August 12, 2014


The ‘P3′ dilemma: Partnerships often fall short of taxpayers’ expectations. When public-private partnerships work well, they are a boon to government and investors. They deliver much needed infrastructure years sooner and at a more affordable price. However, they frequently don’t live up to expectations. The result: citizen outrage over rapidly escalating user fees; unanticipated costs; a lack of transparency; and risks to taxpayers from the billions of dollars of federally guaranteed loans financing the projects.  A prime example of the potential that so-called P3s offer can be found in Baltimore, one of the nation’s busiest ports. Pittsburgh Post Gazette

NY: Governor and legislature increasingly rely on publicly funded private attorneys. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and the legislature are spending around $1.3 million this year in payments to private law firms, and the public is paying for it, says a fiscally conservative study center. The Empire Center analyzed reports filed on line by the legislature, and found that the state Assembly paid over $650,000 to outside attorneys, while the state Senate gave a private law firm over $400,000 between October of 2013 and March of 2014. WRVO Public Media

NY: State Teachers Union Protests Privatization of Testing. Taking a stand against tough testing in New York state, hundreds joined members of NYSUT Monday night to protest what they’re calling the corporate influence on a child’s education. Testing giant Pearson was the target of the protest, and teachers shredded a copy of the company’s more than $32 million contract with the state, and protesters said private businesses in public schools have too much sway on a child’s education. TWC News

NJ: Christie Nixes NJ Privatization Standards Bill. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill to install standards for service and workforce levels for privatized state contracts, saying the legislation is ideology-driven opposition to his privatization efforts and would create needless red tape. In a message released Friday, Christie issued an absolute veto of S-770, a bill aimed at blocking private state contracts unless the state is assured privatization would achieve considerable cost savings without resulting in reductions in the quality of service or the workforce levels the state maintains. Law360 ($)

MI: 11 Michigan charter school authorizers ‘at risk’ for suspension, education department announce. More than a quarter of Michigan’s charter school authorizers are “at risk” of being suspended, the Michigan Department of Education announced Monday. Department officials announced that 11 authorizers may not be allowed to open new schools because of low academic performance and problems with contract transparency.

August 11, 2014


NY: New York teachers plan to shred standardized tests in protest of privatization, profiting
New York teachers say they plan to protest against the privatization of public education by shredding standardized tests. Leaders of the New York State United Teachers union say the protest will take place Monday evening on the steps of the state Education Department in Albany. NYSUT President Karen Magee says the protest is meant to call attention to corporations the unions say stand to profit from New York students while diminishing the rights of teachers.  The Republic

IN: Supreme Court to consider IBM welfare privatization case
The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear the dispute between the state and IBM over the failed attempt to privatize public welfare services under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. IBM and Indiana entered into a 10-year, $1.37 billion contract in 2006, which was hailed at the time as the solution for fixing one of the nation’s most-troubled welfare systems. The state, though, canceled the contract three years later after a flood of complaints about the system from clients, their advocates and federal officials. At the time, the state had paid $437 million to IBM. The two sides sued each other for damages. In 2012, a Marion Superior Court judge awarded $52 million to IBM. Indianapolis Star

MI: Michigan fines prison food vendor $200,000
The state Corrections Department stopped short of ending its contract with Aramark Correctional Services, which it absolved of blame for maggots found recently in a Jackson prison’s food service area. Gov. Rick Snyder defended the decision to stick with the food vendor, adding that the state is on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. The Daily Telegram

OH: 1000 Ohio Inmates Dump Their Lunches Over Maggot Infestation
Since Michigan turned over food services at its prisons to a private contractor in December, the state has seen a spate of maggot infestations in and around prison food, outbreaks of food poisoning, and meal shortages. In Ohio this week, inmates facing the second maggott infestation this year at their facility dumped their lunch trays in the garbage en masse in protest. The mother of one of the inmates at Ohio Reformatory for Women reported the protest to the local ABC affiliate, telling the news outlet, “People make mistakes, it doesn’t mean you have to be treated like a dog.”  ThinkProgress

