destroy public schools…Though they speak of “reform,” what they really mean is deregulation andprivatization. When they speak of “accountability,” what they really mean is a rigid reliance on standardized testing as both the means and the end of education. When they speak of “effective teachers,” what they mean is teachers whose students produce higher scores on standardized tests every year, not teachers who inspire their students to love learning. When they speak of “innovation,” they mean replacing teachers with technology to cut staffing costs. When they speak of “no excuses,” they mean a boot-camp culture where students must obey orders and rules without question.  Salon

IL: How parking meters killed privatization of Chicago’s Midway Airport…. This time, Emanuel insisted that any lease be capped at 40 years, instead of 75 years. He wanted revenue shared with the city, instead of going entirely to the winning bidder, and he demanded a Travelers’ Bill of Rights, which would have capped parking and food prices and required the winning bidder to provide a clean terminal with snow- and ice-free entrances. Emanuel also wanted a guaranteed number of restrooms. He appointed a board of outside advisers, including aldermen and labor and business leaders (including Martin Nesbitt, the chairman of PRG Parking Management and one of President Obama’s closest friends). But making so many demands scared away some prospective investors. Sixteen initially expressed interest in submitting bids; in the end, all but one pulled out. Citing the lack of a competitive bidding process, Emanuel pulled the plug. Washington Post (blog)

IL: Judge orders City Hall to pay $60 million in garage-privatization case. Cook County judge has rejected an attempt by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to overturn a nearly $60 million arbitration award City Hall owes the private company that operates four city-owned parking garages…. A panel of independent arbitrators found earlier this year that former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration violated the city’s 99-year, $563 million deal with Chicago Loop Parking when it allowed a competing public garage to open in the new Aqua building, about a block away from the nearest privately run garage.  Chicago Sun-Times           

FL: Bill Cotterell: Is privatization cheaper and better?….. It’s simple math that, to make money, the privateers have to hire smaller staffs, pay them less and cut services as much as the courts will allow.  Tallahassee Democrat (blog)

CA: Foothill-Eastern Toll Road Driving Toward Largest Bankruptcy Since Detroit’s: Report. The Foothill-Eastern Toll Road, a.k.a. Route 241, is reportedly nearing the biggest default in the $3.7 trillion municipal market since Detroit’s record bankruptcy….Comparing the financial state of the Foothill-Eastern Toll Road and the Motor City madness comes not from the dirty hippies and unwashed surfers who have banded together to save Trestles but that anti-capitalism tool known as Bloomberg Businessweek. The report cites a consultant to California Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s Debt and Investment Advisory Commission saying earlier this summer that the TCA risks default on $2.4 billion in debt. To put that in perspective, the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy, the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy at the time, totaled $1.7 billion.  OC Weekly (blog)

CA: Westminster Councilwomen Slam Caltrans Push For Converting 405 Freeway Into Toll Road …Councilwoman Carey told the Caltrans official that Westminster citizens “are angry beyond words” about turning the 405 into a mechanism for private toll-road profit and firmly asserted, “We will not tolerate it.” OC Weekly (blog)            

WA: Union For Federal Prison Officers Strongly Opposes Privatization Initiative. The American Federation of Government Employees’ Council of Prison Locals today denounced a plan by the Bureau of Prisons to privatize the supervision of hospitalized inmates in Elkton, Ohio area community hospitals. The contracting-out plan would replace federal correctional officers certified in Basic Prisoner Transport with employees from a private security firm to supervise inmates during hospital stays….  “This is yet another example of trying to save money at the expense of community safety,” said CPL President Eric Young. “It’s unacceptable to take an inmate into the community without being supervised by trained federal correctional officers. This plan must be stopped.”  The Herald

MA: Marty Walsh: Bulldoze Government Center, privatize City Hall. Mayoral candidate Marty Walsh is pushing a dramatic downtown development plan which would put a new City Hall under private ownership and open up Boston’s most coveted site to a hotel, apartments and stores. Boston Herald

