July 18, 2014


Obama Shifts to Urge Private Investment in Roads, Bridges
. . .Speaking beside a project to repair a closed interstate highway bridge in Wilmington, Delaware, Obama called for making it easier for states and local governments to access private capital for roads, bridges and other infrastructure. “So far Congress has refused to act,” said Obama, who criticized lawmakers for failing to fully fund federal infrastructure projects through the Highway Trust Fund. “I’m going to do whatever I can to create jobs rebuilding American on my own.”. . . The focus on private money for road projects marks a shift for the administration, which had previously resisted efforts to seek commercial resources for highways and other pieces of the country’s transportation system. The result may be more tolls for drivers as companies look to make profits by operating roads and bridges. Business Week

Water Wars and Creeping Privatization
The newly enacted Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act holds promise for life in a world shaped by climate change. However, privatization proponents are working hard to privatize ownership and control our water infrastructure. Truth-Out

WI: A War Worth Fighting
Voucher supporters in Wisconsin and across the nation want to set up exclusionary schools on the public dime. The federal government shouldn’t let them. For three years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating Wisconsin’s school voucher program for systematically discriminating against students with disabilities. . . . Very few students with disabilities in Milwaukee or the rest of the state use private school vouchers, either because they perceive that the program is only for non-disabled students or because the schools themselves push children with disabilities out of the program. This has had the effect of segregating students with disabilities in the local public schools, while cannibalizing the local district’s resources through the diversion of money from public schools to private institutions.  ACLU

MI: How a Bogus, Industry-Funded Study Helped Spur a Privatization Disaster in Michigan
. . . Officials in Michigan are already regretting a recent move to privatize food services for inmates in the state’s prison system. Early results have proven disastrous. . . .Maggots in the kitchen and on the chow line. Workers caught smuggling contraband or engaging in sex acts with inmates. Food shortages and angry prisoners. . . As Michigan’s legislature debated prison privatization, the Free Press ran an op-ed by Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone, two economists at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The scholars called for “a debate rooted in data and facts,” and touted their research ostensibly showing that privatization saved states money without compromising the quality of correctional services. What Free Press readers weren’t told is that the scholars’ paper, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal, was funded by the private prison industry. Nor were readers made aware of other “op-eds they published in newspapers around the country, most with no mention of their funding source,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Their lack of disclosure of the apparent conflict of interest is the subject of an ethics complaint now being investigated by the university. BillMoyers.com

MI: What Happens When Detroit Shuts Off the Water of 100,000 People
. . . The campaign to crack down on overdue bills—which is aimed at customers who are more than two months behind on their bills or who owe more than $150—has been described by activists and scholars alike as an effort, pushed by the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, to get rid of the bad debt associated with the water department and prep the public entity for privatization. In a city where the median household income is less than half the national average, 38 percent of residents live below the poverty line and 23 percent are unemployed, it comes as no surprise that at least 40 percent of customers are delinquent on their bills. The water shut-offs have taken no prisoners. Since this year’s shut-offs started at the end of March, at least 15,000 Detroit households have had their water turned off.  The Atlantic

LA: Our View: Privatization has hurt local providers
. . . As St. Francis CEO Louis Bremer explained to The News-Star editorial board earlier this week: When an insured patient chooses University Health Conway, the costs are reimbursed by the state 100 percent. When an uninsured patient shows up at St. Francis, the hospital has a legal and Christian responsibility to evaluate the patient’s status, stabilize the patient, and inform them of treatment costs and options to transfer to Conway. Unfortunately, few uninsured are choosing the totally reimbursed Conway option, leaving St. Francis with the chore of attempting to collect medical bills from people who cannot afford to pay them. Those who have Medicaid provide a reimbursement to St. Francis of 45 percent of cost. That’s a very slick way for the state to reduce its medical bills for its charity institutions, but it’s at the cost of communities relying on long-term major employers and institutions like St. Francis. Monroe News Star

TX: Texas’ flagship toll road faces financial problems
Since 2006, the state of Texas has put a ton of trust in private companies to build and operate toll roads in exchange for a cut of the profits. Just eight years in, the state’s flagship public-private toll road, the SH 130 that connects Austin and San Antonio, is facing financial difficulties, low traffic volumes and a “junk bond” rating from financial analysts. Moody’s Investor Service, which twice downgraded the SH 130’s bond rating in 2013, announced this month that the SH 130 Concession Co. had failed to make a full debt-service payment to lenders on the money it borrowed to build Segments 5 and 6 of the roadway. According to the 50-year contract between the SH 130 Concession Co. and the Texas Department of Transportation, the builder-operator carries the financial risk while the roadway itself remains owned by the state of Texas. An actual default could lead to a termination of the contract and leave TxDOT with a decision to operate the roadway “in house” or farm it out to another operator.  Land Line Magazine

MA: Massachusetts Senate Votes Not to Lift Cap on Charter Schools 
In a surprise move, the Massachusetts State Senate voted 26-13 not to increase the number of charter schools in the state. A similar bill cleared the House by a vote of 114-35 in May. “The Senate proceeded in a separate 9-30 vote to also defeat the underlying bill that had cleared the House.”. . . “Unions, meanwhile, cheered the bill’s defeat. “We congratulate the Senate for taking a stand for public schools and for public school students, many of whom live in poverty and who need all the resources they can get. The vote against raising the cap keeps resources in our locally controlled public schools where they are most needed,” said Tom Gosnell, president of American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts.  DianeRavitch.net

NY: Nassau lawmakers expected to back sewer privatization
Nassau County legislators are expected to approve a contract today to privatize the county’s massive sewage treatment system — a deal that officials say will save taxpayers a total of more than $200 million. Newsday