PA: The ‘P3’ dilemma: How effective are public-private partnerships?
. . . Pennsylvania, after rejecting proposals to privatize the turnpike and state lottery, is getting into the P3 business. Legislation enacted in 2012 allows the state Department of Transportation to enter into public-private partnerships. The first major project involves hiring a consortium to build and maintain about 600 state bridges for about 30 years. Underlying the debate is the fact that P3s allow government officials to avoid being blamed for raising taxes, tolls and making other unpopular decisions. . .“It‘‍s really about a political unwillingness to do what is necessary,” U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., said at the March hearing. “As a former city councilman, mayor, and congressman, none of us like raising taxes. … Let’‍s be honest about what this is.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

FL: South Miami rejects plan to privatize trash collection
Applause spilled out of the doors of the commission chambers at South Miami City Hall on Tuesday as commissioners unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have privatized the city’s solid waste department. City Manager Steven Alexander and his staff worked on the proposal with Waste Pro of Florida Inc., which could have saved the city more than $600,000 annually. Eleven jobs within the city’s public works department would have been affected had the proposal passed. “I don’t think that I feel comfortable moving with this outside of a complete understanding of the budget and a necessity to do this,” Mayor Philip Stoddard said at the meeting. “I share the residents’ concerns. I see the obvious financial benefit. Public waste is certainly not broken. We get excellent services.” Miami Herald

OR: Why hunters should oppose sale of Elliott State Forest: Guest opinion
Oregon hunters are facing the very real threat that we could lose access to hundreds of thousands of acres of quality hunting lands within our state. Weyerhauser, the giant logging corporation that owns 2.6-million acres in Oregon and Washington, recently announced it was closing much of its forestlands to the general public.  From now on, hunters will have to buy a special permit costing up to $350 if they want to hunt on those lands even though the elk and deer belong to the public.  The Oregonian

How will charter schools deal with their corruption scandals?
. . . Now recent investigations from the Detroit Free Press, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, and the Florida League of Women Voters have painted a troubling picture of two out-of-control charter school systems. Starting under the administrations of former governors John Engler and Jeb Bush, both Michigan and Florida have been early and enthusiastic backers of the charter school movement and have been particularly receptive to for-profit management companies. While many states prohibit full-service, for-profit companies from running charters, Michigan, and to a lesser extent Florida, has encouraged the model. Washington Post (blog)

August 8, 2014


The Open Road: Keeping Interstates Toll-Free Protects the Economy and Preserves Americans’ Freedom – commentary
Americans love the open road — it symbolizes the freedoms our country provides and a sense of exploration that has helped build our nation. The vast interstate network of asphalt and pavement for decades has facilitated people’s travel to places near and far for commerce or recreation. Now, that free system is under attack by some policymakers who want to roll back longstanding restrictions on tolling interstates. Doing that, as Massachusetts Transportation Department chief Richard A. Davey suggested in a July 25 Roll Call guest opinion column, would enable states to slap economically punitive fees on roads that traditionally have been toll-free. Such a policy reversal would be financially devastating for families and businesses, and the mere notion of it should alarm everyone who uses the interstates.  Roll Call 

Privatization delivers poor services for many, enriches a few – opinion
. . . For the record, the assault on postal services is about extreme ideology and privatization greed. The Postal Service had $67 billion in revenue last year, and arguments that it is obsolete are absurd. It uses no tax dollars, and two audits by private accounting firms show that its retirement accounts are overfunded by at least $60 billion, all from postage revenue and not taxes. Yet “pay-go” rules pushed by deficit hawks in Congress, who have been proved wrong on the economy, require budget cuts in other areas to return these funds to the Postal Service.  Rochester Business Journal

NC: Gov. Pat McCrory signs charter school bill
Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday that he has signed a charter school bill that drew partisan debate over disclosure of administrators’ salaries and whether gay students were adequately protected. Charlotte Observer

GA: Stadium opponents want referendum on tax spending
Opponents of public money going toward new stadiums for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons want lawmakers to require referendums for future public-private partnerships, even as those projects are underway. The Braves have begun construction of a new stadium in nearby Cobb County to replace downtown Turner Field, and the Falcons are building in downtown Atlanta next to the existing Georgia Dome. Public bonds have been approved for both — $200 million toward the Falcons $1 billion stadium and $300 million toward the Braves $672 million stadium.  SFGate

