March 26, 2014


TX: Toll Opponents Say Aggressive Collection by TxDOT is Proof of ‘Failed Policy’. In a very controversial move, the Texas Department of Transportation is announced it will begin seizing the cars of motorists who have failed to pay tolls on the state’s growing network of toll roads, essentially turning TxDOT into a taxpayer funded collection agency for the private companies which operate the toll roads, 1200 WOAI news reports. . . . But Terri Hall, the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and a long time anti toll road activist, says the idea that taxpayer money is being used to allow TxDOT to become ‘collection goons’ for private companies is outrageous. . . . Under the Public Private Partnership agreements under which many toll roads and toll lanes are build, private companies, like San Antonio based Zachry American Infrastructure, build the roads under a fifty year agreement with the state which allows the private companies to collect the tolls.  But if people don’t pay the tolls, it is the taxpayers who have to make up the difference.  And Hall says the PPP policy was clearly not thought through, because there is no way to collect tolls from out of state and out of country motorists who aren’t subject to Texas penalties, like tickets and refusal to renew their car registration. 1200 WOAI

MI: Detroit Seeks Proposals to Privatize Its Water System. This bankrupt city is seeking proposals from private companies to run and potentially buy its regional water and sewer system as talks to lease it to the city’s suburbs have stalled. The move to at least partially privatize one of the nation’s largest water systems comes as the city considers unloading assets to finalize its debt-cutting plan, which is expected to be voted on by creditors this spring. . .But suburban leaders so far have balked at their potential share of future costs for system improvements and unpaid water bills. It is still possible the city-owned system could continue to be run as a municipal department from Detroit, said a person familiar with the matter. Privatizing water and sewer service in southeast Michigan could provide a test case for advocates who argue the private sector would bring greater efficiency and needed improvement to aging systems nationally. Opponents of such privatization efforts fear rate increases and question turning a public entity into a profit-making enterprise. . .”If Detroit does this, it will probably be the first really big public-private effort in the last 10 years,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a California environmental-research and advocacy group that studies water privatization and other issues. Wall Street Journal

MA: Hundreds of Boston parents band together to oppose charter school expansion. The parents say that cities and the state cannot afford to fund additional schools, pointing out for instance that the Boston school system is facing budget cuts. Members of the group have been meeting with key lawmakers, testifying at legislative hearings, and circulating an online petition advocating against a bill that would lift a state-imposed cap on charter school enrollment. As of Sunday, the petition had received more than 2,200 signatures. The campaign is believed to be the largest and most aggressive parent-driven effort in the state to stop raising the charter-school cap. It follows a similar effort by teachers unions, which have launched letter-writing campaigns to persuade legislators to oppose the measure.  Boston Globe

NJ: NJ Senate President Tells Turnpike Authority to Lay Off Toll Collection Privatization. Today, NJ state senate president Steve Sweeney urged board members to abandon the concept, insisting that unionized collectors have already given enough: some $30 million worth of concessions in their last contract. “If they (the Turnpike Authority) want to be more efficient, they should look at reducing the amount of administration that they have, because that’s where the real salaries are,” Sweeney said. CBS Local

HI: Public-private partnership plan for Hawaii’s correctional system. State Sen. Will Espero introduced a resolution on public-private partnerships for jails, prisons and other correctional facilities. A Senate panel listened to testimony from supporters and opponents during a hearing on Monday. . . . Private sector involvement would be limited to planning, construction and financing. The state would still run the facilities. The Department of Public Safety supports the proposal since the changes could ease overcrowding and help cut the agency’s costs. Hawaii News Now

In Defense of Public Higher Education – Paul Stoller. In recent months waves of ignorant criticism have flooded the airwaves with a great deal of blather about the nature of higher education at public universities and colleges. Consider the case of Ohio State Representative Andrew Brenner (R) who recently suggested that public education is socialism. Other such critics have said that our colleges are much like indoctrination campus that steer our young people away from “family” values and “free market” ideology. Taking their cue from the more neoliberal wing of conservative thought, a growing group of state legislators have used the rationale of “living within our means” to cut funding for public universities and colleges. Feeling the squeeze, public universities and colleges have trimmed “unproductive” programs like philosophy, music and foreign languages, and have replaced expensive retiring professors with inexpensive temporary instructors. Huffington Post

‘Billion-dollar bet’ on Postal Service. The Postal Service wants to cut its workforce, expand into new markets and products, and modernize all of its systems as part of its bid to transform itself into a highly-responsive digital organization. The Postal Service plans to shrink its workforce by 10,000 positions in fiscal 2015, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. The reductions will be entirely through attrition — there will be no buy-outs or reductions in force. . . .The ultimate goal is for the Postal Service to reduce its career workforce from about 485,000 to around 400,000, with about 65,000 full-time non-career workers. But the Postal Service can do that only with the added flexibility provided by legislation pending in Congress. The bill would also allow USPS to waive the required pre-funding of its retiree health benefits — about $5.5 billion a year — and would give it greater flexibility to reduce the size of its workforce and end Saturday delivery.  Federal Times

Why We Are REALLY Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. Non-profits are being employed by finance capital to cement its privatization agenda, thus making the institution not only limiting in nature but thoroughly corrupting as well. Teach for America (TFA) and LIFT are two non-profits currently serving the privatization agenda.  Financial corporations, such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America and capitalists like the Walton and Gates families, fund both LIFT and TFA.  Dissident Voice