September 12, 2013


A Cautionary Tale on Privatizing Tax Collection…The power of tax collection should always be a power afforded to a government that’s answerable to We The People. It shouldn’t be a power that’s transferred to private corporations. But as The Washington Post brilliantly points out, that’s exactly what’s happened right here in our nation’s capital, in an experiment to privatize tax collection.  And not surprisingly, it’s an experiment that’s having disastrous effects. Just ask Bennie Coleman, a 76 year-old veteran who, thanks to D.C.’s tax lien privatization program, had his $197,000 house foreclosed and taken away from him, all because of a $134 property tax bill that hadn’t been paid. Truth-Out

Public Universities Ramp Up Aid for the Wealthy, Leaving the Poor Behind…It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest. A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants — as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts — to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend has continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.  ProPublica

IL: Perspective: An ordinance to protect city taxpayers… The Privatization Transparency and Accountability Ordinance will require a City Council committee hearing on any proposed public-private partnership to evaluate its full cost, weigh the benefits and determine whether the deal is in the best interest of the city. The ordinance also requires that any city department considering the privatization of any part of its operations must conduct a cost-effectiveness study, demonstrate greater than 10 percent projected cost savings, and show that the economic benefits of privatization outweigh the public’s interest in continued city operation of the service. We have learned from past privatization mistakes that transparency is the key to good decision-making and accountability is essential to good outcomes. The privatization ordinance will benefit taxpayers by requiring elected officials to undertake a thorough review process before attempts to outsource vital services or assets are put before the council for approval.  Chicago Tribune

NY: New York City Democrats embrace full speed reverse on education reform…. But advocates for traditional public education are jubilant that Bill de Blasio came out on top Tuesday in the Democratic mayoral race in New York City after a campaign in which he promised to yank support from charter schools, scale back high-stakes standardized testing and tax the wealthy to pay for universal preschool and more arts education. ….“De Blasio defined himself as the anti-Bloomberg, especially on education – anti-testing, anti-privatization and focused on listening to parents. Politico

MA: Charter schools dominate debate among mayoral candidates at Boston teachers union forum. Eleven mayoral candidates — many positioning themselves to be the next “education mayor” — ventured inside the Boston Teachers Union Hall Wednesday night where they pitched their ideas to overhaul the school system during a lively forum that at times put some candidates at odds with the city’s largest union.           

TX: Collin County Commissioners delay vote on privatizing pensions. After more than two hours of discussion, commissioners said they needed more information about the legality and financial risk of the idea. Called the “Employee Choice Plan,” the change would put a portion of retirees’ retirement savings into privately managed accounts, instead of placing it all in the Texas County and District Retirement System.

VA: U.Va. panel: Break state ties, operate more like a private school. A University of Virginia panel has proposed that the institution break many of its ties with the state government and operate more like a private school. Such an arrangement — which would need state lawmakers’ approval and likely would meet opposition — would allow Virginia’s flagship public school the freedom to more easily increase tuition and accept more top-tier students from across the country and the world. Although it could increase U.Va.’s prestige and shore up its finances, such a move could also make it more difficult for in-state students to win admission and could significantly raise their tuition.  Richmond Times Dispatch

September 10, 2013


USDA privatizing meat inspections with program that allowed ‘chunks’ of feces. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is planning to roll out a meat inspection program nationwide that will allow pork plants to use their own inspectors, but it has a history of producing contaminated meat at American and foreign plants. The Washington Post reported on Monday that documents and interviews showed that a plan to allow hog plants to replace federal USDA inspectors with their own private employees had produced “serious lapses that included failing to remove fecal matter from meat” in three of the five plants that had participated in a pilot program for more than a decade.  Raw Story

Journal Explores Incentive For False Results In Lab Tests For DUI. A recent analysis published in the Criminal Justice Ethics academic journal suggests when technicians perform forensic analysis of blood and other evidence for cases such as drunk driving, the results can be influenced by built-in financial incentives to produce a conviction. Syracuse University Professor Roger Koppl joined Meghan Sacks from Fairleigh Dickinson University argue that even if false conviction rates are very low, a 3 percent error rate could put 33,000 innocent individuals behind bars every year.  The primary problem, according to the paper, is that fourteen states reward crime labs with a bonus for each conviction they generate. North Carolina pays a $600 bounty “upon conviction” to the law enforcement agency whose lab “tested for the presence of alcohol.”

