April 21, 2014


Private money fuels public projects. Short on funding but big on need, U.S. states and cities are increasingly turning to such deals, known as public-private partnerships, or P3s, hoping to leverage assets that can bring a quick infusion of private dollars to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. The projects include everything from a light rail system in suburban Washington, D.C., to the replacement of hundreds of bridges in Pennsylvania. The last 12 to 15 months have seen more deals and more opportunities to invest in the sector, said Jim Barry, head of BlackRock’s infrastructure investment group. U.S. insurance companies and public pensions are all eager to invest. “After let’s call it a decade of promise, I think we are actually beginning to see that movement,” he said. “Over the next five years, you could have a lot of deals flow.” Allentown Morning Call

A defense of public education against ‘the wolves of Wall Street’. I am disturbed when high-flying charter schools, such as Harlem Success Academy, brag about their student standardized test scores, not because I begrudge them but because they seem blithely unaware of selection bias. Just the very fact that a parent takes the initiative to apply to one of these schools makes a huge difference. In addition, both students and their parents have to sign contracts and agree to longer hours and high performance standards. If students do not live up to these standards, they are no longer able to attend. A fair comparison between test scores of high-profile charter students and regular public school children must include only the public school students who attend regularly, do their homework, and, along with their parents, are committed to school. Or compare them to magnet schools, which is what they essentially are.  Washington Post Blog

WI: County mental health nurses worry about privatization under new law. Mental health reform legislation would permit a new state board to privatize any or all of the work now done by more than 600 county mental health staffers, the author of the legislation says. A new Milwaukee County Mental Health Board to be named by Gov. Scott Walker by June has the authority to outsource whatever work it chooses under the legislation, said state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis). . . . “This is a wholesale attack on county workers,” said Supervisor John Weishan Jr. He said it means eventually County Executive Chris Abele will have the power to unilaterally “privatize the jobs of…employees, (who will have) no recourse whatsoever.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WI: Privatization Ploy. Not that we need a study to tell us that voucher schools do not perform as well as public schools, we have the test scores to prove it.   Professor Gordon Lafer gave us one anyway: A new report reveals that legislative moves to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into private charters─whether for-profit or non-profit─may actually damage the academic futures of far too many of the city’s children. . . . The report is an eye-opening investigation into the rapidly growing private charter industry and the effects profit motivated schools can have on the depth and quality of education children receive. Voucher and for profit schools perpetually get outperformed by public schools, and yet almost like clockwork, the tea party shows up to argue the wrong side of the issue(facts be dammed)! Cognitive Dissidence

CO: Matt Jones introduces road bills in response to US 36 controversy. The bills, spearheaded by state Sen. Matt Jones, a Louisville Democrat, are largely in response to the controversial public-private partnership deal reached earlier this year between Plenary Roads Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation. Under the contract, Plenary will finance the work on U.S. 36, including contributing its equity to the project, and will be repaid over a 50-year period through toll-lane revenue. But many howled in protest over the Plenary deal, saying it was done secretly with little public input. Jones’ bill — Senate Bill 197 — would add new requirements to any future public-private partnerships. They include: public and legislative check-ins at critical points, including town hall meetings; any agreement more than 35 years must be approved by the legislature; and legislative approval of any compensation due to the private company that’s not directly related to the road lanes.   The Denver Post

CA: Federal report’s findings may help save Berkeley’s historic post office. The report, put together by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, suggests that USPS halt the sales of historic postal facilities until it complies with all 15 of the report’s recommendations, which are intended to remedy the problems illuminated by the report’s findings. . . . “This is one more step forward in a growing national moment to save our post offices and stop the sale and privatization of a valuable national resource that benefits everyone,” said California State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, in a press release regarding the report. Daily Californian

NY: On the public landscape, LIPA lives – if in lesser ways. The Long Island Power Authority has yet to vanish. True, its role is sharply diminished by a new state law enacted last year. Yes, it has officially become subordinate in key ways to PSEG Long Island, now the Island’s electricity operator, as part of what policymakers call a “hybrid” privatization. . . . On Friday, Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said the overhaul worked out with the State Legislature in the subsequent months is suitably described as privatization, under a “hybrid” model, even if the system is not fully private like Con Edison.  Newsday

SC: Columbia officials weigh privatizing city parking garages. Columbia city government is looking into privatizing its 10 parking garages and the two the city is contracted to build for the Bull Street neighborhood. . . Columbia’s 10 garages have been revenue producers for the city during the past three fiscal years, according to figures supplied by its Parking Services Department. The net revenue after expenses totals $1.3 million for 2011-2013, the figures show. But the city’s certified annual reports for those three years disagree with those figures.  The State