May 8, 2015


Privatizing Clean Energy Development Is Putting Lipstick on a Pig. . . Privatizing clean energy development and replacing oil barrens with clean energy barrens repeats the mistakes of the past and concentrates wealth and resources into the hands of just a few. Increased concentration of wealth is poisoning our economy and our communities and a sustainable future cannot be built on this model. If Governor Cuomo has his way, New York State will be the prime example of what not to do. Huffington Post

Social Security Privatization: Then and Now. About this time 10 years ago, it was becoming clear that President George Bush’s plan to forever change Social Security by turning the program over to Wall Street was on the ropes. . . It was an incredibly risky and unpopular idea that rapidly flat-lined thanks to the overwhelming rejection by the public. Yet, here we are a decade later and conservatives campaigning for Congress and the White House are resuscitating the Bush strategy by offering up approaches to Social Security which are stark reminders that the GOP playbook really hasn’t changed that much. Huffington Post

Jails Are a Cash Cow for the Rich – Thom Hartmann. . . A 15-minute phone call that used to cost just a few bucks soon started costing as much as $17 . . .Of course, while prisoners struggled to find a way to talk to their loved ones without breaking the bank, the phone companies got – and have stayed – very, very rich. The prison phone service industry now rakes in around $1.2 billion every year. And it’s not just the phone companies that are getting rich off prisoners’ phone calls. Thanks to so-called “commissions” that can account for as much as 94 percent of the cost of a call, prison phone contracts have become a major source of revenue for state and local governments all across the country. These glorified kickbacks have also become a source of revenue for prisons themselves, and they use them to pay for the health care and food services they’re already constitutionally required to provide. Truth-Out

CT: Unprecedented Charter School Lobbying Effort Prompts Some To Ask: Where Is The Money Coming From? When the state legislature’s appropriations committee voted recently to eliminate a proposal by Gov. Dannel Malloy to fund two new charter schools, advocacy organizations that lobby at the state Capitol were ready. They had a television ad all set to air within 24 hours, aimed at getting that money back in the budget. . . . Why is so much money being spent? Experts say that investors in the charter movement include some donors who are deeply interested in educational reform and excited by the experimental, entrepreneurial approach taken by charter schools. Other backers, including some hedge fund operators, may see the chance for financial gain: there is money to be made from real estate and construction deals, in curriculum materials, and educational technology. Hartford Courant

LA: The ‘Privatization’ Agenda, New Orleans Edition. . . Don’t let the term “nonprofit” fool you. A nonprofit charter management org (CMO) can take public money, including federal grants, and draw money from private entities—including hedge funders, who are known for seeking profitable opportunities, and philanthropists who prefer charters. Since the CMO is not operated by the state, it can escape the same state oversight that traditional school districts undergo. . . . In Louisiana, I could open up a charter school and run it for three years before the state might possibly step in and close me down. All I need is to have a D letter grade at the end of three years. And the state still reserves the right to allow me to stay in business even if I don’t meet that. So, for three years, I can take state money, pay myself a huge salary, ignore the needs of kids, get an F school grade, be shut down, and shrug it off. No state money to pay back. I can even reinvent myself and try again in Louisiana or apply in another state and try my game all over again.  Education Week

NC: State parks proposal highlights the ongoing march to vending machine government. . . .Today, the folks at a local conservative think tank were only too happy to confirm the warning by distributing an essay in which they called for making North Carolina parks “pay their own way” via the initiation of an admission fee system. After that, of course, will come proposals to sell “naming rights” to state parks (get ready for “Duke Energy Park at Umstead” or “the Smithfield Foods Park on the Eno River”) and then, of course, the big kahuna: full privatization. The Progressive Pulse

NC: Demonstrators rally on I-77 overpass. Motorists shouted and honked their horns in support May 1 as they cruised past the long line of demonstrators pumping signs into the air from the median of the Catawba Avenue overpass at Exit 28 on Interstate 77. “We’re here because we’re vehemently against tolls,” said Vallee Bubak of Davidson. . . . Cintra, a transportation project developer based in Spain, has been awarded the contract to design, build and manage the express lanes. The total cost is $655 million. NCDOT and the federal government will fund approximately $88 million of the project, according to the site, while Cintra will cover the balance. Approximately $13 billion in tolls are expected to be collected on I-77 over the course of the 50-year contract with Cintra. Huntersville Herald

