November 12, 2014


UT: Utahns divided on privatizing alcohol sales, poll shows . . . Privatizing alcohol sales has come up from time to time over the years but hasn’t gained much traction. Although some state lawmakers have talked about going in that direction, a House committee two years ago rejected a proposal to study the issue. Deseret News

OH: Will Indiana Toll Road debacle drive up costs for Ohio bridge? The cost of a new Interstate 71/75 Brent Spence Bridge could increase if it’s privately financed – fallout from the bankruptcy of a major Indiana tollway this fall. Wall Street investors, economists and transportation experts told The Enquirer that private investors most likely will be more cautious about structuring a public-private partnership to pay for the $2.6 billion bridge replacement and highway overhaul. The double-decker bridge spans the Ohio River between Covington, Ky. and Cincinnati. “When something like this happens, all of a sudden, the cost of doing (a similar project) just went up,” Miami University economist Jim Brock said. “To get people to invest, you have a pay a higher interest rate. How much? Who knows?” Indianapolis Star

MI: Detroit Looks to Re-Engineer How City Government Works. As the city prepares to exit bankruptcy court, it will have to learn a new approach to providing basic services while staying within its means. Detroit plans to spend $1.7 billion over the next decade to improve services, earmarking about $400 million to tear down abandoned houses, $100 million toward a more reliable bus system, $260 million to make its streets safer and more than $150 million to upgrade outdated technology. Wall Street Journal

IN: Indiana high court suggests mediation in IBM case. In 2009, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled IBM’s $1.3 billion state contract to automate much of Indiana’s welfare system, following complaints from welfare clients about long wait times, lost documents and improper rejections. Indiana and IBM countersued each other after the contract was terminated less than three years into the 10-year deal. John R. Malley, a private attorney helping represent Indiana in the case, said Friday that the state would pursue the court’s suggested course of mediation. The Courier-Journal


November 10, 2014


The Risks of Privatizing Social Security. . . Privatization does not reform Social Security. Privatization changes the role that Social Security plays in our lives. Privatization would transform Social Security from conceptually old-age insurance to a system of forced savings. These are very different things.

KS: After privatizing, some Kansas child support performance measures fall. . . Last year a wave of privatization swept across the state’s child support system. Kansas’ child support services, previously a function of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, were handed over to a handful of companies in contracts worth millions. More than a hundred state employee positions were eliminated as officials promised more aggressive collection and greater efficiency. But data obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal through an open records request shows Kansas now does a worse job collecting current child support than before privatization — and the percentage of current support collected stands at a 14-year low. Topeka Capital Journal

NJ: Privatization of public water, sewer systems could be fast-tracked under NJ bill. Trenton voters were given the opportunity to sell the city’s water system to a private company in 2010. The $80 million sale was defeated in a 4-to-1 landslide. At Tuesday’s polls, hundreds of voters in tiny Sussex Borough overwhelmingly rejected a similar sale of their public system to private hands, while Haddonfield in Camden County solidly approved selling its deteriorating system to New Jersey American Water. But such direct public mandate on water and sewer sales may become a thing of the past, as a bill in the Legislatures allowing public entities to fast-track selling water and sewer systems that serve millions advances this fall. The Star-Ledger

PA: The drama over Philadelphia Gas Works. Last month, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to privatize Philadelphia Gas Works came to a grinding halt. Listen as Radio Times breaks down the controversial plan. WHYY

PA: Business leaders see PGW sale as key to opening Philly as energy hub. Business leaders are calling on the Philadelphia City Council to reconsider spiking a deal to sell its city-owned utility, PGW. Meanwhile, some environmental groups are celebrating it as a small victory in their fight against plans for an energy-centric future for Philadelphia. . . . Business leaders pushing to turn the city into a regional energy hub see privatizing PGW as the best way to develop the utility’s other assets – including two major liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage units on the Delaware River.

PA: Postal Union Protests Perceived Privatization Push Outside Chestnut Hill Staples. Despite a persistent, chilly rain, more than 20 members and allies of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) marched outside the Germantown Avenue Staples on Thursday afternoon to protest plans to expand a recent retail agreement with the U.S. Postal Service.As part of the agreement, Staples employees will eventually staff USPS service windows at more than 1,500 supply-chain locations nationwide. NBC 10 Philadelphia

NC: North Carolina Tells Charter-School Chain It Can’t Keep Administrator Salaries Secret. The schools’ management company, which receives millions in public funds each year from the schools, says that the salaries paid to school administrators should be considered a trade secret. ProPublica

November 7, 2014


Motorists had their say at the ballot box in a number of states Tuesday. . . .In addition to outlawing automated ticketing machines in four jurisdictions, voters responded to a number of state and local initiatives and proposed state constitutional amendments of interest to the driving public. Tolling and tax hikes were rejected, while measures that ensured taxes on motorists were actually used on road projects proved popular. Toll roads were on the ballot in Costa Mesa, California as voters were asked whether they approved of plans to convert freeway lanes on Interstate 405 into toll lanes. The majority — 54 percent — said “no” to the toll lanes in this non-binding advisory measure. In Louisiana, 68 percent of voters said “no” to a constitutional amendment that would have created an infrastructure bank to build toll roads.

