August 1, 2014

News

USDA Releases Final Rule to Privatize Poultry Inspection
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final rule on a new inspection system for poultry products. The system will transfer a majority of poultry inspections from government inspectors to self-policing by the companies themselves. . . .Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter counters that “the one USDA inspector left on the slaughter line under this new rule will still have to inspect 2.33 birds every second–an impossible task that leaves consumers at risk.”  The new regulations were first proposed in January 2012 but delayed after receiving strong opposition from animal welfare groups, consumer organizations and worker safety advocates. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office released a scathing analysis, questioning whether USDA had sufficient data to make such radical changes.  EcoWatch

MI: The Republican Occupation of Detroit
. . . Why would any city want to privatize its water system? A report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) shows that water privatization fairly universally leads to higher prices for cities and consumers and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies. In fact, the track record for water privatization is so abysmal that CAI found more than 20 American cities that had once privatized their water have taken back control of their systems since 2002. If water privatization is bad for the city of Detroit and its residents, who is it good for? Corporations. Which is where the state’s interest comes in. Gov. Snyder has used his emergency management laws, versions one and two, to impose his conservative agenda across the state, including privatization. Daily Beast

OH: FBI raided local charter school
FBI agents raided a Bond Hill charter school in June as part of an ongoing federal investigation into whether Horizon Science Academy Cincinnati, its sister schools in Ohio and two other states, and its management company outside Chicago had improper relationships with several technology vendors. Cincinnati.com

OH: Public Money, Private Problems
As quasi-private schools funded with public money across Ohio face scrutiny, some say they need to be held to a higher standard. Supporters of charter or community schools say they do a better job at a lower cost than public schools. But critics say the schools are inconsistent, that state oversight of charters is too weak and that the privately run schools are turning a profit on state money that could be used to shore up traditional public schools. Cincinnati CityBeat

PA: Jail deal could prevent privatization
After more than a year and a half of working without a new contract, corrections officers at the Mercer County Jail are very close to a new labor agreement. As part of the negotiations, commissioners will not pursue efforts to bring in a private company to run the jail during the lifetime of the agreement. WKBN.com

NC: Judge: NC can distribute public money for private schools before ruling on legality of program
A North Carolina judge won’t block a state agency from distributing taxpayer money to cover private school tuition in advance of a hearing to determine whether the program championed by Republican lawmakers is legal. Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said Wednesday he won’t issue an injunction blocking the State Educational Assistance Authority from paying out $10 million in government-funded scholarships to students who won a lottery for tuition assistance to attend private or religious schools. Daily Journal

CT: Redflex Busted For Impersonating The State Court
School busThe state of Connecticut’s judicial system in January issued a cease-and-desist order to Redflex Traffic Systems after the Australian photo ticketing vendor was caught giving the impression that its tickets and payment website came from the court. Connecticut does not allow red light cameras or speed cameras, but Redflex uses school buses as photo ticketing platforms in accordance with a law passed in 2011. One of the vehicle owners who received a $450 school bus ticket from Redflex under this law became suspicious and sent a copy of the notice he received to Connecticut’s chief court administrator, who was appalled at what he saw.TheNewspaper.com

July 31, 2014

News

Labor solidarity threatens idea of moving post offices to big box stores
. . . State labor unions and national federations began to endorse the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign. On May 30, when the AFL-CIO, comprised of 56 unions representing 12.5 million members came out in support of the boycott.  In mid June California’s Service Employees International Union 32BJ, representing 145,000 union members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, voted for a boycott. . . .After July 4th more unions formally joined the boycott. . . . American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten responded. “Who does Staples really want and need to come into its stores every single day? Teachers. The best way we can help is if we say to Staples: ‘You do this to the postal workers, and we aren’t buying supplies in your stores.’” School supplies are a key market for Staples, accounting for up to one-third of its sales. Last year teachers spent about $1.6 billion of their own money on school supplies. Back-to-school supply-buying gets going in earnest in late July.  On July 14th Staples announced it had withdrawn from the Retail Partner Expansion Program.  On the Commons

