November 25, 2014

News

The Dismantling of Medicaid. . . Medicaid, once considered one of the crowning achievements of The Great Society, is now being dismantled by those entrusted with its care. Plagued by a poorly designed medical reimbursement process that rewards health care professionals for providing medically unnecessary care and yet doesn’t pay enough for many specialists or small providers to deal with burdensome administration, the popular program has been a target of reform for decades. With state budgets hollowed out by the perfidy of the mortgage industry and a budget regime that cuts investments in health to fund tax breaks for corporations, legislators across the nation are now looking to find ways to cut costs—and if there’s time, improve the quality of care. . . .Kentucky’s inauspicious start to privatizing managed care was quickly followed by a perilous end. Kentucky Spirit, one of the three companies hired by Kentucky to administer Medicaid managed care, refused to meet its contract’s year-long term and abruptly cancelled its services. In These Times

Obama’s USDOE: Appointed to Privatize. Period. President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so. Sure, the White House offers a decorative promotional on K12 education; however, if one reads it closely, one sees that the Obama administration believes education (and, by extension, those educated) should serve the economy; that “higher standards and better assessments” and “turning around our lowest achieving schools” is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leftover casserole, and that “keeping teachers in the classroom” can only elicit prolonged stares from those of us who know better. All of these anti-public-education truths noted, the deeper story in what the Obama administration values regarding American education lay in its selection of US Department of Education (USDOE) appointees. Their backgrounds tell the story, and it isn’t a good one for the public school student, the community school and the career K12 teacher. Huffington Post

NJ: N.J. lottery misses revenue target under private manager. Three months after Illinois declared the first privately run state lottery a failure, New Jersey’s similar experiment is faltering, endangering a program that supports schools and the disabled. Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group’s revenue fell short $24 million in the year ended June 30, even after Gov. Chris Christie let the company cut the target. Chicago Tribune

AR: Privatization, using abandoned building among options in legislative prison overcrowding study. Arkansas should look at sending some inmates to private facilities to ease overcrowding, along with converting abandoned public buildings and expanding alternative sentencing programs in addition to building a new prison, according to a report issued to lawmakers Monday. Daily Journal

GA: Georgia court OKs private probation supervision. Georgia’s highest court ruled Monday that a state law allowing courts to contract with private probation companies to supervise misdemeanor offenders is constitutional but does not allow for additional requirements beyond what is imposed by the courts. The Georgia Supreme Court was considering a case brought by a group of misdemeanor probationers in east Georgia who argued that Sentinel Offender Services and other private probation companies were illegally requiring electronic monitoring and extending sentences. The unanimous high court opinion partially affirmed and partially reversed lower-court rulings on the issue. Macon Telegraph (blog)

OH: Meet the newest bosses at City Hall. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black added.. .development expert Oscar Bedolla from one of the nation’s largest accounting firms as director of trade and development. . . . Oscar Bedolla comes to Cincinnati from New York City, where as a vice president in KPMG’s advisory practice he specialized in project finance and public-private partnerships. . . Bedolla has been involved in a number of large-scale, complex development transactions, including the Chicago Riverwalk Project, Interstate 395 Air Rights disposition to allow for retail and residential development, municipal parking deals in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., redevelopment of Denver Union Station in Colorado and the LA-1 Toll Road Restructuring. Cincinnati.com

CT: Outgoing Senate President Heads To Teachers Union.The outgoing Democratic leader of the state Senate, Donald E. Williams Jr. has been hired by the state’s largest teachers union. Williams, who has served for 10 years as the Senate president pro tempore and has been a strong supporter of teachers’ unions, has been hired by the Connecticut Education Association as deputy director of professional policy, practice, research and reform. “This is a challenging time for public education,” Williams said. “Well-funded national ‘reform’ movements seek to privatize public schools and undermine teacher unions.” CTNow           