VA: Virginia requesting public input on public-private partnerships
The Virginia Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships is asking for feedback on how to increase transparency, competition and public involvement for projects that are developed under the P3 model. Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said the request for comments is intended to improve the P3 process. She said the method should be “a tool to deliver projects that leverage private sector equity, minimize risk for taxpayers, and maximize benefits for the traveling public.”  Land Line Magazine

OR: Public focus groups can help counter the privatization of direct democracy: Tim Nesbitt
. . .One of the problems with the initiative process is that its power to set agendas has become increasingly expensive and accessible only to those with sizable bankrolls, which is to say that it has become like the rest of our political system. This problem is then compounded by the privatization of public discourse. The results of the many focus groups and phone surveys that are invariably conducted on any new crop of ballot measures are almost always proprietary. How voters make up their minds and what they find persuasive remain the property of campaign consultants and their clients. Most of the pro and con statements that you will read in the Voters’ Pamphlet will be framed and pruned to match a rigid menu of talking points developed by campaign teams. The Oregonian

August 6, 2014


MI: Orr seeks bids to privatize parking dept. despite council’s objection
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is proceeding with plans to seek bids to privatize the city’s valuable parking department even though the City Council last week rejected the move. Orr sent a letter on Monday to union officials whose members work in the parking department informing them he would be issuing a request for proposals to gauge the interest of potential bidders to buy or manage the department, which includes parking meters, several parking garages and a towing operation for abandoned vehicles. The council voted, 6-2, last week to reject Orr’s request.  Detroit Free Press

OR: Portland mayor proposes tolls for city highways
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is proposing to add tolls to city highways to help pay for maintenance, as the federal government is backing away from its long-term commitment to pay for the national highway system.

WI: State Debate: Outsourcing plan a soundbite complains the Appleton Post-Crescent
The Appleton Post-Crescent complains that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s plan to monitor outsourcing by state companies it helps with Wisconsin taxpayer money is more of a soundbite than a plan. Outsourcing isn’t a simple topic like Scott Walker and Mary Burke seem to be suggesting. It needs a closer look and a plan of action, not a campaign ad, the P-C editorializes.  Capitol Times

GA: Augusta set to bring outsourced human resources services back in house
Four years after city leaders pushed to outsource the government’s health and welfare benefits administration to global outsourcing firm Automatic Data Processing, the service might be headed back in-house. According to Human Resources Director Tanika Bryant, despite ADP’s contract to handle most benefits-related calls from current and retired employees, the two city benefits representatives are still swamped with calls. It would be cheaper to replace the benefits administration portion of ADP’s contract with three additional city staffers, she said.  The Augusta Chronicle

August 5, 2014


The Public School Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Their means may not be military, but across this great land, insurgent extremists are at work attacking public institutions and undermining the citizenry’s confidence in the same. Our public schools are on the front lines. In certain regions, the school casualties mount. Witness the “murder” of public schools in Philadelphia, the cyber attacks by virtual ed. corporations on brick-and-mortar schooling in Tennessee, the “policy of neighborhood school closing in Chicago”, and the battles being fought in Milwaukee, “ground zero for school privatization.”  Huffington Post

Campbell Brown Won’t Say Who Is Funding Her School Privatizing Group. With Michelle Rhee’s effort to bust the teachers unions falling flat from incompetence and corruption, the privatizing crowd wanted a new face for the brand and found one with former news anchor Campbell Brown. Brown, who is married to former Bush apparatchik Dan Senor, is ready for her debut as the new face of “ed reform.” But can a new facade fool the people? Campbell Brown recently went on the Colbert Report to promote the group she heads, the Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ). During the interview it became clear that Brown was not interested in revealing who was funding the group. First she tried to claim it was the law firm handling the case, Kirkland Ellis, but eventually admitted she would not be disclosing the donors.  Firedoglake

