December 18, 2014

News

IL: Chicago Mayor Emanuel urged to resolve stalemate stalling council budget office. . . The office was created more than a year ago to provide aldermen with expert advice on mayoral spending, programs and privatization and guide the City Council through Chicago’s $20 billion pension crisis. The reform is stuck in the mud because of a stalemate over whether former independent Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) has the independence and policy expertise to lead the office as the first-ever, $107,000-a-year City Council Financial Analyst. Chicago Sun Times

MO: Nixon’s toll road proposal might face rough path forward. On Tuesday, Nixon, a Democrat, penned a letter to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission asking it to report back to him on the idea of using tolls to pay for Interstate 70 upgrades. That, he said, could free up existing money for other projects for the agency that he said will soon reach a “critical juncture” in its funding. . . State Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, said he does not buy into the notion that more funding for Interstate 70 could lead to more funding for transportation projects throughout the state. In fact, Lant, a member of the House Transportation Committee, said he thinks it could actually deplete resources if drivers avoid it by using other parallel routes that are available. PoliticMO

VA: Virginia Opens $950 Million I-95 P3 Lanes. Private investors will begin collecting tolls later this month on 29 miles of managed express lanes on a northern Virginia interstate highway under a concession agreement that extends to 2087.Funding for the $950 million project that was financed and built under Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act included: $280 million of private equity from Transurban and its partners in 95 Express Lanes LLC; $252.6 million of proceeds from tax-exempt private activity bonds; an $83 million state transportation grant; and $25 million of early development costs by Virginia Department of Transportation. Bond Buyer

VA: Stimpson blasts Virginia’s public-private deals. House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Falmouth, is facing a primary challenge from former Stafford County Supervisor Susan Stimpson, who accuses GOP leaders of favoring corporate partnerships at taxpayer expense. “The General Assembly’s public-private partnership deals, have developed a pattern of negotiating most of the financial risk on Virginia taxpayers,” Stimpson said of recent road projects. “The new HOT (high-occupany toll) lanes are an example of this. If the tolls do not reach the agreed upon revenue levels, then the taxpayers must kick in tax dollars to offset that shortfall.” Watchdog.org

December 17, 2014

News

NY: NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools – And Gets Ignored. Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state’s top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found “practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst” at some charter schools. . . . Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified,” he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. “Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities.” It’s a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators – New York City’s Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York. He never heard back from any of them. “No response whatsoever,” Grannis said. Not even, he added, a “‘Thank you for your letter, we’ll look into it.’ That would have been the normal bureaucratic response.” ProPublica

NJ: On privatization, Gov. Christie should practice, not preach, government transparency: Opinion. . . Look no further than the deal he cut to privatize the country’s most successful lottery, worth $2.7 billion in yearly sales. . . .The “winning” bidder was a joint venture called Northstar New Jersey, which includes GTECH Corp. The politically astute lottery operator hired two of Christie’s closest confidantes to see the bid through: the law firm of David Samson, who led the governor’s transition team, was paid millions for lobbying . . . GTECH is on record as a $100,000 donor to the Republican Governor’s Association while Christie was chair – and after the governor agreed to lower the company’s first-year revenue target, benefiting the company and costing New Jersey taxpayers. In his absolute veto of legislation that establishes guidelines and increases accountability in privatization deals (S-770, A-2873) the governor slammed the door on a bill that would have created sorely needed transparency and accountability in contracts that turn government services like the state lottery over to a private agency. If this bill was law, the governor’s flawed lottery deal wouldn’t have happened. NJ.com

MO: Toll road proposal could add $20 to cost of drive across Missouri. A toll road proposal for Interstate 70 could result in an additional $20 in tolls for people driving between St. Louis and Kansas City. KMBC Kansas City

TX: State Road Officials Balk at a Few Straight Questions About that “Blacklands” Toll Road. Sooner or later we’re going to find out who’s really pushing behind the scenes for that private “Blacklands” private toll road they want to build northeast of Dallas from Rowlett to Greenville. And I don’t mean the private dudes who want to build it for profit. I mean who in local government has been carrying their water. Dallas Observer (blog)