The Key to Fighting Privatization? Preparation
Privateers know school board members are desperately trying to balance budgets for the upcoming school year. And nothing is easier for cash-strapped trustees needing to strike a zero balance before summer vacation than outsourcing the jobs of education support professionals (ESPs).While spring is the high season for privateers to court vulnerable board members, the time for local Associations to prepare arguments and mobilize members against outsourcing is … always. “The sooner you realize your school board is considering privatization, the better prepared you can be to fight it,” says Scott Wagner, a teacher for 32 years and president of Clearview Education Association (CEA) in New Jersey. “You need to stay ready.”  NEA Today

Greece: A Nation for Sale and the Death of Democracy
. . . Fourth, the EU wanted to take the opportunity presented by the debt crisis to turn Greece into a “guinea pig” for the policy prescriptions of a neoliberal Europe. Berlin and Brussels had long ago embraced the main pillars of the Washington Consensus – fiscal austerity, privatization, deregulation and destatization – and the debt crisis offered a golden opportunity to cut down the Greek public sector to the bare bones and radicalize the domestic labor market with policies that slash wages and benefits and enhance flexibilization and insecurity.  Truth-Out

IL: State needs to open eyes wide before privatizing job-creation agency
One of the hotter ideas among the new crop of GOP governors in recent years has been to at least partially privatize their economic development agencies. The theory is that taking power away from slow-moving, politically influenced bureaucrats and giving it to business folks who know how to talk the talk and walk the walk gets more jobs and investment more quickly. . . . On the other hand, the private sector seems to like controlling the big punch bowl just as much as the public sector. Like in Florida, where Enterprise Florida created less than half the number of promised jobs but spent tens of thousands of dollars on things such as seats at Yankee Stadium and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in unspecified credit card charges. Or neighboring Iowa, where a quarter of the grants awarded by that state’s public-private development agency went to companies represented on the agency board. Or Wisconsin, which publicly posted information on just two of the 251 deals it funded.  Crain’s Chicago Business (blog)

MT: Guest opinion: Stop Congress from privatizing our public lands
What if I told you there was a plan to take away your freedom to access Montana’s most cherished outdoor spaces and give you a big tax hike on top of it. . . Granting federally managed public lands to the states is, perhaps, the worst of the bad ideas to emerge in 2014. It is an assault on our Montana outdoor way of life and our pocketbooks. Here’s why. Billings Gazette

July 30, 2014

News

Obama Pushing to Privatize Meat Inspections – Let Producers Inspect Themselves
The USDA is moving toward final approval of a rule that would replace most government inspectors with untrained company employees, and to allow companies to slaughter chickens at a much faster rate. . . .It could be approved as soon as this week. This “modernization” of inspections through privatization is likely to cause more problems than already occur because the company employees will be disinclined to cost their bosses money by slowing down, stopping production or removing chickens when there’s a problem. “It’s really letting the fox guard the chicken coop”, says Tony Corbo of Food and Water Watch. Daily Kos

Privatization Of World Water Supply Kicks Into Gear
. . . While privatizing and commidifying water supplies has been a neoliberal project for some time, the stakes and opportunities for profit have risen dramatically as a changing climate shifts water resources around the world. Taking the world’s water supply hostage is a businessperson’s dream. No need to create artificial demand for this product, if the customer does not buy it they die, painfully. So it should be no surprise that Wall Street sees water as the next boom market and wants in. The latest campaign to privatize and commidify water is being led by Peter Brabeck, the Chairman and former CEO of Nestle, the largest food company in the world.  Firedoglake

Lawmakers, TSA union spar over private airport security
The chairman of the House panel that oversees transportation security issues accused the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Tuesday of blocking efforts to privatize airport security checkpoints. “Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, unless an airport’s participation in [Screening Partnership Program] would hurt security or drive up costs, TSA must approve all new applications,” Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) said during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security Subcommittee. “While I have great respect for [TSA] Administrator [John] Pistole, as far as I am concerned, there will always be at least three clear and substantial advantages to privatized screening,” Hudson continued. The Hill

MI: Orr seeks proposals to privatize Detroit parking system
. . . Orr, who’s planning to leave town in the coming months, has decided to move ahead with what’s a surprise to no one: a solicitation for proposals to either run Detroit’s entire municipal parking department, or buy the system outright. By the time you read this, City Council may have already signed off on Orr’s request to allow him to issue a request for proposals. According to Orr’s office, interested buyers could present their bids for the parking department — which includes seven garages, about 3,200 meters, and a towing operation — in a number of ways: to manage the entire operation, a portion of the system, or the bidder could purchase the entire package. Detroit Metro Times

