December 4, 2014


When Corporations Sue Governments. . . . The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, refuses to accept that European courts “be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes.” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister, has warned of states seeing “policy objectives circumvented by the threat of damages.” Last month, the French trade minister, Matthias Fekl, too, came out strongly against investor-state settlement provisions: “We must preserve states’ rights” to “set and apply their own standards,” he told the French Senate. British politicians have made similar statements amid fears that such cases could solidify the increasing privatization of Britain’s national health service.   New York Times

Poverty, Incarceration and Criminal Justice Debt. . . . In many jurisdictions around the country, failure to pay criminal debt extends an otherwise law-abiding individual’s entanglement in the justice system. Many states extend the term of supervision for failure to pay, despite the reality that supervision costs money. Another enforcement mechanism – the issuance of warrants for nonpayment of fees – pulls individuals before the court and may result in incarceration. Therefore, an individual can pay a penalty for an offense, and then be incarcerated for failing to pay off the debt incurred as a result of that offense. Ironically, these tactics are costly to the state. Probation officers, judges and court personnel must spend time serving as debt collectors. The privatization of debt collection is increasingly common, but the success of these companies is difficult to assess.

Teach for America at 25 and the Movement to Privatize Schools. . . TFA has become an increasingly powerful and visible cog in the education reform movement machine, which promotes the privatization of public education through the building and staffing of alternatives like charter schools, replacing public school teachers, and finding leadership positions for TFA alums, where they can push for privatization. The Nonprofit Quarterly

CA: Over North County objections, TAMC inks toll road adviser. Regional transportation officials authorized hiring a financial adviser on Wednesday to review draft public-private partnership documents for a Highway 156 toll road. But the decision came over the objections of longtime Supervisor Lou Calcagno, who was attending his last Transportation Agency for Monterey County meeting before leaving the Board of Supervisors next month. Calcagno said the commission should address his North Monterey County constituents’ concerns before moving any further on the toll road proposal. Monterey County Herald

AZ: Bill could privatize forest land for mine near Superior. A controversial bill to privatize national forest land in Arizona has been tucked into the national defense spending bill, to the dismay of those fighting a mining company’s efforts to buy the land. If approved, the legislation would open the door for a massive copper mine 100 miles north of Tucson. The company, Resolution Copper Mining, has been trying to acquire the land for nine years through a legislative land swap. Arizona Daily Star

GA: Deeply in Debt, Georgia Universities Look to Privatize Dorms and Parking Decks. Georgia voters may have overlooked—or simply clicked “yes” on—a tax referendum that will change the way many university dorms and parking decks are managed in 2015. Statewide, two-thirds of voters who went to the polls agreed with the referendum that said, “Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?” Athens-Clarke was the only one of Georgia’s 159 counties where the referendum didn’t win a majority. At that, only 500 more ACC voters said “no thanks” rather than “yes, please.” Flagpole Magazine

TX: Trinity toll road debate draws hundreds of opponents but few supporters. If the planned Trinity toll road remains popular among Dallas residents, its supporters didn’t show up Wednesday at a panel-style debate on the divisive $1.5 billion project. Dallas Morning News

MI: Detroit facing big bill from bankruptcy consultant. Mayor Mike Duggan confirmed Wednesday the city faces an outstanding bill of more than $20 million from investment banking firm Miller Buckfire & Co. for its work in Detroit’s bankruptcy. Miller Buckfire’s contract calls for the firm to be paid a flat $28 million fee for its services in negotiating deals tied to city water and sewer debt and securing Detroit loans to support operations during its Chapter 9 bankruptcy and pay off some creditors. . . . A renegotiated contract signed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in June calls for the firm to get a flat $28 million fee and eliminated a possible bonus for securing a deal to privatize water department operations, which never materialized. The Detroit News

MD: Veolia is rejected by city panel as consultant for water efficiency study. Two days after 100 people stood up at a City Council hearing to denounce a possible city contract with French water giant Veolia, an administrative panel today approved the bid by its sole rival. PA Consulting was selected by the city’s Architectural and Engineering Awards Commission to negotiate the terms of a $500,000 efficiency study of Baltimore’s water and wastewater treatment plants prior to final ratification. Baltimore Brew