April 24, 2014


Union chief cries foul on poultry inspection privatization. A plan to privatize poultry inspection would increase the chances of contaminated meat entering the food supply, according to the head of the American Federation of Government Employees. The plan would allow companies to privatize the inspection process and would speed up processing lines by 25 percent, while remaining Agriculture Department employees would be responsible for inspecting 175 birds a minute, according to union president J. David Cox in a blog post on the Huffington Post. “Let’s be clear: This is a filthy rule that will lead to filthy chicken on your dinner plate,” he wrote. Federal Times

New Net Neutrality Proposals Worry Campaigners. Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) chairman Tom Wheeler will today present his proposals for net neutrality – which reportedly include the provision that content firms should in some cases be allowed to pay for faster access to customers’ homes. . . . The proposals would be good news for large companies such as Netflix or Google – and for broadband providers, which would be able to raise extra revenues from prime customers. But start-ups could have great difficulty getting their services off the ground. This has been a concern for the Obama administration, which in February issued a statement warning that: “Absent net neutrality, the internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries.”  Forbes

VA: Va. toll road could cost $500m, not be built. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s aggressive push to build a toll road parallel to U.S. 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg may wind up costing taxpayers between $400 million to $500 million — with no road to show for it. . . .“Taxpayers have been shaken down on this thing,” said Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William. The state and private bondholders have already spent about $282 million on the project, with no construction having yet started. . . . Gov. Terry McAuliffe stopped work on the project in March rather than continue to pay private contractor U.S. 460 Mobility Partners while the state considers alternate routes or improvements to the existing road that would have less of an impact on the area’s wetlands. U.S. 460 Mobility Partners is a joint venture between Ferrovial Agromán of Spain and American Infrastructure, whose corporate headquarters is in Pennsylvania. The project was initially intended to be a public-private partnership with substantial private investment with corresponding assumption of risk, Layne said. When the state sought offers in 2006, private companies said the road would need a large public subsidy. An independent review board came to a similar conclusion in 2010.  Washington Post

TX: The Long, Slow Death of the Trinity Toll Road. . . Let’s say that the Army Corps of Engineers gives us the green light to build the road. That decision would come in December. Before anything with the road can happen, though, the Corps says we have to move the river (in part because restoring its natural meander was the plan all along). The city’s portion of that work will cost $185 million, and the project would take nine years to complete. Our next bond vote will come in 2017. Don’t forget that the bond vote will have to address $900 million worth of needed street repairs. Let’s just say we tack on the $185 million for river meandering (a $1.085 billion bond!), and it passes. That means the river project can theoretically begin in 2017. Nine years later, construction of the toll road could begin — if a broke TxDOT can find a private partner willing to pay for it. D Magazine

NY: Report says charter schools draining enrollment from Catholic, public schools. Charter schools in the five boroughs are draining students from both the Catholic schools and district public schools, according to a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. Over the last decade, the number of students attending Catholic schools has plummeted by 35 percent, from about 135,000 in 2002-2003, to just over 87,000 last year, according to the report. Meanwhile, during that same period, enrollment at district public schools dropped from more than a million students to just over 950,000. At the same time, the number of students attending charter schools jumped to nearly 59,000 last year, up from less than 2,500 a decade ago.  siLive.com

FL: Toll-road board members to appear before grand jury Thursday. . . State Attorney Jeff Ashton started his probe in September, saying he was looking into claims that Batterson, Pena and Downs privately talked about ousting former director Max Crumit from the job he held for two years. Authority business can be discussed only in public meetings. . .  But Ashton’s investigators also have been attending authority meetings where land purchases are discussed, including property owned by Project Orlando LLC, a company headed by Maitland attorney Jim Palmer. Project Orlando intends to build a billion-dollar development called Kelly Park Crossings by the sole interchange within 15 miles of the Wekiva Parkway, a $1.66 billion toll road being built by the authority and the state. IBI Group of Maitland, which employs Batterson, worked on Kelly Park Crossings until June 2011. Emails obtained by Ashton and reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel show Batterson was introducing potential investors to Palmer as recently as June. Orlando Sentinel

April 23, 2014


The Privatization Backlash. . .In states and cities across the country, lawmakers are expressing new skepticism about privatization, imposing new conditions on government contracting, and demanding more oversight. Laws to rein in contractors have been introduced in 18 states this year, and three—Maryland, Oregon, and Nebraska—have passed legislation, according to In the Public Interest, a group that advocates what it calls “responsible contracting.” . . . From Halliburton to Healthcare.gov to private prisons and welfare systems, contracting has often proved problematic. Perhaps mindful of these high-profile debacles, lawmakers are now more likely to view privatization and contracting proposals with skepticism. “The ideological fervor for privatization has ebbed,” according to John D. Donahue, an expert on privatization at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The Atlantic