A sea of disabled placards in many cities….The Illinois Legislature passed a law that takes effect next year in which free-metered parking will be reserved for only the most severely disabled residents. It was spurred in part by Chicago’s decision to privatize its parking meters. As part of the deal, it agreed to reimburse the company for free parking provided to holders of disabled placards. The tab since 2009: $55 million.  Times-Standard

FL: Why Privatizing City Functions In West Palm Beach Is Raising Some Eyebrows. Leading the privatization effort was former CRA Director Kim Briesemeister. During her tenure as director, she simultaneously ran and co-owned a private firm called Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA) based in Broward County. RMA is the very same type of firm that West Palm Beach is seeking to hire, and indeed, RMA intends to submit a bid….. “It just looks slimy… [Privatizing the CRA] might be the right thing to do. Maybe it brings greater expertise to the city, maybe it brings lower costs, maybe it’s a good thing. But obviously there is at least an appearance of impropriety when she is suggesting, ‘let’s go to the private sector’ and, ‘oh by the way, I’m in the private sector,’” Jarvis said.   WLRN

IL: The tick-tock on Midway’s failed privatization …..Now that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to end up in roughly the same place, the Sun-Times said, it’s unlikely a Midway privatization deal will be reached before 2015. Chicago Business Journal

IL: Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Why I said ‘no’ to the Midway deal…. Some may ask why we would pursue any investment involving the private management of city assets, particularly in light of the parking meter fiasco. The answer is that Chicago is facing huge structural deficits and must explore any avenue that promises new sources of revenue without raising property or other taxes. The Midway partnership promised a source of revenue for badly needed infrastructure improvements, from schools to public transit. While this partnership did not work out, the process was not a waste of time.  Chicago Tribune

NY: Money troubles send county nursing homes into private hands…In recent years six New York counties have sold or closed their nursing homes, and as costs continue to rise, many others are considering privatization. North Country Public Radio

NC: NC could get 170 new charter schools in 2015. The number of charter schools has expanded sharply since legislators eliminated a 100-school cap in 2011. The 127 that are now open could serve as many as 65,000 students this year. The number of schools could grow to 153 next year; the State Board of Education gave preliminary approval last week for 26 charters to open in 2014. One of the questions will be how rigorously the state reviews new applications. News & Observer           

September 9, 2013


IL: Chicago pulls plan to lease Midway Airport. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided not to move forward with plans to lease Chicago’s Midway International Airport, ending a bid to make it the first major U.S. hub to be brought under the management of private investors.  The remaining potential bidders failed to meet criteria the city set down to ensure taxpayers got a good deal, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said.  Daily Journal

TN: When the Government Workspace Is Dirty and Dangerous…What Tennessee is doing about the issue, however, warrants some attention by public managers in other places. Under former general-services commissioner Steve Cates, the state merged two separate agencies, facility management and real-estate-asset management, into the Department of General Services, conducted a comprehensive analysis of the state’s real-estate portfolio, and hired an industry expert to provide comprehensive, integrated real-estate management services. The state essentially privatized the management of much of the its building operations. Governing

