August 21, 2014

News

NLRB slams Postal Service for Staples privatization deal
Providing yet more  evidence that U.S. Postal Service management is headed in the wrong direction – at least where its workers are concerned – a National Labor Relatios Board official slammed its scheme to subcontract services to Staples stores. And half the U.S. Senate now opposes management’s plan to close 82 more distribution centers. . . .  NLRB Administrative Law Judge Eric Fine dealt the legal blow. He ruled that, since last November, USPS broke labor law in refusing to provide requested materials, e-mails and memos about the Staples deal to APWU. That includes Staples’ uncensored contract with the USPS and financial details. The Postal Service called the Staples scheme a “pilot project.” The political slam was the bipartisan letter from 50 senators. They asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to insert language any money bill that affects the Postal Service banning USPS from closing more distribution centers nationwide. They also asked their colleagues to preserve 6-day pickup and delivery.  People’s World

FBI Tracks Charter Schools
There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country. From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments. . . . What’s going on here? Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.  PR Watch

OH: Ohio Turnpike says sponsorships, ads OK, but not naming rights to tollway
. . . They’ve given the go-ahead to selling advertising and sponsorships on dozens of other turnpike assets, from first responder emergency vehicles to pet walking zones and trucker lounges. Even snowplows, salt domes and vending machines can be advertising venues, according to Legends Sales & Marketing,  which sized up the turnpike and its assets. Turnpike spokesman Adam Greenslade said a Legends sales team is in the field now, drumming up clients in an advertising push that could generate “several million dollars” a year. Monetizing the turnpike is part of a larger effort by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration to address transportation budget shortfalls. Turnpike and state highway departments scattered nationwide are trying the same thing, though few if any are pursuing it as actively as the Ohio Turnpike, said Neil Gray, government affairs director at the International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association.  The Plain Dealer

LA: Feds pose new questions about University Medical Center deal
Federal regulators are seeking more information on Louisiana’s deal with LCMC Health to lease and operate University Medical Center. The hospital is under construction in New Orleans’ Mid-City and on schedule to open next year, but the latest request seems likely to cause a further delay in the federal government’s decision on whether to approve the state’s plans. . . . The methodology for determining minimum financial performance “appears to be overly dependent on Medicaid revenues,” agency official Bill Brooks wrote in a letter Tuesday to Ruth Kennedy, the state’s Medicaid director. That means funding levels from the federal health insurance program could determine the amount of rent LCMC pays, Brooks wrote. . . . His letter provides new insight into his agency’s concerns with the lease deal, one of six that the state has confected to privatize its hospitals. Those deals relied on amendments to the state’s Medicaid plan, but the amendments were submitted last summer — after the leases were inked.  The Times-Picayune

August 20, 2014

News 

LA: Hope, Resentment in New Charter School Landscape
Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The majority of public school students will attend charter schools established by a state-run school district created in the aftermath of the storm. . . . Still, most charter schools overseen by the RSD rate no better than a “C” grade in the state accountability system, while a half-dozen schools still run by the school board get an “A.” More than half of the RSD’s third-through-eighth-grade students have basic “fundamental” knowledge and skill in subjects like reading and math, up from 23 percent seven years ago, according to the state education department. Still, only 12 percent display “mastery” of subject matter.  ABC News 

MD: “Consultant” contract prompts concerns that the city may privatize its troubled waterworks
. . . “Project 1224, Procurement of Consultant Services: Water and Wastewater Plants Efficiency Study,” was advertised in early summer, drawing two “letters of interest,” the first step in determining who gets the contract. A French company, Veolia, and PA Consulting of the United Kingdom were the companies that submitted letters. Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based nonprofit that has been bird-dogging water-privatization schemes around the world for 10 years, asked to see the letters and emailed local media to pitch the story. The group believes the city contract is the first step in a water-privatization scheme, and means to stop it.   Baltimore City Paper