IL: llinois: Chicago Red Light Camera Spotlight Expands
The world’s largest municipal red light camera, beset by a $2 million bribery scandal, is facing renewed scrutiny from the public and investigators. On Friday, the inspector general for the city of Chicago, Illinois announced a formal inquiry into the photo ticketing program in the wake of blockbuster reporting from the Chicago Tribune newspaper. . . . According to the Tribune’s analysis of all of the photo tickets issued since 2007, at least 9000 citations were issued during “random” spikes related to either overly short yellow signal times, a change to the way right-turn on red is enforced or other system faults. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would allow the motorists who received these tickets to file a new challenge. The mayor and aldermen sent separate requests to city Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson asking for a formal investigation. TheNewspaper.com

TX: Texas law that speeds shutdown of troubled charter schools is put to the test
A new law designed to make it easier to close down chronically troubled charter schools is getting its first tests this year. . . . “It moves us one step closer to confirming that the law doesn’t give the charters the legal right to go to court,” she said. “This will speed up future efforts to close charters under this rule.”The new law requires the TEA to close charters after three straight years of poor academic or financial performance — a “three strikes and you’re out” approach. And schools can appeal to the TEA and another state agency’s administrative judges, but not to the state court system.  Dallas Morning News

PA: Editorial: The Lottery is a winner: Why privatize it?
. . .Net revenue was up $14.1 million — an increase of 1.3 percent. Administrative costs were down 0.03 percent to 2.04 percent. And participating retailers — all 9,100 of them — earned $202.4 million, an increase of $6.3 million over the previous year. It’s the fifth consecutive year the lottery has set a sales record. So, tell us again, why should Pennsylvania privatize the lottery? It seems to be about the only thing that actually works in Harrisburg.  Intelligencer Journal

FL: Letter to the Editor: Rather than privatize, fix public schools
. . . There are undoubtedly problems in public education, but most have been created by starving schools of resources, attacking and marginalizing our teachers, and ignoring poverty.  . . The solution should not be to outsource our children’s education to institutions that care more about the bottom line or resist accountability. The solution should be to address and fix our problems, many of which were created by individuals and politicians who seek to privatize our schools and profit off our children.  Sun-Sentinel

IL: Loewy Online: Privatizing golf? Bad idea.
Privatizing Bunker Links Municipal Golf Course? That’s an absolutely, with-a-doubt, colossally bad idea. . . . Finally, there is one huge reason why Bunker Links should remain in the public’s hands. It’s the concept of our commons. Bunker Links is part of the space we share. It’s like our pools and parks and roads and schools and sky and air. It’s ours. Yours. Mine. His. Hers. Theirs. All of us. So let’s fix it. Let’s make it work — in fact, let’s make it work even better than it has in the past. Frankly, I’m not very interested in public officials who see privatization as an answer to shared problems. That’s not really being a public servant. That’s called serving private interests. Galesburg Register-Mail (blog)

MD: Editorial: Baltimore’s parking economics 
Our view: The mayor’s proposal to sell garages to fund new rec centers is an appealing idea — provided it really generates the kind of windfall she’s advertising.  Baltimore Sun

July 29, 2014

News

Federal highway program gridlock: Bills push tolls, privatizing public roads as quick fix
. . . President Barack Obama proposed a highway bill that would rely on massive tolling, including lifting the federal ban on tolling existing interstates, as well as P3s and corporate tax hikes to fund the next highway bill. He also recently signed a presidential memorandum offering further support for P3s from every crevice of the federal government. It reads like a press release from the pro-toll lobby group International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA): “It shall also be the policy of the Federal Government for all agencies to facilitate, as appropriate, greater public and private partnership and collaboration, including with international investors and companies, to develop, improve, and maintain infrastructure across the country…” mySanAntonio.com (blog)

ALEC Agenda in Dallas: Evisceration of Medicaid, School Privatization and Expansion of Gas Exports
ALEC holds its 41st annual meeting in Dallas, Texas starting on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. At this largest of its three annual national conferences, state legislators from across the country will meet with corporate and special interest lobbyists behind closed doors to vote on “model” legislation to change state laws. Numerous agenda items are reviewed below. PR Watch