ID: Commentary: Is it Teach for America or Teach For A While?Gov. Otter, the State Board of Education, the Idaho Department of Education and many in the Legislature continue to push policies that move Idaho toward privatizing its public schools. . . In districts across the country, Teach for America “teachers” get their feet wet for a couple years before moving on to be hedge fund managers, directors of nonprofits, attorneys and CFOs with for-profit education companies, etc. The vast majority of TFA “teachers” do not go on to teach for a career, but merely use it as a stepping stone into another profession where they can make three to five times as much. Former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee may be the most notable example, who went on to found StudentsFirst, an aggressive school reform organization. Idaho Press-Tribune

November 24, 2014

News

The Great Traffic Projection Swindle. Private toll roads have been sold to the public as a surefire something-for-nothing bargain — new infrastructure with no taxes — but it turns out that the risk for taxpayers is actually substantial. The firms performing traffic projections have strong incentives to inflate the numbers. And the new breed of private finance deals are structured so that when the forecasts turn out wrong, the public incurs major losses. StreetsBlog

David H. Webber: Protecting public pension investments. Public pension funds should invest the retirement savings of government workers to secure their financial future, not undermine it. Yet across the country, these funds are financing companies that privatize their own workers’ jobs. And because many of these investments are funneled through ­private-equity companies, the problem is still largely hidden from public view. Washington Post

MO: Citizen Activism Helps Fend off Privatization of St. Louis Water. In the midst of the Detroit water crisis, there were active and credible suspicions that the city was thinking about privatizing its water system by selling to a corporate entity. Organizers placed the potential privatization of Detroit Water in the public spotlight, which may have ultimately compelled the department to abandon those ideas in favor of converting to a regional but still public water system, at least for the moment.   The Nonprofit Quarterly

IL: The Privatization of Detroit: Massive Termination of Water Services. Since January some 31,000 households have been subjected to a concerted policy of massive terminations of water services. Even though officials of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) claim that most customers paid their designated arrears allowing a reconnection of service, there still remains an undetermined number of people who are living without water or have been forced to re-locate. Center for Research on Globalization

WI: Coming Soon: Free Market Education! With the victory of Scott Walker and the Republican Party in Wisconsin this past Election Day-they increased their majorities in both the Assembly and Senate-the Milwaukee Public Schools have been moved to the “endangered species list” of public school districts in the United States. Within the next few months the school privatization lobby and religious schools will draw up a plan that will for all intents and purposes end public education in one of the largest school districts in the United States. This will leave some of the poorest, and most incarcerated people (Wisconsin incarcerates more Black men than any other state) in the nation exposed to “market forces” when it comes to educating our children. CounterPunch

CA: NOW BILLIONAIRES PLAN TO PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION . . . Parent Revolution looks like a grassroots movement, but in reality, it’s a corporate-funded campaign to privatize education and turn schools into just another market commodity. The organization owes its growth not to a groundswell of public support for its agenda, but to the huge checks it cashes from billionaires like Bill Gates, Walmart’s Walton Family, and Eli Broad. Santa Monica Dispatch

 

 

November 21, 2014

News

NC: Charter School Chain Finally Discloses Salaries – With One Missing. It’s the latest round in a fight between North Carolina regulators and a charter-school power broker who has tried to keep the financial details of his companies secret. Last week, it appeared that a North Carolina charter school chain had finally put an end to more than a month of wrangling with state regulators when it turned over salary data for administrators working at the schools.But the salary list has a curious omission. The son of the schools’ founder, despite working as “Information Systems Admin” at one of his father’s schools, is missing from the disclosures. As ProPublica detailed last month, both the chain of charter schools and the company that manages them were founded by a politically connected local businessman, Baker Mitchell. Millions of public dollars have flowed through the nonprofit schools to Mitchell’s for-profit charter-management firm and another company he owns. ProPublica

MA: Charter schools suspend more than traditional schools. Boston charter schools are far more likely than traditional school systems to suspend students, usually for minor infractions such as violating dress codes or being disrespectful, a high-risk disciplinary action that could cause students to disengage from their classes, according to a report released Tuesday. . . .The report was released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, a nonpartisan legal organization in Boston. . . . But a growing body of research suggests that students who are suspended repeatedly are more likely to fall behind academically and drop out, prompting a backlash among students, parents, and civil rights advocates. Boston Globe           