The Privatization of Our Public Colleges (in Two Charts). State cuts to higher education spending aren’t the only reason public colleges are getting more expensive. But they are, without a doubt, one of the most important reasons. Slate Magazine (blog)

CO: Lawmakers ask for state audit of US 36 privatization deal. The controversial deal to privatize U.S. Highway 36, giving a consortium of private companies paying for repairs to the Boulder Turnpike control of the road for the next 50 years, is done.But the concerns from residents along the transportation corridor still haven’t been satisfied — and that’s why a group of state lawmakers from the area are calling for a state audit of the deal itself. . . Although the public-private partnership was worked out over a the last two years with input from the state and from mayors and officials in cities along the highway, the public didn’t get wind of the implications — mainly, the length of the deal ceding control of the road to private companies — until the final stages of the project. The letter requests that the audit examines how and when public input was sought and whether all financial details of the deal were disclosed. kdvr.com

PA: District wants Philadelphia charter school shut down. The School District of Philadelphia is recommending to the School Reform Commission the suspension and charter revocation of a school due to “significant academic underperformance and financial issues.” The recommendation, which takes aim at the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, is based on findings over the course of six years, accusing the school of continual violations of its charter and charter school law and policy. In addition, the district alleges it was fraudulently billed $770,000 in the 2012-2013 academic year for students not enrolled at the school.  6ABC.com


April 22, 2014


OH: Ohio lawmaker wants private prison vendor canned. An Ohio state lawmaker says the state prisons department should terminate its contract with a private food service operator after fining the company last week for repeatedly failing to meet promised staffing levels. Democratic state Rep. Matt Lundy said Monday that deficiencies identified in Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services’ performance reaffirm his and other opponents’ concerns about privatization. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction fined Aramark $142,100 Friday. The private food vendor took over feeding Ohio’s 50,000 prisoners from state employees in September. The contract goes to June 30, 2015. The ACLU says the fine should trigger a reevaluation of the deal.  10TV

TX: Corps: Trinity River needs to be moved to make way for toll road, which is likely to end up in litigation. . . It’s only when you get deep into the doc — on Page 87 out of 134 — that you realize the Trinity needs to be moved, at least in some spots, to make way for the toll road, which isn’t yet approved or funded. . .  Then there’s the fascinating chart found on Page 3-34 of the feasibility study — the table that shows what Dallas would get if it ditches the toll road. Because even the Corps recognizes: “There is a possibility that it may never be constructed.” And if that’s the case — if the NTTA does its own study and passes on spending $1.5 billion (give or take) to build the road and no one else wants to pick up the option — the Corps says “certain BVP features would be different.” How different? Well, we’d get more trails, fields and raised vegetation, for starters. But not necessarily more meadows, because: “To serve major events and gatherings, an additional 6,200 overflow parking spaces are proposed in separate meadow areas, the majority near the potential West Dallas Amphitheater.” So … We know what’s holding up the toll road. There’s no money to build it. But the feasibility study’s Appendix I also ID’s a few potential hold-up further down the toll road, including “Threat of Lawsuits/Political Opposition,” which a chart says would have a “critical” impact on the cost, and poses a “high” risk to the time line.  Dallas Morning News

OR: Suit Filed Challenging Sale of Elliott State Forest Land. . . “The Elliott State Forest is critically important to the survival of the marbled murrelet, coho salmon and hundreds of other species. It holds great promise for storing carbon to help insulate both people and wildlife from the devastation of climate change,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s not in the best interest of Oregonians or the planet to sell the Elliott to the highest bidder to be converted to an industrial tree farm. There’s a path forward for the state to protect important habitat and generate revenue for schools in Oregon.” The East Hakki Ridge parcel is one of five forested tracts the Department of State Lands has authorized for privatization. Combined, the parcels consist of approximately 2,700 acres of public land on the west side of the Elliott State Forest. One of the parcels being considered for disposal this fall contains the highest production of Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon in the Oregon Coast Range, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and also is home to threatened marbled murrelets, according to survey data. And the state of Oregon has just revealed that it will soon be analyzing the possibility of selling off the entire Elliott State Forest.  eNews Park Forest

