April 16, 2015

News

Blood money, killer cops: How privatization is funding the racist logic of America’s police. . . In both New York City and Tulsa, private funding of law enforcement significantly impacts the way local policing is done. In Tulsa, it results in the pay-to-play scheme. In New York City, it allows for large infusions of cash donations whose specific uses do not come under public scrutiny because they are private funds. These forms of neoliberal policing — in which private citizens and private monies impact the culture of policing but escape governmental checks and balances — endanger us all. Salon

Harvard professor reveals why America’s infrastructure is so awful, who is to blame, and how we can finally fix it. Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has written a new book about this. It’s called “Move.”. . . America’s lousy infrastructure is hurting our economy and all Americans. Unless we want growth to stagnate, we need to fix it. Lots of people are to blame: Washington politicians, local politicians, Americans who elect those politicians, a collective delusion that American exceptionalism means we don’t have to invest in anything, a system that places lots of power in the hands of states that have little incentive to cooperate with one another. The GOP fantasy that everything can be privatized is nuts. You can’t privatize airports, roads, bridges, and rail lines. We can’t leave everything to the states, either. Infrastructure crosses state lines. Business Insider

NC: White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system. . .Setting aside the drama between charters and teachers unions, or complaints that charter schools lead to the privatization of public education, there has been the persistent critique that charters increase inequality by plucking advantaged students out of traditional public schools. The most recent cautionary tale comes from North Carolina, where professors at Duke have traced a troubling trend of resegregation since the first charters opened in 1997. They contend that North Carolina’s charter schools have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders. Washington Post (blog)

VT: After $282M, VDOT to terminate new Rt. 460 contract. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne says the state has given notice that it intends to terminate its contract to build a new toll road next to U.S. 460 in southeastern Virginia. The state and private bondholders have already spent about $282 million on the project, with no construction having yet started. Layne said Wednesday the state wants an unspecified amount of money back from the contractor, US 460 Mobility Partners. Work on the project was stopped by Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration about a year ago after it became clear the road might not get the permits it needed.   13newsnow.com

April 15, 2015

News

The mirage of public-private water. The reality is the partnership of a city and a company in delivering the right to water always holds the tension of conflict because the mission of a government and company are completely different. Open Democracy

A Life Sentence for a Blackwater Murder. . . We have, it is often said, the best and most well-trained military in the world. But we sent it into Iraq for reasons that proved false, and then swerved toward reliance on a fake army of mistrained mercenaries. The government acted as though Blackwater, in particular, was sophisticated and efficient—privatization at its best—even as its careless violence helped to dismantle America’s reputation in Iraq. The New Yorker

Time for a moratorium on charter schools – opinion. Charter schools are everywhere. Not long ago, these publicly funded but privately run institutions were a relative rarity. Those that existed served mostly as experimental academies whose successful lessons could be applied elsewhere in their host school districts. But in the last 15 years, swaths of the U.S. public education system have been turned over to charters. In fact, they are being used as a means to crush teachers’ unions and to pursue high-stakes testing. Al Jazeera America

Editorial: Cost of aging. . . Yes, these “entitlement programs” are expensive to maintain and sometimes attacked by conservatives who have no memory of the Great Depression and its soup lines and families constantly on the move with no permanent homes. Talking about “privatization” of such programs is the worst alternative of all. One stock market crash, and millions of people would be wiped out. Rather, there needs to be a national push, a task force, a joint effort from Congress and leaders of the private sector, to address the issue of long-term care as Medicare and Social Security were created long ago. It can be done. Because it has been done. News & Observer

IN: Enviro groups want feds to reverse Illiana approval. Environmental groups have written to the Federal Highway Administration asking the agency to rescind its December 2014 approval for the Illiana Expressway. The groups claim new developments and revelations, including Gov. Bruce Rauner’s refusal to offer any statement of support, undercuts previous rationales for the road. nwitimes.com

CO: Senate Republicans pursue land grab farce. An ill-advised measure to exert state control over federal public lands in Colorado has conservation advocates hopping mad. It’s unlikely the bill will ever result in a seizure of any U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management acreage in the state, but the very thought of it is an affront to anyone who cherishes the unique public land legacy that’s woven into the cultural fabric of the American West. Summit County Citizens Voice