Detroit’s water crisis is a wake-up call to all Americans – commentary. . . Detroit’s bankruptcy and subsequent state-run emergency management system are not excuses to suspend human rights. In the age of growing privatization of public services in the U.S., it is more important than ever for Americans to assert that their fundamental rights are not for sale. International human rights laws have explicit standards regarding access to water. They also protect access to health care, education, housing and safe working conditions. These rights are not based on our wealth, race, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status or city of residence. They belong to all people. . . .The water crisis in Detroit is a wake-up call. The list of shockingly basic resources that Americans are forced to fight for continues to grow. We must all take stock and demand a halt to the erasure of our basic human rights. Al Jazeera America

CA: Public officials object to 405 toll lanes. With the steady hum of morning traffic behind them, officials from cities along Orange County’s 405 freeway gathered in Costa Mesa on Thursday to decry a state proposal to add toll lanes to the busy thoroughfare. . . . Caltrans’ decision comes amid universal opposition to the idea from the Orange County Transportation Authority board and affected cities along 405. OCTA’s board in December had approved a toll-free option. Mansoor, a former Costa Mesa mayor now running for county supervisor, called Caltrans’ decision “a money grab.”  San Jose Mercury News

CA: Commentary: The taxpayers didn’t vote for a toll road. It’s simply highway robbery. Caltrans is trying to hijack traffic lanes that would have already been paid for by our local tax dollars on the San Diego Freeway and turn them into toll lanes.  For several years now, Orange County cities along the 405 Freeway have given Caltrans the same, unwavering message: We would like to see the freeway from Seal Beach to Costa Mesa expanded but don’t install the toll lanes.  Daily Pilot

August 4, 2014


Big Players Promote Water Privatization
. . . Water is necessary to the lives of all beings on this planet. The water privatization industry knows this and wants to take advantage of our dependence on water and on the economic weakness of our country’s finances. A must-read source in the finance sector is The Bond Buyer. . . . .Those who are interested in how infrastructure privatization is financed would find Bond Buyer reporter Jim Watts’ May 28 story, “Groups Want Congress to Overturn Ban on Use of Bonds with WIFIA Program,” particularly riveting. Watts reports that even before President Obama signed the new water law, water groups and state and local officials were lobbying to amend it and, in particular, to make big changes in its subsection – WIFIA. Watts describes lobbyists’ feeding frenzy over the money-making opportunities that could be theirs, if only amendments could tweak WIFIA in their favor. Truth-Out

Food safety advocates decry ‘tremendous blow’ to inspection system
In a statement announcing the overhaul, the USDA says the new system will “prevent thousands of illnesses each year.” But under the new rules, some of the inspections that had been done by USDA inspectors will now be done by the companies themselves, a situation critics have called “the fox guarding the hen house.”  The Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) is among those who have sounded alarm about the plan.  Common Dreams

Toll roads, P3s and creative financing will bring short-term gain, long-term disaster for the road building industry
. . . Infrastructure must remain in the public’s hands and its financing done through fuel taxes and only fuel taxes. And those fuel taxes must only go to transportation infrastructure, not education or politicians’ pet projects. To privatize road building or continue to ring our cities with toll roads means that the banks, politicians, lobbyists and international conglomerates will get richer. The rest of us will pay vastly more for our roads than had we simply raised the gas tax and followed the pay-as-you-go model that has worked perfectly for the last half century. If you think the highway construction industry can afford to take a 73 percent hit, as did the homebuilders from 2006 to 2009, by all means, support toll roads and creative financing schemes. Wall Street and the politicians are always looking for a few more suckers to fleece. Equipment World Magazine

The Fourth Branch
. . . During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach. . . . Increasingly, post-9/11, under the rubric of “privatization,” though it should more accurately have been called “corporatization,” the Pentagon took a series of crony companies off to war with it.  In the process, it gave “capitalist war” a more literal meaning, thanks to its wholesale financial support of, and the shrugging off of previously military tasks onto, a series of warrior corporations.  Huffington Post

NY: NYC not getting much revenue from renting ‘landlord suites’ at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field 
In 2009, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to raise some cash by having the Yankees and Mets lease out the 12-person ‘landlord suites’ owned by the public. The teams would turn over rent and ticket revenue to the city. He predicted the city would make $1 million a year, but it’s only getting a fraction of that amount.  New York Daily News

