June 3, 2014


Fake Political Outrage Is the Real VA Scandal. . . The extreme rightists who control the House of Representatives don’t want to privatize the VA to help veterans – if the Republican majority truly cared about veterans, they wouldn’t have repeatedly voted against bills providing jobs, homes, and health care to veterans and their families. The budget deal that Ryan and Senator Patty Murray approved last year cut veterans’ pensions by $6 billion. The GOP actually wants to see the VA fail to score more political points. By continuously cutting VA services, the far-right wants to reinforce their anti-government narrative by cementing the idea into people’s heads that government is bloated and inefficient, and that private companies unaccountable to voters should seize control of public assets. Huffington Post

The Privatization of Special Education. . . Of course, this move is nothing new in the world of special education.  In Illinois, there are a multitude of private operators (both non-profit and for-profit, though the tax status is mostly irrelevant in practice.)  Some of these schools are beautiful places.  Some have lovely sounding websites, covering up truly horrible, poorly-run warehouses for students with special needs.  But they are almost all very very expensive. In fact, as these schools expand in number, investors understand there is a huge profit margin to be had on the backs of these vulnerable students.   Districts, by federal law, must pay for these placements if it is determined to be the best environment for the student. But in order to ensure growth in this hot growing sector, special education services in public facilities must fail.  And failing they are in many places.  IDEA has never, in its history been fully-funded, but schools get punished for non-compliance all the same.  And as school budgets continue to shrink, special education services, very pricey services indeed, are often the first to go.  University of Colorado Boulder

MI: Detroit emergency manager reviewing final bids to privatize water and sewerage department. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s office is studying several bids to privatize the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and could have a selection process completed within two weeks, a spokesman said Monday. But Orr spokesman Bill Nowling would not release any information about which companies submitted bids by Sunday’s deadline to operate and manage the system relied on by millions of people in southeast Michigan. Nowling said the bids are considered confidential under a federal mediation order.  Detroit Free Press

IL: Chicago Politician/Landlord Aims to Privatize Eviction. . . House Bill 5395 would privatize the eviction business by allowing any off-duty law enforcement officer hired by a landlord or private company to carry out an eviction. The bill has been described as “eviction at gunpoint” and “eviction by rent-a-cop.” ourstreets.net

IL: Clout-Heavy Charter School Group Charged With Defrauding. United Neighborhood Organization, the charter school group with connections to nearly every major politician and power broker in Illinois, was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday with defrauding investors on a $37.5 million bond offering for construction work by failing to disclose conflicts of interest. Oops. The conflict of interest centers on companies owned by brothers of UNO’s former senior vice president of operations Miguel D’Escoto. The companies received $8.5 million in business from $98 million in state grant money. Furthermore, the SEC alleges UNO failed to inform investors about the financial impact the contracts with the companies would have on its ability to repay the bonds.  InvestorsChicagoist

WA: Has liquor privatization in Washington brought negative consequences? There are four times as many stores selling spirits today than before privatization. Sales increased statewide by about 3 percent during the first 18-months. . . . Julia Dilley, with the Washington State Department of Health, has been researching the impacts of privatization. She said the increased prices and sales were expected, but there have been some unexpected consequences, too. “It was associated with an increase in some negative consequences, including emergency department visits for alcohol-related conditions, and multiple reports of alcohol theft,” Dilley said. Studying King County, which had the best data to track, Dilley said the historical data showed that there should have been about 10,000 emergency room visits for alcohol-related issues between June of 2012 and September of 2013. “We saw an excess about 5,500 additional emergency department visits for alcohol-related conditions in the 16 months after the change in law. That was about half again as much as what we expected.”  MyNorthwest.com

PA: Court Upholds Right of City To Dump Camera Contractor. With municipalities around the country deciding to drop red light camera programs at a record rate, the photo enforcement industry has turned to suing their own municipal clients to prevent a loss of business. This conduct will not be allowed in Philadelphia, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled on Friday. The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) signs the contract with the company that owns and operates the cameras, issues the tickets and collects the fine revenue. After a decade with American Traffic Solutions (ATS, previously operating as Mulvihill Intelligent Control Systems), city officials decided it was time for a change. A few months before the contract’s February 2014 expiration date, the city put the program out to bid and settled on Xerox, which offered the same suite of services for a lower price, to become the city’s next vendor.  TheNewspaper.com

ID: Idaho’s Federal Lands Panel Hires Private Attorney. The Legislature’s Federal Lands Interim Committee has hired outside legal counsel even though the state attorney general’s office has questioned the legality of Idaho being able to take control of public lands away from the government. The committee is relying on the Legislature’s Legal Defense Fund to cover the private attorney’s costs. So far, Idaho has paid the attorney nearly $26,000.  Boise State Public Radio

TX: After 10 years, I’ve dropped my support of the Trinity Tollway – opinion. Ten years ago, I was an outspoken and dedicated proponent of the Balanced Vision Plan, including the Trinity Parkway. . . . I have changed my mind and now confess publicly my opposition to building this highway. . . . The public projects that have been completed (or are nearing completion) in the Trinity River Corridor are already changing the use and investment patterns along the river. The talented Dallas real estate development community is serving customers who want to live, work and play nearby. If we begin construction of the tollway, we risk killing the goose that is laying this golden egg. We would be wiser — and richer — to continue investing in the smaller projects that improve the quality of life there.  Dallas Morning News