IL: Voters pushed Mayor Rahm to the left. Will he stay there?. . . That fella—call him Rahm I—was a proud neoliberal who waved the flag of privatization. One of his early budget moves was to close health clinics and privatize city operations in the name of reform, while advocating massive tax breaks for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the name of economic development. . . Meanwhile, in the last year our mayor has turned into Rahm II, moving left with the realization that his earlier policies were out of whack with the majority of Chicago voters. He’s capped the creation of new charter schools, refrained from throwing TIF money at corporations, passed a bill raising the minimum wage, stood up for the collective bargaining rights of unions, and held off on the cut-the-pensions rhetoric—though that last move is probably because he’d already promised the firefighters’ union that in exchange for their endorsement, he wouldn’t touch their pensions. Chicago Reader

CA: Library privatization meeting gets big turnout. Community activists are pushing back against a recent proposal by County Supervisors to privatize county libraries. The turnout for last night’s demonstration at Beale Memorial Library was so large, the meeting had to be moved to a bigger room. Advocates for Library Enhancement talked about the importance of libraries to our communities. They also discussed funding alternatives that would allow the library to remain public including a sales tax increase. Kern Golden Empire

April 14, 2014

News

Ex-Blackwater Guards Sentenced to Long Prison Terms in 2007 Killings of Iraqi Civilians. . . The men had been among several private American security guards who fired into Baghdad’s crowded Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, and last October they were convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in what prosecutors called a wartime atrocity. Yet on Monday, as they awaited sentences that they knew would send them to prison for most if not all of their lives, they defiantly asserted their innocence.. . . The ruling ended a long investigation into the Nisour Square shooting, a signature, gruesome moment in the Iraq war that highlighted America’s reliance on private contractors to maintain security in combat zones. . . The Nisour Square shooting transformed Blackwater from America’s most prominent security contractor into a symbol of unchecked and privatized military power. New York Times

Hillary Clinton needs to champion public schools – editorial. . . It’s an issue that puts Clinton in a difficult position, pitting some of her big Wall Street supporters against the ”everyday Americans” whose votes she is courting. School choice lobbyists have spent enormous sums of money around the country to promote the idea that public schools have “failed” and to support privatization. But the data don’t back up their claims. National research shows that charter and voucher schools perform no better, on average, than traditional public schools. To offer a fair shot at success to all students, public schools need more resources, not punitive, test-and-punish ”reforms” or dubious school privatization schemes. Progressive.org

Why Congress Can Sell Off Our National Forests, But Not National Parks. . . The argument for such a move is masked in small government, states’ rights and good ol’ fashioned capitalism, but rather than being a logical conclusion of conservative values, it instead clashes directly with the conservation movement that was begun by the Republican party’s most famous leaders in order to protect our country’s natural beauty and environment for future citizens. And, as a result, conservative organizations like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are up in arms. “Public lands are the fabric that binds America together,” stated BHA executive director Land Tawney. “Nationally, an organized, concerted movement is underway to sell off and limit access to America’s public lands and waters. These are not merely the actions of a lunatic fringe. Now is the time to double down and fight back against this ill-conceived idea.” Indefinitely Wild

Helium Shortage Opens the Door to Alternatives. . . The U.S. is the biggest supplier of helium in the world. Disruptions in the supply of helium gas in the U.S impact the entire world. Recent disruptions are due to a number of factors: Reduction in helium production from U.S. reservoirs. The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 has not produced expected results to control the irregular prices of helium gas. The Stewardship Act of 2013 reinforced the privatization of U.S. helium reserves. Despite government efforts to privatize the helium gas supply, the situation has not improved due to slow response from private players. Laboratory Equipment

TX: Senate votes to strip private toll road company of eminent domain powers. Legislation that would bar a private toll road company in Texas from having eminent domain powers was unanimously approved by the Senate on Monday. The measure is aimed at the Texas Turnpike Corp., which claims to be exempt from a 1991 law that stripped private toll road companies of eminent domain authority in acquiring land to build toll roads. Dallas Morning News (blog)

VA: Del. Ramadan vows to keep fighting ‘highway robbery’ on Dulles Greenway. In the wake of several failed attempts to halt the rising cost of tolls on the Dulles Greenway, Virginia Del. David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun) and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors are redoubling their efforts to seek relief for motorists who use the privately owned road. Washington Post

WI: Opinion: Stop governor’s privatization of ADRCs. As Dane County Executive, I am very concerned about Governor Walker’s proposed state budget and its impact on vital county and state services. The governor’s proposal to privatize our local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is especially troubling. Our ADRC works and thousands of our most vulnerable citizens depend on it. Our local ADRC is a one–stop-shop that connects seniors and the disabled with critical services available to them through various federal, state and community resources. hngnews.com

