January 29, 2015


Tailing Europe, US Is on the Road to New Investment Bond. . . The administration’s idea is to combine some of the most attractive features of public-private partnerships with those of wholly public projects. Local governments would get a private equity partner willing to share the risk of a project, while the private sector would get access to low-interest loans. The program would require congressional approval, and some observers think it may have a good chance among lawmakers looking for new ways to finance transportation and infrastructure projects because receipts from the federal excise tax on motor fuel have been inadequate. The costs are unclear since the administration has withheld details in its initial release of the plan. The idea has support in the transportation industry, but whether the financial world comes on board is an open question. Roll Call

Obama abandons plan to put telephone metadata in private hands. President Barack Obama’s administration has quietly abandoned a proposal it had been considering to put raw U.S. telephone call data collected by the National Security Agency under non-governmental control, several U.S. security officials said. . . Under the proposal floated by a Presidential review panel, telephone call “metadata” generated inside the United States, which NSA began collecting in bulk after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, could instead be collected and retained by an unspecified private third party. The Obama administration has decided, however, that the option of having a private third party collect and retain the telephone metadata is unworkable for both legal and practical reasons. “I think that’s accurate for right now,” a senior U.S. security official said. Reuters

Commentary: A tale of two turnpikes. . . And let me tell you, the Indiana Toll Road sucks, although anecdotal evidence would indicate that you are less likely to get a ticket In Indiana than in Ohio. The Ohio Turnpike has clean bathrooms and clean restaurants. The gift shops have things you might actually buy as gifts! Meanwhile, the rest stops on the Indiana Toll Road are just sad. . . . They have to gouge, as they are losing money. The Indiana Toll Road filed for bankruptcy in September 2014. The concession is owned by Ferrovial, a Spanish company, and Macquarie Group, an Australian investment bank. . . .The Ohio Turnpike, meanwhile, is still controlled by the state. In 2013, the Ohio Turnpike took in $2.3 million from its State Fuel Tax Allocation and posted an increase in net position (profit) of $49.6 million. The taxpayers are making a profit, and the customers who ride the road are happy with the services provided. R Street

GA: ‘P3’ bill back before Georgia Senate. Legislation introduced in the Georgia Senate Tuesday would expand the ability of state agencies and local governments to work with the private sector to finance and construct public buildings and infrastructure. The state currently is using public-private partnerships to finance and build toll lanes along metro Atlanta interstate highways and non-instructional buildings on university campuses, including dorms.   Atlanta Business Chronicle (blog)

CA: Proposal may allow developers to get around creating public plazas in SF. . . Since 1985, developers have been required to build and maintain POPOS to ensure big downtown buildings don’t crowd out people on the streets and sidewalks. Many are filled with art or activities. But with a development boom underway, a new proposal before the City’s Planning Commission would allow developers to pay into a fund in lieu of building new public spaces. KTVU San Francisco

MI: ACLU: Group Improperly Barred Protesters From Detroit Park . . . The lawsuit contends that a security guard asked four members of the anti-foreclosure group Moratorium NOW! to leave Campus Martius as they began petitioning last February against cuts to city pensions in Detroit’s bankruptcy plan. The guard told the group that the public park was in fact private and that they risked arrest, according to the lawsuit. . . . “As privatization becomes more widespread (there is concern) that people will somehow lose their rights,” said Michael Steinberg, ACLU legal director. “Campus Martius is a public park owned by the city of Detroit for the people of the city of Detroit, and they should be able to express their views on matters of public importance just like at any other public park.” CBS Local

NY: Officials: Cuomo still wants privatize NYRA. Although the New York Racing Assocation’s return to private hands might take longer than expected, a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the changeover was only introduced as a backstop, officials for the governor said. Oneida Dispatch

PA: Charter school takeovers: As York schools near privatization, lessons from New Orleans and Michigan. . . The plan to privatize the district has spurred an outcry from parents, teachers, students, and local officials, who fear that a company will shortchange education in exchange for profit. Pennsylvania’s newly elected governor, Tom Wolf, has openly blasted the plan, which was initiated under his predecessor Tom Corbett. While it remains unclear what power Wolf may exercise to stop the proposal, and an appeal have been launched to stop the state from implementing it, the situation is being closely watched by scores of academics, teachers, and school officials across the country. Should it go ahead, York City School District will not only become the first district in Pennsylvania to convert all of its schools to charter schools, it will, according to education researchers interviewed by PennLive, become only the fourth in the nation to attempt something of its kind.   PennLive

NJ: Commentary: Key Elements Conveniently Left Out of the Story About Water Privatization Bill. . . The bill was introduced at the behest of private water companies to help them achieve their business goals which are to grow their service areas and increase control of water supply by acquiring water and wastewater systems. In places such as Haddonfield, sales of systems have been approved, but private water companies want to speed up the process. newjerseynewsroom.com