VA: Tolling group: Va. express lanes ‘a glimpse into the future’. New toll lanes on Interstate 95 in northern Virginia are “a glimpse into the future” of transportation funding, the group that lobbies for more tolling on U.S. roads in Washington is arguing. . . . Tolling advocates have pushed Congress to lift a current ban on states placing tolls on existing highway lanes as lawmakers have struggled to come up with new ways to finance infrastructure construction in the U.S. . . Opponents of expanding tolling in the U.S. have pushed back against the idea of easing the restrictions on existing highways, arguing that charging drivers for roads that are currently free will result in increased traffic on alternative routes.   The Hill

LA: Rewritten LSU hospital deals still pending in federal review. . . Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU-run hospitals without first getting needed federal approval. The privatization deals rely on federal Medicaid money to work. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services refused financing plans for the six privatization arrangements in May, so the state reworked the contracts. Shreveport Times

KS: Kansas child support and cost to collect it fall. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is reaffirming his support of a privatized child support system, arguing that costs have declined. He also said overall results have been good. . . . His comments come after The Capital-Journal revealed in November that collections have fallen since privatization, with the percentage of current support collected at a 14-year low. The paper obtained data about child support collections through an open records request. The data show the state is collecting the smallest percentage of current support due since 2000. . . . Kansas also is doing a worse job post-privatization in another key area: collection on late support. The collection percentage on arrears (support past due) fell to a 13-year low. For FFY 2014, the percentage stood at 60.14 percent. Topeka Capital-Journal

 

December 16, 2014

News

FL: Protesters Call New MDX Tolls “Tollmageddon”. Monday marks one month since the new Miami-Dade Expressway tolls were put into place, a day which a group of protesters mark as, “Tollmageddon.”. . . . The group, called TEAM305, is trying to get attention and raise concern about the added tolls on the 836 and 112. They believe the increase in tolls is just too much. . . . “I’m spending about an additional $30 a month just with the new tolls they’ve implemented cause I have to drive back and forth to work,” said Vallejo. Tony Rodriguez said he’s spending an additional $60-$80 a month because of the added tolls. . . . The protestors are hoping to get the current tolls decreased—and let the people decide. . . . In addition to protesting, the group started petition online, #NoMoreTolls. CBS Local

KS: Topeka Considers Privatizing Public Health Clinics to Nonprofit

The long-standing national trend of government outsourcing primary services to private operators, both nonprofit and for-profit, marches on. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County, home to the city of Topeka, will outsource the county’s primary care services to a nonprofit health center. The County Commission last week asked the Wichita-based GraceMed Clinic to take over operations of Shawnee County’s community health center. It has been considering outsourcing its clinical services to a private nonprofit since the spring of this year. The Nonprofit Quarterly

IN: Feds Advance Illiana Toll Road. The federal government has given Illinois and Indiana the go ahead to advance plans for a more than $1 billion bistate toll road both states hope to build with financing from a public-private partnership. Bond Buyer           

KS: Missouri, Kansas face tough calls with road funds. Missouri and Kansas are both facing issues with highway funds, as the Show-Me State again explores the idea of collecting tolls on Interstate 70 and Kansas may borrow from highway funds to fix its budget shortfall. KMBC Kansas City

VA: Increasing oversight on road projects – editorial . . . State lawmakers have wrestled in the past few years over how to modify the law without bogging down efforts to upgrade Virginia’s transportation system. They increased public notice and provided more time for competing bids, and they approved an amendment to preclude a governor from inflicting the kind of damage that McDonnell’s administration did to the Port of Virginia when members tried to circumvent the legislature and privatize port operations. Last week, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a plan to amend the law to include provisions that promote greater transparency and accountability. . . .Public-private partnerships may well be necessary and beneficial to the public for certain projects. But, as the McDonnell administration’s reckless application of the law has shown, more safeguards need to be in place to protect Virginians’ interests. The measures announced last week should be approved. The Virginian-Pilot

MD: State revenues to decline by more than $271M. . . The latest figures make Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s budget-balancing task even more daunting. He’s already getting unsolicited advice on how to accomplish it and dire warnings on what should be considered sacrosanct. . . . Other budget-balancing suggestions include raising eligibility requirements for entitlement programs and privatizing some state agencies, like the Department of Business and Economic Development. “Pushing off some of the cost onto the private sector or public-private partnerships, we’ve seen that with the port,” Irani said. WBAL Baltimore

December 15, 2014

News

Are car rental companies profiting from toll roads?. . . . When Moore returned the vehicle, a company called Highway Toll Administration, which bills itself as the largest provider of toll services for the rental car industry, mailed her an invoice. It tacked an additional $2.95 a day to her bill — a total of $11.80 for the privilege of a “pay by plate” option with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. “This information is listed in very small print on the car rental agreement,” she says. “But what’s the convenience fee for?”. . . That’s a question many car renters are asking as the number of AET roads expand. Of the 5,300 miles of toll roads in the USA, roughly 200 miles are all-electronic, with nearly 100 new miles being added every year, according to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. USA TODAY

Going Beyond Private Versus Public. The new, more Republican Congress may “privatize” the United States Postal Service: dismantle the public enterprise and turn mail services over to private enterprises. Such a privatization would mimic what the US military has done with part of its activities and what many states and cities did with utilities, transport systems and schools. Privatizers always assert that private enterprises function more efficiently and will thus cost society less than public enterprises. Evidence for such assertions ranges from slim to none. Truth-Out

IN: IBM, Indiana to mediate welfare contract dispute. IBM Corp. and the state of Indiana are turning to mediation in hopes of settling their dispute over IBM’s failed attempt to privatize Indiana’s welfare services. . . . An IBM-led team of vendors won a state contract in 2006 to privatize Indiana’s welfare service. The team’s push introduced call centers, the Internet and fax machines as means by which residents could apply for benefits, and removed specific case workers assigned to each household. That new system quickly became mired in complaints from lawmakers, welfare clients and their advocates about long wait times, lost documents and improper rejections. Welfare applicants also complained about being left on hold for long periods and the reduced or eliminated face-to-face contact with case workers. Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled the contract in 2009, less than three years into the 10-year deal, and Indiana and IBM countersued each other. Indianapolis Business Journal

NJ: NJ Lottery Numbers Fall Short in First Year of Switch to Private Operator. Gov. Chris Christie privatized the state lottery last year, in what was billed as an effort to make the system more profitable. But now the contractor running the system is reportedly running up higher costs and bringing in less revenue, falling short of projections by about $24 million in its first year, according to Bloomberg News. NJ Spotlight

KS: Governor calls privatizing child support system a good move. Governor Sam Brownback says privatization of the state’s child support collection system has been a good move because it made collecting the money more cost-effective. But while the governor says Kansas collected $5.89 for every $1 spent collecting it in fiscal year 2014, other data indicate the state collected the lowest percentage of child support in the past 14 years. . . . The state also collected less in total dollars for parents in 2014 than in the previous year, while the percentage of payments in arrears that was collected hit a 13-year low. KAKE

MI: Public money for schools buys private property. National Heritage Academies, Michigan’s largest charter management company, has an unusual arrangement with its schools. The for-profit company — and not the schools — owns the contents of its school buildings, even though those desks, computers, books and supplies may have been purchased with taxpayer money. The company also owns most of the buildings where it manages schools. NHA fronts the money to build or renovate those properties, recouping its investment through rents charged to the schools. Those rents, paid with public dollars, generally don’t come down even after NHA has recovered its initial investment, according to an eight-part series — “State of Charter Schools” — the Detroit Free Press published in June. Ownership of both the school building and its contents means charter school boards have little leverage to remove the company if they are unhappy with NHA’s stewardship. If NHA is fired, it could take school property with it. Detroit Free Press

 

 

December 11, 2014

News

Privatizing the Attorney General’s Office. Thanks to an in-depth investigation in The New York Times, we now know that the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) was coordinating efforts of their members. That’s not unusual, of course. What is unprecedented is that RAGA and the Republican AGs, according to the Times, are secretly working with corporations—especially in the mining and energy sector—to fight federal regulations. That’s contrary to the traditional role of the AG, which is to take on corporations that fail to adhere to regulations. In effect, RAGA appears to be actually encouraging their state attorneys general to privatize the office by allowing corporations to secretly back legislation and support lawsuits in their interests. Express Milwaukee

When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only. . . Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances. . . . In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a “sweeps” contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is “swept” into a charter-management company. The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits. “It’s really just a pass-through for for-profit entities,” said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs who specializes in work with charter schools and has come across many sweeps contracts. “In what sense is that a nonprofit endeavor? It’s not.” ProPublica

AZ: Apache tribe distressed by privatization of sacred land. Former San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Wendsler Nosie said he felt sick when he heard what legislators did last week. Members of Congress — including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act a controversial land-swap measure that would privatize national forest land sacred to Western Apache tribes. More than a dozen versions of the land-swap bill have failed to pass Congress since 2005. But now the U.S. Senate is expected to make a final decision on the defense spending bill by late Thursday. Arizona Daily Star

VA: McAuliffe, Jones, back transportation reforms. . . The new legislation targets the state’s public private partnership process, which is used to draw private sector funding for large projects. That’s the plan along Interstate 95 in northern Virginia, which the governor visited Wednesday to announce this weekend’s opening of a new toll lanes. A private consortium will collect tolls for 76 years to make back the roughly $854 million in private money raised for the $969 million project budget. The state had a similar plan for U.S. 460, and signed an agreement with an international conglomerate to build a new tolled highway between Suffolk and Petersburg. The project was put on hold after nearly $300 million was spent despite not having a crucial federal permit to build the road. Daily Press

OH: Ohio’s charter school performance is “grim” and needs state attention. Ohio’s longstanding and “grim” problem with underperforming charter schools is improving, a Stanford researcher said at the City Club today, but the state needs to increase its quality control efforts. . . . Most of all, Raymond stressed, Ohio has an “expanded need for attention to quality” of charter schools to reduce the large amount — about half — whose students show both low ability and low improvement in reading and math. cleveland.com

MO: Drivers balk at idea of turning I-70 into toll road. . . “I hate the idea. I’ll be protesting against it,” said driver Glen Scharnhorst. “It actually takes money out of my pocket and reduces my spending power.”. . . Nixon said he’d like to study a private or public-private operation. He asked the commission to report back to him before the end of the month. He said if I-70 became a toll road, money set aside for I-70 would be used to repair and improve other highways throughout Missouri. KMBC Kansas City

WA: State’s first charter school in disarray. Just months after it opened, First Place Scholars, the first charter school in Washington state, is in turmoil. Its first principal resigned in November, more than half of its original board of directors have left, too, and the state’s charter-school commission has identified more than a dozen potential problems that need to be fixed soon if the school wants to keep its doors open. The Seattle Times

 

 

December 10, 2014

News

ALEC On the Run. At the ALEC meetings, corporate lobbyists draft legislation — to roll back renewable energy standards, to pass right to work laws, to privatize education, to pass stand your ground laws — and the legislators take the model bills back to their states and seek to pass them into law. It’s been a model that has worked remarkably well — until 2011, when the Center for Media and Democracy launched a project called ALEC Exposed. And ever since, more than 90 corporations have pulled out of ALEC and their revenues have dipped 20 percent in the last year. Corporate Crime Reporter

Selling the Public Farm, Bit By Bit. Why are we content to let our public highways become entitled tollways for the monied? I thought our tax dollars built those roads, maintained them. I thought this was the great post-war boom, the opening of individual pathways to Everytown USA. But to travel east in LA one needs money to use part of the roadway, additional extracted beyond the shared contribution of our taxes to the commons, money invested in privilege. Rewards to those engaged, and victorious, in the game of capitalism. The same is true for our public schools, threatened by privatization and the strength of money played by individuals for their personal, exclusive betterment. Money invested in isolated reservoirs of homogeneity and privilege. Money kicked back individually for personal advantage, reinforcing exclusive communities of advantage. City Watch

Red Light Camera and Speed Camera Crime. Although red light cameras and speed cameras are presented as tools of law enforcement, these privately owned companies, their employees and public officials are often caught disregarding the law. Highlights of these cases presented chronologically below include FCC fines, fraud convictions, bribery convictions and speed camera vehicles busted for drunk driving. TheNewspaper.com

WA: Retiring liquor chair on privatization: ‘Dumbest thing we ever did’. When Sharon Foster retires in January, she plans on travelling and has no plans to stay involved with state government. . . .On the privatization of liquor sales, Foster said, “I think it’s the dumbest thing we ever did in our state.” Foster blames higher prices and increased shoplifting of alcohol, especially by minors, on the voter-approved move. “We’ve heard stories there may be alcohol brokers in every high school,” said Foster. KING5.com

TX: Planners Doubling Down on Proposed Toll Roads. Barely a month after Texas voters overwhelmingly agreed to free up as much as $1.5 billion more a year for road construction, the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization today is set to approve a new long term transportation plan that doubles the number of roads which will involved ‘managed lanes,’ which is government-speak for toll roads. “So here we go, round two, more toll roads, even though we voted to give nearly $2 billion a year to TxDOT in what we were told would be a way to get out of our hole and away from all these toll projects,” Terri Hall, the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and an anti-toll activist, told News Radio 1200 WOAI. WOAI

LA: Federal approval expected this week for financial arrangements key to privatizing 6 LSU charity hospitals. Federal approval should come this week to financial arrangements that are key to privatizing six of the LSU charity hospitals, state health Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Monday. . . . Federal approval means the private concerns contracted to operate the public hospitals can receive a higher level of reimbursement for care of the poor and uninsured. The hospitals are located in New Orleans, Lafayette, Bogalusa, Lake Charles, Shreveport and Monroe. The Advocate

MO: Lawmakers react to Nixon’s request for toll road study. . . Gov. Jay Nixon formally requested that the state Highways and Transportation Commission provide analysis on utilizing toll roads to improve and expand Interstate 70, an effort that several lawmakers have responded to unkindly. The Missouri Times

Canada: Private-public partnerships cost Ontario taxpayers extra $8-billion – Auditor General. The Ontario government has shelled out nearly $8-billion more to use public-private partnerships when building new infrastructure than it would have paid if it had simply built the projects itself. That is the conclusion reached by Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk. She examined 74 projects – including hospitals, schools and light rail lines – that were built using private partnerships. The Globe and Mail

December 9, 2014

News

Would You Rather Get Your Water From Your City Government—Or From a Corporation?. . . . Detroit’s devastation seems freakish, but we may soon see more resource crises nationwide if pro-business officials decide water isn’t so much an essential entitlement as a commodity to be traded like corn and crude oil. According to research by Corporate Accountability International (CAI), the experience of dozens of communities that have experimented with privatizing their water infrastructures illustrates the danger of prioritizing cost concerns over human rights. The Nation

ProfitShip Learning. A top rightwing think tank has devoted more than $30 million to spread the message that public education is failing. According to a report by One Wisconsin Now, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is a major underwriter of this propaganda effort. Bradley spent millions on shoddy research, media punditry, and a lobbying campaign to promote the idea that public schools have failed and to push school vouchers and other privatization schemes as the “solution”. Large, national charter-school chains have been major of the beneficiaries of the campaign to fix “failing” public schools. Among them, Rocketship––“a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty,” according to a report by economist Gordon Lafer for the Economic Policy Institute. Progressive.org

TX: Texans want less toll road talk, official says. It’s no secret that toll roads are about as popular as Ohio State football in many parts of Texas these days. Rural areas in particular have traditionally shunned them. But now, even large metro areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston are showing signs of “toll fatigue,” the state’s top transportation official said Monday. That’s why Joe Weber, executive director of the Texas Transportation Department, said he expects a lot less talk about toll roads during the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 13. “That’s a great concern — tolling fatigue. There’s no doubt in my mind it’s out there. We’re sensitive to it,” Weber said during a conference call with reporters. “We’re going to listen very closely with local communities out there.” Fort Worth Star Telegram

OR: Elliott State Forest options no longer include privatization. Although the prospect of auctioning the entire 93,000-acre forest to the highest bidder was among solutions studied in a recent report, the land board won’t consider it. “That’s not a scenario we’re putting forth,” said Julie Curtis, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of State Lands. Groups including Trout Unlimited, the Sierra Club, Cascadia Wildlands and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers lauded the news.. . . With privatization off the table, the board must choose between several other options for an asset that, recently, has become a financial liability. OregonLive.com

NY: On the Market: NYCHA to Sell Stake in Public Housing to Private Developers. On the campaign trail a year ago, Bill de Blasio voiced his opposition to NYCHA’s land lease program. But now, NYCHA is taking an even more drastic step toward embracing privatization—selling a 50 percent stake in nearly 900 public housing apartments to two developers (L&M Development Partners and BFC Partner), who could convert those apartments to market rate in 30 years, according to The Wall Street Journal. In exchange, the developers will invest a total of $550 million in NYCHA housing, renovating apartments and earning revenue through federal subsidies that will pay developers the difference between the market rate rents for the apartments and the discounted rates tenants pay. New York Observer

CT: Pro-charter school group to spend ‘multi-million dollars’ on Connecticut ads. The group, Families for Excellent Schools, has nosed around in Connecticut politics in the past and made a name for itself when it used a massive ad buy in New York to speak out against Mayor Bill de Blasio and other critics of charter schools. FES is part of newly formed-coalition “For Every Child,” which states that its mission is wanting access to excellent schools for all students in Connecticut. FES announced Monday that it would spill millions of dollars into Connecticut’s media markets in ad campaigns for the coalition. New Haven Register

CA: Protesters continue occupation as sale of Berkeley post office falls through. Local developer Hudson McDonald failed to reach an agreement regarding the sale of the Downtown Berkeley post office last week after months of negotiations and prolonged community protest. Despite termination of the sale and recent police intervention, some protesters remain outside the building on Milvia Street and Allston Way after more than a month of occupation. The protesters represent a coalition between Berkeley Post Office Defenders and First They Came for the Homeless and have opposed the sale and privatization of the post office for more than a year. Daily Californian

December 8, 2014

News

NJ: Water privatization bill amended, opponents contend it still takes away public say. A bill fast tracking the sale of public water systems to private companies was amended this week by its sponsors. Those sponsors say they are intending to narrow the definitions of what water systems could be sold without a public vote, as now required by law. Critics say it’s the same bill with a few token changes. NJ.com

MD: Baltimore, Maryland Inspector General Blasts Lack Of Camera Oversight. Speed camera vendors in Baltimore, Maryland went wild, and city officials did nothing about it, according to a report released Wednesday by the city’s office of the inspector general (OIG). Up to a third of the speed camera tickets issued by some cameras were found questionable or outright erroneous in past program audits. The latest inquiry concludes this was more than ordinary mismanagement as a top city official engaged in “inappropriate activity” to favor a camera vendor. TheNewspaper.com

TX: Dallas Highway Revolt Might Actually Defeat the Trinity Toll Road. A successful highway revolt in Dallas? It’s looking like a distinct possibility as supporters of the Trinity Toll Road project continue to defect, leaving a lonely few against a growing coalition opposed to the highway. . . . The project is still supported by some of the deep-pocketed shot-callers in the city’s business and development elite, but they have tended not to be very vocal. That’s not the case with the opposition, which seems to have the momentum. People living in nearby areas like Oak Cliff don’t want to see the quality of life in their neighborhoods subordinated to suburban driving convenience. And so, what used to feel like a total longshot might actually happen — Dallas might shelve a highway to retain the strength and cohesion of its neighborhoods. Streetsblog Capitol Hill (blog)           

DE: ACLU: Delaware charter schools causing resegregation. Delaware’s charter schools are causing resegregation and discrimination against minorities and students with disabilities, the ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society are arguing in a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The groups say that, especially in Wilmington, most charters are easily racially identifiable as either mostly white or mostly minority schools, with those serving minority students vastly underperforming those serving more affluent white students.. . . The ACLU argues that some of the more “elite” charter schools’ enrollment requirements, like high exam scores, parent essays, mandatory parental involvement and required fees and uniforms, block low-income families from enrolling. USA TODAY

PA: Nutter, Clarke Spar Over Death of PGW Privatization Deal. Despite some glimmers of last-minute hope a few weeks ago and Doug Oliver’s endorsement of a sale earlier this week, Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed deal to sell Philadelphia Gas Works to a Connecticut company for $1.86 billion — already comatose after City Council President Darrell Clarke announced in late October that Council would not touch the matter — has ended not with a bang, but a withdrawal. In a statement yesterday afternoon announcing the termination of its offer, UIL Holdings placed the blame squarely on City Council. Philadelphia Magazine (blog)

PA: Pa. public agrees: LCB modernization, not privatization, is the way to go: PennLive letters. The most recent statewide independent poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall in June, 2014, shows 57 percent of Pennsylvania voters support common sense proposals to modernize the state’s Wine and Spirits Stores or allowing this asset to continue operating as it does today. . . . Voters simply are not buying the privateers’ spin. . . Common sense proposals, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, to improve customer convenience could lead to an additional $185 million a year in new revenue for the state. These proposals include adding Sunday stores and increasing Sunday hours; opening more stores inside of or next to grocery stores; and creating more premium shops. PennLive.com

December 5, 2014

News

TX: Why would we build a toll road in the Trinity parkland?. . . Dallas is too dependent on cars already, and a freeway cutting through the Trinity River would not unite the city but rather divide it, urban planner Patrick Kennedy said. City and regional planners have been “deferential to traffic” over everything else, including quality of life and community. A fraction of the cost of the toll road — $1.5 billion, although it is unfunded — could instead be spent on economic development and job growth in southern Dallas, Kennedy said. And then workers would not have to drive to North Dallas, spending money on auto maintenance, gas, tolls and parking, not to mention losing family time in traffic, but they instead could find work in their own communities.   Advocate Media

IN: Spain’s Abertis Eying Bankrupt Indiana Toll Road. Abertis Infraestructuras SA is combing the U.S. and Canada for new toll-road projects, and has made an offer to buy the right to operate the Indiana Toll Road. “North America is missing in our portfolio,” Mr. Reynes said in an interview on Wednesday. “The U.S. and Canada are countries where the rule of law is strong, the economy is growing and yet they need upgrades and significant investment in infrastructure. Dow Jones Bankruptcy & Debt

MI: Michigan charter school law gets failing grade. Michigan has one of the worst ratings in a first-ever analysis of state policies for holding charter school authorizers accountable for their schools’ academic performance. . . . Of particular note, the report said Michigan’s standards for renewing a charter are too low, the law doesn’t provide for automatic closure if a school is academically failing and doesn’t include minimum quality standards for authorizers. It also said the law doesn’t require authorizers to produce an annual report on the academic performance of its schools. Detroit Free Press

NY: Teachout takes on the Hedge Funders over education. Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor and progressive Democrat who ran a primary election against Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year, made a favorable impression on many voters across the state. Her campaign revealed serious discontent with Cuomo and some of his policies. While Teachout didn’t topple Cuomo, she didn’t shrink quietly into the night, either. She’s back with a scathing report, “Corruption in Education: Hedge Funds and the Takeover of New York’s Schools.” Teachout documents how wealthy hedge fund operators poured millions into state lobbying and 2014 election campaigns to influence politicians. Their goal: take control of New York’s education policy in favor of privately-owned charter schools. Rochester City Newspaper (blog)

GA: Private Probation Firms Charged Illegal Fees. Private contractors charged with supervising misdemeanor probation terms cannot extend sentences to collect more fees, Georgia’s top court ruled. Georgia allows private probation companies to supervise offenders convicted of minor violations that do not warrant jail time. Probation is usually imposed when offenders cannot pay their traffic tickets and other misdemeanor fines. Thirteen people who were sentenced to probation in two counties in Georgia sued their for-profit probation supervisor, Sentinel Offender Services, claiming it charged them unauthorized fees in violation of their due-process rights. Courthouse News Service

December 4, 2014

News

When Corporations Sue Governments. . . . The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, refuses to accept that European courts “be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes.” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister, has warned of states seeing “policy objectives circumvented by the threat of damages.” Last month, the French trade minister, Matthias Fekl, too, came out strongly against investor-state settlement provisions: “We must preserve states’ rights” to “set and apply their own standards,” he told the French Senate. British politicians have made similar statements amid fears that such cases could solidify the increasing privatization of Britain’s national health service.   New York Times

Poverty, Incarceration and Criminal Justice Debt. . . . In many jurisdictions around the country, failure to pay criminal debt extends an otherwise law-abiding individual’s entanglement in the justice system. Many states extend the term of supervision for failure to pay, despite the reality that supervision costs money. Another enforcement mechanism – the issuance of warrants for nonpayment of fees – pulls individuals before the court and may result in incarceration. Therefore, an individual can pay a penalty for an offense, and then be incarcerated for failing to pay off the debt incurred as a result of that offense. Ironically, these tactics are costly to the state. Probation officers, judges and court personnel must spend time serving as debt collectors. The privatization of debt collection is increasingly common, but the success of these companies is difficult to assess. BillMoyers.com

Teach for America at 25 and the Movement to Privatize Schools. . . TFA has become an increasingly powerful and visible cog in the education reform movement machine, which promotes the privatization of public education through the building and staffing of alternatives like charter schools, replacing public school teachers, and finding leadership positions for TFA alums, where they can push for privatization. The Nonprofit Quarterly

CA: Over North County objections, TAMC inks toll road adviser. Regional transportation officials authorized hiring a financial adviser on Wednesday to review draft public-private partnership documents for a Highway 156 toll road. But the decision came over the objections of longtime Supervisor Lou Calcagno, who was attending his last Transportation Agency for Monterey County meeting before leaving the Board of Supervisors next month. Calcagno said the commission should address his North Monterey County constituents’ concerns before moving any further on the toll road proposal. Monterey County Herald

AZ: Bill could privatize forest land for mine near Superior. A controversial bill to privatize national forest land in Arizona has been tucked into the national defense spending bill, to the dismay of those fighting a mining company’s efforts to buy the land. If approved, the legislation would open the door for a massive copper mine 100 miles north of Tucson. The company, Resolution Copper Mining, has been trying to acquire the land for nine years through a legislative land swap. Arizona Daily Star

GA: Deeply in Debt, Georgia Universities Look to Privatize Dorms and Parking Decks. Georgia voters may have overlooked—or simply clicked “yes” on—a tax referendum that will change the way many university dorms and parking decks are managed in 2015. Statewide, two-thirds of voters who went to the polls agreed with the referendum that said, “Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?” Athens-Clarke was the only one of Georgia’s 159 counties where the referendum didn’t win a majority. At that, only 500 more ACC voters said “no thanks” rather than “yes, please.” Flagpole Magazine

TX: Trinity toll road debate draws hundreds of opponents but few supporters. If the planned Trinity toll road remains popular among Dallas residents, its supporters didn’t show up Wednesday at a panel-style debate on the divisive $1.5 billion project. Dallas Morning News

MI: Detroit facing big bill from bankruptcy consultant. Mayor Mike Duggan confirmed Wednesday the city faces an outstanding bill of more than $20 million from investment banking firm Miller Buckfire & Co. for its work in Detroit’s bankruptcy. Miller Buckfire’s contract calls for the firm to be paid a flat $28 million fee for its services in negotiating deals tied to city water and sewer debt and securing Detroit loans to support operations during its Chapter 9 bankruptcy and pay off some creditors. . . . A renegotiated contract signed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in June calls for the firm to get a flat $28 million fee and eliminated a possible bonus for securing a deal to privatize water department operations, which never materialized. The Detroit News

MD: Veolia is rejected by city panel as consultant for water efficiency study. Two days after 100 people stood up at a City Council hearing to denounce a possible city contract with French water giant Veolia, an administrative panel today approved the bid by its sole rival. PA Consulting was selected by the city’s Architectural and Engineering Awards Commission to negotiate the terms of a $500,000 efficiency study of Baltimore’s water and wastewater treatment plants prior to final ratification. Baltimore Brew