 

April 13, 2015

News

TX: Texas Supreme Court Rejects Red Light Camera Arguments. Texas Supreme Court refuses to block anti-camera election in Arlington, orders disclosure of camera related accident data in Houston. Texas Supreme CourtA red light camera court case has yet to reach the highest court in Texas, but justices have recently issued a pair of orders that dealt a setback to the automated ticketing industry. Last week, the judges denied the request of attorneys for American Traffic Solution (ATS) who begged the Supreme Court to intervene in an upcoming election to prevent residents of Arlington from voting on a red light camera ban. TheNewspaper.com

IL: Citizens United: The Elephant in the Room in Rahm Emanuel’s Mayoral Reelection. . Garcia also failed to capture the public backlash against privatization. For reasons unknown, he did little to expose the racket Emanuel and private contractors are running. A company gets a contract, then pays a kickback in the form of a campaign contribution. The Chicago Tribune ran a surprisingly hard-hitting expose on this corruption. Earvin “Magic” Johnson got an $80 million custodial contract with Chicago Public Schools, then promptly donated $250,000 to the Emanuel campaign. Aramark similarly got a custodial contract with CPS, then, as reported in these pages by Rick Perlstein, immediately fired 450 workers. As a consequence, teachers and parents at several schools have had to clean up toilets because the company’s smaller work force can’t keep up with the workload. The Garcia campaign missed an opportunity to highlight this graft and corruption and tap into a growing public restiveness about privatization. In These Times

PA: District takes steps to outsource substitute teacher services. . . Now, some 1300 substitute teachers are members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and are paid according to per-diem and longer-term rates specified in the PFT contract. Daily pay can vary from $40 for an uncertified teacher to $180 for a retiree who has worked for 30 days in the school year. There are also long-term substitutes paid on a salaried basis. Workers hired by a private company may or may not be unionized, Wyatt said. Philadelphia Public School Notebook

IL: Editorial: Table talk of privatizing universities. . . Tuition at Illinois’ public universities continues to rise. Making these universities private will increase tuition costs for most students. Some state funding is better than no state funding, and taking away state funding likely will increase tuition costs. When expense is equal between Private University A in Illinois and Private University B in another state, students will make their decision based on academics and campus life. When this happens, the state runs the risk of losing students to out-of-state schools because there’s no economic advantage to staying home. . . . Finally, we’re concerned about the loss of freedom on campuses should public universities become private. Public universities have a reputation of being a free and open marketplace for ideas – from students and faculty. Becoming private will no doubt muzzle students’ voices and faculty’s ability to practice academic freedom. Unpopular opinions are tolerated at public universities. Not so much in a private setting. Northwest Herald

NJ: Letter to the editor: Revised bill and coming privatization plans. . . The Christie administration has already paid $120,000 to consultants to search for development plans as part of its dead-wrong “Sustainable Parks” goal of turning LSP into a revenue-generating “venue”. That sickening and outrageous goal ignores decades of the overwhelming public consensus for an open space park for the urban people’s quality of life and for the enjoyment of all visitors. Hudson Reporter

WI: Opinion: Privatization hurt taxpayers, reduces oversight. Wisconsin has witnessed the streamlining of government at the expense of democracy and the common good. We should be very cautious when politicians say their goal is to “shrink” government. What they really want is to remove “we the people” from the equation, relinquishing governing to the few. Appleton Post Crescent

Why Has Teacher Morale Plummeted?. . . Supported by a wide variety of “reformist” groups, which include foundations, consulting firms, charter school and voucher advocates, neoliberal think-tanks and teacher-bashing politicians of both political parties, education reforms ended up making way for privatization, charter schools or voucher systems. As a result teachers no longer control the curriculum as they should. This vacuum has been filled by a host of commercial companies that have developed products to be used both inside and outside the classroom. Newsweek

April 10, 2015

News

Republican Senators Just Voted To Sell Off Your National Forests. . . The senate’s budgetary amendment to support this privatization carries no legal weight — it’s not a law — but does signify a troubling level of support for the privatization of public land. And make no mistake, this is about privatization and resource exploitation. Efforts to “reclaim” public land are financially support by special interest groups like ALEC and Americans For Prosperity. ALEC is primarily funded by ExxonMobil while Americans For Prosperity was founded by David and Charles Koch. SA 838 passed 51-49. Democrats unanimously opposed it, while all but three Republicans voted for it. The holdouts were Corey Gardner of Colorado, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. IndefinitelyWild