IL: Riot Fest and Public-Private Partnerships. . .The idea is that a municipal government is the arbiter deciding which private contractors get contracts to take on city operations. In many cases – some of the most lucrative contracts go to people who make campaign donations to the gatekeepers. Typically, those gatekeepers and gatecrashers never speak of this as quid pro quo.. . . “Due to the economic benefits Riot Fest brings to many 26th Ward businesses, the hundreds of thousands of dollars Riot Fest has donated to ward charities, our support in his re-election and, more importantly, job creation in a ward that has sorely lacked new job development, the alderman and Riot Fest have been on the same page in shining a positive light on our culturally rich and magnetic neighborhood,” Petryshyn said. Petryshyn’s honesty is not something you see from other clouted business owners in Chicago (which is probably a big factor in how they remain clouted). Huffington Post


May 6, 2015


4 Essential Questions About Air Traffic Control Privatization. Perhaps the largest and most complicated question before Congress is whether to privatize air traffic control operations, system maintenance, and procurement responsibilities for the air traffic control modernization program known as NextGen. . . . 1. If the current system of air traffic control governance works well, why privatize it? 2. Who would pay? 3. How would privatization affect NextGen implementation? 4. How would privatization affect aviation policy? Center For American Progress

Higher Ed Lobby Quietly Joins For-Profit Schools to Roll Back Tighter Rules. Traditional colleges and universities have become unlikely allies of the beleaguered for-profit industry as each group tries to fend off the government’s push for more accountability. ProPublica

Our Ayn Randian Dystopia: The Five-Step Process to Privatize Everything. At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf. These privatizers have a system: 1. Convince Yourself that “I Did It On My Own”. 2. Insist that the Removal of Government Will Benefit All People. 3. Ensure that Government Isn’t Removed Until You Get Rich. 4. Defund Government Until Privatization Seems Like the Only Option. 5. Remain Ignorant of Any Troublesome Facts.   Alternet

IN: Governor grants Cline bridge company access to BMV data. The private company set to rebuild the Cline Avenue Bridge in East Chicago and charge drivers tolls for crossing will get assistance from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles in collecting its revenue. Republican Gov. Mike Pence has signed into law House Enrolled Act 1397, providing United Bridge Partners free access to BMV registration records and requiring the agency to suspend the license plates of motorists who fail to pay their bridge tolls. . . . East Chicago and INDOT later struck a deal with United Bridge Partners to build a new, privately owned and operated bridge in place of the condemned span. The city is due to receive 10 cents from every toll.

IA: Substitute teachers could be outsourced in Des Moines. The Des Moines school board could decide as soon as Tuesday whether to outsource the district’s substitute teachers and teacher associates to a temp agency, a plan that some fear would deteriorate the quality of subs in schools. . . .Andrew Rasmussen, president of the Des Moines Education Association, said the switch could decrease the number of licensed substitutes who have completed a teacher preparation program, which also is required of full-time teachers, and instead increase the number of substitutes with less training. The union does not represent substitutes. “We have, as a union, always been against outsourcing the work of public employees to private corporations,” Rasmussen said. In addition, he questioned a move that he believes means less district control on hiring and training decisions.

OH: Online charter school accused of padding rolls for school funding. State lawmakers said Monday they have referred allegations to authorities that an online charter school failed to dis-enroll hundreds of chronically truant students in order to pad its rolls. Columbus Dispatch

TX: Texas: Company Pays Outsiders To Campaign For Cameras. Early voters are already heading to the polls to decide the future of red light cameras in Arlington, Texas. A charter amendment on the May 9 ballot would ban photo enforcement, and city officials and their vendors are not happy about it. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) has spared no expense to ensure the measure fails, even busing in paid outsiders to influence voters on the way to the polling stations. Through its various front groups, ATS hired the firm Extreme Marketing and Promotions to organize “Street Teams USA” contractors who are paid $18 an hour to create the appearance of local support for keeping the cameras. A little over half a dozen individuals, none of whom live in Arlington, signed up to hold pro-camera signs and talk to voters headed to polling stations.