PA: York City School District fends off privatization plan for now. Governor-elect Wolf has said he’s against privatizing the city of York’s struggling public school district, and critics of the effort say there’s pressure to do that before he takes office. If it happens, York City School District would be the first public school system in Pennsylvania, and one of just a few in the nation, to be converted entirely to charter schools. Students, parents and teachers spent more than two hours last night protesting [the turnover of the city’s floundering public school district to a private for-profit charter school operator. witf.org

IN: lkhart County Commissioners say they won’t participate in toll road consortium. . . The plan calls for several counties to form a not-for-profit corporation that would bid on the toll road lease in bankruptcy court. If successful, those counties would hire a domestic company to run the toll road, and split the profits. WNDU-TV‎

NJ: Cautionary Tale for N.J., N.Y. Water Systems. The release of the report, titled “Troubled Waters: Misleading industry PR and the case for public water,” comes amidst uncertainty about the state of public water systems nationwide. As federal funding for public water infrastructure dries up, corporations are rushing to fill the void with false promises that gloss over track records of rate hikes, water quality concerns, labor abuses and political interference. The report reveals the true risks associated with New York City and its suburbs’ current contracts with private water corporations Veolia and Suez’s United Water. Drawing on case studies from cities like Atlanta and Indianapolis, the report lays bare the serious potential consequences of private water contracts including increasing rates, worker layoffs and political interference. newjerseynewsroom.com

CA: Occupy the Farm': The Movie. The documentary from Todd Darling covers the struggle for the Gill Tract, an urban agricultural research station that the University of California, Berkeley would like to sell to developers. To stop the sale 200 students, community members and a few UCB faculty invade the Gill Tract, plant 15,000 seedlings and set up a small tent village with cafeteria, child care, library and legal clinic. . . . n the long run, the sale of the Gill Tract won’t make a dent in the University’s projected revenue shortfalls, yet the Regents insist on getting rid of it. Occupy the Farm gives us an insight into the mindset of the consultants and vice-chancellors at UC’s Capital Projects office where careers are made by the size and number of deals struck; of the UC chancellor’s office; and of faculty–for, against and squirming over the direct action tactics of Occupy the Farm. Against a backdrop of occupation, SWAT teams, tense negotiation, community debate and more direct action, the idea of public versus private goods and even of the notion of what “public” means is in dispute. The Gill Tract is just the tip of the iceberg of the transfer of one of the state of California’s most valuable assets: the University of California. The driving contradiction, of course, is the wholesale privatization of everything. Huffington Post

FL: West Palm Beach Mayor: Not sure if I like neighborhood parks taxing districts. Mayor Jeri Muoio said she likes a lot of a consultant’s recommendations about improving West Palm Beach’s parks and recreation department. But she was lukewarm Wednesday about creating special taxing districts. The report, presented at Monday’s city commission workshop, said the department has too much work and too few people, and should consider privatizing some of its work, a consultant’s report says. Palm Beach Post (blog)

TN: Diane Ravitch in Nashville: Civil Rights Area of our Time is Protecting Schools from Privatization. . . “Innovative charters these days look like 19th century schools, especially for children of color. The children have very strict rules, they obey, they conform, they walk in a straight line, they do something called slant where you have to watch the teacher every minute, keep your eyes on the teacher and walk in a straight line… All these rules, it’s not about creativity, it’s about being a factory worker and we don’t have factories any more,” she said. “I’ve become very skeptical about charters and vouchers. And I know there are some good charters. There some charters that are really doing great work, they’re doing what charters were supposed to do which is help the neediest and weakest kids, but there are an awful lot of charters that are keeping exactly those kids out and cherry picking the kids they think will have the highest test scores.” Nashville Scene

No Child Left Behind, Pre-K Programs Could Be On New Congress’ Agenda. . . . TED SHAW: Privatize, privatize, privatize. That’s an old agenda.SANCHEZ: Ted Shaw is former head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He’s now at the University of North Carolina. He says the research is clear, quality preschool can close the achievement gap and yet… SHAW: That gap continues to grow. We’ve left and we continue to leave millions and millions of children behind and I don’t think privatizing is the answer. WYPR

