December 10, 2013


Who Should Control Our Water? It is difficult to measure whether state-run water systems perform better than privately run ones. Private water companies tend to raise prices: Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit that opposes water privatization, estimates that water rates increase an average of eighteen per cent every other year after private companies take over, and that private companies invest too much in unnecessary infrastructure. Public ownership, on the other hand, can have hidden costs: critics argue that public water utilities keep prices artificially low and make up for it by cutting investment or raising taxes. In any case, there is little proof that ownership structures affect water quality: in Europe, for example, strict water regulation ensures minimum standards regardless of who runs the system.  New Yorker (blog)

ALEC has tremendous influence in state legislatures. Here’s why.….. So what accounts for ALEC’s legislative success? More specifically, what kinds of legislators and states are most likely to rely on ALEC bills?  I am tackling these questions in ongoing research. Using leaked ALEC records that provide a full listing of model bills that states introduced and enacted in 1995, I examined which states were more or less likely to pass ALEC’s bills. Unsurprisingly, conservatism matters: states with more conservative governments were more likely to pass ALEC bills. But ideology isn’t the whole story. Another major factor was the legislative resources available to lawmakers: states where legislators had smaller budgets, convened for shorter lengths of time, and spent less time crafting policy were all more likely to enact ALEC model bills (even after accounting for the ideological orientation of state governments).  Washington Post (blog)

MO: Emails detail a hidden plan for Kansas City Public Schools. Backed by two of the most influential foundations in Kansas City, Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro and a state-hired consultant are planning the future of Kansas City Public Schools as a slate wiped clean. Revelations in emails obtained by The Star and dating to April show a state education department eager to create a new school system, even as the long-beleaguered but stabilized district was preparing to celebrate its best academic improvement in years. The electronic trail exposes a rushed bidding process, now criticized, that ultimately landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools. The Kansas City Star

IN: Privatization deal landed for Gary airport. The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority on Monday learned the terms of a privatization agreement that boosters hope will bring $100 million in investment to the airport in the next 40 years. Members of a public-private partnership committee at the authority’s regular meeting Monday briefed members on a contract for airport development and another for airport operations, both of which would go to Aviation Facilities Co. Inc., of Dulles, Va.

PA: Keno, lottery privatization could come before Pennsylvania Senate. There is “broad support” among Senate Republicans to give the governor authority for a private company to manage the state lottery and legalize electronic games such as keno to boost state revenue, the Senate majority leader said on Monday. But quick action in the Legislature appears unlikely, said Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County. He didn’t rule out a vote on Tuesday but noted long odds against that happening. Many senators want further vetting.  Tribune-Review

PA: New Book Claims PASSHE’s Failure to Deliver ‘High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students’. Angelo Armenti, Jr., the former Villanova University Dean and 20-year President of California University (Cal U), recently announced the release of his new book, Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education.¹ In it he describes how PASSHE’s 100% political leadership has watched the privatization—i.e., rapid defunding by the State—of the 14 universities since 2002 without committing to a viable plan for preserving and delivering PASSHE’s statutory purpose: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” as called for by law in Act 188.  PR Web

FL: Pasco toll road moves forward, but draws just one bid. A toll road that promises to change how people get around in Tampa Bay drew just one construction bid Monday, delighting some supporters who worried there would be none and fueling opponents’ argument that smart money won’t back the $2 billion project. Lutz engineer Gerald Stanley and his partners were the sole bidders on the proposal for a 33-mile, private toll road along the State Road 54/56 corridor in Pasco County along the Hillsborough County line.

OH: Progress Ohio questioning OSU, Kvamme investment. A liberal advocacy group says a friend of Gov. John Kasich who came to Ohio to help privatize the state’s economic development efforts could be making millions of dollars from an Ohio State University investment in a new venture capital firm. Wooster Daily Record

MI: Prison Food Service Workers Ask Gov. Snyder to Disclose if Aramark Contributed to Governor’s Secretive Fund….”Taxpayers deserve openness and transparency from our Governor,” said Amy Bradley, a state correctional food service worker.  “We deserve to know whether or not Gov. Snyder’s decision to privatize prison food service was influenced by any contribution to his secretive fund.  Closing the fund without disclosing the donors just raises more questions about conflicts of interest in administration’s decision-making process.  It’s time for Gov. Snyder to clear the air and live up to his campaign transparency pledge.”  Sacramento Bee

MI: Fund Established to Raise Money for Detroit Art Museum and Detroit  Pension Debt….Last week, apparently partly in response to a $5 million pledge by A. Paul Schaap, identified as a “biotechnology engineer” and as president and CEO of a chemiluminescent reagents firm, the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan established the Fund to Support Detroit’s Retirees, Cultural Heritage, and Revitalization. Foundation CEO Miriam Noland described the fund as “a means for anyone who wishes to make a financial gift to assist in addressing these challenges an opportunity to do so.” There’s even an online page, hosted by Kintera, for those willing to make donations to the fund.  The Nonprofit Quarterly