MI: Officials mull decision on problem-plagued Aramark prison food contract
Michigan’s beleaguered prison food contractor should find out in the next two weeks whether it will be subject to more penalties or even dismissal after its first eight months were marred by food shortages, kitchen maggots and high turnover as employees were caught smuggling contraband and engaging in sex acts with inmates. Many Democrats and a few Republican lawmakers are urging Gov. Rick Snyder to terminate Aramark Correctional Service’s contract and return state employees to the kitchens, saying safety and security must take precedence over estimated contract savings of about $16 million a year. Detroit Free Press

IL: Fewer students taking, passing new GED test
. . . A new electronic version of the GED exam came online Jan. 1. It is more expensive and, now that the exam is aligned with state Common Core standards, it is, by most accounts, more difficult. Many test providers, especially those in the smaller collar counties, say fewer students are taking the exam and a smaller percentage passing. . . [Regional Superintendent] Leslie Schermerhorn blames the privatization of the exam through Minnesota-based Pearson VUE for many of the woes. The cost of the exam has more than doubled, from $50 to $120. “Somebody is profiting significantly, and it’s not our students and our state,” Schermerhorn said. “The cost increase is a big deal. The people taking this test are not the wealthier people in our county.”  Chicago Daily Herald

August 1, 2014


USDA Releases Final Rule to Privatize Poultry Inspection
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final rule on a new inspection system for poultry products. The system will transfer a majority of poultry inspections from government inspectors to self-policing by the companies themselves. . . .Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter counters that “the one USDA inspector left on the slaughter line under this new rule will still have to inspect 2.33 birds every second–an impossible task that leaves consumers at risk.”  The new regulations were first proposed in January 2012 but delayed after receiving strong opposition from animal welfare groups, consumer organizations and worker safety advocates. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office released a scathing analysis, questioning whether USDA had sufficient data to make such radical changes.  EcoWatch

MI: The Republican Occupation of Detroit
. . . Why would any city want to privatize its water system? A report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) shows that water privatization fairly universally leads to higher prices for cities and consumers and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies. In fact, the track record for water privatization is so abysmal that CAI found more than 20 American cities that had once privatized their water have taken back control of their systems since 2002. If water privatization is bad for the city of Detroit and its residents, who is it good for? Corporations. Which is where the state’s interest comes in. Gov. Snyder has used his emergency management laws, versions one and two, to impose his conservative agenda across the state, including privatization. Daily Beast

OH: FBI raided local charter school
FBI agents raided a Bond Hill charter school in June as part of an ongoing federal investigation into whether Horizon Science Academy Cincinnati, its sister schools in Ohio and two other states, and its management company outside Chicago had improper relationships with several technology vendors.

OH: Public Money, Private Problems
As quasi-private schools funded with public money across Ohio face scrutiny, some say they need to be held to a higher standard. Supporters of charter or community schools say they do a better job at a lower cost than public schools. But critics say the schools are inconsistent, that state oversight of charters is too weak and that the privately run schools are turning a profit on state money that could be used to shore up traditional public schools. Cincinnati CityBeat

PA: Jail deal could prevent privatization
After more than a year and a half of working without a new contract, corrections officers at the Mercer County Jail are very close to a new labor agreement. As part of the negotiations, commissioners will not pursue efforts to bring in a private company to run the jail during the lifetime of the agreement.

NC: Judge: NC can distribute public money for private schools before ruling on legality of program
A North Carolina judge won’t block a state agency from distributing taxpayer money to cover private school tuition in advance of a hearing to determine whether the program championed by Republican lawmakers is legal. Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said Wednesday he won’t issue an injunction blocking the State Educational Assistance Authority from paying out $10 million in government-funded scholarships to students who won a lottery for tuition assistance to attend private or religious schools. Daily Journal

CT: Redflex Busted For Impersonating The State Court
School busThe state of Connecticut’s judicial system in January issued a cease-and-desist order to Redflex Traffic Systems after the Australian photo ticketing vendor was caught giving the impression that its tickets and payment website came from the court. Connecticut does not allow red light cameras or speed cameras, but Redflex uses school buses as photo ticketing platforms in accordance with a law passed in 2011. One of the vehicle owners who received a $450 school bus ticket from Redflex under this law became suspicious and sent a copy of the notice he received to Connecticut’s chief court administrator, who was appalled at what he