NC: School vouchers: helping students or hurting schools?. . . But whatever public and private schools have in common has increasingly been overshadowed by a divide created when North Carolina legislators approved using public money to help some low-income families afford private schools. Funding passed in the state General Assembly last year would provide as many as 2,400 public school students with up to $4,200 to go toward private school tuition, an effort that would cost about $10 million. Children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches would be eligible. Jeffries calls them opportunity scholarships. For many in public education, they are vouchers.  Asheville Citizen-Times

Privatization or Bust: The Big Reveal In Ryan’s Latest Medicare Plan. Earlier this month, Loren Adler—a policy analyst at the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget—noticed a highly technical, but pivotal change to Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare. It’s gotten little press, but it’s pretty big news that Ryan has shifted to premium support based on avg bid with no cap. . . . From my vantage point, though, the most interesting thing about the change is the way it reveals an ordering of the GOP’s priorities vis a vis federal programs in general. . . . What he hasn’t, and won’t ever give up on, no matter what experts ultimately conclude, is partial privatization. When push comes to shove, breaking government monopolies (and age-restricting eligibility) are the only things that really interest the GOP with respect to reforming entitlements.  The New Republic

April 21, 2014


Private money fuels public projects. Short on funding but big on need, U.S. states and cities are increasingly turning to such deals, known as public-private partnerships, or P3s, hoping to leverage assets that can bring a quick infusion of private dollars to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. The projects include everything from a light rail system in suburban Washington, D.C., to the replacement of hundreds of bridges in Pennsylvania. The last 12 to 15 months have seen more deals and more opportunities to invest in the sector, said Jim Barry, head of BlackRock’s infrastructure investment group. U.S. insurance companies and public pensions are all eager to invest. “After let’s call it a decade of promise, I think we are actually beginning to see that movement,” he said. “Over the next five years, you could have a lot of deals flow.” Allentown Morning Call

A defense of public education against ‘the wolves of Wall Street’. I am disturbed when high-flying charter schools, such as Harlem Success Academy, brag about their student standardized test scores, not because I begrudge them but because they seem blithely unaware of selection bias. Just the very fact that a parent takes the initiative to apply to one of these schools makes a huge difference. In addition, both students and their parents have to sign contracts and agree to longer hours and high performance standards. If students do not live up to these standards, they are no longer able to attend. A fair comparison between test scores of high-profile charter students and regular public school children must include only the public school students who attend regularly, do their homework, and, along with their parents, are committed to school. Or compare them to magnet schools, which is what they essentially are.  Washington Post Blog

WI: County mental health nurses worry about privatization under new law. Mental health reform legislation would permit a new state board to privatize any or all of the work now done by more than 600 county mental health staffers, the author of the legislation says. A new Milwaukee County Mental Health Board to be named by Gov. Scott Walker by June has the authority to outsource whatever work it chooses under the legislation, said state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis). . . . “This is a wholesale attack on county workers,” said Supervisor John Weishan Jr. He said it means eventually County Executive Chris Abele will have the power to unilaterally “privatize the jobs of…employees, (who will have) no recourse whatsoever.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WI: Privatization Ploy. Not that we need a study to tell us that voucher schools do not perform as well as public schools, we have the test scores to prove it.   Professor Gordon Lafer gave us one anyway: A new report reveals that legislative moves to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into private charters─whether for-profit or non-profit─may actually damage the academic futures of far too many of the city’s children. . . . The report is an eye-opening investigation into the rapidly growing private charter industry and the effects profit motivated schools can have on the depth and quality of education children receive. Voucher and for profit schools perpetually get outperformed by public schools, and yet almost like clockwork, the tea party shows up to argue the wrong side of the issue(facts be dammed)! Cognitive Dissidence

CO: Matt Jones introduces road bills in response to US 36 controversy. The bills, spearheaded by state Sen. Matt Jones, a Louisville Democrat, are largely in response to the controversial public-private partnership deal reached earlier this year between Plenary Roads Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation. Under the contract, Plenary will finance the work on U.S. 36, including contributing its equity to the project, and will be repaid over a 50-year period through toll-lane revenue. But many howled in protest over the Plenary deal, saying it was done secretly with little public input. Jones’ bill — Senate Bill 197 — would add new requirements to any future public-private partnerships. They include: public and legislative check-ins at critical points, including town hall meetings; any agreement more than 35 years must be approved by the legislature; and legislative approval of any compensation due to the private company that’s not directly related to the road lanes.   The Denver Post