OH: Ohio’s roundabout plan to kill poor-performing charter schools is challenged in court
Ohio’s attempts to stop pouring tax money into failing – and possibly corrupt – charter schools are being put to the test in Cincinnati where the Ohio Department of Education and the Value Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy are fighting over the school’s future in court. It’s a battle that will decide whether 600 students at VLT can remain there or have to seek new schools within a few weeks. On a broader level, it’s a case that challenges the state’s increasing push to shutter poor performing charters in an indirect way, by pressuring the agencies that back and oversee the schools to set higher standards and exert more control. The Plain Dealer

IN: Outrage over outsourcing: Has Walker’s job creation agency given money to companies that outsource jobs?
Outrage, over outsourcing. Gov. Scott Walker has criticized Mary Burke over her former company’s outsourcing. Now, Walker’s critics are pointing out the Governor’s own job creation agency has given money to companies that outsource jobs. . . . An examination of WEDC records show is own jobs agency may have given money to companies that did the same thing. According to the WEDC’s annual report, Chicago-based printing giant RR Donnelley was given a $140,000 tax credit, saying it planned to make a $316,000 capital investment, but actually invested zero.  fox6now.com

July 28, 2014

News

NY: Green feared interference with utility commission
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration attempted to “strong arm” his first Moreland Commission on public utilities into supporting a “pre-cooked” plan to privatize LIPA, according to a commission member who said he threatened to resign to put a stop to it. Mark Green, the former New York City Public Advocate, said that during the commission’s early work and its attempt to produce an interim report by January 2013, there was pressure to indicate the full commission supported privatizing LIPA, when at least three of the 10 members weren’t yet prepared to do so.  Newsday

NY: Red Hook library privatization plan panned
A scheme to rent out a big chunk of the Red Hook library branch to an arts group is a sweetheart deal that sells out everyday bookworms, residents argued at a packed community board meeting inside the branch on Thursday.  Dozens turned out to the evening meeting of Community Board 6’s land use committee concerning the fate of the prose depot, most to condemn the privatization plan.  Brooklyn Paper

CO: Critics say CDOT making same US 36 mistakes on I-70
. . . Jones and others claim the Colorado Department of Transportation recently rammed through a recommendation to turn the retooling of I-70 into a public-private partnership, similar to the 50-year agreement CDOT sealed for U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver. The agency also touted an online poll, conducted among 1,643 visitors on CDOT’s website from June 24 to July 9, that showed more than 50 percent of respondents want some sort of tolling and public-private partnerships to pay for new roads and maintenance. . . .Thaddeus Tecza, a senior instructor emeritus of political science at the University of Colorado, said from an academic perspective the poll “was a joke. It was one of the most biased polls I’ve ever seen.”  The Denver Post

CA: Caltrans to put toll lanes on 405 Freeway in Orange County
The battle over toll lanes on California freeways moved to Orange County on Friday when Caltrans announced it would defy local officials and place what critics call “Lexus lanes” on a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway. The lanes would be on a notoriously congested section of the freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. The cost of the tolls has not been finalized, but some existing toll lanes can charge about $10 one way during rush hour. The move comes as communities throughout Southern California are increasingly considering toll lanes in order to relieve traffic and generate funding. Los Angeles Times

OH: Ohio, France, Germany: Traffic Cameras Disabled
In Milan, Italy, peaceful protesters from the Northern League covered up a speed camera with a cardboard box on the Via Enrico Fermi on Monday, La Repubblica Milano reported. A large warning sign read, “Slow Down, Pisapia will fine you,” referring to Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia. In Greenwich, Ohio, vigilantes have been twisting the speed camera owned and operated by the for-profit vendor Optotraffic, preventing the devices from generating tickets, the Norwalk Reflector reported.  TheNewspaper.com