NC: Toll contract could hinder new free lanes on Interstate 77. Some area officials were surprised that under the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, the developer would likely collect damages if the state added two new general-purpose lanes from Exit 28 to Exit 36 at the lake. Charlotte Observer

May 5, 2015


Why Air Traffic Controllers Are Open to a Privatization Strategy. . . . In an ongoing effort by Republican members of Congress to de-federalize the FAA, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) has introduced legislation in the House to privatize some national air traffic control functions. . . NATCA is open to discussing a shake-up of the status quo—as long as the federal agency’s own needs are met first. And while willing to consider some changes to national air traffic control operations, the association isn’t advocating for full privatization. Rather, it’s using this proposed legislation to highlight the importance of funding a system in critical need of financial support. Associations Now

In Congress, income inequality fact of life for food servers. Many of the Capitol’s food servers, who make the meals, bus the tables and run the cash registers in the restaurants and carryouts that serve lawmakers, earn less than $11 an hour. Some make nothing at all when Congress is in recess.. . . All work for Restaurant Associates, a major New York-based contractor that handles food services for the House and Senate. In a statement, the contractor said it “takes pride in paying above-market competitive wages.” It would not comment on individual employees. . . . A few Democrats objected. “You cannot stand on the Senate floor and condemn the privatization of workers, and then turn around and privatize the workers here in the Senate and leave them out on their own,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said at the time. . . . Capitol employees’ struggles are causing discomfort for lawmakers – including some running for president – as national debate churns over income inequality. In April, dozens of Capitol workers staged a one-day protest.

NC: Toll contract could hinder new free lanes on Interstate 77. The N.C. Department of Transportation’s contract with a private developer to build toll lanes on Interstate 77 includes a controversial noncompete clause that could hinder plans to build new free lanes on the highway for 50 years. . . . Some area officials were surprised that under the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, the developer would likely collect damages if the state added two new general-purpose lanes from Exit 28 to Exit 36 at the lake. . . . According to the noncompete clause, if DOT wants to add new free lanes to I-77, including Lake Norman, it would have to pay I-77 Mobility Partners compensation for lost toll revenue. That could be millions of dollars a year. The clause allows the state to build new toll lanes on the highway, so long as I-77 Mobility Partners manages them and keeps the revenue. Charlotte Observer

KS: Lawmakers to hear about privatizing KPERS. Three committees of the Kansas Legislature will meet Wednesday to discuss the possibility of privatizing the state’s pension system. That idea has been circulating among legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration at least since last fall when budget director Shawn Sullivan and Secretary of Administration Jim Clark presented it as an option during an interim meeting of the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits. Lawrence Journal World (blog)           

MO: Proposed Missouri gasoline tax talk still alive. The measure also deals with the possibility of converting Interstate 70 into a toll road, an idea that has not been popular with voters or lawmakers. KMBC Kansas City

MA: Gov. Baker seeks to privatize some mental health services. . . .The plan seeks to save $4.7 million on the treatment of mental illness, but the Baker administration would have to convince the state auditor that privatizing emergency mental health services in southeastern Massachusetts would save money without diminishing services. . . . The House committee’s budget would facilitate the Baker administration’s privatization plans, according to the Department of Mental Health. But state Representative Carole Fiola, a Fall River Democrat, filed an amendment with a bipartisan group of lawmakers from across the state that would require the department to maintain state-operated emergency services in the southeast. Boston Globe ($)