CA: Federal report’s findings may help save Berkeley’s historic post office. The report, put together by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, suggests that USPS halt the sales of historic postal facilities until it complies with all 15 of the report’s recommendations, which are intended to remedy the problems illuminated by the report’s findings. . . . “This is one more step forward in a growing national moment to save our post offices and stop the sale and privatization of a valuable national resource that benefits everyone,” said California State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, in a press release regarding the report. Daily Californian

NY: On the public landscape, LIPA lives – if in lesser ways. The Long Island Power Authority has yet to vanish. True, its role is sharply diminished by a new state law enacted last year. Yes, it has officially become subordinate in key ways to PSEG Long Island, now the Island’s electricity operator, as part of what policymakers call a “hybrid” privatization. . . . On Friday, Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said the overhaul worked out with the State Legislature in the subsequent months is suitably described as privatization, under a “hybrid” model, even if the system is not fully private like Con Edison.  Newsday

SC: Columbia officials weigh privatizing city parking garages. Columbia city government is looking into privatizing its 10 parking garages and the two the city is contracted to build for the Bull Street neighborhood. . . Columbia’s 10 garages have been revenue producers for the city during the past three fiscal years, according to figures supplied by its Parking Services Department. The net revenue after expenses totals $1.3 million for 2011-2013, the figures show. But the city’s certified annual reports for those three years disagree with those figures.  The State

April 18, 2014


States Crack Down on For-Profit Colleges, Student Loan Industry. . .Thirty-two states are now working together under the leadership of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to investigate potential abuses in the for-profit college industry, which saw enrollment more than triple between 1998 and 2008, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. One reason for the concern is the amount of taxpayer dollars involved: Some for-profit colleges receive 90 percent or more of their revenue from the federal and/or state governments in the form of student aid. “While some for-profit schools offer quality training and legitimate diplomas, we have found that this industry often markets subpar programs to veterans and low-income students who depend on federal aid,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “When students don’t receive the training they sign up for, or default on their loans, it not only greatly impacts their future but it also impacts taxpayers who have backed these loans in the first place.”  Stateline

IL: Environmental groups file suit to stop $1.3B Illiana toll road proposal. Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit today to block the proposed $1.3 billion Illiana toll road that would serve primarily as a trucking corridor linking interstates in Illinois and Indiana. The lawsuit challenges the Illinois Department of Transportation’s authority to build the toll road running through Will County, saying the Illiana’s approval violated state law.  The Illiana would be state’s first major public-private partnership, in which private investors would build and operate the highway.  Chicago Tribune

GA: Regents seeking bids to privatize student housing. The University System of Georgia is moving ahead with a student housing privatization initiative the General Assembly approved last month. . . . Georgia lawmakers passed a bill during the recently concluded legislative session aimed at encouraging privatization of student housing and other non-instructional campus construction by making projects financed and built through public-private partnerships eligible for a property tax break. Atlanta Business Chronicle (blog)

FL: Editorial: Good old days weren’t so good for education. . . As for pockets of low tests scores, they normally are connected with poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities. Ravitch says it would be more productive to do more about the root causes of poverty than to privatize the schools.  “Reformers in every era used the schools as punching bags,” she writes. Alternatives, such as charter schools or vouchers for private schools, are useful in providing competition, especially in areas where public schools have failed to provide quality education. But these options cannot and should not replace the mass education provided by public education. “When the public schools have appropriate policies, personnel, resources and vision to achieve attainable goals, they respond with positive achievement. “A citizen of a democratic society must be able to read critically, listen carefully, evaluate competing claims, weigh evidence and come to a thoughtful judgment.” We can do that in public schools. We must demand it.  The Florida Times Union

NJ: Opinion: Privatization rears its ugly head in NJ once again. This time, it’s at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, where the Christie administration is myopically seeking to lay off and privatize as many as 800 jobs. If one were to look at the history of failed privatizations in our state and others, it would be painfully apparent that it’s not the solution to all the state’s ills. Even worse, it can often cost taxpayers more money to eventually undo it. The most high-profile example here in New Jersey was the Department of Motor Vehicles fiasco. In 1995, New Jersey privatized the DMV. A state legislative report issued in 2002 said the DMV privatization resulted in “poor, disjointed and confused service delivery without consistency which has led to confusion and frustration in the minds of New Jersey citizens.” The report also noted that privatization “resulted in poorly paid employees who have received inadequate benefits, resulting in a high turnover rate at DMV agencies.” In 2003, New Jersey returned the DMV to state control, and today it is run much more efficiently.   The Times, Trenton




