April 24, 2014


Union chief cries foul on poultry inspection privatization. A plan to privatize poultry inspection would increase the chances of contaminated meat entering the food supply, according to the head of the American Federation of Government Employees. The plan would allow companies to privatize the inspection process and would speed up processing lines by 25 percent, while remaining Agriculture Department employees would be responsible for inspecting 175 birds a minute, according to union president J. David Cox in a blog post on the Huffington Post. “Let’s be clear: This is a filthy rule that will lead to filthy chicken on your dinner plate,” he wrote. Federal Times

New Net Neutrality Proposals Worry Campaigners. Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) chairman Tom Wheeler will today present his proposals for net neutrality – which reportedly include the provision that content firms should in some cases be allowed to pay for faster access to customers’ homes. . . . The proposals would be good news for large companies such as Netflix or Google – and for broadband providers, which would be able to raise extra revenues from prime customers. But start-ups could have great difficulty getting their services off the ground. This has been a concern for the Obama administration, which in February issued a statement warning that: “Absent net neutrality, the internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries.”  Forbes

VA: Va. toll road could cost $500m, not be built. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s aggressive push to build a toll road parallel to U.S. 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg may wind up costing taxpayers between $400 million to $500 million — with no road to show for it. . . .“Taxpayers have been shaken down on this thing,” said Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William. The state and private bondholders have already spent about $282 million on the project, with no construction having yet started. . . . Gov. Terry McAuliffe stopped work on the project in March rather than continue to pay private contractor U.S. 460 Mobility Partners while the state considers alternate routes or improvements to the existing road that would have less of an impact on the area’s wetlands. U.S. 460 Mobility Partners is a joint venture between Ferrovial Agromán of Spain and American Infrastructure, whose corporate headquarters is in Pennsylvania. The project was initially intended to be a public-private partnership with substantial private investment with corresponding assumption of risk, Layne said. When the state sought offers in 2006, private companies said the road would need a large public subsidy. An independent review board came to a similar conclusion in 2010.  Washington Post

TX: The Long, Slow Death of the Trinity Toll Road. . . Let’s say that the Army Corps of Engineers gives us the green light to build the road. That decision would come in December. Before anything with the road can happen, though, the Corps says we have to move the river (in part because restoring its natural meander was the plan all along). The city’s portion of that work will cost $185 million, and the project would take nine years to complete. Our next bond vote will come in 2017. Don’t forget that the bond vote will have to address $900 million worth of needed street repairs. Let’s just say we tack on the $185 million for river meandering (a $1.085 billion bond!), and it passes. That means the river project can theoretically begin in 2017. Nine years later, construction of the toll road could begin — if a broke TxDOT can find a private partner willing to pay for it. D Magazine

NY: Report says charter schools draining enrollment from Catholic, public schools. Charter schools in the five boroughs are draining students from both the Catholic schools and district public schools, according to a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. Over the last decade, the number of students attending Catholic schools has plummeted by 35 percent, from about 135,000 in 2002-2003, to just over 87,000 last year, according to the report. Meanwhile, during that same period, enrollment at district public schools dropped from more than a million students to just over 950,000. At the same time, the number of students attending charter schools jumped to nearly 59,000 last year, up from less than 2,500 a decade ago.  siLive.com

FL: Toll-road board members to appear before grand jury Thursday. . . State Attorney Jeff Ashton started his probe in September, saying he was looking into claims that Batterson, Pena and Downs privately talked about ousting former director Max Crumit from the job he held for two years. Authority business can be discussed only in public meetings. . .  But Ashton’s investigators also have been attending authority meetings where land purchases are discussed, including property owned by Project Orlando LLC, a company headed by Maitland attorney Jim Palmer. Project Orlando intends to build a billion-dollar development called Kelly Park Crossings by the sole interchange within 15 miles of the Wekiva Parkway, a $1.66 billion toll road being built by the authority and the state. IBI Group of Maitland, which employs Batterson, worked on Kelly Park Crossings until June 2011. Emails obtained by Ashton and reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel show Batterson was introducing potential investors to Palmer as recently as June. Orlando Sentinel