January 23, 2014

News

Jeb Bush’s educational experiment. . .That year, Bush found a compatible source for ideas on education when he joined the board of the Heritage Foundation, which was generating papers and proposals to break up what it viewed as the government-run monopoly of the public-school system through free-market competition, with charters and private-school vouchers. Bush found school choice philosophically appealing. “Competition means everybody gets better,” he said. He enlisted Fair to help promote a state law authorizing charter schools, which, unlike vouchers, were gaining some Democratic supporters, including President Bill Clinton, who saw them as a way to allow educators to innovate within the public-school system. The law passed in 1996, with bipartisan support, and that year Bush and Fair founded the first charter school in the state. The New Yorker

The Beginning of the End of the Public University. Tom Hayden in an article on Mario Savion argued, “The current era of privatization and neoliberalism was born in Berkeley as a countermovement to the ’60s”. We did not see what was on the horizon, too caught up with our perceived victories perhaps to see a reaction building that would change higher education. EGP News

IL: Rauner OKs Tollway’s construction plans. . . Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said Rauner’s administration gave the go-ahead after a review of the Tollway’s plans by Rauner’s staff and the Office of Management and Budget. A Rauner spokesman confirmed that information in an email to the Tribune. . .The Tollway’s Finance Committee on Wednesday approved four major construction contracts totaling $174 million for roadway and bridge reconstruction and widening on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (Interstate 90) between Elgin and the Kennedy Expressway.   Chicago Tribune

TX: Bill would strip Dallas toll road builder of its eminent domain powers. . . State Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, filed a bill to strip the Texas Turnpike Corp. of its eminent domain powers, the Texas Tribune reported. The bill was filed in response to the corporation’s attempt to build the so-called Northeast Gateway, a controversial 27-mile tolled highway linking Garland to Greenville. A “grassroots uproar” started within Burkett’s district last year that ultimately killed the project, the Texas Tribune reported. Dallas Business Journal

OH: Head count shows ‘unusually high’ discrepancies at charter schools. When state auditors made a surprise visit to a Youngstown charter school, they found staff members but no students. Not one. . . . A report released yesterday by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost found significantly lower attendance at half of the 30 charter schools where auditors conducted unannounced head counts this past fall. The report raises questions about whether the schools receive more tax money than they are entitled because the state relies on student enrollment — reported by the schools — to calculate aid. The privately operated, publicly funded schools get nearly $6,000 per student each year. Columbus Dispatch

OR: Bottled water wars: Nestle’s latest move in Cascade Locks sparks outcry from opponents. . . So the world’s largest food and beverage company has hung on for six years, enduring legal challenges and public protests as it awaits state permits that would allow it to bottle and sell spring water now owned by the state government. Opponents warn against privatizing a public resource for corporate profits. Nestlé contends it’s simply responding to consumer demand. Now, Nestlé wants to scrap the existing permitting process for an approach with the potential to cut the remaining wait time in half.    OregonLive.com

NJ: Christie’s ‘aggressive action': Emergency managers for A.C. Gov. Christie on Thursday installed an emergency management team in Atlantic City, asserting that outside assistance was needed to curtail the city’s financial free fall. . . . Asked whether the plan for Atlantic City could mirror actions taken in Michigan – where emergency managers could slash budgets, sell assets, privatize departments, and in some cases essentially sideline elected officials – Orr said he would be “very, very careful” in trying to “analogize” different communities. Philly.com

FL: Our opinion: Gov. Scott’s state workforce cuts extreme. . . A report issued last week documents that state employment fell by nearly 11,000 positions in Scott’s first term — a rate of reduction faster and further than any recent governor has recorded. Florida is dead last in the country for ratio of state employees to population and in the average monthly cost of state personnel. Those ratios don’t signify efficiency, but rather, an extreme approach to cutting with little regard for the consequences. Tallahassee.com

January 22, 2015

News

How To Sell Off a City. . . For over a decade now, Chicago has been the epicenter of the fashionable trend of “privatization”—the transfer of the ownership or operation of resources that belong to all of us, like schools, roads and government services, to companies that use them to turn a profit. Chicago’s privatization mania began during Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, which ran from 1989 to 2011. Under his successor, Rahm Emanuel, the trend has continued apace. For Rahm’s investment banker buddies, the trend has been a boon. For citizens? Not so much. In These Times