April 17, 2014


Bipartisan Plan to Privatize Tax Collection Hits Opposition. Part of the Tax Reform Act of 2014, written by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), would require the Treasury Department to contract with private collection agencies to pursue tax debts not addressed by the Internal Revenue Service. Now, Taxpayer Advocate Service and the National Treasury Employees Union are releasing findings and statements that run counter to the proposal. . . . . In a 2013 report on the IRS Private Debt Collection Program, Taxpayer Advocate Service found that the IRS collected about $53 million, or 62 percent, more over the course of two years than private collection agencies (PCAs). Also, the IRS collected a greater percentage of available dollars than private collection agencies, 9.2 percent to 5.4 percent. . . .[W]hile private collectors collected more tax dollars in the first six-month period than the IRS, over time IRS collections were more consistent. Private collection agencies had six months of success, before drastically decreasing the dollar amount and percentage of available taxpayer dollars collected.   InsideARM

“A self-fulfilling conflict of interest”: Charter schools, testing mania, and Arne Duncan. The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.” A condensed version of our conversation follows.  Salon

Thousands turn out for Labor Notes conference. In a major political development, over 2,000 trade union activists and friends attended the conference, which was geared toward helping unionists find ways to build coalitions and win struggles in today’s difficult political climate. Besides the Chicago Teacher’s Union, official union delegations, some quite large, were present from other teacher’s unions, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Teamsters, Steelworkers, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), both major longshore unions ILWU and ILA, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Union of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), food and commercial workers, farmworkers, nurses and others. Some delegations were sent directly from International leadership offices. “Our nation’s postal service was set by our nation’s revolution, with the guarantee, written into our constitution, that every American citizen be served equally, having access to our service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Those trying to privatize it and cut service to some are in violation of our nation’s constitution.”   People’s World

New article on criminal law enforcement privatization. Sharon Finegan of South Texas College of Law has an article in last year’s volume of the University of Massachusetts Law Review: Watching the Watchers: The Growing Privatization of Criminal Law Enforcement and the Need for Limits on Neighborhood Watch Associations. Here’s the abstract.  Washington Post

AZ: Bill would boost public money for private school. The Arizona Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would expand the state’s school voucher program and would increase the amount in public funds a student could receive to attend private school. The bill would expand Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts eligibility to siblings of students who are current or past recipients and to those who have not previously attended public school. Current rules require students to attend public school before being eligible.  WRAL.com

VA: Toll Road Rates Could Remain Flat–With Federal Money. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority today repeated its plan to hold tolls on the Dulles Toll Road at their current rate for the next five years–a plan that is predicated on federal money being issued for the Silver Line Metro project. Leesburg Today

VT: House freezes school privatization debate. The question of whether voters should be allowed to “flip” public schools into private entities has churned for months in Vermont. After lengthy debate on the House floor Wednesday, the issue has been tabled. For now. To date, two Vermont schools have gone from public to private. The Senate after much negotiation produced a study committee to look deeper into the constitutionality of both sides: “flipping” a school, as senators came to call it, and prohibiting the flips.  vtdigger.org



April 16, 2014


Congratulations! The Taxes You Just Paid Might Be On Their Way to a Private Prison. When you pay taxes, you assume they’ll be used to support education, health care, public transportation, and other programs that make your community stronger. That’s true, but so is this: some of your hard-earned dollars might be bundled into a massive payout to a private prison company that cares more about profits than public safety. That’s right, taxpayers: for-profit prison companies are skimming off the top of taxes you pay ostensibly to create safer communities. And no company benefits more than the largest private prison company out there: the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA.  ACLU

Postal Union Fights Staples Partnership: ‘A Big Step Toward Privatization’. . . Under the premise of a pilot program, a limited number of Staples locations are now offering most of the same services provided at post offices, to be handled by Staples employees rather than postal workers. “It’s just a big step toward privatization,” said Suchomel, who hopped a bus to the protest from the Labor Notes conference, a biannual gathering of labor activists held in Chicago. “I think it’s a terrible thing that the postmaster general would even think about this.” . . . Union representatives say the Staples program is proof agency management would be happy to spin off basic postal services to the private sector, further shrinking what’s long been a bastion of well-paying, public-sector union jobs. After a series of sporadic demonstrations against Staples in recent weeks, the American Postal Workers Union, which represents 220,000 postal employees, is planning protests from coast to coast on April 24, and it expects broad backing from other public-sector unions.  Huffington Post

