April 15, 2014


Inside the Private Prison Industry’s Alarming Spread Across America. On a recent Friday afternoon, with budget negotiations winding down, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh was racing against the clock. His position as House Appropriations Chairman afforded him the opportunity to stuff whatever minor extra provisions he wanted into the budget before it went to a vote the following Monday, and he only had a few hours left to do it. What was Kavanagh frantically trying to accomplish for his constituents at the last minute? Extra funding for education, since Arizona spends less on educating its children than all but three states? No, Rep. John Kavanagh was trying to secure an extra $900,000 gift for the GEO Group, the billion-dollar private prison corporation whose state lobbyists came to him at the last second begging with upturned hats. The $45 million already earmarked for the maintenance of low- and medium-security facilities wasn’t enough, they said.  AlterNet

Privatization of the US Prison System. The prison industry complex is one of the fastest growing industries in the US.  The system, which was established to ease the burden of overcrowding on state prisons, has become a lucrative business for many. The following infographic shows us how profitable the US prison industry is. “Between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion” dollars.  ArrestRecords.com

To toll or not to toll. . . Right now, the chief source of revenue for road construction projects is the federal fuel tax, which currently stands at 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. But revenues from the tax, which has not been raised since 1993, no longer come close to meeting needs. Several organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Trucking Associations (ATA), have called for raising the federal fuel tax. But that won’t happen without a fight. Whenever the subject has been raised, it has sparked a political firestorm that Congress has been reluctant to walk into. That brings us to the question of tolls. Both President Obama and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx have recently made reference to “public/private” partnerships, which most consider to be code for “tolling our interstates.” That would be an abrupt reversal of course for this country. Congress banned tolls on all interstates when the 46,000-mile system was created in 1956, although a few exceptions have been made in recent years.  DC Velocity

IL: Chicago’s outsourcing habit has costly consequences. Chicagoans are all too familiar with the city’s parking meter privatization fiasco. The deal was rushed and reckless and sucked billions of tax dollars out of the local economy and into the coffers of a corporate consortium backed by Wall Street. Not to mention citizens’ loss of control over parking spaces and services for decades to come. Were these unintended consequences from hasty judgment calls at a time of fiscal crisis? The sad truth is that outsourcing deals often fail to address broader community impacts. Crain’s Chicago Business

FL: Most state building money now goes to charter schools Accompanied by local and state PTA officers and by state Rep. Mark Danish, a public school teacher on leave to serve in the Legislature, Castor charged that the Republican majority in the Legislature has diverted nearly all the money it allocates for school construction and renovation to charter schools, leaving none for public schools. “While we let our public schools decay, the charter schools get to play,” said Danish, who, like Castor, is a Tampa Democrat. Danish said legislators “simply want to hurt public schools. There’s a pattern — a constant stream of bills, and each one weakens public schools.” Legislative Republicans contend that traditional public schools have other sources for capital improvements that charter schools don’t have. Public school advocates replied that those sources are stretched and inadequate to serve the mandate to build schools when and where they’re needed — a mandate charter schools don’t face.  Tampa Tribune

TX: UT Faculty asks president to withdraw “privatization scheme”. In an April 8 letter addressed to UT-Austin President Bill Powers, three distinguished faculty members – joined by at least 108 others – asked Powers to withdraw support for the “Shared Services” plan to eliminate as many as 500 staff positions in order to improve “business productivity” on campus. Powers had endorsed the plan in a memo the previous week. . . It reads in part, “Implementation of the proposed shared services plan, whether touted as a series of “pilot” experiments or done wholesale, will inevitably endanger one of the foundations of this university’s greatness—the sense of community that joins together faculty, staff, and students.  Austin Chronicle

VA: Dulles Greenway toll rates rise again. Drivers on the Dulles Greenway can once again expect to pay higher tolls along the 14-mile, privately owned road. On Tuesday, the State Corporation Commission approved an annual toll rate increase on the road, raising rates by 10 to 20 cents for drivers in two-axle vehicles. During non-peak hours, the toll will rise from $4.10 to $4.25, with a maximum one-way toll of $5.10 during peak hours. . . . Loudoun commuters have complained for years about the high tolls along the road, as its operator, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, has continued to seek rate increases. Washington Post

MI: Detroit may end up privatizing water department. Talks between the city of Detroit and the suburbs over shared control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department have dried up. It’s a key issue in the city’s ongoing bankruptcy negotiations and it affects what metro Detroiters will pay for water. The city wants to put $47 million annually into the water department from suburban leaders in a proposed Regional Water Authority. Suburban leaders have said no to that amount of money. . . . “We are pursuing other options. We’re looking at private investors and private managers for this system,” said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. ”  WDIV Detroit

OH: House and Senate in stalemate over budget for road projects. Whether tolls will be part of the Brent Spence plan, however, remained up in the air. Gov. Steve Beshear last Friday vetoed legislation to allow public-private partnerships because it had language that would ban tolls as a way to pay for a new Ohio River crossing.  Cincinnati.com

NC: NC DOT Announces First Public-Private Partnership Project to Improve I-77. The North Carolina Department of Transportation announces the apparent successful bidder for its first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of I-77 in the Charlotte area, one of the most congested roadways in the state. Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group. . . Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes. NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is significantly less than the $170 million it had projected. ForConstructionPros.com