June 4, 2014


The High Cost of Low-Wage Public Service Outsourcing. In the late 1990s, as part of a rush to save money by privatizing government services, many school districts in New Jersey turned over their school lunch programs to private contractors. For the school districts, the results were what they expected – costs dropped. But a study set for release this afternoon suggests that the overall cost to New Jersey may have been higher than the amount saved by individual school districts – a warning that could apply to states, municipalities, and the federal government alike.  The study, “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class,” was produced by In the Public Interest, a watchdog group that monitors privatization of government contracts. Its central finding is that when the government outsources its services, “local communities suffer the consequences of lower quality services and middle class jobs being replaced with poverty-level wages” while “far-away corporate executives benefit from lucrative government contracts.”  The Fiscal Times

Democrats have a VA bill, Republicans trying to slap lipstick on a privatization pig. While Democrats push Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill to allow the Veterans Affairs Department to lease 27 new medical facilities and hire more doctors and nurses to reduce wait times for veterans seeking medical care, Republicans are preparing to unveil their own plan. Sens. John McCain, Richard Burr, and Tom Coburn are teaming up on this one, and it’s a safe bet it will involve privatized care: “The solution to this problem is flexibility to the veteran to choose their health care, just like other people under other health care plans are able to do,” McCain said June 1 on “Face the Nation.”   Daily Kos

IL: Why Chicago’s Botched Parking Meter Privatization is Also Bad for the Environment. To find out how Chicago’s parking meter lease impacts street-level planning, Professor Stephanie Farmer interviewed Chicago-area transportation planners. She found that the deal is tying the hands of transportation planners in their efforts to construct environmentally sustainable transportation modes on the city streets for the remaining 69 years of the lease. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is planning a network of 20 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines. The CTA found replacement parking meters for its initial BRT routes, but planners fear that spaces for replacement meters will soon dry up. In that case, either the cost for implementing future BRT lines will increase significantly as the city must compensate Morgan Stanley for the number of parking meters they remove, or the city may trim down their plans for 20 routes altogether. . . . The Chicago deal isn’t the only contract that has clauses working against sustainability goals. A P3 that created HOV lanes on the Washington Beltway in Northern Virginia forces taxpayers to reimburse the investment consortium (comprised of Australia-based Transurban and Texas’ Fluor Corporation) when “too many” commuters carpool.The unintended consequences of these contract clauses create hidden costs for cash-strapped cities, neglect the changing urban lifestyle patterns of millennials and empty-nesters, and more significantly hinder the increasingly urgent need to redesign our cities to address climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. Next City

OR: State Land Board should find alternative to selling the Elliott: Opinion. . . . But while Oregonians treasure our parks and public lands, our State Land Board is not acting on those values. The board recently took the first steps towards privatizing the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest in order to generate funding for state education budgets. Three parcels totaling 1,453 acres were auctioned, and Seneca Jones Timber Company, one of the winning bidders, has already said “…we will be clearcutting.” All Oregonians have a stake in the fight to save the Elliott State Forest.  The Elliott is unique among our system of state parks and public lands because it is home to our largest remaining stand of old-growth.  Some 41,000 acres of the forest contains trees over a century old.  This old-growth in turn sustains some of the cleanest rivers in the Oregon Coast Range, valuable runs of wild salmon and steelhead and vital habitat for rare wildlife.  Because the Elliott is public land — for now — all Oregonians enjoy the right to use it for activities like hiking, fishing, hunting and camping.  The Oregonian