Call to stop water privatization and strengthen public water systems. On the heels of the World Bank’s 2014 spring meetings, an international coalition of water rights groups from India and the United States issued a stern call for the institution to end its destructive promotion of water privatization under the guise of development. After a week of meetings, including high level events on water, no action has been taken to address the coalition’s concerns.  Media For Freedom

TX: Privatization of foster care to expand. Texas’ protective services chief said Tuesday that he intends to expand an ambitious privatization of foster care, despite warnings from some child advocates that he’s moving too fast. . . . It puts one super-vendor in charge of running all the other contractors in a region. It also incorporates into contracts financial incentives for better performance. . .  .Texans Care for Children, an advocacy group, urged Specia to “hit the pause button” on expanded outsourcing. In a report, the group referred to last year’s spike in foster care deaths from maltreatment. It said the state’s rush to expand the outsourcing approach could jeopardize foster children’s safety.  Dallas Morning News

TX: SAISD Board passes resolution against privatization. On Monday night, the school board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the privatizing of district custodial and support services and reaffirming its commitment to district custodial and support services employees. Rumors regarding privatization, or outsourcing, had been rampant for weeks.  Board member Debra Guerrero placed the resolution on the agenda so as to reassure employees that the district is not moving in the direction of privatization.  San Antonio Alliance

CA: In Plain Sight: The Rise of Corporate Democrats in California. . . The rise of what might be called the Corporate Democrat can only be partly explained by shrinking GOP delegations in Sacramento. It is also the product of redistricting and effects of the “top-two primary,” by which members of the same political party can win the top two primary positions and then face off in November. These two structural changes were approved by voters in, respectively, 2008 and 2010. Since then, powerful corporations, agricultural associations and other political high rollers have been turning away from their traditional Republican partners and placing more and more of their chips on the Democratic end of the table. . .  . Yet Dodd also boasts deep funding from individuals who, like David Crane, are influential advocates of cutting public employee pensions or, like Greg and Carrie Penner, are wealthy supporters of school privatization – views that run counter to longstanding Democratic Party positions.  Huffington Post

April 15, 2014


Inside the Private Prison Industry’s Alarming Spread Across America. On a recent Friday afternoon, with budget negotiations winding down, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh was racing against the clock. His position as House Appropriations Chairman afforded him the opportunity to stuff whatever minor extra provisions he wanted into the budget before it went to a vote the following Monday, and he only had a few hours left to do it. What was Kavanagh frantically trying to accomplish for his constituents at the last minute? Extra funding for education, since Arizona spends less on educating its children than all but three states? No, Rep. John Kavanagh was trying to secure an extra $900,000 gift for the GEO Group, the billion-dollar private prison corporation whose state lobbyists came to him at the last second begging with upturned hats. The $45 million already earmarked for the maintenance of low- and medium-security facilities wasn’t enough, they said.  AlterNet

Privatization of the US Prison System. The prison industry complex is one of the fastest growing industries in the US.  The system, which was established to ease the burden of overcrowding on state prisons, has become a lucrative business for many. The following infographic shows us how profitable the US prison industry is. “Between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion” dollars.  ArrestRecords.com

To toll or not to toll. . . Right now, the chief source of revenue for road construction projects is the federal fuel tax, which currently stands at 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. But revenues from the tax, which has not been raised since 1993, no longer come close to meeting needs. Several organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Trucking Associations (ATA), have called for raising the federal fuel tax. But that won’t happen without a fight. Whenever the subject has been raised, it has sparked a political firestorm that Congress has been reluctant to walk into. That brings us to the question of tolls. Both President Obama and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx have recently made reference to “public/private” partnerships, which most consider to be code for “tolling our interstates.” That would be an abrupt reversal of course for this country. Congress banned tolls on all interstates when the 46,000-mile system was created in 1956, although a few exceptions have been made in recent years.  DC Velocity

IL: Chicago’s outsourcing habit has costly consequences. Chicagoans are all too familiar with the city’s parking meter privatization fiasco. The deal was rushed and reckless and sucked billions of tax dollars out of the local economy and into the coffers of a corporate consortium backed by Wall Street. Not to mention citizens’ loss of control over parking spaces and services for decades to come. Were these unintended consequences from hasty judgment calls at a time of fiscal crisis? The sad truth is that outsourcing deals often fail to address broader community impacts. Crain’s Chicago Business