CA: California governor unveils privatization plan for prison overcrowding. California Governor Jerry Brown, facing a federal court order to ease overcrowding in the state’s prison system, proposed a $315 million plan Tuesday to expand inmate capacity by leasing space from county jails and other facilities. The announcement also comes during a hunger strike that erupted in multiple prisons across the state more than six weeks ago. The prisoners say they are protesting against solitary confinement, which they call inhumane. The Democratic governor, who was joined by Republican leaders of the state legislature in announcing the bill, said his proposal would reduce California’s prisons to 137.5 percent of capacity, as required by the court, and avoid the controversial early release of thousands of inmates.  Al Jazeera America

FL: Editorial: Private toll road a bad idea…If the need is there, then the state should build the new lanes even if they are toll lanes. But the state shouldn’t be in such a hurry to cede its toll-road authority to a private entity. The result could be an undesirable two-tiered transportation network serving more affluent commuters with private roads and forcing everyone else onto the underfunded public highway network.

FL: Stakes are high as dozens of new charter schools seek approval. With millions of dollars of taxpayer money at stake, Central Florida school boards will be considering the fates of nearly three dozen charter-school applications during the next few weeks. Orlando Sentinel

LA: Privatization … we’re selling our souls – opinion. There is a strange religious fervor in current efforts of public officials to sell off public hospitals, public schools, highways, prisons and Social Security funds. Looking after the sick, the children, the elderly, and the poor is now geared toward making a profit. Jesus would weep. The collective responsibilities we all share (public education, public health, even public defense) in a civilized society are being handed over to profiteers for a few pieces of silver. Even so-called non-profits make money or they couldn’t exist – they just don’t return profits to shareholders. Shreveport Times


September 6, 2013


On Privatization’s Cutting Edge. Everyone, I suppose, dislikes parking meters. Chicagoans hate them even more. That’s because Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2008 struck a deal with the investment consortium Chicago Parking Meters LLC, or CPM, that included Morgan Stanley, Allianz Capital Partners and, yes, the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi, to privatize our meters. The price of parking—and the intensity of enforcement—skyrocketed. The terms were negotiated in secret…Finally, in 2010, Forbes reported that in fact the city had been underpaid by a factor of ten.Well, Chicagoans, Tom Geoghegan is here to tell you that the whole damn thing is illegal under the Illinois Constitution—and most other constitutions, too. He’s in the middle of a suit to have the whole thing torn up. The argument is driven by the legal theory that “a seventy-five-year-agreement to run parking meters is an unconstitutional restriction on the police power—the sovereign right of the city to control its public streets and ways…. This is a very traditional, conservative, really, argument: what the City of Chicago did was not sell the meters. They sold the police power of the city.”  The Nation

Why charter schools need better oversight. Charter schools were designed to allow founders the freedom to design and run schools as they wish outside the traditional school system bureaucracy. Here’s a case for why some of that freedom needs to be reined in. Washington Post

IL: Emanuel halts Midway lease talks. After picking two finalists for a lucrative lease of Midway Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration Thursday abruptly halted its efforts to take the transportation hub private. Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said one group vying for the deal dropped out “in the past day or two,” and the mayor decided not to proceed. Chicago Tribune

TX: How the GOP will lose Texas. Case in point, Governor Rick Perry’s push for a massive land-grabbing network of multi-modal NAFTA superhighways called the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). It would have taken over 580,000 of private Texas farm and ranch land, some of it prime land that requires very little water to grow crops, and handed it over to a private, foreign toll operators in 50-year sweetheart deals known as public private partnerships (P3s). Just the first TTC corridor would have displaced one million Texans. The TTC wasn’t proposed to solve urban congestion, but to handle the influx of imports due to NAFTA and free trade in order to facilitate the free flow of people and goods across the Texas-Mexico border.  San Antonio Express           

PA: Hey, Gov. Corbett, it’s time to drop privatizing the Pa. Lottery. As reporter Jan Murphy noted, the Lottery last year had record sales of almost $3.7 billion and provided more than $1 billion to fund vital programs for senior citizens in every community in our Commonwealth. Despite the success, Gov. Tom Corbett continues to pursue a plan to turn this valuable asset over to Camelot Global LLC, a company based in the United Kingdom.