November 20, 2014

News

Private Funding Brings a Boom in Hydropower, With High Costs. While some dams in the United States and Europe are being decommissioned, a dam-building boom is underway in developing countries. . . . . Public-private partnerships are on the rise, generally with the support of regional development banks. . . . Ms. Alexander said the problem with this model is that it “derisks” mega-projects for the private sector and draws in institutional investors like pension funds and mutual funds. “Very often this means privatizing profits and outsourcing risks to the public,” she said. Those risks can be both significant and hidden, she added. Project backers may cite national security or business confidentiality to avoid sharing information with the public. New York Times

How Macquarie Makes Money By Losing Money on Toll Roads. . . Randy Salzman, associate editor of Thinking Highways North America, has reported extensively about P3s, saying that it’s common for privately financed roads to go bankrupt. He says that firms acquiring infrastructure typically provide very little of their own cash, and because of a complicated mix of fees and tax breaks, they may benefit financially even when the deals go sour. “You’d think that they wouldn’t be investing in these things because so many of them go bankrupt,” he said. “You’d think that the money would be running away.” But Salzman says he’s seen these kinds of bankruptcies happen over and over again. “The only question is when.” Streetsblog Capitol Hill

Charter movement’s civil war: Meet the activist who says “unions get way too much blame”. When talking about education reformers or the broader charter school movement, many associate it with anti-union figures like Michelle Rhee and Campbell Brown. Education reformers are often seen as corporate and conservative; the kind of people who go to TED talks and worry about “entitlements” and who long ago forgot what it was like to live in the world of the 99 percent. . . .In that context, Steve Barr, a former teamster, television producer, Rock the Vote organizer and education reformer is not supposed to exist. Not because he has no experience as an educator or administrator, but rather because Barr is at once a charter school pioneer and a dedicated supporter of collective bargaining and the teachers unions’ right to exist. That makes Barr a bit of an odd-man-out in the education wars. Salon

Your children deserve better than this, first-grade teachers tell parents. . . The two teachers are part of a small but growing number of teacher who are refusing to administer standardized tests that they think are harmful to their students and publicly explaining why they are doing so, sometimes at the risk of being fired. . . .The letter by Hendren and Jones appeared on the website of the United Opt Out National, a grassroots organization advocating for the rights of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests and against the privatization of public education. Washington Post (blog)

MO: New report highlights ‘Dump Veolia’ water fight. St. Louis City is a model for what cities should do when large water corporations come knocking on their doors offering “public-private partnerships,” according to a report released today by the Corporate Accountability International organization. The report, “Troubled Waters: Misleading industry PR and the case for public water,” gives a nod to St. Louis’ grassroots organizers, who fought to prevent city officials from entering into a contract with Veolia Water North America, a French multinational company. The report’s author Emanuele Lobina predicts that St. Louis organizers’ struggle is one of many to come. St. Louis American

CA: California Court of Appeal Upholds Anti-Camera Initiative. California’s second-highest court rejected the attempt of a for-profit company to interfere with the right of voters to decide whether photo enforcement can be used in Murrieta. A three-judge panel went further on Tuesday and ruled that Stephen Flynn, the agent of American Traffic Solutions (ATS), must pay the court costs of Diana Serafin, the organizer of a November 2012 referendum that won 57 percent of the vote to bring the cameras down. TheNewspaper.com

 

OH: Fire union opposes idea of privatizing city’s ambulance service

‎Nearly 200 people rallied outside a city council meeting on Tuesday to oppose a possible privatization of the Brook Park ambulance service. The Plain Dealer

November 19, 2014

News

The Indiana Toll Road and the Dark Side of Privately Financed Highways. . . Once hailed as the model for a new age of U.S. infrastructure, today the Indiana deal looks more like a canary in a coal mine. At a time when government and Wall Street are raring to team up on privately financed infrastructure, a look at the Indiana Toll Road reveals several of the red flags to beware in all such deals: an opaque agreement based on proprietary information the public cannot access; a profit-making strategy by the private financier that relies on securitization and fees, divorced from the actual infrastructure product or service; and faulty assumptions underpinning the initial investment, which can incur huge public expense down the line. Though made in the name of innovation and efficiency, private finance deals are often more expensive than conventional bonding, threatening to suck money from taxpayers while propping up infrastructure projects that should never get built. Streetsblog Capitol Hill (blog)