FL: Most state building money now goes to charter schools Accompanied by local and state PTA officers and by state Rep. Mark Danish, a public school teacher on leave to serve in the Legislature, Castor charged that the Republican majority in the Legislature has diverted nearly all the money it allocates for school construction and renovation to charter schools, leaving none for public schools. “While we let our public schools decay, the charter schools get to play,” said Danish, who, like Castor, is a Tampa Democrat. Danish said legislators “simply want to hurt public schools. There’s a pattern — a constant stream of bills, and each one weakens public schools.” Legislative Republicans contend that traditional public schools have other sources for capital improvements that charter schools don’t have. Public school advocates replied that those sources are stretched and inadequate to serve the mandate to build schools when and where they’re needed — a mandate charter schools don’t face.  Tampa Tribune

TX: UT Faculty asks president to withdraw “privatization scheme”. In an April 8 letter addressed to UT-Austin President Bill Powers, three distinguished faculty members – joined by at least 108 others – asked Powers to withdraw support for the “Shared Services” plan to eliminate as many as 500 staff positions in order to improve “business productivity” on campus. Powers had endorsed the plan in a memo the previous week. . . It reads in part, “Implementation of the proposed shared services plan, whether touted as a series of “pilot” experiments or done wholesale, will inevitably endanger one of the foundations of this university’s greatness—the sense of community that joins together faculty, staff, and students.  Austin Chronicle

VA: Dulles Greenway toll rates rise again. Drivers on the Dulles Greenway can once again expect to pay higher tolls along the 14-mile, privately owned road. On Tuesday, the State Corporation Commission approved an annual toll rate increase on the road, raising rates by 10 to 20 cents for drivers in two-axle vehicles. During non-peak hours, the toll will rise from $4.10 to $4.25, with a maximum one-way toll of $5.10 during peak hours. . . . Loudoun commuters have complained for years about the high tolls along the road, as its operator, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, has continued to seek rate increases. Washington Post

MI: Detroit may end up privatizing water department. Talks between the city of Detroit and the suburbs over shared control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department have dried up. It’s a key issue in the city’s ongoing bankruptcy negotiations and it affects what metro Detroiters will pay for water. The city wants to put $47 million annually into the water department from suburban leaders in a proposed Regional Water Authority. Suburban leaders have said no to that amount of money. . . . “We are pursuing other options. We’re looking at private investors and private managers for this system,” said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. “  WDIV Detroit

OH: House and Senate in stalemate over budget for road projects. Whether tolls will be part of the Brent Spence plan, however, remained up in the air. Gov. Steve Beshear last Friday vetoed legislation to allow public-private partnerships because it had language that would ban tolls as a way to pay for a new Ohio River crossing.  Cincinnati.com

NC: NC DOT Announces First Public-Private Partnership Project to Improve I-77. The North Carolina Department of Transportation announces the apparent successful bidder for its first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of I-77 in the Charlotte area, one of the most congested roadways in the state. Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group. . . Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes. NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is significantly less than the $170 million it had projected. ForConstructionPros.com



April 14, 2014


Charter Schools: The Promise and the Peril: Two systems of public education go head-to-head in Chicago.  Since the first charter school was established in 1992 in St. Paul, Minn., the model has rapidly taken hold in cities across the United States. As of December 2011, about 5 percent of U.S. students attended the nation’s 5,300 charter schools. A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization under a contract—or charter—with a state or local government. This charter exempts the school from selected rules and regulations. In return for funding and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards as defined by its charter. Critics charge that charter schools are the first step toward education vouchers and, ultimately, the privatization of public education. A lot of public money is at stake. Rupert Murdoch has observed that K-to-12 education is “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” In These Times spoke with three Chicagoans who have strong opinions about the charter school movement .  In These Times

Do 72 percent of for-profit programs have graduates making less than high school dropouts?  “Of the for-profit gainful employment programs that our department could analyze, and which could be affected by our actions today, the majority — the significant majority, 72 percent — produce graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts.”– Education Secretary Arne Duncan, news conference at the White House, March 14, 2014. This was a surprising statistic uttered from the podium in the White House briefing room, offered when Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a proposed regulation that is designed to target what the Education Department contends are poor-performing career programs that burden students with unsustainable levels of debt. Could attending a for-profit institution actually result in a three-out-of-four-chance of earning less than a high school dropout?  Washington Post  Blog

US public-private partnerships in play. Across the United States, more state and local governments are tapping private dollars to build, repair and maintain public infrastructure. Here are some of the biggest and most-watched projects: *Pennsylvania is pushing to replace at least 500 bridges under a single contract in the next five years. On March 26 the state invited four construction teams to submit bids. Chicago Tribune