PA: On tap: Liquor privatization, transportation and more is lined up. FINAL LAP? Will the state-owned liquor stores survive another legislative session? “I think folks are finally realizing that transportation funding, the safety of our roadways and bridges, has become conditioned upon the passing, or held hostage by the passage, of wine and spirits passing,” Costa said this week. “…In the House, where it seems everything hinges for now, the coalition-building continues. Watchdog. org


September 5, 2013


Justification for Privatized Poultry Inspection Flawed, GAO Study Reveals. “The GAO saw through the euphemistically named ‘modernization’ proposal and confirmed our fears that FSIS does not have the scientific basis to justify privatizing poultry inspection,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Since 2008 we’ve known that the HIMP model jeopardizes food safety and this latest GAO report will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for the elimination for HIMP in order to protect consumers.” Food and Water Watch

The Case for Charter Schools and Vouchers, Decimated. In her new book, Reign of Error, Ravitch documents how public education’s antagonists have manufactured a crisis in order to advance their agenda. They deploy doom-and-gloom language to characterize the threat.  Slate Magazine

MI: Detroit Contemplates Privatizing Parking Assets. In his quest to leave no source of potential revenue unexplored, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is looking into selling Detroit’s parking lots, meters and garages. The experiences of other cities who’ve trodden a similar path offer cause for caution.  Planetizen

IN: Indiana’s appeal set in IBM welfare privatization case. The state is appealing a Marion Superior Court judge’s 2012 ruling awarding $52 million to IBM after the state canceled a contract Daniels had hailed in 2006 as the solution for fixing one of the nation’s worst welfare systems. Instead, the project ended with the state firing IBM in 2009 after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent for a system that generated widespread complaints of delayed benefits and impersonal interactions. Indianapolis Star

FL: Could this be the end of prison privatization?… Well, probably not. But it’s at least a start. Citing the egregious abuses of corporations – like the GEO Group, which is headquartered in Florida – ColorOfChange and Grassroots Leadership launched a campaign today that aims to encourage investors to divest from the private prison behemoths. The campaign comes at an interesting time for Florida. Though the drumbeat toward mass privatization has been banging around for years, typically being cut off at the pass during the state’s legislative sessions, this year (following multiple legal challenges) the courts gave the state the green light to move forward with privatizing prison health care (at a cost of 2,000 employees).  Orlando Weekly

LA: Civil Service panel OKs LSU hospital privatization. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration won approval Wednesday from the Civil Service Commission for the privatization of the LSU hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe, which will remove nearly 3,300 people from state employment rolls. The 4-1 commission vote was the final step needed for the Oct. 1 start date of the outsourcing contract and allows the university system to lay off 3,262 hospital workers at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and the E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe.           

LA: Editorial: Transparency, accountability should be part of privatization efforts. Privatization is not a bad thing. The issue, though, is that government contracts worth millions of dollars are signed and legislators don’t get a chance to look at these contracts beforehand. And sometimes these contracted companies don’t deliver the goods and aren’t doing what they said they would do. American Press

LA: Gonzales residents concerned about privatization of EMS services. “I have not received one complaint about our ambulance service, about our EMS. It makes you wonder why on earth we would even bring this up,” Mayor Barney Arceneaux said. On Wednesday, Arceneaux received a letter signed by 42 senior citizens who stated they are happy with the current services. Alice Ducote, a senior citizen who lives in Gonzales, drafted the letter. She and others who have called on the fire department for medical help said they are concerned a private company will cost them. “For a senior on a fixed income that’s very important. That’s one of the key reasons why we would  like to keep it, besides fact their response time is very good,” Ducote said.  WBXH

PA: Corbett extends Pa. Lottery bid another 2 months. The extension is the eighth agreed to by the operator of British national lottery. Corbett, a Republican who is a proponent of privatizing government services, began searching for a private manager in early 2012 and chose the only bidder, Camelot, in January. San Francisco Chronicle