Cities Hoping to Cut Collection Costs Continue to Explore Privatization Options. Dwindling budgets and skyrocketing costs have municipalities across North America looking to privatize city-run services, including solid waste and recycling. waste360

IL: Council’s Progressive Caucus Wants More Transparency For Privatization Deals. . . Proponents said the measure to require more disclosure of pending privatization deals has been bottled up in committee, even though Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s generally in favor of the proposal. Ald. John Arena (45th) said the city’s history with privatization shows aldermen need more information about such efforts before they vote on turning over city services or assets to private companies. . . . Aldermen have never gotten over the sting of voting for the city’s disastrous 75-year parking meter lease in 2009, without knowing the full scope of the agreement. CBS Local

NC: Advocacy group to file lawsuit to stop I-77 toll lanes. . .Gibbons hopes a judge agrees this project is not in the best interest of the public. The injunction will be disrupt any ongoing construction plans for the project until the issues are examined. . . . The lawsuit, in part, will examine the legality of promises made to its public-private partner, Cintra. The Spain-based company will bear the majority of the cost. Cintra will design, build, and operate the 26-mile stretch of road. In return, collect toll revenues for the next fifty years.. . . “We shouldn’t have to pay to drive on roads that belong to us,” said cab driver Chevy Sims. WCNC

VA: Virginia’s HOT lanes could be the future of US transportation. . . “High-occupancy toll” means that drivers can travel for free in a carpool or they can pay a toll. The benefit is a quicker, more reliable trip than they could get using the interstate’s regular lanes. . . . Many drivers know the toll rises and falls with the level of traffic. So, overnight, when traffic is extremely light, shouldn’t the toll sometimes drop to zero? The private consortium that shouldered most of the cost of building the lanes did so in exchange for the right to collect tolls for most of this century. No matter how light the traffic is at any particular hour, the investors still want their money back. Washington Post

FL: Fla. legislators ‘have lost confidence’ in governor to investigate prison system. Skeptical that Gov. Rick Scott’s administration can conduct an independent review of abuse allegations at the Department of Corrections, a bipartisan group of state senators is conducting its own inquiry. . . Records show that the state’s prison system had its deadliest year in 2014 — inmate deaths climbed at least 13 percent — as Scott’s push to privatize prison medicine resulted in a spike in medically related deaths and the system’s culture allowed for prisoner abuse by guards to go unchallenged in many cases. CorrectionsOne

NY: Cuomo Dangles Extra Schools Funding in Exchange for Education Reform. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for tougher teacher evaluations, changes to tenure, and more charter schools— and said if lawmakers are willing to take the political risk to pass his education reform agenda, he’ll offer up considerable funding rewards. . . . Unsurprisingly, the plans for reform did not find favor with the state’s teachers union, New York State United Teachers, nor with Mr. Cuomo’s liberal primary challenger Zephyr Teachout, who both insisted the true crisis was inadequate and unfair state education funding. “The truth is, there’s no epidemic of failing schools or bad teachers. There is an epidemic of poverty and under-funding that Albany has failed to adequately address for decades. Nearly 1 million New York schoolchildren—including more than one-third of African-American and Latino students—live in poverty. The state’s systemic failure to provide enough resources for all of its students and to do so equitably—while giving all teachers the tools and support they need—is the real crisis and the one our governor is trying to sweep under the rug,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said. Ms. Teachout blamed Mr. Cuomo for the “most segregated schools in the nation” and accused him of seeking to privatize education and take resources away from public classrooms. New York Observer

January 20, 2015

News

Prisons’ move to privatize inmate medical treatment spotlights tough choices in ensuring care. . . Four months later, after Frazier’s 13th request resulted in hospitalization and doctors quickly diagnosed bone cancer, his arm had to be amputated, according to a lawsuit filed by his family. But the cancer spread and Frazier died in 2011, months after his release. As an inmate, his medical care had been managed not by the county sheriff’s office that runs the jail, but by a private company under contract. That company, Corizon Health Inc., is under growing pressure around the country after losing five state prison contracts, downgrades by credit analysts and increased scrutiny of care of inmates held by some of its largest customers, including New York City. But Corizon, whose responsibility for 345,000 inmates at prisons and jails in 27 states makes it the country’s biggest for-profit correctional health provider, is just one of many firms using a similar model to vie for the billions of dollars states and counties spend on prisoner care. Fox Business