House Panel Considers Privatizing FAA’s Air Traffic Control System. Opening what promises to be a spirited debate, members of the House Transportation Committee signaled a renewed willingness to consider privatizing the nation’s air-traffic control system. Capping months of studies and deliberations about possible privatization by industry officials and outside experts, a hearing on Tuesday morning highlighted bipartisan support for taking up the issue as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Wall Street Journal

Postal Workers Push Back Against Privatization and Post Office Closures. Union workers at the U.S. Postal Service staged one of their largest national demonstrations to date November 14, protesting fresh job cuts and continuing efforts to privatize some post office operations. With rallies at more than 150 locations nationwide, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) called for a cancellation of plans to close 82 mail processing centers early next year and the reversal of broader privatization efforts that eliminate good union jobs. In These Times

NJ: Toll collector jobs on Parkway, Turnpike spared from privatization. Jersey Turnpike Authority officials said Tuesday they won’t privatize cash toll collections. Collectors have their supervisors to thanks for their new job security. Concessions agreed to by two unions presenting Turnpike and Garden State Parkway toll supervisors provided enough savings so that officials didn’t have to ask toll collectors for a second round of pay cuts, said Joseph Mrozek, Turnpike Authority executive director. The Star-Ledger

WI: Wisconsin DOT budget plan includes study for toll roads. Over two years, Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb also wants to borrow more than $805 million, study the feasibility of tolling and use $574 million in funds that typically go toward schools and health care. Under another part of Gottlieb’s plan, the state Department of Transportation would gather odometer readings when drivers register their vehicles each year — a move that would help it review whether the state should create a new fee based on how many miles people drive. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

November 18, 2014

News

Eric Holder Shares His Feelings On The Death Penalty and Prisons. Q: How do you feel about the privatization of prisons, prison services, post-prison services like parole? Is that a good thing?  EH: You know, I suppose it can be done well. But I am a person who believes that that’s essentially a state function, a government function. I think it’s done best by well-funded, well-led governmental entities. That’s just where I come from.   Q: The country has been moving away a little bit from privatization on the prison side, but now there is a new burst of business from the surge in immigration detention going to private companies, some of which have rather checkered pasts. Are you comfortable with that?EH: No, I’m not. I’m concerned about what I hear about, documented cases that have been presented to me about the way in which people who are in the system for immigration reasons – as opposed to drug selling or violent crime – and the way in which people are treated, the conditions under which they are held. That is, I think, extremely troublesome. Huffington Post

MS: Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons. Mississippi has long struggled to fix its notoriously troubled prison system. In 2012, a federal judge called the conditions at one privately run facility “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.” Now the state is facing the possibility of a widening corruption scandal, a top-to-bottom reassessment of its prison-contracting system, and the removal of the powerful Mr. Epps from the political equation amid the rollout of an ambitious alternative-sentencing law that he helped devise. “You feel this hopeless despair,” said Jody Owens, a Jackson-based attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has sued Mr. Epps over prison conditions. New York Times

TX: North Texas transportation planners shift away from toll projects. The Regional Transportation Council on Thursday excluded a controversial rural toll road from its long-range plan and dropped efforts to involve the state Transportation Department in financing the divisive Trinity Parkway toll project. Those votes highlight a shift away from the planning entity’s years-long practice of using tolls to finance road construction as state lawmakers repeatedly failed to solve transportation funding shortfalls. The moves also come amid mounting public opposition to toll roads in North Texas, where virtually every major highway project under construction includes tolling. Dallas Morning News