‘Privatization’ Is Not ‘Privacy’. America’s cultural turn in recent decades toward a glorification of the private and a denigration of the public has coexisted with what quite obviously is a deterioration in privacy. As individuals, we have dramatically less capacity than in earlier decades to control information about even the most personal aspects of our lives. This is not just historical coincidence. The cultural turn to the “private” has actually hurt privacy.  Huffington Post

TX: Lawmakers told public-private partnership law not working. An estimated 400,000 people are moving to Texas each year expecting to find the schools, roads, water systems and other infrastructure to support them. So far, the state’s controversial public-private partnership law isn’t helping fill those needs or contributing to the state’s economy, the Texas House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development was told this week. Houston Chronicle

TX: Wendy Davis: Senate votes didn’t conflict with clients. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis voted for bills in the Texas Senate that affected her clients and sought federal money while in office for a transportation project being handled by her Fort Worth law firm, a newspaper reported Sunday. . .Voting records reviewed by the newspaper show Davis supported legislation governing a toll road project for which the North Texas Tollway Authority hired her law firm, Newby Davis, which she started with former Perry chief of staff Brian Newby. Davis backed changes surrounding the collection of unpaid tolls that preceded a program in which law firms — including Davis’ — were chosen to carry out the collections.  SFGate

MI: Amid crisis, Detroit urged to outsource more. Detroit has made progress in contracting with private firms for certain services, such as garbage collection and electricity, but outsourcing advocates say there are more opportunities yet unexplored. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s office is considering outsourcing other services, including the water department, to cut costs and an estimated $18 billion in debt.  The Detroit News

LA: Analysis: Questions on La. hospital deals linger. A year after Gov. Bobby Jindal started turning over the operations of Louisiana’s university-run hospital system to outside companies, lawmakers are complaining that they have unanswered questions about the deals. Over the past week, state senators have asked why federal officials haven’t signed off on the financing arrangements, what happens if federal approval never comes, and how the state will compensate other hospitals now dealing with a rush of uninsured patients. Jindal chose to impose most of the reduction of federal Medicaid financing on the LSU charity hospital system. Privatization contracts were pushed by the Republican governor. Kansas City Star

IL: Chicago Public Library launches redesigned website. The $1 million web redesign was paid with a grant from the Chicago Public Library Foundation, which allowed the hiring of software company BiblioCommons to research, design and maintain the new site for the next three years. BiblioCommons was behind the redesign of dozens of other library websites around the country, Lednicer said. Chicago Tribune


April 11, 2014


NY: NYC Parents Vs. Wall Street-Backed Charter Schools. Parents and public school advocates staged a dramatic protest outside the New York City Department of Education on Tuesday against a bid, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and financed by Wall Street lobbyists, to evict special needs students in order to make room for charter school expansion. The demonstration is the most recent development in the battle against corporate education reform in the city, where ”strong-arm” tactics by Cuomo and the charter school lobby have overriden an attempt by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to curb the growth of privately-funded charters. Mint Press News

LA: Money could be delayed during review of LSU deals. Federal officials have warned Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration that they will withhold $307 million in Medicaid money from the state if no agreement is soon reached on whether the state’s financing plans for the privatized LSU hospitals meet federal guidelines. . .  Most of LSU’s charity hospitals were turned over to private managers, but federal officials haven’t decided yet whether they’ll agree to the money arrangements used to pay the new hospital operators.  Chron.com

FL: Column: Educate before debate on private toll road. It is insufficient for the county to be angering residents by holding a series of what it erroneously labels town hall meetings, and then limiting debate on how to address traffic along the 33-mile corridor between Zephyrhills and U.S. 19. At a March 10 public meeting, county officials ignored what should have been the main subject: all 18 options they say were reviewed for addressing what is expected to be a massive increase in corridor traffic in the next 20 years. Officials focused solely on the elevated toll road option, even though we won’t know if its a viable option until next month when its finances and general design are available for review.  Tampabay.com

WI: Privatizing Wisconsin schools is no answer – Opinion. . . For the past 20 years, we have been messing around with Milwaukee’s school system through a series of charter and voucher schemes that have not been proven to have better outcomes than public schools. Despite it being part of their intended purpose, these schools have done nothing to close the achievement gap between African-American and white students. Yet the Wisconsin Legislature continues to work to dismantle public education through a series of new laws to further expand charter and voucher schools statewide. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel