November 5, 2013


INFRASTRUCTURE: Public. Private. Practical? Public-private partnerships have become a trendy way to finance transportation projects. But given the current enthusiasm for them, there’s a basic question that states and localities ought to be asking: Are the deals accomplishing all they claim to?  Governing

Report raises alarm about falling wages, outsourcing at US airports. The outsourcing of airport jobs that once sustained middle-class careers has left many airport workers in jobs characterized by insecurity and low wages, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, study released. According to the study, this trend poses problems for workers, the communities surrounding airports and the flying public…..The Labor Center researchers report that many of the outsourced airport workers turn to public assistance to make ends meet, noting that airports are publicly owned –- by cities, counties or separate public port or airport authorities They trace the downward shift in wages for baggage handlers, skycaps, wheelchair/personal assistants, ticket and gate agents, plane fuelers, mechanics and others to airline industry deregulation in the late 1970s.  Phys.Org

New postal union leader promises more aggressive defense of ‘public postal service’…But the 30-year veteran of the Postal Service from Greensboro, N.C., didn’t unseat incumbent Cliff Guffey to have a good time. Dimondstein did it to protect union members from what he sees as the creeping privatization of postal services and to give the workers a union leadership that more aggressively defends their interests as management tries to dig out of an ever-sinking financial hole. Washington Post

Are private schools better than public schools? New book says ‘no’. Greater school choice for families and greater autonomy for schools leads to greater academic outcomes, right?  Maybe not.  Using two nationally representative datasets, we recently conducted one of the most comprehensive studies ever performed of school type and achievement in mathematics—a subject widely held to be the best measure of in-school learning.  We analyzed instruction and performance for over 300,000 elementary and middle school students in 15,108 public, charter, and private schools.  What we found surprised us.  Students in public schools actually outperform those in private schools. Washington Post (blog)

CA: Debate Intensifies Over Public or Private Ambulance Services. For 15 fiscal years, San Diego has partnered with the private sector to provide ambulance. Now, San Diego Fire-Rescue wants to take control of the ambulances. Earlier this week, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria has decided to extend the contract with the private firm named Rural/Metro for an additional fiscal year. NBC 7 San Diego

FL: Toll-road idea delayed, group promises to resubmit proposal. A development group has withdrawn its proposal to build and operate an elevated toll road in south Pasco County but says it will resubmit the idea to state transportation officials in December. (blog)           

OR: Protest Underscores Continuing Privatization of Oregon Schools. The Oregon Business Association (OBA) held its annual Statesman Dinner on October 17 to honor the Statesman of the Year. The event was fraught with anomalies, not least of which was the fact that the award went to Sue Levin, the Executive Director of Stand for Children Oregon. According to the OBA website, while Levin is acknowledged as a woman–a stateswoman to be precise–she still had to make due with receiving the Statesman of the Year award. It was nonetheless, from the OBA’s perspective, a proper and well-deserved award. After all, Stand for Children works tirelessly to turn the public education system into a cash cow for private interests, as one would expect from an organization whose major funders include the Walton Family (of Wal-Mart fame) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Bay Area Indymedia



November 4, 2013


PA: Corbett administration’s legal bills rising. Last week, Gov. Corbett came under fire for spending nearly $3.5 million on law firms as part of his quest to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery. That was only one of a handful of high-profile cases pursued by the administration that have ended up costing millions of dollars in legal bills.

DC: Opposition to DC public-private land deals imperil library, other projects….Plans dating back more than seven years to replace the library and a nearby fire station at no direct cost to taxpayers have languished despite the support of two mayors, a unanimous D.C. Council and numerous community groups. That is largely because of a band of activists, backed by Ralph Nader, who have assailed the project as a bald giveaway of public assets to private interests. They have fought the deal before the council, in front of a zoning board and in the courts, losing at every turn but repeatedly delaying groundbreaking as they raise alarms…. At issue for Nader is the price of the land, which the city intends to sell to a private developer planning to build more than 150 luxury apartments and retail space — in addition to the library, firehouse and affordable housing.  Washington Post

LA: Questions raised about transparency in LSU hospital deals. The contracts that turned over management of LSU hospitals and clinics to private companies have drawn concerns about how much the public will know about the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that flow to the facilities. The deals allow for legislative audits of public spending, but they also include sweeping clauses that allow the hospital managers to determine what’s considered public record and what should be kept hidden.  Monroe News Star

CA: California To Privatize Court Docketing Systems. Courts are turning to the private sector to update their docketing systems, which languished while waiting for the new system. …That should scare you. When private companies take over these systems, they naturally try to monetize them – creating what Courthouse News calls the “tollroad” to legal information.  As a result, the public access is damaged by “contracts that allow a software provider to control and exploit the public record.” This happened in Texas, when LexisNexis took over the docketing system in Bexar County.  Justia

NC: Editorial: Economic development: State’s plan to privatize comes with risks. Gov. Pat McCrory wants to privatize the state’s economic development efforts and is likely to get his way. The legislature has provided initial funding for the change. But, as the Journal’s Richard Carver reported, the nonpartisan Washington research center Good Jobs First says such a change is risky. Privatization has created huge problems in several states. If North Carolina is to avoid trouble, the governor and legislators must establish and abide by rigorous standards of ethical behavior, accountability and public transparency.   Winston-Salem Journal

Good Riddance to Good Government and Good Jobs?….. Groups like the conservative, Koch-funded Pioneer Institute seem to be calling for wholesale privatization with no protections for the public’s money or welfare. In other words, they are advocating privatizing work even if it costs more and provides poorer quality. Truth-Out



November 1, 2013


OH: Bell discloses talks on privatizing Toledo Express Airport. Mayor Mike Bell disclosed on Wednesday that he has been in talks to turn over the operation of the city-owned Toledo Express Airport to a 26-year-old businessman. City emails turned over to The Blade show Dock David Treece, a partner in a West Toledo-based financial investment advisory firm — whose father was once a Republican Sylvania Township trustee — has tried for at least seven months to get the Bell administration interested in signing over complete control of the money-losing Toledo Express Airport. The emails make it clear Mr. Treece wants to cut Toledo City Council out of the process. Toledo Blade

VA: Tolling advocates cheer Virginia court ruling in their favor. Advocates of expanding tolling on U.S. highways are cheering a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court that private-public partnerships can include tolls. A group of Virginia residents had challenged the inclusion of tolls on a pair of tunnel projects in Norfolk, Va., arguing that the tolls were really a tax that should only be levied by the state government. “Tolls are not a tax; they are a user fee,” Jones continued. …Lawmakers in Congress have suggested that they might consider emulating a Virginia plan to collect gas taxes on retailers instead of from drivers at the pump to boost revenue for federal transportation projects. The Hill (blog)

FL: When government, outsourcing and technology meet, it isn’t always pretty – commentary. Government functions are large-scale and complex. Due to the rallying call for smaller government over the past two decades, government agencies and state legislatures have attempted to privatize many of their functions. Stroll down memory lane with me as I recall several of Florida’s attempts to contract out the revamping of government services or administrative functions through the use of technology. Tampa Bay Tribune

GA: State may privatize student housing. The University System of Georgia may sell a significant portion of its student housing portfolio, the beginning of what could be an even larger privatization of its campus dorms.  Atlanta Business Chronicle