TX: Public Charter Schools That Failed to Meet Texas Standards Are Still Operating. . . Honors Academy is among the first Texas operators to have its contract revoked under a law that broadens the state’s authority to shutter poor-performing charter schools. The provision, passed to help leaders grapple with the rapid expansion of publicly financed, privately managed charter schools, was intended to quickly free up state contracts for high-performing operators by severing ties with low-performing ones. Previously, the process could take years. . . . Honors Academy officials, who did not respond to a request seeking comment, decided to open their doors anyway. They have argued that the provision forcing closure is unconstitutional and that their campuses received poor academic ratings based on technicalities. New York Times

IN: Fitch Weighs in on Toll Road Bankruptcy.The bankruptcy of the Indiana Toll Road won’t remove the long-term value from the project nor diminish the importance of public-private partnerships (PPP) to US project finance, Fitch Ratings says. Inside Indiana

AZ: Editorial: Showdown over a shakedown: Fight Forest Service’s fee authority. . . . The agency did not routinely charge the public for recreational use of national forest land until 1996, when Congress cut its funding and ordered it to work with private partners to make up the difference. Under a supposedly temporary “fee demonstration” program, the Forest Service began charging for use of roads, parking areas, picnic tables and restrooms, and requiring “special use” permits for just about anything. Recently, a day-care center in Alaska was told it needed to purchase a permit to take children to a nearby forest. Going hand-in-glove with recreation fees is an under-the-table privatization process by which facilities are constructed or upgraded with public funds and then “outsourced” to private concessionaires who reap the profits. azcentral.com

OH: Ohio House Wants To Eliminate Minimum Salary Schedule For Teachers. The Ohio House Education Committee swiftly amended House Bill 343 this week to include a change that would eliminate the minimum salary schedule from Ohio Revised Code. This change was made under the guise of giving local school districts “much needed relief” and “more flexibility” to determine how they compensate teachers. Apparently the minimum salaries required by law are too steep. Let’s take a look. . . .Plunderbund

ME: Lewiston mayor asks AG to investigate charter school applicant. Mayor Macdonald said when the city looked further into the group’s application for a public charter school, they discovered letters of recommendation written by prominent members of the community were forged. WCSH-TV

November 17, 2014

News

Turning the Tides of Privatization – 180 Municipalities in 15 Years Return Water Systems to Public. In the past 15 years, privatized water supplies have been increasingly transferred back to public ownership, and in the past month, France, Italy and Switzerland have been hit hard by floods and landslides. New York says ‘no’ to a desalination plant, and environmental groups say ‘no’ to an expanded tar sands pipeline running from Canada to Wisconsin. Circle of Blue WaterNews

Canada: Secrecy and sleaze dominate global ‘privatization industry’. International policy expert Dexter Whitfield says nearly a quarter of privatizations end in disaster, adding: “If you’re told a car has a 22 per cent failure rate, you would never buy it.”  National Union of Public and General Employees

Stephen Colbert’s hilarious take on Nestlé privatizing drinking water.Nestle will do anything to keep Americans from drinking the commie water flowing out of their communal taps.  The Colbert Report

IN: Investment Bank May Lead Indiana Toll Road Bid. A northern Indiana county’s commissioners have turned to an investment bank to lead a proposed seven-county consortium that would bid on the Indiana Toll Road’s lease. Private tollway operator ITR Concession Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in September, citing more than $6 billion in debt. A federal bankruptcy court judge has given the Chicago-based company permission to sell the 75-year lease it holds on the road to help pay back its creditors. Dow Jones Bankruptcy & Debt

NJ: NJ Lawmakers Fast-Track Water Utility Privatization. The legislation would “allow distressed water-supply facilities and wastewater treatment plants owned by municipalities to be more rapidly sold or leased to private entities,” according to NJ Spotlight. Opponents include consumer advocates and environmentalists. They say the bill could mean higher rates for customers. One vocal opponent is the Landis Sewerage Authority. Water Online

GA: USG Begins new plan to Privatize housing. The upcoming launch of the housing privatization plan at nine public universities across the state by the University System of Georgia (USG) has caused some concern at Tech. . . Critics of the measure, including Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan), who voted against the referendum in the Georgia Senate, say that the proposition gives an unfair advantage to corporations running USG-owned property over those that run private apartments off-campus. . . Another common criticism of Proposition 1 is that the wording was confusing and that many voters, including Tech students, were not properly educated on the effect of the measure. Technique