GOP candidates eye vouchers for veterans. . .The fact that the political winds have shifted to this degree is itself interesting. In the last presidential cycle, Romney was kinda sorta open to the idea of privatization for about a day before the VFW scared him into reversing course. Now, we have multiple candidates endorsing the idea more forcefully and sticking to the position. Much of this is no doubt the result of the recent controversy surrounding the VA system, coupled with Republican politics continuing to move to the right. But if this is going to be an issue debated in the 2016 cycle, let’s not forget a detail that often goes overlooked: there’s a difference between the quality of VA care and the quality of the VA system in delivering that care. MSNBC

FL: Owner Sees His Legacy in Tallahassee’s Upcoming Private Toll Road. Privatized toll roads, whether built privately or roads whose management was transferred to a private entity, are scary for some people – and for good reason, says Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Baxandall, who has written extensively about privatization, says these deals result in a loss of public control and a lack of flexibility. Next City

FL: Class Action Lawsuit Against Florida Red Light Cameras Heats Up. The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida consolidated cases against eighty-one towns and photo ticketing operators American Traffic Solutions (ATS), Xerox and Gatso of The Netherlands. Lead plaintiff Christopher L. Parker, a motorist who received a ticket from the town of Davie, has a simple argument. The state Court of Appeal ruled that private vendors cannot do all the work of reviewing automated citations (view the Hollywood v. Arem decision). Parker and fellow plaintiffs want compensation not only for the tickets that were unlawfully issued before the ruling, but also to stop the ticketing still going on in many jurisdictions. TheNewspaper.com

April 9, 2015

News

Jeb Bush Calls for Privatizing Elements of Veterans Health Care…. The effort to privatize elements of the VA system is a priority of the Koch brothers-backed group, Concerned Veterans for America, which in February called for creating a “premium-support private insurance option” for current veterans and limiting eligibility requirements for future veterans. Mr. Bush becomes the third 2016 GOP contender – following Mr. Paul and Marco Rubio of Florida – to support a system of vouchers to replace or compete with the VA health care system, which experienced intense criticism last year when an internal audit revealed that VA employees falsified reports of patient wait times at facilities across the country. Wall Street Journal ($)

Opinion: Private Infrastructure Projects Are a Wealth Transfer From the Public to Wall Street…..Fundamentally, our political leaders cut taxes rather than investing in our competitiveness. And they want to make up for this refusal by fantasizing that giving our public assets to Wall Street firms will solve the problem. The costs and the benefits of building roads and bridges and airports are much greater than the fees the public is willing to pay to use it. So if you wait for private investors to invest in public goods, you never get the public goods New York Times

British MD: Privatization Compromises Health Care Ethics. A year spent working as a doctor in India taught British National Health Service worker Hannah Fox “how a publicly funded healthcare system creates an optimal environment for ethical decision-making,” especially in end-of-life care. Truthdig

TX: Federal study: Trinity Tollway will increase traffic on most adjacent roads. It is going to be very difficult for those shilling the Trinity Toll Road to fall back on the argument they have rallied behind over the past months, namely, that the Trinity Toll Road is an act of gratuitous social justice because it better connects southern Dallas commuters to jobs in the north of the city. The Dallas Morning News reports that a federal traffic study shows that while the Trinity Toll Road will reduce some congestion in the Mixmaster, it will also increase traffic on other major highways, making it more difficult to commute from parts of southern Dallas. D Magazine

DE: Delaware charter school audits under scrutiny. In the wake of bombshell allegations that the co-leaders of a charter school made thousands of dollars in personal purchases on school credit cards, some lawmakers want the state auditor’s office to run charter audits to make sure taxpayer money isn’t being misused…..Williams said the legislation was spurred by revelations late last year that the co-leaders of Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in New Castle, had used school credit cards to make more than $94,000 in personal purchases for things like car payments, furniture, flowers and fine watches.   The News Journal

 

LA: Kenner’s solution to lagging city playgrounds: privatization

Kenner officials are moving to turn over some municipal playgrounds to private operators, and to eliminate restrictions on where children may join teams based on where they live. The initiatives are a reaction of declining participation in Kenner’s youth sports leagues. NOLA.com