NJ: Privatization of public water, sewer systems could be fast-tracked under NJ bill. . . But such direct public mandate on water and sewer sales may become a thing of the past, as a bill in the Legislatures allowing public entities to fast-track selling water and sewer systems that serve millions advances this fall. The sponsors of the “Water Infrastructure Protection Act” say it’s a way to get desperately-needed investment into water systems that have been neglected to the breaking point by government owners. The bill’s opponents warn that it’s an attempt to turn private profits of public infrastructure at the expense of taxpayers – who themselves will end up paying for the purchase prices with each flush of the toilet.  The Star-Ledger

CA: Privatizing the Muni Links? When Santa Barbara’s Municipal Golf Course opened 58 years ago, area historians would later conclude that the event signified the emergence of a middle class big enough to sustain a sport that had hitherto been the exclusive domain of the leisure class. Santa Barbara Independent

IN: Nearly half of Indiana’s charter schools doing poorly or failing.Indiana charter schools are supposed to provide an alternative to failing public schools, but 13 Investigates has found they’re not always living up to the grade. In fact, nearly half of the state’s 76 charter schools are doing poorly or failing. The state’s new accountability ratings show you what’s really going on across Indiana and here in Marion County. WTHR





November 6, 2014


How Sallie Mae and the Privatization of Student Loans is Eroding America. Originally known as the Student Loan Financing Association – which started four decades ago as a government-sponsored enterprise to support the guaranteed student loan program under the 1965 Higher Education Act – Sallie Mae has today been privatized into a for-profit corporation as a result of bipartisan deregulation of the big banks. Since its privatization, Sallie Mae has earned a stunning record of mistreating its patrons, including cheating military service-members on their student loans. Without admitting or denying guilt, the Justice Department ordered Sallie Mae to pay $97 million in fines, restitution, refunds and penalties in a settlement agreement still awaiting court approval. Nation of Change

CA: “Blood in the Water”: The Privatization of California’s Water Spells Disaster. . . Bechtel is one of the few companies that have the capacity to construct the enormous water tunnel (DTP). When Bechtel’s spokeswoman Michelle Michael was asked about the possibility of Bechtel building the Delta Tunnel Project she explained, “We’ll keep an eye out”. Chevron Oil is holding onto the largest oil reserves in California but is waiting to frack, perhaps needing to acquire water from the DTP first. Chevron declined to respond to emails questioning their potential desire to use DTP’s water for fracking. . . . If the DTP were built, and western water privatization expanded by the company Cal Water, California could possibly see a water crisis similar to the 1999 energy crisis.  Center for Research on Globalization

CA: UC outsourcing is bad for workers and campuses’ bottom line – opinion. When we hear about exploited workers, we often think of people working in other countries for pennies a day, in sweatshop conditions. Closer to home, we often think of private companies such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart racing to shift as many of their labor costs onto the backs of taxpayers as possible – forcing full-time employees to work three jobs and rely on government assistance just to get by, while blocking an increase to the federal minimum wage in Congress. One place where we would never expect to see such deplorable employer conduct is in the public sector – especially at a world-class institution like the University of California. But it is happening. Over the past several years, many UC facilities have ramped up their use of outside contractors to perform work normally done by career UC employees. Sacramento Bee

PA: Building on Regional Trend, Reading, Pa. Passes Anti-Privatization Measure. Reading residents voted last night to amended the city charter to guard against future attempts to privatize the city’s municipal utilities and infrastructure…. The Reading vote adds to a string of victories in communities throughout Pennsylvania fighting privatization attempts. Food and Water Watch

TX: Anti-toll candidates sweep key races in Texas – commentary. Texas taxpayers have been tormented for more than a decade when it comes to transportation and toll roads, and their torment is finally coming to an end tonight. With the strong win by Greg Abbott, Texans will soon have a new governor who actually campaigned against toll roads. (blog)

TX: Voters supporting more road funds in what could be a landslide. Texans overwhelmingly agreed today to steer billions in existing tax revenues to the state transportation department, which estimated it faced a $5 billion annual shortfall.…The constitutional amendment is expected to give TxDOT an additional $1.7 billion a year. But even Proposition 1 supporters say lawmakers still need to better fund the agency’s needs. Those supporters plan to frame Tuesday’s dramatic victory as a mandate from voters as they lobby legislators for more transportation funds. . . . Proposition 1 dictates that the new funds must be used on highway maintenance and construction and that they can’t be used on projects with tolling components. “These funds will be used for new road construction, road maintenance, safety improvements, and repair of roads in the energy sectors,” said TxDOT spokesman Tony Hartzel. “None of these funds will be used for toll roads.” Dallas Morning News (blog)

NC: 9 Investigates: The real cost of toll lanes. The North Carolina DOT is close to finalizing a financial contract with a Spanish company to build toll roads on Interstate 77 from Mooresville to uptown Charlotte. But not much is known about exactly how much it will cost or how construction will affect traffic, and the public has only seen animations of how it will look when it’s done. To get answers, Channel 9 anchor Scott Wickersham traveled to Dallas, Texas where Cintra is building a similar toll road. Channel 9’s investigation found that Texans are paying a hefty price to drive congestion-free — and one group there says people in Charlotte should be very concerned. WSOC Charlotte

November 5, 2005


When Spaceships Explode. Much of the U.S. space program has become privatized in recent years and now instead of a sometimes bumbling bureaucracy doing dumb things like launching the Challenger shuttle in frigid weather when its O-rings holding in its fuel weren’t flexible, there are corporations seeking to make big bucks. The explosions last week of an Antares rocket Tuesday and the Virgin Galactic SpaceShip2 on Friday were disasters and, considering the death of a SpaceShip2 pilot and serious injury to the other pilot, tragedies. How much a part did greed play? CounterPunch

Researchers predict spreading blackouts as cities grow larger. Electricity blackouts will become more common as surging power demand outpaces public and private utilities’ abilities to provide a continuous and reliable flow of power to customers, a new research paper asserts. . . . It also addresses issues around deregulation and privatization of electricity markets and the growth of intermittent energy sources like wind and solar power and how such resources affect reliability. Environment & Energy Publishing

IL: Critics Call Emanuel’s Pre-K Program ‘Privatizing Head Start’. A proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to expand early childhood educational opportunities was approved by the City Council Finance Committee Monday, even as it was revealed the method for funding the expansion could wind up being a financial windfall for investors and drawing comparisons to the much-maligned parking meter privatization deal. Chicagoist

CA: Tiny LA district is approving charter schools beyond borders. A tiny, rural school district in northern Los Angeles County is under growing scrutiny over its approval of more than 20 new charter schools in the last few years, the majority of them serving students outside of its own district boundaries. LA School Report

November 4, 2014


Number of U.S. Charter Schools Up 7 Percent, Report Shows. The number of charter schools surpassed 6,000 at the start of the 2012-13 school year, as these schools – publicly financed, but privately run – steadily increased by 7 percent throughout the United States that year. U.S. News & World Report

IL: Emanuel’s early childhood plan compared to parking meter deal. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to use a pay-for-performance financing method known as “Social Impact Bonds” to give 2,618 children access to early childhood education cleared a key legislative hurdle Monday despite comparisons to the widely-despised parking meter deal. The Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and their City Council allies condemned the arrangement because it will allow Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust and the Pritzker Family Foundation to more than double their $17 million investment over 18 years. . . . “This is basically privatizing Head Start — giving these banking companies a very high rate of return — higher than even what we saw in the Infrastructure Trust,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), one of a handful of aldermen who voted no. Chicago Sun-Times

WI: Megadonations Follow Randa Ruling in Wisconsin. . . Judge Randa, a member of the Milwaukee Federalist Society’s board of advisors and a regular attendee at Koch- and Bradley-funded judicial junkets, has single-handedly opened Wisconsin elections to out-of-state billionaires like no judge before him. Thanks to a pair of his recent decisions, millions of dollars in disclosed six-and seven-figure checks have flowed into campaign accounts of the gubernatorial and Attorney General candidates in recent weeks, and an unknown amount of secretly-funded expenditures have been coordinated with candidates. . . Michigan billionaires Richard and Helen Devos also gave $200,000, together. The Devos’ are among the top funders of school privatization initiatives nationwide, and their American Federation for Children group spends millions electing pro-privatization candidates. The American Federation for Children is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. PR Watch

KS: Many Disabled Kansans Struggle With KanCare. A new study by the University of Kansas finds many Kansans with disabilities are having difficulty getting services through KanCare, the privatized Medicaid managed care program created by the Brownback Administration. As Kansas Public Radio’s Bryan Thompson reports, the study questions whether the financial savings from privatization are worth the human costs. KMUW

November 3, 2014


Water Markets: A False Solution to a Real Crisis. Despite the evidence privatizing water doesn’t work, water privatization and market-based schemes are still being pushed upon the public as a solution. Food and Water Watch

Mitch McConnell Resorts to Lying to Win, Claims ‘Nobody Wants to Privatize Social Security’. . . When asked about that, McConnell bristled and replied “What utter nonsense.” He described it as a typical page from the Democratic Party playbook that tries to scare the seniors. “Nobody wants to privatize Social Security,” said McConnell. “It’s such a phony allegation that it really makes you almost gag.” Well, to be fair, the only reason this is coming up as an issue is because Mitch McConnell just bragged about it last week. So, “nobody wants to privatize Social Security —” except for the times when McConnell did actually push to privatize Social Security. Just last week, in fact, Senator McConnell was bragging to the Louisville Rotary Club about how hard he worked to privatize Social Security in 2005. PoliticusUSA

NJ: Haddonfield voters weigh water privatization. After Haddonfield officials concluded they should sell the water and sewer utilities to a private company, the highest of three bids came from Voorhees-based New Jersey American Water. But whether the borough consummates the $28.5 million deal depends on a referendum in Tuesday’s election. Not everyone in the borough favors letting a private company take over. Courier-Post

MD: ‘One Baltimore’ Rally Unites Groups Against Privatization. On Monday, October 27, the One Baltimore coalition, which is comprised of a number of grassroots, faith-based, and union organizations, rallied in protest of Veolia North America, a water privatizing corporation’s attempts to secure a consultant contract with the city. They believe that this is the beginning of what will result in the privatization of the city’s water services. Earlier this month, a similar rally was held in front of City Hall, where protesters talked about the potentially detrimental impact that privatization could have on workers, whose jobs could be outsourced, and families, whose water bills could go up. The Real News Network

NY: New York City Comptroller to Audit Success Academy Charter Network. The New York City comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, announced plans on Thursday to audit Success Academy, the large charter school network run by Eva S. Moskowitz, as well as three other charter schools, setting the stage for a possible legal fight with he schools and their advocates. . . Critics of charter schools, including the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, have been critical of Success’s high suspension rate of students, teacher turnover, emphasis on test preparation and free use of space in city schools. New York Times

IL: Take The [Public’s] Money And Run. You didn’t think you were going to get that $7.7 million in ill-gotten red-light camera revenue back, now did you? Oh for those of you who did, you are sweet and adorable in your naivete. Did you recently move here from Ann Arbor, or are you just simple? The powers that be in Chicago don’t give money back, even if it is the forbidden fruit of bribery, public deception, or—worst of all—privatization. No, money in the city coffers remains in the city coffers until it can be used to give a large corporate tax break or be spent on a project meant to embiggen our mayor or one of his loyal lieutenants. Chicagoist

CA: UC Davis fires back in strawberry controversy, sues growers’ group. The UC Davis greenhouse holds 1,500 strawberry plants grown from the 1930s through today. For decades, UC Davis has been the center of the strawberry world, home to a world-renowned plant-breeding program that has spun out countless varieties of berries. The university says 87 percent of all strawberries grown in North America come from varieties developed in Davis’ labs. Now the campus is at the heart of a complicated tug of war between the university, its two star plant breeders and the strawberry industry itself. The conflict is being played out in the courts and in the Legislature and raises questions about the relationship between a public university and private industry. Sacramento Bee

FL: Fred Grimm: If you’re gonna torture Florida inmates, at least hire some decent doctors. Really, Florida, you can’t do both. You can’t allow state prison guards to go about willy-nilly gassing and Tasering and scalding prisoners. Or allow them to ignore sick and injured inmates. Not while, at the same time, contracting with a chintzy and notoriously negligent prison healthcare provider. You’ve just got to choose. Otherwise the combination of torture and cut-rate medical treatment creates an unseemly mess for the Florida Department of Corrections, what with the dead and injured and sick prisoners and the lawsuits and embarrassing newspaper exposés. (blog)

KS: KanCare is failing the disabled – letter to editor. The upcoming election is critical for families like ours that include a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We fear that if Gov. Sam Brownback is re-elected, his Medicaid managed-care experiment called KanCare will further imperil the lives of our loved ones. In 2013, Kansas became the first state to implement this untested privatization of I/DD Medicaid services. Families were assured that quality of care would remain unchanged, that savings would be realized through better service coordination and improved health, and this savings would be used to move folks off the I/DD wait list for services. The reality is dramatically different. Families have reported their struggles with KanCare at .Their experiences include abrupt denial of seizure medication, denial of oral medication for a person unable to swallow pills, and denial of tires for a wheelchair in desperate need of repair.