June 9, 2014


A Modern-Day Debtors’ Prison? Judges Push Back Against the South’s Privatization Wave. . . Pushback against some of the worst practices in private probation is sporadic but growing. In September, Georgia’s Supreme Court is slated to hear an appeal of Judge Craig’s ruling that extending private probation sentences beyond their original date was against the law (as was the use of electronic monitoring in probation cases). Some believe the Supreme Court’s ruling has the potential to fundamentally shape the way in which private probation companies operate in Georgia. Elsewhere, alternative solutions have already been found—like in Athens-Clark County, Georgia, where a government probation department that operates independently of taxpayers’ coffers was brought in to replace a broken private probation system.Nevertheless, critics of private probation continue to draw parallels between problems in that industry and those associated with the broader privatization of the nation’s entire judicial system.  Truth-Out

CO: Colorado Governor Vetoes Toll Road Accountability Bill. Critics of long-term toll road contracts complain that they are often negotiated in secrecy by unaccountable bureaucrats, cutting the public out of the process entirely. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) is not among those who see any problem with the way things are done. On Wednesday he put his veto pen to Senate Bill 14-197, the Transportation Enterprise Transparency Act, ensuring the status quo. . . .The Colorado legislation would have required public meetings disclosing the state’s intentions at each relevant phase of the contract development process, from concept through execution. The General Assembly would have to approve any deal that contains potentially objectionable features. This includes any contract lasting longer than thirty-five years; non-compete clauses that drive up toll road usage by hobbling development of nearby general purpose roads; and any requirement that the public assume risk on behalf of the private companies involved.  TheNewspaper.com

KY: Questions raised about legality of private meetings held by University of Kentucky trustees. The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees will vote Tuesday on a proposed annual budget of more than $3 billion, but don’t expect many questions or much discussion of how the money gets spent. They already will have been briefed extensively on the budget in private meetings that administrators hold with small groups of trustees. Those behind-the-scenes meetings, however, might violate the Kentucky Open Meetings Act because they appear to be held in an effort to avoid public discussions, according to multiple attorneys familiar with the law. . . .According to the Herald-Leader archives, members of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees had no questions or comments when taking the following votes: Oct. 14, 2012: The board voted to approve a contract with Education Realty Trust to build the first phase of privatized housing, the first major outsourcing in UK’s history. Lexington Herald Leader

TX: Dallas’ 15-year-old Trinity toll road agreement with NTTA has little protection for the city. . . For Instance, it puts the price of the toll road at a quaint $394 million. Well, we know that’s not right. The road is somewhere north of $1 billion. Well north I believe.  There is a great deal in the agreement about the city’s many responsibilities, including its pledge of $84 million to the road. That figure seemed like a substantial contribution at the time. It’s not quite a rounding error yet, but getting there.  What bugs me about this agreement is that no one at City Hall at the time appeared to look at it and say, gosh, maybe we should add some outs for ourselves in here. Maybe we should give ourselves a little legal push back in case, say, 15 years goes by and this road still isn’t built and we decide that, perhaps, there would be a better way to build our city.  Dallas Morning News (blog)

TX: American Institute of Architects (Dallas) backs off support of Trinity toll road. This morning, the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects backed away from its support for the Trinity River toll road. This is another important voice that has come to understand just how much Dallas is sacrificing in the name of this project. The AIA’s statement isn’t quite as strong as it should be, unfortunately. Specifically, its executive director, Jan Blackmon, states that the organization cannot support the road until it has a better understanding of how the major elements of the Balanced Vision Plan (lakes, parks) will be incorporated into the design of the “parkway.” (Personally, I reject the term parkway for this project.) Dallas Morning News (blog)

LA: Diane Ravitch asks if New Orleans is “The Biggest Scam in the History of Public Education?” New Orleans will soon be the first urban district in the nation that is all-charter, the first district where public education has been completely extinguished. Because so much money has been invested in the privatization of the schools in New Orleans, there is a media machine that cranks out favorable stories about it. The state board of education, the state department of education, and the Governor are determined to prove that privatization was successful. But there is another side to the story. Read it here. Read about a district that has low rankings on state measures, a district that has depended on fluctuating state standards, a district that depends on Teach for America, where charter leaders are paid handsomely.  History news Network

LA: Louisiana Resubmits Hospital Privatization Plan to Federal Agency. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has revised its plan to privatize state-run hospitals with sovereign dollars and resubmitted it to a group that only last month rejected a proposal. The devise involves changeable a supervision of hospitals now operated by Louisiana State University in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma, Lake Charles, Shreveport, and Monroe. It would cost a state a reported $1.1 billion this year, and relies heavily on approaching supports from a sovereign government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) deserted a administration’s plan in May, including a ask for payment of a $260.8 million in allege franchise payments a state done to support a devise before to a approval.  Louisiana News Feed

CA: Viewpoints: Outsourcing delays road improvements. . . For example, a Caltrans engineer – salary, benefits and overhead – costs the taxpayer $116,000 per year. Outsourcing the same job costs $237,000, primarily because contracts with private firms are awarded without competitive bidding. Yet, Caltrans outsources nearly 1,000 jobs per year at an annual waste of more than $100 million. This money could be used to fund construction, create jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Local agencies also outsource most of their highway engineering work using no-bid contracts. While seeking additional funding to improve our streets and highways, the governor and Legislature would be well advised to stop wasting public dollars by awarding contracts to private firms at twice the cost of having the work performed by public servants. Sacramento Bee

OR: Abandoned liquor privatization campaign spent about $2.5 million this year. When liquor privatization backers called off their ballot initiatives this week, it wasn’t for lack of spending. This year, petition committees associated with the campaign recorded about $2.5 million in cash expenditures, on everything from signature gathering efforts to inter-campaign contributions. That includes a $200,000 check on Monday — just two days before backers dropped the initiatives — to Silver Bullet, a signature gathering firm hired to help the group meet an ambitious July 3 deadline. The Oregonian