April 22, 2014


OH: Ohio lawmaker wants private prison vendor canned. An Ohio state lawmaker says the state prisons department should terminate its contract with a private food service operator after fining the company last week for repeatedly failing to meet promised staffing levels. Democratic state Rep. Matt Lundy said Monday that deficiencies identified in Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services’ performance reaffirm his and other opponents’ concerns about privatization. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction fined Aramark $142,100 Friday. The private food vendor took over feeding Ohio’s 50,000 prisoners from state employees in September. The contract goes to June 30, 2015. The ACLU says the fine should trigger a reevaluation of the deal.  10TV

TX: Corps: Trinity River needs to be moved to make way for toll road, which is likely to end up in litigation. . . It’s only when you get deep into the doc — on Page 87 out of 134 — that you realize the Trinity needs to be moved, at least in some spots, to make way for the toll road, which isn’t yet approved or funded. . .  Then there’s the fascinating chart found on Page 3-34 of the feasibility study — the table that shows what Dallas would get if it ditches the toll road. Because even the Corps recognizes: “There is a possibility that it may never be constructed.” And if that’s the case — if the NTTA does its own study and passes on spending $1.5 billion (give or take) to build the road and no one else wants to pick up the option — the Corps says “certain BVP features would be different.” How different? Well, we’d get more trails, fields and raised vegetation, for starters. But not necessarily more meadows, because: “To serve major events and gatherings, an additional 6,200 overflow parking spaces are proposed in separate meadow areas, the majority near the potential West Dallas Amphitheater.” So … We know what’s holding up the toll road. There’s no money to build it. But the feasibility study’s Appendix I also ID’s a few potential hold-up further down the toll road, including “Threat of Lawsuits/Political Opposition,” which a chart says would have a “critical” impact on the cost, and poses a “high” risk to the time line.  Dallas Morning News

OR: Suit Filed Challenging Sale of Elliott State Forest Land. . . “The Elliott State Forest is critically important to the survival of the marbled murrelet, coho salmon and hundreds of other species. It holds great promise for storing carbon to help insulate both people and wildlife from the devastation of climate change,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s not in the best interest of Oregonians or the planet to sell the Elliott to the highest bidder to be converted to an industrial tree farm. There’s a path forward for the state to protect important habitat and generate revenue for schools in Oregon.” The East Hakki Ridge parcel is one of five forested tracts the Department of State Lands has authorized for privatization. Combined, the parcels consist of approximately 2,700 acres of public land on the west side of the Elliott State Forest. One of the parcels being considered for disposal this fall contains the highest production of Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon in the Oregon Coast Range, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and also is home to threatened marbled murrelets, according to survey data. And the state of Oregon has just revealed that it will soon be analyzing the possibility of selling off the entire Elliott State Forest.  eNews Park Forest

NC: School vouchers: helping students or hurting schools?. . . But whatever public and private schools have in common has increasingly been overshadowed by a divide created when North Carolina legislators approved using public money to help some low-income families afford private schools. Funding passed in the state General Assembly last year would provide as many as 2,400 public school students with up to $4,200 to go toward private school tuition, an effort that would cost about $10 million. Children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches would be eligible. Jeffries calls them opportunity scholarships. For many in public education, they are vouchers.  Asheville Citizen-Times

Privatization or Bust: The Big Reveal In Ryan’s Latest Medicare Plan. Earlier this month, Loren Adler—a policy analyst at the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget—noticed a highly technical, but pivotal change to Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare. It’s gotten little press, but it’s pretty big news that Ryan has shifted to premium support based on avg bid with no cap. . . . From my vantage point, though, the most interesting thing about the change is the way it reveals an ordering of the GOP’s priorities vis a vis federal programs in general. . . . What he hasn’t, and won’t ever give up on, no matter what experts ultimately conclude, is partial privatization. When push comes to shove, breaking government monopolies (and age-restricting eligibility) are the only things that really interest the GOP with respect to reforming entitlements.  The New Republic