AR: Highway Department ready to shaft consumers with toll roads
Let the users pay. (And avoid a common-sense reliance on increases in the fuel tax, which encourages more fuel-efficient cars and living patterns.) But who really pays? Study after study has shown that regular passenger vehicles cause, comparatively, almost no damage to interstate highways. But the big rigs that use Arkansas as a bridge state crumble the roads at a fearsome rates. Truckers don’t like tolls, but they really hate tonnage charges and other fees that truly recoup the damage they do to roads. Think: How often have we had to rebuild Interstate 630 through Little Rock, which carries a heavy commuter load but virtually no trucks? Never is the answer, compared with the perpetual rebuilding of I-40 and I-30, destroyed as soon as rebuilt by steady rig traffic. Arkansas Times (blog)

KY: State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky
The Kentucky Department of Parks is poised to allow private corporations to develop at, or even operate aspects of, state parks, and expansion of previous efforts permitting commercial activity. Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker suggested to a state legislative committee Thursday that General Burnside State Park, a 400-acre park 10 miles south of Somerset, could serve “as a potential pilot” for the effort. WKMS.org

IL: Vote Postponed On Privatization Of North Riverside Fire Department
North Riverside officials put the brakes on a contentious cost-savings proposal to privatize the village’s fire department at a Thursday meeting. Village officials, who, according to Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, were planning to vote on the privatization plans Thursday evening, did not take up the proposal. Progress Illinois

FL: South Miami workers concerned by plan to privatize garbage collection
. . . Eleven jobs within the city’s public works department will be affected if the city decides to hire Waste Pro of Florida Inc. and passes the ordinance at its second reading Aug. 5. “I think maybe 14 employees, that have been working an average length of eight years for the city will be impacted,” said Norman Herdocia, regional director of AFSCME council 79, the union that represents the city employees. Miami Herald

ME: For-profit charter school opens in Maine
. . .But the charter school is also drawing sharp criticism from public school advocates because taxpayer dollars for curriculum and programming are being paid to a corporation – in Maine’s case, the second-largest for-profit provider of online schools. Seacoastonline.com

July 25, 2014

News

NC: Cotham: New NC Senate bill shields salaries of for-profit charter school staff. Conflict over disclosure of charter-school salaries flared anew Thursday as House Democrats said a Senate-approved bill shields for-profit management companies from revealing who they hire and how much they pay. In a Thursday evening news conference, Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, led the call for the public and Gov. Pat McCrory to fight a move that she says blocks accountability and transparency at charter schools, which are run by nonprofit boards and funded with public money. “It’s a simple principle: The public should know where public money is going,” she said. At issue is a much-revised bill introduced in May after the Observer requested charter school salaries and questions arose about what those schools are required to release. A new version was quietly brought before the Senate Thursday and approved unanimously. Charlotte Observer

PA: Pennsylvania bill intended to derail I-80 toll talk. . . . Citing possible federal efforts to permit charging toll taxes to access existing roadways, Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield, introduced a bill that would forbid handing over state roadways such as I-80 without legislative approval. “This bill is intended to make sure any future discussions about tolling run a transparent course through state government to avoid surprises and give citizens a strong voice,” Gabler said in a news release. He also said the bill would help avert “economic uncertainty” that existed following the passage of Act 44, which was detrimental to jobs and economic development along the I-80 corridor. Land Line Magazine

ME: Private property owner cut public Cliff Walk out of plans for York Harbor land. The Friends of the Cliff Walk are expected to turn out in force Thursday for a Planning Board meeting in which a York Harbor resident has submitted a revision to his oceanfront property that does not include the Cliff Walk on the plan. . . . Community Development Director Steve Burns, who oversees the planning department, said before York moves forward to uphold the public’s right to use the Cliff Walk, town officials were waiting to get the status of the state Supreme Court’s reconsideration of the precedent-setting Goose Rocks Beach case. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of private property owners over the public’s right to use Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport.  Bangor Daily News

ME: Lewiston parents worry privatized gymnastics program would be out of reach. Parents of city gymnasts say they’re worried that efforts to privatize a recreation department program will price their kids out of the sport. Lewiston Sun Journal

Unions put teachers on streets — for votes. While other interest groups focus on the frenzied fight for control of the Senate, teachers unions are pouring their resources into state politics. They’re pushing to flip legislative chambers in several states to Democratic control and put allies in key offices such as attorney general and secretary of state in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Above all, they’re out to oust incumbent Republican governors, especially Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott and Michigan’s Rick Snyder. Education rarely shows up as a top concern for voters in national polls. But it’s been a galvanizing force in recent mayoral elections in New York and Newark, and unions believe it will stir voters on the state level in a year roiling with debates about the Common Core, standardized testing and the soaring cost of college. Politico