TX: Online toll roads – opinion. Internet old-timers – those of us over age 25 – remember a time when the web was called the Information Superhighway. The debate over net neutrality has us thinking about another sort of highway: the Trans-Texas Corridor. . . . This degree of private control over infrastructure raised the spectre of a highway built more to benefit contractors than Texas communities. The toll road could bypass towns and exits could be designed to feed contractor-owned fast food joints instead of local restaurants. . . . Both concrete highways and Internet infrastructure should exist simply to get people from point A to point B. But telecoms want the ability to manipulate every part of that online trip and make you pay extra or drive slower if you go somewhere they don’t like. Chron.com

November 14, 2014

News

HUD’s privatization scheme may herald end of public housing. At a time when a shortage of affordable housing is devastating low-income families, U.S. policymakers appear to have all but given up on the idea of a state-managed public housing system. . .Yet the notion that the solution lies in improved public funding and support — or that public housing should be publicly owned at all — has become a political nonstarter. Instead HUD is embarking on a sweeping privatization program in the name of renovation. After decades of demolitions and decay of public housing units, the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a pilot program that purports to preserve existing housings units by providing access to more stable funding, could eradicate public housing as we know it within the next three decades. Al Jazeera America

Same As It Ever Was: The GOP’s Post-Election Plans for Social Security and Medicare. Congress’ new leadership may want to give former President George Bush a call. Not so many years ago, he believed his “voter mandate” cleared the way to privatize Social Security – cutting benefits and putting workers’ guaranteed benefits at risk on Wall Street. That didn’t turn out so well for the President simply because the American people understood then, as they do today, the abiding value of America’s retirement and health security programs. Huffington Post

Lawmakers, Postal Service employees protest service cuts. Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., urged members of Congress to bar the Postal Service from closing an additional 82 processing facilities and from reducing service levels. Congress can use the appropriations process to add a prohibition, they wrote, even though the Postal Service receives no federal funding. The service has already closed 141 processing centers. Federal Times

MS: MDOC Scandal Highlights Privatization Problems. . . With the nation’s largest private prison operators earning more than $3 billion in revenue, private-prison and government watchdogs say the opportunity for the brand of corruption alleged against Epps and McCrory is great.”It’s a very, very corrupt industry,” said Frank Smith, founder of the Private Corrections Institute, which monitors prison privatization issues around the nation. Smith said the profit motive of private businesses represents a magnet for corruption that doesn’t exist in public prison systems. Jackson Free Press

MD: The sleazy deal that’s been ignored. The O’Malley administration today pulled back from a sweetheart deal to buy $2.8 million in Eastern Shore farmland and hand it over for $1 a year to a Democratic campaign donor who wanted to use it as an “organic food hub” for the region. After questions from Comptroller Peter Franchot and an article in The Sun, the administration abruptly dropped the second two elements of the plan and instead pushed through the purchase with a promise to conduct requests for proposals for the rest. That’s an improvement over the original idea, but it still represents seat-of-the-pants governing that is unlikely to produce the best results. Baltimore Sun

PA: City Council launches hearing on Philadelphia Gas Works future. A Philadelphia refinery executive told City Council on Thursday that the city risks losing the opportunity to develop as a Marcellus Shale energy hub if it does not move quickly to put some of the city gas utility’s “developable assets” into private hands. Philly.com

November 13, 2014

News

Obama’s neutral-net words strong, but ex-cable lobbyist is his FCC appointee. For all of Obama’s strong words Monday about maintaining “openness, fairness and freedom” on the Internet and rejecting “paid privatization,” his most important action to date was choosing Tom Wheeler, a former fundraiser for his presidential campaign, as chairman of the FCC. Wheeler is a former president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and so far he’s opposed reclassifying Net service providers like Comcast and Verizon as public utilities subject to strict regulation — the approach backed by net neutrality advocates, and, as of Monday, by Obama as well. SFGate (blog)