SC: Sometimes, Public-Private Partnerships Can Go Too Far. In this case, a government agency was criticized for placing too much of its authority in the hands of a partner nonprofit that was much less accountable and transparent with how it spent the public’s money. South Carolina state auditors called out that state’s commerce department for setting up a nonprofit organization with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League to appropriate $5 million to offset the destruction of wetlands at a site that is now a Boeing factory near Charleston. The Savannah Morning News reports that the auditors ruled that Commerce failed to provide adequate oversight for the nonprofit’s complex dealings. Saying that they “could not determine the benefit of creating a nonprofit entity to accomplish this particular purpose,” they advised the agency not to take similar action in the future. The audit report said that the nonprofit spent $5.3 million when “only $743,000 was needed. The Nonprofit Quarterly

HI: Maui hospitals’ path to privatization could be costly. Hawaii lawmakers have given their approval for the potential privatization of Maui state hospitals, a switch that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, according to preliminary state estimates. Pacific Business

DC: Charter school founder, company agree to pay $3 million to settle lawsuit. Charter school founder Kent Amos and his management company have agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged he used the company to divert taxpayer funds from the school for his personal gain. . . Since 2004, the school paid more than $14 million to the company, according to court records. Management fees rose while costs declined, because the company employed fewer people and duties were shifting to school employees, records show. Amos profited most in recent years, according to court documents. He received about $1.15 million in income in 2012 from the management company, according to federal tax records. In 2013, he received $1.38 million, including $103,000 paid to his wife, who was also listed as an employee. In February, the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted unanimously to revoke the s chool’s charter effective July 1, citing a pattern of fiscal mismanagement. Washington Post

DE: Charter choices resegregate schools, advocates say. Charter schools shouldn’t be able to give enrollment preference to students who live within five miles of their campus because doing so is leading to resegregation, some lawmakers and advocates argue. . .. Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, says Newark Charter’s five-mile radius preference leads to de facto segregation because it is situated in a mostly white, more affluent area of town. Demand for seats in the school is so high — its test scores among the best in the state — that it routinely has lengthy wait-lists which, Kowalko argues, makes it all but impossible for a black, low-income student from Wilmington to get in. USA TODAY           

May 4, 2015


US Senate negotiating to re-up with company paying cafeteria workers low wages. Even though salaries for those who serve them in Senate cafeterias are so low that some workers are on food stamps and one is even homeless — senators are considering signing the company responsible for those low wages for another long term contract, Senate sources tell CNN. That, as Senators and their aides around the halls of the Capitol are openly embarrassed and outraged in learning that many of the people who make their lunch every day or clean their toilets at night make such little money that they have to have second jobs or government assistance just to get by. 4029tv

The Public Sector is a Milk Cow For Private Enterprise. Social Security and Medicare are under attack from Wall Street, conservatives, and free market economists. The claims are that these programs are unaffordable and that the programs can be run more efficiently and at less cost if privatized. The programs are disparaged as “entitlements.” The word has come to imply that entitled people are getting something at great cost to everyone else. Indeed, entitlements have become conflated with welfare. In fact, Social Security and Medicare are financed by an earmarked payroll tax paid by employees. (Economists regard the part of the payroll tax that is paid by employers as part of the employee’s wage.) CounterPunch

FL: Bush wants to privatize some veterans’ health benefits, but in Florida it didn’t go so well. Jeb Bush’s effort as governor to partially privatize veterans health care services in Florida went so poorly it was ended shortly after Bush left office. That hasn’t stopped the former Republican governor, now in the early stages of running for president, from arguing veterans should be given the choice to see a public or private doctor, with either visit being paid for by the government. . . . .But Bush’s experience outsourcing veterans’ nursing homes in Florida was a case study in privatization’s pitfalls. By the time it was over, Florida officials determined the state could provide higher-quality care at a better price for taxpayers. Pembroke Pines and the two other privatized facilities continued to contract out their nursing and food services until after Bush left office. CNN

TX: House tentatively ok’s bill to strip private toll company’s eminent domain power. Lawmakers are one step closer to tapping the brakes on the Texas Turnpike Corp., a private toll company that drew scrutiny last year for its attempt to build a rural toll road from Garland to Greenville. The House on Friday preliminarily approved — with no debate — a bill to strip the company of its ability to use eminent domain power. The measure by Rep. Cindy Burkett would also require additional public notification before private toll road projects can be approved.   Dallas Morning News

TX: Toll road spends funny money and other outrageous doings in Dallas news. When Mayor Mike Rawlings put together a 12-person “Dream Team” panel of experts to review the Trinity toll road, its saving grace and the reason nobody could really complain about it is because it was financed by private donations and did not use taxpayer funds. It turns out that was not true. According to city records procured by city council member Philip Kingston, a dozen city employees spent more than 275 hours working on the Dream Team proposal. Kingston called this a misappropriation of public resources and an ethically questionable circumvention by Rawlings and city manager A.C. Gonzalez of the traditional procedure of consulting with the city council before expending city funds. CultureMap Dallas           

TX: TxDOT To Move Ahead With 249 Toll Road Despite Local Opposition. Grimes County Commissioners earlier opposed the toll road but changed their stance after TxDOT offered $4 million for new frontage roads and intersection improvements. Houston Public Media

NC: North Carolinians Declare Toll Roads “Highway Robbery”. . . “Fifty years is a long time,” reads a statement from advocacy group Widen I-77, in support of the protest and in reference to an ominous lease period for once the project is functioning. They have initiated a petition — with 755 signatories at this point — and contend that toll lanes create a socioeconomic division and mere façade of benefits: “Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization … is on record as saying HOT lanes will have ‘minimal impact on travel times.’” PanAm Post

IL: Rauner agency privatization idea raises oversight concerns. Gov. Bruce Rauner says his plan to privatize the state’s economic development agency will improve job creation in Illinois. But similar plans in other states and even in Chicago have sometimes raised concerns about transparency and oversight, with taxpayers not always knowing how their money was being spent. Albany Times Union

AZ: ADOT expands privatization of driver’s licenses. The state is making driver’s licenses available at four new privately owned businesses across Arizona as part of an effort by the Arizona Department of Transportation to privatize some of its services. The program makes driver’s licenses more accessible — but also more expensive. . . . Third-party operators are permitted to tack “convenience fees” onto the state’s standard driver’s license fees.

IA: Poll: Iowans reject Branstad’s plans for Medicaid, closing MHIs. Gov. Terry Branstad’s plans to save money by privatizing Medicaid and closing state mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda are strongly opposed by a majority of Iowa voters, according to a national opinion research firm.

WI: Wisconsin school voucher expansion remains possible while accountability bill flounders. As voucher school advocates in Wisconsin celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Milwaukee school choice program this week, an effort to pass a school accountability bill appears to be dead in the water.

WI: Zoo Services Privatization Goes Back to the Drawing Board. Perhaps realizing that it was doomed before the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, the proposed contract to privatize the Milwaukee County Zoo’s food, catering and concessions services was sent back to committee for further revisions. A major sticking point for supervisors had been granting exclusive catering rights at the zoo to the Denver-based Service Systems Associates (SSA) as part of the proposed 10-year contract.  Express Milwaukee

CA: Charter school dissolves amid charges of nepotism, fiscal mismanagement. Renew Virtual Academies, a charter school in the New Jerusalem School District, has been dissolved and its roughly 80 students absorbed into other sites amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement, nepotism and enrollment fraud against the school’s founder. Among the charges were that CEO Ellen Ringer hired her son, Deputy Executive Director of Business Services Christopher Walenta, at an annual salary of nearly $100,000 and paid other relatives without disclosing the relationships, New Jerusalem School District officials confirmed.   Stockton Record

LA: Legislators question value of privatizing Medicaid. After three years in operation, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature effort to privatize Medicaid might be saving taxpayers millions of dollars and providing about 20 percent of the state’s population with better health care. Or it might not. . . . Although Louisiana taxpayers pay only a small proportion of the costs — federal dollars make up the lion’s share — Medicaid is still the largest single expense in Louisiana’s $25 billion annual budget. Bayoubuzz

HI: Path to privatization cleared. Maui Memorial Medical Center and two other state-owned medical facilities could be privatized under a bill given final approval by state lawmakers Friday night, clearing the way for a possible takeover by the nonprofit Hawaii Pacific Health or another operator. Honolulu Star-Advertiser