July 24, 2014

News

‘Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection’ Rule Would Eviscerate Inspections: Experts
A sweeping rule sent to the White House by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month would eviscerate the poultry inspection standards that currently protect consumers from tainted chicken and turkey, many experts say. Euphemistically called the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” rule, the statute would speed up processing lines and reduce the number of inspectors overseeing their operation, while simultaneously handing key inspection duties over to poultry companies’ employees. . . . But rather than improving slaughterhouse practices in the service of public health, the changes proposed under the rule are actually “a prescription for disaster” that would lead to higher incidences of salmo  nella and other pathogens, according to Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.  International Business Times

Tolling lobbyists attempt to hijack highway funding discussion
A pro-tolling lobby group attempted to steer the discussion about highway and bridge funding this week toward interstate tolls. Fortunately, an alliance that supports toll-free interstates is in place to counter their arguments. The plot thickened this week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 former transportation secretaries including Ray LaHood joined together in a letter to Congress to urge long-term solutions to road, bridge and transit funding.  Land Line Magazine

CA: Highway 156 private toll road concept explored
Highway 156 could become a privately operated toll road in an effort to pay for a long-delayed widening project for the crucial link between the Monterey Peninsula and the Bay Area. On Wednesday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County board of directors approved an agreement with Caltrans to explore a partnership with a private entity capable of helping pay for and construct the highway project in exchange for a share of the toll road proceeds.  Monterey County Herald

NY: Nassau County Legislature OKs sewer privatization
The Nassau County Legislature’s seven-member, bipartisan rules committee unanimously passed a plan on July 18 to implement a long-term contract for the control of the county’s wastewater system. Promising to save taxpayers roughly $240 million over the next 20 years, County Executive Ed Mangano had announced a partnership with United Water on June 30, in which the company will manage and operate the county’s three wastewater treatment facilities.  liherald.com

PA: PennDOT seeks outside help to make bridge repairs
State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions. . . . The Department of Transportation is finishing a deal with one of four international teams of contractors to replace the bridges, then maintain them for 25 years. PennDOT plans to announce which group gets the work sometime this fall. Construction is set to begin next year. . .  Also, unlike most public-private transportation projects, the bridge program will not tap toll revenue. Instead it will use higher wholesale gas taxes and vehicle fees outlined in the recent transportation plan, which aims to collect $1.2 billion more per year for road and bridge work. Critics of such public-private arrangements complain of an uneven record of savings compared with more traditional approaches to roadwork, because the deals lean on large multinational companies to front the money.  The Tribune-Democrat

MI: Steve Miller: Why did Aramark get the prison food contract? Here’s some insight
. . . Curiously, the state almost shelved the idea of privatizing food service for the state’s prisons when it determined that its savings would not be enough to justify it. At the last minute, though, several Republican lawmakers insisted that the deal be made. While it screams of money being exchanged, a search of campaign contributions finds nothing remarkable coming from the Aramark PAC going into the campaign coffers of its statehouse advocates. Michigan lawmakers are shielded from open records laws, so the natural open records request for email exchanges between Aramark and state legislators is off the table. . . . It would have been nice to see just what Aramark officials involved with the contract were saying to each other, but its $145 million contract with the state protects Aramark from FOIA requests, directly stating that “[Aramark] is not required to respond to any state or federal FOIA requests by third parties” – meaning the public that is spending the $145 million. MLive.com

July 23, 2014

News

Our Old Friend, Public-Private Partnerships
Three years ago, a veteran Republican transportation staffer told me that the ideal role for the federal government in public-private partnerships would be as technical advisors to states and cities who are trying to make deals with private investors to build roads, bridges, or transit systems. The aide said that cities and states are better brokers of their local deals because they are intimately familiar with the tics of their own communities, but they desperately need help analyzing the complex metrics of the financing and modeling. Private infrastructure firms are giants compared to most city governments, and the feds could help mitigate a potential David and Goliath scenario. Last week, President Obama unveiled an investment center to be housed in the Department of Transportation that looks much like what this GOP congressional staffer described. National Journal