Making School Reform a True Civil Rights Movement. . . The single most destructive aspect of the contemporary school reform movement, with its faith in “testing without investing,” is the way that it has consciously pitted liberal versus liberal, generation against generation, and civil rights advocate against civil rights advocate. Despite claiming to be a “civil rights movement,” test-driven, competition-driven policies have deteriorated into corporate reform. Test, sort, and punish regimes have been disproportionately imposed on poor children of color. And, now, the school closure mania is privatizing education in many urban areas. Huffington Post

Access to water should not be threatened – commentary. . . Clean water for all used to be a guiding vision in America. In the past, our municipal water systems were built to guarantee safe, inexpensive water to millions of citizens. These enormous public projects with their wells and reservoirs, pumping and purifying stations, and vast networks of water mains, have been essential to the growth of thriving cities and healthy communities. Most water utilities are monopolies. They have to be, since multiple utilities serving a service area would mean chaos. Many are government run, though a recent trend has turned public water utilities over to private business. Water is no dry topic. It is the most basic and essential service provided by municipalities. As people of conscience, we must speak clearly and loudly whenever access to water is threatened. The Philadelphia Tribune

IN: 7 counties could bid on bankrupt Toll Road. . . Investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co., of Minneapolis, has delivered a report to LaPorte County that demonstrates Toll Road cash flow could support a public entity bid and throw off enough cash to benefit surrounding counties. Having a nonprofit established by the seven Toll Road counties place a bid would be a better alternative than letting another private investment consortium gain control of the road, said LaPorte County Commissioner David Decker. nwitimes.com

IN: COMMENTARY: Why isn’t Toll Road reverting back to citizens?. . . What surprised me most about the discussion in the weeks leading up to the final vote was the lack of due diligence conducted on the two companies that were behind the lease funding. I reviewed their annual reports to better understand their financial condition. It was my professional opinion that even a moderate financial disruption — let alone the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression — would sink them. . . . I suggested the best protection for taxpayers was to include in the lease an automatic reversion should the “unthinkable” happen. I was personally assured, as were many of my Senate colleagues, that the road would revert back to the citizens in the event of the bankruptcy of the lease-holding company. . . .Either members of the Indiana General Assembly were intentionally misled, a multibillion dollar contract was negligently written, or the agreement was changed at the last moment without anybody bothering to inform the Indiana General Assembly. nwitimes.com

November 12, 2014

News

UT: Utahns divided on privatizing alcohol sales, poll shows . . . Privatizing alcohol sales has come up from time to time over the years but hasn’t gained much traction. Although some state lawmakers have talked about going in that direction, a House committee two years ago rejected a proposal to study the issue. Deseret News

OH: Will Indiana Toll Road debacle drive up costs for Ohio bridge? The cost of a new Interstate 71/75 Brent Spence Bridge could increase if it’s privately financed – fallout from the bankruptcy of a major Indiana tollway this fall. Wall Street investors, economists and transportation experts told The Enquirer that private investors most likely will be more cautious about structuring a public-private partnership to pay for the $2.6 billion bridge replacement and highway overhaul. The double-decker bridge spans the Ohio River between Covington, Ky. and Cincinnati. “When something like this happens, all of a sudden, the cost of doing (a similar project) just went up,” Miami University economist Jim Brock said. “To get people to invest, you have a pay a higher interest rate. How much? Who knows?” Indianapolis Star

MI: Detroit Looks to Re-Engineer How City Government Works. As the city prepares to exit bankruptcy court, it will have to learn a new approach to providing basic services while staying within its means. Detroit plans to spend $1.7 billion over the next decade to improve services, earmarking about $400 million to tear down abandoned houses, $100 million toward a more reliable bus system, $260 million to make its streets safer and more than $150 million to upgrade outdated technology. Wall Street Journal

IN: Indiana high court suggests mediation in IBM case. In 2009, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled IBM’s $1.3 billion state contract to automate much of Indiana’s welfare system, following complaints from welfare clients about long wait times, lost documents and improper rejections. Indiana and IBM countersued each other after the contract was terminated less than three years into the 10-year deal. John R. Malley, a private attorney helping represent Indiana in the case, said Friday that the state would pursue the court’s suggested course of mediation. The Courier-Journal