Don’t Privatize the Ocean, Find a Better Way to Fish – Opinion . . . Quotas were set based on catch history – those who caught the most historically got the largest piece of the pie. Quota owners found ways to manipulate the system. Many valuable fish were dumped overboard, dead, as by-catch, so that fishermen could maximize their haul of the most valuable species. In effect, what the quotas accomplished was a transfer of wealth from America’s small fishing operations and fishing towns to large agribusiness operations and absentee investors. None of this should surprise us. Our society is suffering the consequences of over-privatization and consolidation in other parts of our economy such as agriculture, education and health care.   U.S. News & World Report

More reasons not to build toll roads – opinion. . . If we keep building more toll roads I’m certain most people who work for the government will get their toll fees rebated by the taxpayers or use transponders or license plates that identify them as “official business” and hence non-paying toll road users. And the more non-paying cars you have the more paying vehicles will have to shell out to keep these toll roads solvent. . . . So what happens then is we get a two-tiered transportation system. Uncrowded, high-speed roads for government officials and the people rich enough to pay the tolls. Crowded, busted-up roads for all the rest of us. Big corporate trucking fleets will use the toll roads. Independent fleets, owner-operators and start up companies, poor people and even middle class people will use the bad roads. This is elitism pure and simple, and a policy that favors the haves over the have-nots. Equipment World Magazine

IN: Proposed bill would give tax credit to those who travel the Toll Road. . . The tax credit would be worth up to $300 or half of the cost spent on tolls. “It’s a benefit to those who use the Toll Road,” says Republican Senator Joe Zakas, who authored the bill. But it may not be a benefit to the state. Early estimates show the tax credits could cost between $7.4 and $10.3 million annually. . . .Zakas says he believes the bill is a “fair way to share the cost of the interstate.” Indiana received $3.8 billion dollars when it leased the toll road to a private company in 2006. The money was used for former Governor Mitch Daniels’ “Major Moves” program which upgraded roads like U.S. 31 and paid counties along the Toll Road. The lease also set the limit on toll rates; however, those rates will expire in July of 2016. “We’re on the cusp of increased tolls next year and as a way to more equitably share the cost across the state,” says Senator Zakas.   WSBT-TV

IN: Illiana Expressway suddenly hits roadblock. . . Kick-started by a Republican governor in Indiana, the fate of the Illiana Expressway now rests with a Republican governor in Illinois who never showed his hand in regards to the $1.5 billion project during his campaign. But last week, new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wasted no time in playing his cards, halting the Illiana Expressway and other major projects pending a “careful review.” nwitimes.com

NJ: Report: Language of controversial Liberty State Park bill ‘will probably be retooled. The language in the controversial Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act – the bill that critics believe would lead to the privatization and commercialization of Jersey City’s Liberty State Park – “probably” will be altered, a state spokesman said. . . However, a last-minute addition to the bill states that the new commission “shall evaluate, approve and implement any plans for Liberty State Park.” This wording has triggered Friends of Liberty State Park (FOLSP) to be fearful that some control of the park will be taken from the state Department of Environmental Protection and will risk full public participation in the park. “Revisions were made, and some wording was added about Liberty State Park falling under the auspices of a new commission,” DEP spokesman Larry Hajna told the Inquirer. “The way it was phrased was not the way it was intended, it will probably be retooled.” NJ.com

GA: Privatization Advocate Crafts New Bill Aimed At Foster Care System. . . Last year Unterman was one of the biggest advocates of privatizing state services like foster care and adoption. A bill to do that seemed poised for passage with Gov. Nathan Deal’s initial endorsement, but it ultimately failed in the final hours of the session. Unterman dismissed comparisons to that effort, saying this is aimed at families that hit a stroke of bad luck, like a job loss, addiction or illness. . . Unterman’s bill will likely be formally introduced in the Senate when it reconvenes next week.   WABE 90.1 FM

NC: Anti-toll group to seek halt to I-77 project. Members of a group that opposes proposed toll lanes on Interstate 77 north of Charlotte plan to file a legal complaint Tuesday seeking to stop the project. Widen I-77’s request for a preliminary injunction could lead to a trial against the N.C. Department of Transportation and I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of the project’s contractors, said Vince Winegardner, spokesman for the citizens group. The filing would come two days before Cintra, the project’s contractor, has to secure funding for the $655 million project, said Kurt Naas, Widen I-77 group member. Charlotte Observer

CA: Commentary: Public will bear risks from toll road. When Gov. Jerry Brown took office, one of his first actions was to cancel the sale of government office buildings to private supporters of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because the sale and leaseback agreements were an unwarranted transfer of taxpayer money to private corporations. It is these same corporations, banks and attorneys that stand to gain the most if the Transportation Agency for Monterey County approves the toll road being planned to replace Highway 156.   Monterey County Herald

TX: Deadlines continue to pass for state hospital privatization. State officials and representatives of the likely future operator of Terrell State Hospital say no deal has yet been signed to place operations in the hands of a private operator. Terrell Tribune

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January 16, 2015

News

VA: Greenway operators seek higher tolls; Ramadan vows to redouble his opposition. The owners of the privately owned road, which stretches from Dulles International Airport to Leesburg, are once again seeking to raise tolls, prompting a wave of renewed frustration from commuters and public officials who have long opposed the road’s pricing. Despite years of complaints from commuters and elected leaders about the high toll rates along the 14-mile road, its operator, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, has consistently sought annual rate increases. But he isn’t stopping there, he said. He plans to introduce legislation to the General Assembly next week that would force TRIP II to lower its toll rates and apply distance pricing, so that road users would pay only for the mileage they travel. Washington Post

TX: Janek’s push for urgency in privatization push questioned. . . . It is baffling to those watching this convoluted process as to why he has placed such tight timelines on awarding a bid and of getting operations out of the state’s hands. After all, Terrell State Hospital has been a state operated institution since the 1880s. . . . While there are many instances where placing what have been traditional government operations in the hands of private operators is more efficient and in the best interest of taxpayers and those involved on the front lines, we continue to question whether such is the case for a state psychiatric hospital. It may be that is the final decision made, but the decision should be part of a broad plan to improve delivery of services. Why not let elected state officials have a say in the process and the decision? Terrell Tribune

Privatizing Nursing Home CareThe nursing home business has been a profitable one for many. As baby boomers enter their later years and require care, the customer base is undoubtedly growing. Add in the numerous insurance policies that cover nursing home and long-term care facility stays, including government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and the sources of revenue for nursing homes are tremendous. Add to this the untenable yet unfortunately realistic incentive to cut overhead and staff levels in order to save even more money and generate greater profit margins. llinois Nursing Home Abuse Blog (blog)

January 15, 2015

News

How to Survive and Prevail in This Era of Greed and Privatization. Do any of the billionaires pushing this market-based ideology ever stop to wonder why none of the top-performing school systems in the world have the kind of school choice that they are promoting for the U.S.? Has it occurred to them that the nations they admire–those with the highest test scores–have strong public school systems with well-prepared teachers, but no vouchers and no charters? DianeRavitch,net

How Campbell Brown Became the Most Controversial Woman in school reform. . . . .Over the past few years, she’s transformed herself from a TV journalist to a hero reformer for the teacher-tenure-busting crowd, a spinoff of the charter-school-and-make-education-a-business crowd. New York Magazine

VA: New regs eyed for Va. public-private transportation projects. McAuliffe and Delegate S. Chris Jones proposed legislation Tuesday that they say would increase transparency and reduce risks for the state on public-private partnership deals…. Last year, McAuliffe shut down predecessor Bob McDonnell’s bid to build a $1.4 billion toll road along U.S. 460 before any work had begun. The state paid $300 million on the project before any dirt was moved or any environmental permits were obtained. WAVY-TV

WI: Superintendent: Proposed bill could privatize half of Milwaukee Public Schools. . . “It would dismantle the traditional public schools system as we know it,” MPS superintendent Darienne Driver told TODAY’S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray. In a hearing room crowded with educators, lawmakers fired questions and criticism at Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond Du Lac) for two hours. He is the author of the School Accountability Bill. Rep. Christine Sinicki asked, “does this open the door whatsoever to for-profit or private companies coming in?” “I suppose it does,” Thiesfeldt responded. TMJ4

LA: State Senator Wants Audit Of Contract To Privatize Terrell Psychiatric Hospital. An East Texas state Senator has asked for an audit of a tentative contract that granted a private Tennessee company operating power of a psychiatric hospital in Terrell. As The Texas Tribune reports, Sen. Robert Nichols, R–Jacksonville, formally raised the question after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission suspended a $110 million contract after it was found that a staffer awarded the deal without a formal bidding process. D Healthcare Daily

IN: Big bonuses expected for Toll Road employees. The Toll Road operator is in the process of filing for bankruptcy, but it may soon be giving 16% of its employees $747,750 in retention bonuses. As part of a ‘Valued Employee Program,’ 38 employees may receive bonuses if they stay with the company for the next ten months. If approved on Thursday one employee will be scheduled to receive $94,588. That is the single largest bonus, the smallest is $7,600, and the average is $19,678. WSBT-TV

January 14, 2015

News

WY: Bill Would Study Transfer of Federal Lands to Wyoming. A Wyoming legislative committee is pushing a bill in the upcoming session to put up $100,000 to study the idea of seeking the transfer of federal lands to the state. The effort is part of a wider push in which several Western states have demanded the federal government transfer lands to them. Proponents say states could manage lands better. Opponents, including some national environmental groups, say the effort could be the first step toward privatization. Flathead Beacon

WI: Controversial proposal may privatize some public schools. . . The measure, labeled the School Accountability Bill, adds student testing and gives schools an A through F letter grade. School districts may be forced to give control of schools with failing grades over to private operators. “I call it a disaster. This bill weakens accountability. It attacks local control and democracy,” said Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. “Currently, the state law says that all schools that receive public funds have to take the same test. You have to compare. But now, this bill says that private voucher schools, privately-run charter schools can choose their own test. It will be like comparing apples to oranges.” TMJ4

NY: Rally to Fund Schools Draws Hundreds to Albany. Hundreds of school children, parents, Democratic lawmakers and union organizers came to the Capitol to rally for more money for New York’s schools. The event was part of what’s become known as Moral Mondays, modeled after similar events in North Carolina. That movement was led by Reverend William Barber II, a North Carolina chapter leader of the N.A.A.C.P in response to Republican budget cuts. Barber also attended the Albany rally, where he took on Gov. Andrew Cuomo directly. . . . Barber also railed against charter schools, which he says only add to inequality and “isolation” of poor students. Cuomo supports these privately managed but publicly funded schools. WNYC

MD: Larry Hogan names transportation chief; Keiffer Mitchell as charter school adviser. Gov.-elect Larry Hogan continued to fill out his administration Tuesday, naming a transportation secretary who has held the same role in two other states and picking a former Baltimore City delegate to handle growing charter schools. . . . His selection as Maryland’s transportation chief could signal an emphasis on road building and public-private partnerships. Rahn is known as an effective highway builder who has suggested public-private partnerships to raise money for transportation systems in difficult economic times. Hogan also named Democratic Del. Keiffer Mitchell as a special advisor. Mitchell will be charged with boosting charter schools in Maryland. Baltimore Business Journal

RI: City bus monitors oppose privatization efforts

More than 100 city employees turned out in force at Monday’s school board meeting to speak out against a proposal that could leave them out of a job if city officials opt to privatize bus monitoring services. Providence Eyewitness News

PA: Another View: Why privatizing Crozer would be a disaster. . . The “value” of the Crozer health system belongs to the community it serves; the community has earned that ownership interest through a hundred years of foregone, uncollected taxes. Because the community has earned its ownership of the Crozer system’s value, it would be inexcusable to turn over such a vital and prized community asset to a for-profit operator that will no longer operate in the interest of the community. When for-profit hospital corporations set up shop, here’s what happens. The flowery promises they make to “seal the deal” will inevitably be broken. For-profit hospitals also routinely shut down maternity and psychiatric services, vital community services but sometimes money losers for health systems. They also close hospitals that break even or suffer even small losses. The Delaware County Daily Times

A Telling Tale Of Two Senators. While Sen. Majority leader Mitch McConnell was boastfully crediting Republicans as the force behind today’s recovering economy, Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was firing up opposition to a GOP plan to erode Social Security Disability Insurance. There could be no greater contrast in the behavior of a vengeful obstructionist who will be the Senate megaphone of his party’s reactionaries and Brown’s forceful stand to protect the Federal program from an assault by the newly-elected chest-pounders. Plunderbund

January 12, 2015

News

Red Ink Mounts At Redflex. Embattled photo ticketing provider Redflex Traffic Systems expects it will lose $12 million from legal changes in two states. The company earlier today announced to the Australian Securities Exchange that twelve percent of the firm’s revenue stream has dried up because of increasing dissatisfaction with the concept of automated ticketing. “Existing programs in several other states, including New Jersey and Ohio, where Redflex Traffic Systems Inc currently conducts business, face actual or potential legislative action that could restrict or impair the operation of photo-enforcement,” the company told investors. TheNewspaper.com

LA: Analysis: Hospital decision good for Jindal, less for others. Gov. Bobby Jindal got only good news when the federal Medicaid agency signed off on financing plans for his LSU hospital privatization deals. But the result was more mixed for lawmakers and future governors, who learned Jindal’s deals will leave them with a lingering budget worry after he’s gone. AP via Washington Times

VA: Judge delays ruling on Express Lanes unpaid toll case until March. Defendants Toni Cooley, Jim Diller and Stuart Holmes all appeared before Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Smith to argue that toll lane operator Transurban violated the U.S. Constitution by imposing excessive fines disproportionate to the violations of not paying a toll because of an E-ZPass problem. The case challenges a traffic court ruling in October and also claims that Transurban violated Virginia law. Smith delayed a decision in the case until a hearing on March 13. A ruling against Transurban could set a precedent, allowing motorists to cite the case in future traffic court challenges. WTOP

GA: Foster Care Privatization Put On Legislative Back Burner. Despite a strong push from state lawmakers last year, an effort to privatize parts of Georgia’s foster care has likely been tabled. . . Instead, the report suggests nearly three dozen legislative fixes to improve conditions for kids in state care. Proposals include creating a child abuse registry, improving data sharing with other state agencies and forming a statewide advisory board for the Division of Family and Children Services. The report also calls for boosting caseworker and supervisor salaries, as well as support of Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to hire enough caseworkers to bring the average caseload down to 15. WABE 90.1 FM

ID: Caldwell board says no to custodial privatization. . .The standing room only crowd loudly applauded the board’s decision after Rosandick laid out the positives and negatives of custodial privatization and said he doesn’t think the district should go in that direction any time soon. . . . However, Rosandick said the negatives were easily apparent. Unused sick leave would disappear under a new private boss, and the custodians would no longer be state employees under the proposal. Rosandick said the loss of the state employee insurance package would be a hit for workers, and the custodians would be off of the state retirement system. New employees would also be hired on a pay scale most likely lower than the school would pay new custodians. Trustee Leif Skyving praised the public outcry from the community over the issue. He said he was impressed by how passionate the people in the district were about their school board and custodians. Idaho Press-Tribune

CA: Dennis Knepp: Public will bear risks from toll road. When Gov. Jerry Brown took office, one of his first actions was to cancel the sale of government office buildings to private supporters of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because the sale and leaseback agreements were an unwarranted transfer of taxpayer money to private corporations. It is these same corporations, banks and attorneys that stand to gain the most if the Transportation Agency for Monterey County approves the toll road being planned to replace Highway 156. Monterey County Herald

January 9, 2015

News

Jeb Bush’s “Florida formula” of education privatization in North Carolina. . . In recent years, the Tar Heel state has seen the passage of legislation and policies that have opened the door for most of the initiatives that Bush’s foundation promotes. That includes taxpayer-funded school vouchers for students to attend private schools, the Read to Achieve law that requires all third grade students to be reading proficient by the end of third grade or else face retention, and the likely 2015 arrival of virtual charter schools that will be backed by controversial for-profit companies K12, Inc. and Pearson. The Progressive Pulse

The Feds Quietly Acknowledge the Driving Boom Is Over. The Federal Highway Administration has very quietly acknowledged that the driving boom is over. After many years of aggressively and inaccurately claiming that Americans would likely begin a new era of rapid driving growth, the agency’s more recent forecast finally recognizes that the protracted post-World War II era has given way to a different paradigm. The new vision of the future suggests that driving per capita will essentially remain flat in the future. The benchmark is important because excessively high estimates of future driving volume get used to justify wasteful spending on new and wider highways. In the face of scarce transportation funds, overestimates of future driving translate into too little attention paid to repairing the roads we already have and too little investment in other modes of travel. Streetsblog

TN: Memphis Campus Temps Outwit Scheme to Privatize Their Social Security. . . We drafted a media plan to frame the new policy primarily as an attack on Social Security, and secondarily as an attack on temporary workers. This helped us get national Social Security watch groups interested.It also changed the tone. Instead of a story about cuts to workers’ retirement plans, we made it a story about the university attacking Grandma and Grandpa’s income. Once administrators faced the possibility of opposition not just from workers, but also from senior citizens, they balked. Just five days after announcing the plan, the university reversed course. The plan to privatize our Social Security was suspended—though the layoffs went ahead.   Labor Notes (blog)

TX: A drive on a Texas high-speed toll road: Is this how everybody will drive in the future? I hope not. . . In addition to the NASCAR-like atmosphere on the freeways you’ve got different tolls for different roads and no two cities do them quite the same. State politicians play shell games with tolls and gas taxes, bankers and bond salesmen angle to get their cut and the lack of transparency in the process is an open invitation for local governments to divert funds. Equipment World Magazine

VA: Highway Robbery. . . Virginia authorities need to revisit the enforcement provisions in the Transurban public-private partnership contract and, ideally, induce Transurban into re-negotiating the offending clauses. It won’t be easy because traffic volumes and revenues are falling short of projections, and Transurban may not be receptive to changes that might raise its cost structure. On the other hand, the company does have a 70-year contract and it needs to consider the long-term implications of alienating its customer base. If a huge fan of the express lane concept like myself finds $2,500 fines for $10 offenses to be outrageous and indefensible, I feel like I’m pretty safe in saying that Transurban stands all alone on this one. Bacon’s Rebellion

January 8, 2015

News

‘Hostage-Takers': Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day. An attack by the Republican Party on the nation’s Social Security program took less than one full working day. Included in a new set of rules passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday was a new measure making it more difficult to move funds between separate accounts maintained by the Social Security Administration. A seemingly technical provision on the surface, critics says it puts millions of disabled and elderly Americans at risk and sets the stage for further attacks aimed at the wider program. . . . Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also condemned the rule, calling it not only contentious, but dangerous. “Re-allocation has never been controversial, but detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function,” Brown said in a statement. CommonDreams.org

4 Things to Know Before Your Water Is Privatized. . . Right now, private water companies serve about 15 percent of the U.S. population, but that number could soon skyrocket thanks to several new federal laws and an investment gap of as much as $500 billion over the next 20 years. However, even as private water IOUs eat up an increasing chunk of the U.S. market, water infrastructure’s decentralized nature — owned and operated by thousands of local municipalities, tied to each individual watershed — means that little national data exists. When bills like New Jersey’s stir controversy, local media is often forced into he-said, she-said coverage, without much information on how privatization will actually affect the local system. Next City

Editorial: With oil prices low, now’s the perfect time for Congress to raise the gas tax. . . Lawmakers could have headed off some of the problem in 1993 by indexing the gas tax to inflation, but they put that responsibility on later congresses, which failed to act responsibly. Now, with lower oil prices, the politics of raising the gas tax should be easier, the potential backlash blunted by Americans who don’t feel as pinched at the pump. True, lower gas prices will stimulate the economy to some degree, and raising the gas tax would reduce that effect. But raising it now would restrain present and future demand for gasoline, encouraging Americans to maintain some of the resilience to oil price volatility that the country built up in recent years — and possibly even checking future price spikes. Washington Post

The ugly segregationist history of the charter school movement. As a parent I find it easy to understand the appeal of charter schools, especially for parents and students who feel that traditional public schools have failed them. As a historical sociologist who studies race and politics, however, I am disturbed both by the significant challenges that plague the contemporary charter school movement, and by the ugly history of segregationist tactics that link past educational practices to the troubling present. The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. Salon

CA: Los Angeles City Council asks for law banning for-profit parking apps. The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday requested that city lawyers draft a law banning digital media applications that identify available parking on city streets and charge fees to reserve the spots. The emerging technology, offered by San Francisco-based MonkeyParking and other mobile-based apps, has become a thorn for public officials in the Bay Area, along with Boston and Santa Monica. Los Angeles Times

NJ: Liberty State Park advocates remain puzzled by controversial legislation. One week after advocates for Liberty State Park sounded the alarm about legislative changes that they believe would lead to privatization of the park, it’s still unclear why the changes were made and whether they will be signed into law. Mayor Steve Fulop said today he has “serious concerns” about the proposed changes, which would allow a new state commission to “evaluate, approve and implement” plans for the state park. That language was inserted into an 80-page bill shortly before the state Legislature approved it last month. “It’s unclear what the motivation is for the governor to add that in,” Fulop told The Jersey Journal. “Everyone is trying to figure it out.” The Jersey Journal

PA: Koch Bros-backed group to push “3 P’s” – pensions, paycheck protection and booze privatization. The American Future Fund, an advocacy group founded by ex-Mitt Romney campaign aides that has ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, has come to play in Pennsylvania. The group plans a statewide multimedia and advocacy blitz during the coming legislative session aimed at “[reminding] legislators of their commitments to support “3 Ps:” pension reform, paycheck protection, and liquor privatization,” according to a statement posted to it s website. PennLive.com (blog)

TX: Governor proposes a toll road plan ‘as big as Texas’. Rick Perry was just a year into his tenure as governor when he proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive 4,000-mile network of privately operated toll roads, railroad tracks and utility lines that would take 50 years to build. “This plan is as big as Texas and as ambitious as our people,” Perry said at the first of many events touting the project. The corridor he envisioned would never become a reality, but he still managed to leave his mark on the state’s approach to funding roads. Under his leadership, Texas has been the country’s most aggressive supporter of tolling and private-sector investment in transportation. Despite millions of dollars spent on planning, the caustic public response to the Trans-Texas Corridor would ultimately doom it. Killeen Daily Herald

TX: Nichols asks for review of contract management for state health commission. State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) on Wednesday, Jan. 7, requested that the Texas State Auditor’s Office review the procurement processes of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in tentatively awarding a contract for the operation of Terrell State Hospital to a private firm. “I believe that if we are considering privatization of one of our state hospitals, we need to be able to show that it will not only save money for the state, but that better services will be provided,” said Senator Nichols. “I hope that through this review some of our questions will be answered, and we will be able to determine the best next step forward in this process.” Cleveland Advocate

MD: Montgomery Parks asks whether privately owned parks make sense for downtown areas. The Montgomery Department of Parks is asking people whether they think public spaces owned by private entities can serve as useful civic spaces now and in the future, or whether they would be better off owned by a public entity. The survey asks what people think about the strengths and weaknesses of privately owned public spaces, especially in urban areas such as downtown Bethesda, Wheaton or Silver Spring.   Gazette.Net

NY: Opinion: NYCHA’s Path to Privatization? As it currently stands, NYCHA’s 2602 buildings spread across 334 developments, serving more than 615,000 people, are in need of $18 billion for major building repairs and upgrades. The area I represent in East Harlem has the highest concentration of public housing in the State. This state of disrepair is both a natural result of aging housing stock and a failure to properly invest in the regular maintenance of these buildings. The plan recently introduced by NYCHA to sell a 50% stake in six developments, in exchange for an immediate cash infusion, is an intriguing approach to this massive problem, but this deal requires closer scrutiny. Furthermore, it raises significant questions about the federal government’s future role in providing housing subsidies. Gotham Gazette

 

 

 

 

January 6, 2015

News

WA: Public-private partnerships take root to help downtown parks. Pointing to the success of several New York City parks, initiative supporters say partnerships bringing private resources to bear on some of Seattle’s most important public spaces can succeed where the city has struggled. But the supporters also say they are aware of the potential for park partnerships to stir controversy. They insist they will safeguard public access and equity. The Seattle Times

FL: Access to public records in Florida faced new, bigger hurdles in 2014. It was a dark year for sunshine in Florida in 2014. Legal fights by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida kept crucial documents under wraps long enough to dilute their impact once they were released. The governor took the state’s public records tradition in a new direction as he used taxpayer money to defend his attempts to shift the burden for holding the public records from the state to individual employees, and his lawyers opened a new legal vein with his interpretation of the blind trust law. Tampabay.com

NJ: Pols blast Christie-championed PATH privatization plan. . . Tramping in from out of frigid weather beside the Grove Street PATH Station, a military tent-sized collection of Democratic Party politicians joined Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop to denounce the proposed scheme. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) led the way, heaping praise on Fulop for organizing the show of force. “I applaud the mayor’s leadership to join together a coalition to speak out against a travesty,” said New Jersey’s senior senator, who slammed the Port Authority, traditionally a nest for political patronage, some of which got blasted and exposed during last year’s Bridgegate crisis. PolitickerNJ

TX: Texas Payday Lenders Use Illegal Threat Of Jail Time To Intimidate Thousands Of Borrowers. . . The American Civil Liberties Union alleges that courts in Colorado, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Washington, and Georgia have effectively reinstated the “debtors prisons” that went out of style in the 19th century. The privatization of probation services has added new fees and charges that can often land people in jail even after they’ve paid their debt to society. In June, a Pennsylvania mother died in a cell while serving a weekend in jail to resolve years of outstanding fines she had no ability to repay. ThinkProgress