September 30, 2014

Review: Why Privatization Fails
In the early 1980s, New York City’s and London’s subway systems were both on the brink of collapse. . . . To bring them back from the brink, the powers that be in both cities realized massive investment was needed. But where was the money to come from? They rejected the idea that national, state, or local taxes should provide it. Borrowing was one alternative. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the mid-1980s began issuing bonds worth billions of dollars; funds from the fare box were committed to repay them. Thirty years later, the MTA projects 41 percent of fares next year will go to debt service. That’s money that is not available to expand service or settle fair contracts. London went a different route, choosing in the 1990s to privatize parts of the London Underground in what was known as the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). . . .The PPP was supposed to continue for 30 years; it lasted just seven. A new book by Janine Booth, Plundering London Underground, tells its story in great detail. It is a story that anyone concerned about attacks on the public sector, or efforts to privatize public services, should know. Labor Notes (blog)

LA: Teachers union sues Louisiana to de-fund some charter schools
The Louisiana Association of Educators has sued the state of Louisiana to block it from using its main school budget to fund certain types of charter schools, saying such funding is unconstitutional. A decision in the association’s favor could pull $60 million from about 25 schools, including Belle Chasse Academy, the International School of New Orleans and Jefferson Chamber Foundation–East, requiring the state to find another way to fund them. The move was spurred by last year’s Louisiana Supreme Court decision on voucher schools and by anger among local school board members over state-approved charters in their parishes. The Times-Picayune

LA: A Jindalcare unhealthy privatization horror story
On Tuesday, September 23, our school-aged son was given a commonly prescribed medication by his physician. My wife attempted to get the pharmacy to fill it. We were shocked and horrified to find that it was rejected by our health insurance: Office of Group Benefits HMO Plan through BlueCross, a health insurance plan for Louisiana public employees. . . . You will recall that OGB was privatized under Gov. Bobby Jindal, and nearly all of the $500,000,000 trust fund has been stolen. Soon, all money dedicated to funding state workers’ insurance will be gone. The money was pilfered by Jindal in an effort to fill holes in his economically disastrous state budget. But this will mean 230,000 Louisiana citizens are about to lose all semblances of health coverage on January 1. Bayou buzz

KS: Kansas Democrats call for ethics probe of KanCare contracts
Democrats in the Kansas Legislature called Monday for establishing a special committee to investigate allegations of “pay-to-play” schemes involving contracts awarded by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to manage the state’s privatized Medicaid system known as KanCare. . . . Both Ward and Kelly serve on the Legislature’s KanCare Oversight Committee, which is charged with monitoring the performance of the privatization program. The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported in April that the FBI was investigating whether laws were broken when the KanCare contracts were awarded to companies that had hired former Brownback aides as their lobbyists. Lawrence Journal World

MI: Schuette to investigate Aramark employee suspected in murder plot against Michigan inmate
. . . . An Aramark worker at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula is accused of approaching an inmate to have another killed. . . . The allegations are the latest in a string of troubles for Aramark, a private food service vendor that won a three-year, $145 million contract with the state late last year. Company workers have also been accused of smuggling drugs into prisons and having sex with inmates. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder announced a $200,000 fine against Aramark earlier this year, but critics have called on him to terminate the contract and end all privatization inside prisons.

MI: Detroit bankruptcy judge says he can’t stop water shutoffs
Detroit’s bankruptcy judge says he can’t prevent homes from having their water shut off, if they can’t pay their bills. Critics call the shutoffs a public-health crisis that disproportionately affects children, the poor, and the elderly.. . . . Rhodes’ decision comes days after the Detroit city council voted unanimously to remove Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, an option under state law after an emergency manager has served 18 months. . . Leadership will be returned to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) and the city council. Orr will stay in an advisory capacity, as the city completes its bankruptcy proceedings.  Christian Science Monitor

IL: Could Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel lose his re-election race?
. . .A Chicago Tribune poll released in August, for example, shows that 35 percent of likely voters approve of the job he has been doing, down from 50 percent about a year ago. The results are similar regardless of voters’ race, income, age or gender. . . The polling results reflect a growing tension over leadership in Chicago. . . .Critics say Emanuel, who once earned more than $18 million over a two-year period as a Wall Street investment banker, professes concern for struggling households, but has done little on their behalf. They say his many unpopular measures — a rollout of traffic cameras, privatizing public transit and expanding charter schools amid mass teacher and custodian layoffs — contradict the mayor’s narrative that he is fighting for all of Chicago. “The Emanuel tenure has been a huge wake-up call for a lot of people,” says Tim Meegan, a high school social-studies teacher who is running for city-council alderman in the city’s 33rd Ward, an ethnically diverse area on the city’s northwest side. “He’s not a working-class guy from the streets of Chicago, and he’s refused to compromise except to the 1 percent. He’s so insulated that he doesn’t really understand the city he has been charged with governing.” Al Jazeera America