WI: Exclusive: Milwaukee County Zoo Food, Catering and Retail Concessions May Be Privatized
With no public discussion, the Milwaukee County Zoo offered a request for proposals (RFP) to operate and manage its lucrative food service, catering and retail operations from interested private vendors. The timeline is tight. The RFPs were sent out on July 18, on-site visits were scheduled for July 30 and 31, and bids were due last Friday, Aug. 15. . . . But you’d have to be an insider to know about this fast-tracked privatization plan. The matter never came before the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, nor was it included in last year’s budget. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele doesn’t appear to have talked about it in public, either, and his aides wouldn’t respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment for this article. Express Milwaukee

AL: Editorial: City not as eager as state for toll road
. . .This proposed bridge and toll road, ultimately, are another gift to big business, just like tax breaks, free property and infrastructure that go in incentive packages. It will decrease traffic on the Hudson bridge, at least to some degree, but at a cost. That cost will be either in the form of a toll, for commuters who choose to pay it, or a delay in reaching their destination because of the slow service road. Therefore, it will in fact do little to make the free route north of the city more time and cost efficient.  The Decatur Daily

Skanska’s U.S. Chief Sees More Public-Private Infrastructure to Come
. . . . Skanska, a global colossus with $21 billion of revenue last year. . . Mr. Cavallaro said such partnerships will become more common as federal funding for infrastructure projects remains harder to obtain. “It’s a trend that will continue,” he said Tuesday in an interview. “The private industry can deliver these projects more efficiently. Even if (federal) funding returned in a really consistent way, I still think there’s a place for public-private partnerships.” Wall Street Journal (blog)

August 19, 2014

News 

Fake Security Screener Highlights a Concern

. . . Passenger screening at the San Francisco airport is performed not by the T.S.A. but by a private company, Covenant Aviation Security, under the Screening Partnership Program, which was mandated by Congress to allow airports to choose private contractors to perform passenger screening, rather than the T.S.A. Including San Francisco, which is by far the largest, 18 American airports use private screening contractors. The T.S.A. oversees them. Mr. Pistole said it was unacceptable that an impostor was able to take women into a private room in a security area at the airport. “We are dealing with the vendor,” he said. New York Times

LA: Auditor questions data used in health department review of Medicaid privatization program
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal’s privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.  The Republic

NV: State dumps public-private financing for massive I-15 project
. . . . The partnership would have used private equity to design, build, operate and maintain a stretch of I-15 near the Spaghetti Bowl for 35 years. The state would have made payments to the private company, similar to a home mortgage. But since the public-private partnership was approved in June 2013, changes to the project’s scope and uncertainty in the financial markets made it a less attractive option. “The ground has shifted beneath our feet in terms of interest rates and the best delivery method,” Sandoval said. Department of Transportation documents show the projected cost of Project Neon under the public-private partnership has increased from $602 million to $740 million over the last year. The biggest drivers of the price jump are higher interest rates, an expanded project scope and increased maintenance costs. Las Vegas Sun

IN: Illinois dumps private lottery manager, raising questions in Indiana
The Illinois Lottery is dumping its private management company after it failed to meet profit goals for the third year in a row, renewing questions about the privatization of the Hoosier Lottery. Hoosier Lottery commissioners took a big gamble in 2012 when they followed Illinois’ example and hired GTECH to manage the lottery on a day-to-day basis. The company promised to boost revenue dramatically over the next five years and to bring in $256 million during its first year, which ended last month. Lottery officials previously said that GTECH topped $1 billion in sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s a record. But officials acknowledged that GTECH likely would fall short of the $256 million it promised to the state when it won the second-in-the-nation private management contract in October 2012. Indianapolis Star

OK: Proposed new Tulsa charter schools could require change in state law
The Tulsa school board learned Monday that a new kind of partnership with three newly proposed charter schools could require a state attorney general’s opinion or change in law and involve co-locating some of the schools in traditional public school facilities. . . . “If we do a contract, we are entering into new territory,” Superintendent Keith Ballard told the board. “We would have to secure an AG’s opinion or a change in law to go forward with charter-contracts. … The contracts could extend into co-locations. That’s where we got the concept — from charter-contract co-locations in Spring Branch, Texas.”  Tulsa World

MS: Public hearing set for reef fish regulations in Gulfport
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing for the Reef Fish Amendment 40 Sector Separation proposal on August 19 in Gulfport. Among other things, the amendment proposes the separation of recreational angling into two components – private and federal for-hire. Criticism has come from both the Coastal Conservation Association and the Mississppi Charter Boat Captains Association. . . “CCA is strongly opposed to the privatization of our fisheries, and the concept of giving a public resource to private entities. Clarion Ledger

NY: Lawsuit challenges tenure laws
A group calling itself the Partnership for Educational Justice, led by former CNN anchor and student education crusader Campbell Brown, has filed a lawsuit in Albany County Supreme Court challenging teacher tenure laws in New York state. . . . Magee called the lawsuit a dressed up attack on working people and said the groups behind it should be fighting for more resources for public schools, rather than fighting against tenure. “Those bankrolling this assault on teachers and reasonable protections against injustice have no interest in providing every child with a quality public school education. If they did, they long ago would have joined parents, teachers and unions in fighting for the resources all children need,” Magee said. “This suit is just another attack on public education and on working people by wealthy elitists who stand to profit from privatizing public schools. It is telling that Brown refuses to identify her donors.” LegislativeGazette.com

MI: Building civic capacity in Detroit: Inspiration from Zagreb, Croatia
. . . . Their members have been active in promoting the “right to the city” campaign against the gentrification of downtown Zagreb, as well as a campaign against the privatization of the state highway system. One group coming out of Mama protested the sale of undeveloped public land on the Adriatic coast for a golf course, which triggered a public referendum on the issue.  . . . In Detroit, we need more community organizations fostering a collaborative spirit where we share best practices and resources. We need to expand the resources available to build creative and relevant businesses, and we need more funders to invest in community organizing  infrastructure that builds the capacity of residents to be leaders in development and revitalization. Model D

August 18, 2014

News 

Public dollars, private rules: The charter school calculus
The phenomenal growth of charter schools nationwide has been aided by a canny legal strategy in which the schools claim to be public for the purpose of taking in tax dollars but private for the purpose of evading government oversight, according to Preston Green, John and Carla Klein Professor of Urban Education at UConn’s Neag School of Education.  “They’re picking and choosing whether they’re going to be public for one purpose or private for another,” says Green, who is also a professor of educational leadership and law at UConn.  Phys.Org

Editorial: A caution on P3s: Let elected officials and the public beware
When it comes to public-private partnerships, so-called “P3s,” the old adage — let the buyer beware — needs to be updated for governments planning to join with private companies to do public work or assume a public function. Let the public deal-maker beware. Let the public beware, too. Those P3 deals that look great in theory can be bad in reality. So demonstrated the report by the Post-Gazette’s Len Boselovic, who took a detailed look at the practice in a four-part series, “The P3 Dilemma,” that debuted last Sunday.  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Opinion: Teaching Is Not a Business
. . .Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools. Vouchers are also supposed to increase competition by giving parents direct say over the schools their children attend, but the students haven’t benefited. For the past generation, Milwaukee has run a voucher experiment, with much-debated outcomes that to me show no real academic improvement. While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education — bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum — goes undiscussed. The New York Times

White House Initiative to Expand Public-Private Partnerships
In a formal memorandum to the heads of Federal departments and agencies, President Obama directed a series of actions that are designed to enhance the use of P3s and to encourage awareness of a variety of federal financing tools. The memorandum states that it is the “policy of the Federal Government” to “facilitate, as appropriate, greater public and private partnership and collaboration, including with international investors and companies” for infrastructure projects. In order to promote the heightened use of P3s, the memorandum directs the following specific actions. The National Law Review

IL: Gov. fires private manager of Illinois Lottery amid mismanagement
In the wake of Gov. Pat Quinn’s firing of the private firm operating the Illinois lottery, further evidence has come to light that the state’s choice of the company, Northstar, was out of compliance with Illinois law in the first place. An investigation over the past several months by The Chronicle has shown that since the privatization of the Illinois Lottery in 2011, Northstar has failed to produce projected profits and has not held required Lottery Control Board meetings since assuming control of the state lottery’s daily operations.  The Columbia Chronicle

SC: Privatization of SC’s welfare to work program questioned
. . . In this case, a move by DSS to contract with the private firms at a total cost of $13.7 million since 2012 is being questioned. By DSS’s own standards, the program appeared to be doing well before the companies came aboard. . . In 2012 and part of 2013, DSS referred 9,468 people on or applying to welfare-to-jobs, which is a nearly 10-year low, according to DSS data. It’s also down from fiscal 2011, when the department helped almost 14,000 welfare recipients gain employment, a department best over the nearly 10-year span. “If this is Gov. Haley’s definition of success, she has very little to be proud of,” said Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia.  Charleston Post Courier

August 15, 2014

News 

CA: Orange County Fairgrounds Preservationists Seek Jerry Brown Veto of Privatization Bill
. . . The group is urging those who oppose privatization to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to veto Assembly Bill 2490, which is characterized as the first step in removing public fairgrounds from state oversight in California “so they can be handed over to private corporations.” “No member of the public ever asked for this bill to be written–lobbyists for groups wanting to take our public fairgrounds away from us and turn them into private property wrote the bill,” states an Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society email to supporters. “When our fairgrounds are handed over to a private corporation, we all lose.” OC Weekly (blog)

MD: Is Baltimore City’s Water Supply Up For Privatization?
City Hall denies the charge, but workers and advocates say an upcoming water contract could be a foot in the door for privatization. The Real News Network

IL: Redflex Officials Charged With Bribery, Fraud, Conspiracy
Karen FinleyThe former head of US operations for Redflex Traffic Systems was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury. Karen Finley, 54, was charged with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to use bribes to win and expand a lucrative red light camera contract with Chicago, Illinois worth $124 million. . . . In May, federal prosecutors indicted John Bills, Chicago’s deputy transportation commissioner, for accepting $643,000 worth of cash and benefits from Redflex in return for his providing essential insider information on how to win the lucrative contract for what became the world’s largest municipal red light camera program. TheNewspaper.com

Transportation to federalize some IT contractors
The Transportation Department will be federalizing some of its IT contractor workforce in order to save money and invest in new programs, according to its chief information officer Richard McKinney. He said at the 2014 Federal Forum in Washington Aug. 13 that there are about 50 federal employees and 250 contractors running its shared services and common operating environment platforms, and that contractors cost significantly more money . . . “We did an exhaustive analysis and the long and short of it is we were spending a lot more. Just let me say the number was eye-popping,” McKinney said. He said he sat down with agency employees to decide which jobs should be federal and which should remain contractors.  Federal Times

August 14, 2014

News

MA: Water company lobbyist admits pulling fire alarm at Oxford town meeting
A lobbyist for the company that owns the water system and who was accused of pulling a fire alarm during discussion of a controversial article at the May town meeting admitted to the act during a closed-door hearing, according to an email from Police Chief Michael Hassett to Selectman Chairman John G. Saad.  William F. Malloy Jr., of 31 Wildcat Lane in Norwell, had been charged with a false fire alarm violation and disturbing a public assembly.  Mr. Malloy’s alleged motive was to prevent an early-morning re-vote that might have resulted in the town’s takeover of the company. Telegram

MD: Protesters question city water system study
About 50 protesters rallied Wednesday outside Baltimore City Hall to object to a proposed study of the water system, a step they fear could eventually put the system in private hands. The group, led by labor organizers and the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International, is worried that a $500,000 consultant’s study could lead to the private management of the water system. Baltimore Sun

IN: Lawsuit: Virtual charter school owes $600K for services
Indiana Cyber Charter School, a virtual charter with locations in Fort Wayne and Avon, is accused of not paying Pennsylvania-based National Network of Digital Schools for contracted services and not following through with an additional repayment plan agreement. National Network filed the lawsuit July 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.. . . The school listed 200 students enrolled for 2013-14 academic year, according to state data. Passage rate for this spring’s ISTEP exam was 54.4 percent — 20 percentage points lower than the state average.  Indianapolis Star

NJ: NJEA decries ‘massive corporate takeover’ of Camden schools
. . . The New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union, jumped on the announcement and issued a scathing critique of the bill as an expansion of the “privatization” of the district. The NJEA supported the original law, passed in 2012, but said the amended bill would allow charter-school expansion that ran counter to the original intent of the legislation.  Newsworks.org

The Law-School Scam
. . . There are only a small number of for-profit law schools nationwide. But a close look at them reveals that the perverse financial incentives under which they operate are merely extreme versions of those that afflict contemporary American higher education in general. And these broader systemic dysfunctions have potentially devastating consequences for a vast number of young people—and for higher education as a whole.  The Atlantic

August 13, 2014

News

States learn partnerships come with hazards. . . But states using public-private partnerships, or P3s, are discovering that what sounds like a straightforward, efficient process can be fraught with hazards. Those include negotiating an agreement that protects the public interest and monitoring that agreement over the decadeslong life of the project. Federal financing for many projects sparks concerns that taxpayers may be left on the hook. More importantly, critics question the fundamental premise of P3s: that they cost less. They say if P3s save one part of government money, there are costs incurred elsewhere. The Indiana Toll Road was turned over to a Spanish-Australian joint venture in 2006 for 75 years in exchange for a $3.8 billion upfront payment to the state. Since then, traffic on the 157-mile road has dropped and toll rates have skyrocketed. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PA: On public land, a gas company takes private control. . . Deering expected to enjoy a quiet retirement. In the early 2000′s, he and his wife built a log home from a kit. Their property is surrounded by state forest and game land. But in recent years their neighborhood has gotten noisy as gas companies drill wells, build pipelines, and move heavy equipment. Nearly a third of Pennsylvania’s roughly 2 million acres of public forest land is already available for oil and gas development. Governor Corbett wants to lease even more land, but an environmental group is suing to try to stop him.  StateImpact Pennsylvania

NY: Teachers: Keep private $ out of public education. Educators became demonstrators in downtown Albany Monday night, with hundreds of area school teachers determined to keep private corporation money out of the public education system. Even though teachers gave an “A” effort, the most prominent letter was the letter “C”: For Common Core, controversial contract, and Campbell Brown. It was a well-organized lesson plan of protest carried out by more than 500 teachers on the steps of the State Education Department building. The main mission was to remove what they believe to be growing corporate influence in New York’s public schools and colleges. WNYT

MD: Group Accuses Speed Camera Operators Of Lying About The Law. The Maryland Drivers Alliance says local governments have been lying about the law to boost speed camera cash through snitching. The advocacy group filed formal complaints last week against cities and counties that have been telling innocent motorists who receive a photo ticket that they must turn informant against wives, husbands, children or friends when a speed camera ticket arrives in the mail, even though the law says that is not the case. . . Identical language, provided by the for-profit camera vendor, is found on the Montgomery County website and similar wording is used on the Maryland state speed camera page. TheNewspaper.com

August 12, 2014

News

The ‘P3′ dilemma: Partnerships often fall short of taxpayers’ expectations. When public-private partnerships work well, they are a boon to government and investors. They deliver much needed infrastructure years sooner and at a more affordable price. However, they frequently don’t live up to expectations. The result: citizen outrage over rapidly escalating user fees; unanticipated costs; a lack of transparency; and risks to taxpayers from the billions of dollars of federally guaranteed loans financing the projects.  A prime example of the potential that so-called P3s offer can be found in Baltimore, one of the nation’s busiest ports. Pittsburgh Post Gazette

NY: Governor and legislature increasingly rely on publicly funded private attorneys. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and the legislature are spending around $1.3 million this year in payments to private law firms, and the public is paying for it, says a fiscally conservative study center. The Empire Center analyzed reports filed on line by the legislature, and found that the state Assembly paid over $650,000 to outside attorneys, while the state Senate gave a private law firm over $400,000 between October of 2013 and March of 2014. WRVO Public Media

NY: State Teachers Union Protests Privatization of Testing. Taking a stand against tough testing in New York state, hundreds joined members of NYSUT Monday night to protest what they’re calling the corporate influence on a child’s education. Testing giant Pearson was the target of the protest, and teachers shredded a copy of the company’s more than $32 million contract with the state, and protesters said private businesses in public schools have too much sway on a child’s education. TWC News

NJ: Christie Nixes NJ Privatization Standards Bill. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill to install standards for service and workforce levels for privatized state contracts, saying the legislation is ideology-driven opposition to his privatization efforts and would create needless red tape. In a message released Friday, Christie issued an absolute veto of S-770, a bill aimed at blocking private state contracts unless the state is assured privatization would achieve considerable cost savings without resulting in reductions in the quality of service or the workforce levels the state maintains. Law360 ($)

MI: 11 Michigan charter school authorizers ‘at risk’ for suspension, education department announce. More than a quarter of Michigan’s charter school authorizers are “at risk” of being suspended, the Michigan Department of Education announced Monday. Department officials announced that 11 authorizers may not be allowed to open new schools because of low academic performance and problems with contract transparency. MLive.com

August 11, 2014

News

NY: New York teachers plan to shred standardized tests in protest of privatization, profiting
New York teachers say they plan to protest against the privatization of public education by shredding standardized tests. Leaders of the New York State United Teachers union say the protest will take place Monday evening on the steps of the state Education Department in Albany. NYSUT President Karen Magee says the protest is meant to call attention to corporations the unions say stand to profit from New York students while diminishing the rights of teachers.  The Republic

IN: Supreme Court to consider IBM welfare privatization case
The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear the dispute between the state and IBM over the failed attempt to privatize public welfare services under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. IBM and Indiana entered into a 10-year, $1.37 billion contract in 2006, which was hailed at the time as the solution for fixing one of the nation’s most-troubled welfare systems. The state, though, canceled the contract three years later after a flood of complaints about the system from clients, their advocates and federal officials. At the time, the state had paid $437 million to IBM. The two sides sued each other for damages. In 2012, a Marion Superior Court judge awarded $52 million to IBM. Indianapolis Star

MI: Michigan fines prison food vendor $200,000
The state Corrections Department stopped short of ending its contract with Aramark Correctional Services, which it absolved of blame for maggots found recently in a Jackson prison’s food service area. Gov. Rick Snyder defended the decision to stick with the food vendor, adding that the state is on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. The Daily Telegram

OH: 1000 Ohio Inmates Dump Their Lunches Over Maggot Infestation
Since Michigan turned over food services at its prisons to a private contractor in December, the state has seen a spate of maggot infestations in and around prison food, outbreaks of food poisoning, and meal shortages. In Ohio this week, inmates facing the second maggott infestation this year at their facility dumped their lunch trays in the garbage en masse in protest. The mother of one of the inmates at Ohio Reformatory for Women reported the protest to the local ABC affiliate, telling the news outlet, “People make mistakes, it doesn’t mean you have to be treated like a dog.”  ThinkProgress

PA: The ‘P3′ dilemma: How effective are public-private partnerships?
. . . Pennsylvania, after rejecting proposals to privatize the turnpike and state lottery, is getting into the P3 business. Legislation enacted in 2012 allows the state Department of Transportation to enter into public-private partnerships. The first major project involves hiring a consortium to build and maintain about 600 state bridges for about 30 years. Underlying the debate is the fact that P3s allow government officials to avoid being blamed for raising taxes, tolls and making other unpopular decisions. . .“It‘‍s really about a political unwillingness to do what is necessary,” U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., said at the March hearing. “As a former city councilman, mayor, and congressman, none of us like raising taxes. … Let’‍s be honest about what this is.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

FL: South Miami rejects plan to privatize trash collection
Applause spilled out of the doors of the commission chambers at South Miami City Hall on Tuesday as commissioners unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have privatized the city’s solid waste department. City Manager Steven Alexander and his staff worked on the proposal with Waste Pro of Florida Inc., which could have saved the city more than $600,000 annually. Eleven jobs within the city’s public works department would have been affected had the proposal passed. “I don’t think that I feel comfortable moving with this outside of a complete understanding of the budget and a necessity to do this,” Mayor Philip Stoddard said at the meeting. “I share the residents’ concerns. I see the obvious financial benefit. Public waste is certainly not broken. We get excellent services.” Miami Herald

OR: Why hunters should oppose sale of Elliott State Forest: Guest opinion
Oregon hunters are facing the very real threat that we could lose access to hundreds of thousands of acres of quality hunting lands within our state. Weyerhauser, the giant logging corporation that owns 2.6-million acres in Oregon and Washington, recently announced it was closing much of its forestlands to the general public.  From now on, hunters will have to buy a special permit costing up to $350 if they want to hunt on those lands even though the elk and deer belong to the public.  The Oregonian

How will charter schools deal with their corruption scandals?
. . . Now recent investigations from the Detroit Free Press, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, and the Florida League of Women Voters have painted a troubling picture of two out-of-control charter school systems. Starting under the administrations of former governors John Engler and Jeb Bush, both Michigan and Florida have been early and enthusiastic backers of the charter school movement and have been particularly receptive to for-profit management companies. While many states prohibit full-service, for-profit companies from running charters, Michigan, and to a lesser extent Florida, has encouraged the model. Washington Post (blog)

August 8, 2014

News

The Open Road: Keeping Interstates Toll-Free Protects the Economy and Preserves Americans’ Freedom – commentary
Americans love the open road — it symbolizes the freedoms our country provides and a sense of exploration that has helped build our nation. The vast interstate network of asphalt and pavement for decades has facilitated people’s travel to places near and far for commerce or recreation. Now, that free system is under attack by some policymakers who want to roll back longstanding restrictions on tolling interstates. Doing that, as Massachusetts Transportation Department chief Richard A. Davey suggested in a July 25 Roll Call guest opinion column, would enable states to slap economically punitive fees on roads that traditionally have been toll-free. Such a policy reversal would be financially devastating for families and businesses, and the mere notion of it should alarm everyone who uses the interstates.  Roll Call 

Privatization delivers poor services for many, enriches a few – opinion
. . . For the record, the assault on postal services is about extreme ideology and privatization greed. The Postal Service had $67 billion in revenue last year, and arguments that it is obsolete are absurd. It uses no tax dollars, and two audits by private accounting firms show that its retirement accounts are overfunded by at least $60 billion, all from postage revenue and not taxes. Yet “pay-go” rules pushed by deficit hawks in Congress, who have been proved wrong on the economy, require budget cuts in other areas to return these funds to the Postal Service.  Rochester Business Journal

NC: Gov. Pat McCrory signs charter school bill
Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday that he has signed a charter school bill that drew partisan debate over disclosure of administrators’ salaries and whether gay students were adequately protected. Charlotte Observer

GA: Stadium opponents want referendum on tax spending
Opponents of public money going toward new stadiums for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons want lawmakers to require referendums for future public-private partnerships, even as those projects are underway. The Braves have begun construction of a new stadium in nearby Cobb County to replace downtown Turner Field, and the Falcons are building in downtown Atlanta next to the existing Georgia Dome. Public bonds have been approved for both — $200 million toward the Falcons $1 billion stadium and $300 million toward the Braves $672 million stadium.  SFGate

VA: Virginia requesting public input on public-private partnerships
The Virginia Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships is asking for feedback on how to increase transparency, competition and public involvement for projects that are developed under the P3 model. Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said the request for comments is intended to improve the P3 process. She said the method should be “a tool to deliver projects that leverage private sector equity, minimize risk for taxpayers, and maximize benefits for the traveling public.”  Land Line Magazine

OR: Public focus groups can help counter the privatization of direct democracy: Tim Nesbitt
. . .One of the problems with the initiative process is that its power to set agendas has become increasingly expensive and accessible only to those with sizable bankrolls, which is to say that it has become like the rest of our political system. This problem is then compounded by the privatization of public discourse. The results of the many focus groups and phone surveys that are invariably conducted on any new crop of ballot measures are almost always proprietary. How voters make up their minds and what they find persuasive remain the property of campaign consultants and their clients. Most of the pro and con statements that you will read in the Voters’ Pamphlet will be framed and pruned to match a rigid menu of talking points developed by campaign teams. The Oregonian