Rural US ripe for investment, Vilsack says
Rural America take note: the U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to bring a touch of Wall Street to Main Street. The agency’s newest funding model, the subject of a national conference that begins Wednesday in Washington, D.C., promotes private investment as the way to spur economic growth in rural communities. . . . Taylor said while Oregon does not maintain toll roads, there is a variety of infrastructure that generates revenue through operation, and other infrastructure needs — city halls and other public buildings, for example — can gain private interest if the government offers compensation for the construction and maintenance of the building.  Statesman Journal            

MI: Kevyn Orr looking for proposals to privatize Detroit’s parking system
Orr’s office today asked the City Council’s permission to seek bids to privatize the parking system. The council could vote on the request next Tuesday. The city wants to give private companies flexibility in bidding on the parking system, which includes seven parking garages, nearly 3,200 metered spaces and a towing operation for abandoned vehicles. A bidder could offer to buy the entire system, for example, it could offer to manage the system, or it could even offer to manage a portion of it, such as meter enforcement.  Detroit Free Press

MI: Thirsting for Democracy in Detroit: Activists Resist Water Service Shutoffs, Wall Street and Privatization
People previously blockaded to keep Homrich, a private contractor employed by the city, from shutting off people’s water on July 10. Another blockade took place the day of the rally, lasting six hours before police arrested a pastor, a veteran journalist in her 70s, welfare rights organizers and others. The water disconnections constitute a human rights violation if the people affected are genuinely unable to pay, said Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on safe drinking water and sanitation, in a press release. Truth-Out

IL: Postal union workers to protest at Staples in Loop
A long-simmering feud between the U.S. Postal Service and organized labor will hit the streets of downtown Chicago today as the American Postal Workers Union protests what it calls the outsourcing of its jobs to private industry. The object of the demonstration will be a Staples office supply store at 111 N. Wabash Ave. The union says as many as 2,000 of its members, in town for a convention, will gather outside at 3:30 p.m. to protest the chain’s establishment of mini-post offices in some of its stores. Chicago Tribune

NJ: Surfboard campaign in Asbury Park makes surfers irate
Members of the Surfrider Foundation and some city residents, including Quinn, want to keep Bradley Cove as open space. They cite the privatization of much of the city’s oceanfront through the massive redevelopment project over the past decade as the main reason for the need for public space at the beachfront.  The Star-Ledger

July 22, 2014

News

IL: Illinois Man Sues Over Chicago Redflex Fraud
Crime should not pay, says an Illinois motorist red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems. Matthew G. Falkner, an investment banker, argues that the Australia firm unjustly enriched itself to the tune of $100 million from vehicle owners in Chicago through bribery and corruption. He does not want them to get away with it. TheNewspaper.com

FL: Gov Scott’s fundraiser comedy gold for HBO’s John Oliver
. . . Zoley, who was netting between $22 million from the GEO Group between 2008 and 2012, has become a big supporter of Scott’s. Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s reelection campaign, has accepted $415,000 from Geo Group and its affiliate, Geo Care. . . . “We love prisons so much a shocking number of Americans are currently inside one,” Oliver said at the beginning of 17-minute segment that was mainly focused on the privatization of the American prison system. “We have more prisoners at the moment than China. Than China. We don’t have more of anything than China, other than, of course, debt to China.” . . . “The key problem running prisons like businesses is that prisons are then run as businesses,” Oliver said, seguing into his main example of the Geo Group. Miami Herald

CA: Countywide outsourcing? Supervisors to take up ballot option
Orange County supervisors are slated to decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve changes to the county charter that would allow more county jobs to be outsourced to private companies. The proposed ballot measure, requested by Supervisor John Moorlach, would change the county’s charter to allow the county to privatize more county work than currently is permitted by state law. OCRegister

MI: Detroit suspends water shutoffs for 15 days
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills. . . . The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a policy that has been framed as a human rights issue for low-income residents who can’t afford to pay their bills. It also was announced n the same day that a group of Detroit residents filed a lawsuit in the city’s bankruptcy case asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore water service to residential customers. Detroit Free Press

The GOP’s real shame on the border: ignoring an industry that makes billions off immigrants to give to politicians

Private prisons have taken up immigration as a profit center, based on assembly-line ‘justice’ of the Bush era – and kept alive by Republican presidential contenders who look the other way.  The Guardian

July 21, 2014

News

As Investors, Officials Meet, a Warning Note on Public-Private Deals
Even as President Barack Obama was headed to Delaware on Thursday to promote public-private partnerships to finance infrastructure, Peter Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, was telling a conference of officials and investors who put together such deals that there’s growing resistance in Congress to the “P3s” trend. Even proven programs such as the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program “could be subject to cuts or elimination” by Congress, Ruane told the conference.  Roll Call (blog)

Reinventing the American highway: The promise (and pitfalls) of learning to love tolls
Want a glimpse of the future of roads in this country? Look elsewhere. As Congress juggles stopgap solutions, the U.S. road network is in the beginnings of a profound structural shift towards privately run turnpikes. . . .Progressives, too, have reason to be concerned. Tolling isn’t a less equitable way to raise money than the highly regressive gas tax, but building roads with profit in mind does influence planning decisions. According to a recent report from the Dallas Fed, “road placement has generally occurred in areas where personal incomes have been higher, making the toll collection used to repay bonds more predictable and, thus, supporting the credit rating.”  Salon

Our Voice: Must we keep going down the same road?
. . . President Obama used the same cliché on Tuesday when he announced the Build America Investment Initiative, a program to encourage public-private partnerships to improve infrastructure. Rep. Raul Ruiz issued a statement on Tuesday supporting the short-term fix, but he also encouraged his colleagues to work toward a “pragmatic, long-term solution to ensure appropriate investment in essential infrastructure across the country.” . . . . Raising gas taxes and tying the rate to inflation is the most equitable long-term solution. Drivers who wear out roads should pay for the upkeep. The Desert Sun

The privatization of public campground management
If you camp at a U.S. Forest Service campground this summer, you’ll probably hand your fee directly to a host employed by a private company, rather than stuffing it into a little brown box on the honor system or giving it to a retiree volunteering for the Forest Service. That’s because the majority of the agency’s campgrounds are now managed by for-profit companies called “concessionaires.” High Country

John Oliver Calls Out America’s Racist, Broken Prison System: ‘We Are Doing A Terrible Job’
After dropping the bombshell that the United States has more people in prison than China, Oliver detailed the racial inequity in incarcerations, the horrid conditions in which prisoners live, thanks in no small part to privatization, and how most Americans are so disassociated from caring about prisoners, “prison rape” has become a common and acceptable punchline in mainstream media.  Huffington Post

FL: Private Prison CEO Will Host Florida Governor At $10K-A-Plate Fundaiser
Over the past few years, private prison firm GEO Group has become known for inmate abuse, workplace violence, and fraudulent reporting at its U.S. facilities. One federal judge found that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles. But on Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will headline a $10,000-per-person VIP fundraiser at the home of GEO Group Chief Executive Officer George Zoley, Mother Jones reports. Attendees can also attend a general reception for $3,000 per person. The proceeds will go to both Rick Scott’s gubernatorial campaign and the Republican Party of Florida.
ThinkProgress

FL: Despite state money, private schools skirt public records laws
. . . Private organizations typically aren’t subject to the public records laws, though there are circumstances when they may be subject to them, said Jason Bent, an assistant professor of law in Stetson University’s College of Law. He said it would not appear that private schools like Warner meet the current test, which considers the level of public funding, as well as whether the activity was conducted on publicly owned property and whether a public entity created the private entity. Daytona Beach News-Journal

MI: Outsourced in Michigan
Colleges and universities have outsourced lots of services in the past several decades, from food preparation and delivery to bookstores to sanitation. But to many academics it is taboo to even consider outsourcing the faculty. Not in Michigan. In recent years, a handful of community colleges in that state have outsourced the recruitment and hiring of adjunct instructors – who make up the overwhelming majority of the community college teaching force – to an educational staffing company. Just last week, the faculty union at a sixth institution, Jackson College, signed a collective bargaining agreement allowing EDUStaff to take over adjunct hiring and payroll duties. Inside Higher Ed

DC: DC charter board member has $195000 contract with DC charter school
A member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board is receiving $195,000 to do consulting work for a network of schools that the board is responsible for overseeing, according to a list of recent contracts the board published on its Web site. Washington Post