January 22, 2014


GA: Georgia’s Debtors’ Prisons Belong in a Dickens Novel. The main piece from Cook is titled “Spotlight Falls on Private Probation Companies Over Fees, Supervision,” and it tells the story of how one state has outsourced its probation services to private companies, the executives of which have huge financial incentives for charging as many people as much as possible for “services” that would keep them out of jail. The result is a form of  the statewide “debtors’ prison” you’ve probably read about in Dickens (whose father, incidentally, spent time in such a prison).  The Atlantic

WV: Who Owns West Virginia’s Water? A Cautionary Tale. The West Virginia chemical spill is a cautionary tale for communities all over the country where multinational companies are coming in and buying up municipal water utilities to manage people’s drinking water supply for profit. And there are factors beyond groundwater pollution by the coal industry that are driving those trends, such as systemic under-investment in public water systems by federal, state and local governments, and the rapaciousness with which private companies, aided by political favoritism and lobbying, are pursuing expansion of their influence, customer base and profit margins. Grist

KY: Parks Privatization Bill Filed In KY House. Two West Kentucky lawmakers are supporting a bill that would let the state lease public land for private development. WKMS

CA: Jerry Brown’s budget calls for more state workers, less job outsourcing. After several years of tamping down the size of California’s state bureaucracy, Gov. Jerry Brown is ready to grow it again.  The State Worker

LA: DOTD considering ads as new revenue stream. Motorists soon may see an explosion of advertisements plastered on state roads, bridges and rest areas in Louisiana’s latest bid to raise cash during lean times….. DOTD officials are seeking pitches from consultants who would oversee a campaign to open sponsorships to ferries, ferry terminals, toll plazas, rest areas, highway signs, traffic camera feeds, unique roads and bridges, scenic areas, buildings and even vests worn by state transportation workers.  The Advocate

AZ: Arizona County Dumps Speed Cameras As Ineffective. Speed cameras did nothing to improve safety on the roads of Pima County, Arizona so county supervisors decided earlier this month to cut ties with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the for profit company in charge of the program….Collision rates may not be the only factor motivating supervisors. “When the program went ‘live,’ an initial controversy existed when the vendor (ATS) billed for the entirety of the ‘initial’ tier of citation essentially creating a ‘minimum’ threshold amount for which the county was responsible regardless of the quantity of citations actually paid,” Pima County Sheriff’s Captain Karl Woolridge explained in a memo. The county eventually escaped the mandatory minimum charge, but officials were not pleased with the attempt to extract more money from the contract. TheNewspaper.com

IL: Protesters sleep outside CPS HQ to oppose charter school expansion. Near subzero temperatures were sure to test the mettle of about 25 protesters who planned to sleep on the sidewalk Tuesday night in the Loop before attending a school board meeting in the morning to oppose the expansion of charter schools. Susan Garza waved a cardboard sign that read “Stop Privatizing Chicago.” She later planned to curl up and sleep on it alongside her fellow protesters, many of whom were comrades from the Chicago Teachers Union.  Chicago Sun-Times

Union says spending bill pushes privatization of airport screening. A provision in the $1.1 trillion spending bill President Obama signed on Friday has stirred concerns about privatization of airport security. The appropriations measure prevents the Transportation Security Administration from using federal funds to hire more screeners if the total number would exceed 46,000 employees. That, combined with a push by some lawmakers for greater use of private-sector screeners, has drawn criticism from the union that represents TSA officers.  Washington Post (blog)