February 25, 2014


Are private prisons better or worse than public prisons?….Somewhat surprisingly, for all the ink spilled on private prisons over the last thirty years, we have precious little good information on what are surely some of the most important questions: when it comes to cost or quality, are private prisons better or worse than public prisons?It’s safe to say that, so far at least, the political process hasn’t encouraged rigorous comparative evaluations of public and private prisons. Some states allow privatization without requiring cost and quality evaluations at all. The nineteen states that don’t privatize might, for all I know, be right to do so, but of course their stance doesn’t promote comparative evaluation.  Washington Post

The Private Prison Racket…. But while privatizing prisons may appear at first glance like yet another example of how the free market beats the public sector, one need only look at CCA’s record in Idaho—which recently cancelled its contract with CCA—to wonder whether outsourcing this particular government function is such a good idea.  Politico

Why spectrum auctions still matter….. Here’s the thing – pretty much by definition, wireless spectrum belongs to everyone, not just the people and companies actually using it at any given time. If the spectrum belongs to everyone, then companies hoping to make money off it should pay for the privilege of using a public resource. It doesn’t necessarily have to be obtained via auction, but there has to be some mechanism where still-scarce public resources are not just given away to corporate or other interests. Network World

CO: Detractors form road block to US 36 toll road proposal….The state is likely to enter into a 50-year contract with Plenary Roads Denver that would hand over operation and maintenance of U.S. 36 along the Boulder Turnpike — between Denver and Boulder — to the private consortium….Leading the concerns for citizens is Ken Beitel, spokesman for the Boulder-based Drive SunShine Institute, an alternative energy advocacy organization. He has started a petition calling for a timeout and review of the contract that already has 18,000 signatures, he said. “When you see 500 very concerned citizens in Louisville, they are concerned because you as elected officials have not read that contract, and we’re counting on you to ensure that the public interest is guarded here,” Beitel told lawmakers. The Colorado Statesman

IL: Illiana tollway’s impact discussed. Responding to complaints by local farmers, first responders and highway commissioners, an Illinois Department of Transportation representative said at a recent media briefing that a proposed bi-state tollway, once built, would affect less than one-third of existing local roads….Private investment is expected to cover the cost, estimated at $1.5 billion, of the 47-mile tollway connecting Interstate 55 southwest of Joliet with Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind. Chicago Tribune

FL: Fla. Bill Would Protect Info In Public-Private Proposals. Building on steps Florida lawmakers took last year to expand the use of public-private partnerships in the state, a bill filed Friday in the state House of Representatives aims to address concerns about protecting sensitive corporate information in the proposal process.  H.B. 1051, filed by Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, would add a limited public records exemption to state law for unsolicited proposals that private companies make to the government for collaborative projects, in which private entities finance and construct public facilities, then run and collect revenue from them for a specific period of time. Law360

WI: New Docs Suggest Scott Walker Misled Press….In the months to come, the story would blossom, with prosecutors soon uncovering reams of evidence that Walker’s County Executive staff were conducting campaign work on the taxpayer dime…. However, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review of records shows that Walker had personally instructed staff to post comments to news articles, just weeks before Wink was caught for doing just that during the work day. For example, on the afternoon of Friday, May 4, 2010, just one week before Wink was ousted for her online commenting — which Walker would later describe as an unauthorized and isolated incident — Walker urged his county staff and campaign to leave comments on a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about his plan to privatize the airport.  PR Watch

PA: The paradox that has paralyzed any change in Pa.’s liquor system, at least for now….The legislators who want to keep Pennsylvania in the liquor business want the Liquor Control Board to be more responsive to consumers and make more money for the state. The LCB says it can be more profitable if it opens more stores on Sunday, expands hours and offers more variable price points. The General Assembly would need to change the law in order for the LCB to do that. But the legislators who most want the state to get out of the liquor business don’t see any reason to expand a system they are trying to close. So — at the moment — no one has enough votes to do anything.  PennLive

PA: Letting colleges and universities authorize charter schools doesn’t necessarily mean better results: Kate Shaw ….Smucker’s proposal would bring new players into this mix by allowing nearly 100 Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to approve charter schools without review or approval of these local school boards. More specifically, major research universities could approve a charter school anywhere in the commonwealth….What is different about Smucker’s bill? The sheer number of colleges and universities that could approve new charters…. This is not an optimal policy direction for a number of reasons. The Patriot-News

VA: Dan Casey: Privatize teachers? It could happen….It won’t happen this year or next, nor is it likely to happen in the next five years, at least in the Roanoke Valley. But sooner or later the day will come when the question is likely to be on the public agenda. Mike Stovall, a 19-year veteran of the Roanoke County School Board, says the notion is ridiculous… So I asked him: When he started on the school board in 1995, did he ever imagine he’d be faced with the question of outsourcing nurses, cafeteria workers and bus drivers? His answer was no. Yet here we are.  Roanoke Times (blog)

NY: Charter School Advocacy Group Launches Multimillion-Dollar Ad Campaign. A charter school advocacy group launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to publicize the advantages of charters and defend against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to stem their growth. The mayor plans to begin charging charter schools rent and has put a hold on all charter school co-locations. A co-location involves moving a school into an existing building where another school already operates. The Department of Education has already diverted $310 million from a charter school construction fund in January.  The Epoch Times

TN: For-profit charter school operators watch TN. Out-of-state companies that bring in millions in revenue by managing charter schools have their eyes set on Tennessee, an epicenter of education reform. The Tennessean

NC: Hamilton, Catlin question Commerce privatization plans. At least two local lawmakers are urging caution as the N.C. Department of Commerce looks to privatize its job recruitment functions.  Hamilton first raised her concerns at a recent meeting of the Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee ….Hamilton said that it’s the legislature’s job to “appropriate and govern and manage the expenditures of public dollars.” She said “we (lawmakers) just can’t be expected to turn over that responsibility.” Star News