April 8, 2015

News

NJ: Chris Christie’s Lottery Privatization Is Costing NJ Millions. . . Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group — a joint venture of GTECH Corporation, Scientific Games and, yes, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System — missed its revenue target by $24 million its first year. And this year, the Associated Press reported earlier last week, Northstar is trailing revenue projections by $64 million though seven months of the fiscal year. “Missing the mark so badly with all of these proven methods for generating lottery revenues is like spitting and missing the floor,” John Kindt, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois who studies gambling policy, told the AP. Philadelphia Magazine (blog)

NJ: Woodbury, others in NJ mulling privatizing water system. In February, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that would fast-track the sale of municipal water systems in dire need of repair to private companies without the need to put it to a public vote. Last week, the city of Woodbury, N.J. began exploring the option to sell; and while a significant portion of the state already has private water, others are likely to follow. . . . A 2011 Environmental Protection Agency assessment of public water infrastructure estimated that national water utilities would require $384 billion worth of investment over the next 20 years. The EPA estimate for New Jersey is $7.9 billion, though the industry has said the real figure is closer to $40 billion. . . . “This can offer a strapped city the opportunity to cash out its assets at two to three times its book value, and can use that to pay off its bonds and leave quite a surplus for the city,” said Michelfelder. Newsworks.org

NC: Pro-school privatization group could receive $2 million taxpayer dollars to support charter school expansion. A bill moving through the General Assembly would award $2 million over two years to Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) to help expand the number of charter schools throughout the state. Sponsored by Reps. Bryan (R-Mecklenburg), Brockman (D-Guilford) and B. Brown (R-Pitt), HB 535, “Promoting Charter School Success Pilot” would also allow participating schools to have greater flexibility in expanding their enrollments. Funds can support up to four charter schools each year and PEFNC can make initial planning grants of up to $250,000. Progressive Pulse

MD: “This City Could Become The Next Detroit”. Starting this week, 25,000 households in Baltimore will suddenly lose their access to water for owing bills of $250 or more, with very little notice given and no public hearings. . . . In fact, the Baltimore Sun found more than a third of the unpaid bills stem from just 369 businesses, who owe $15 million in revenue, while government offices and nonprofits have outstanding water bills to the tune of $10 million. One of those businesses, RG Steel (now bankrupt) owes $7 million in delinquent water bills all by itself. . . . According to Jessica Lewis, Baltimore’s recent water shutoff initiative may be the follow-up to a failed effort that could have led to the privatization of Baltimore’s water last year. In August 2014, a group of Baltimore residents and community organizations formed the One Baltimore United coalition, which dedicated itself to fighting a proposed $500,000 consulting contract between the City of Baltimore and Veolia, a private water corporation. ThinkProgress

LA: N La state hospital operators lost $700000 over 1st year. . . Auditors say the nonprofit organization that runs north Louisiana’s two state hospitals lost $700,000 during its first year. The News-Star (http://tnsne.ws/1bZyixO ) reports that Postlethwaite and Netterville of Baton Rouge checked the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, 2013. That’s when the foundation took control of the hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe. It had never run a hospital before becoming part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to privatize most of the university-run public hospital system. KSLA-TV           

NY: At Success Academy Charter Schools, High Scores and Polarizing Tactics. . . In a rare look inside the network, including visits to several schools and interviews with dozens of current and former employees, The New York Times chronicled a system driven by the relentless pursuit of better results, one that can be exhilarating for teachers and students who keep up with its demands and agonizing for those who do not. New York Times           

KY: Editorial: Privatized dorms raise taxing questions. Public officials in Fayette and Madison counties were right to pursue property taxes on privatized university dormitories. The law is unclear, probably because lawmakers had not anticipated this relatively new way for universities to finance student housing and dining facilities. But the future seems sure to hold more public-private partnerships, and not just in higher education. Legislation to encourage more such partnerships for building roads and bridges has twice stumbled in the General Assembly but will return. This trend will produce better results if someone is strongly advocating for the public’s interest. Lexington Herald Leader

April 6, 2015

News

Your Dollars at Work – for the Rich. . . This massive privatization of everything from prisons to public schools hasn’t done much of anything to make the United States a better place to live. On the other hand, this privatization has paid off quite handsomely for America’s most affluent. They’re collecting ever more generous paychecks, courtesy of the tax dollars the rest of us are paying. In Washington, D.C., for instance, top officials of the private companies that run many of the city’s charter schools are taking in double or triple what traditional public schools take in, or even more. Truth-Out

The Meaning of Magna Carta in the Era of Privatization. . . We need to address the commons as a solution to our own needs, for water, air, land, fire, and (as we must add) mind. We want equalization, or the abolition of the economic class system of exploitation. We need a different conception of property, neither State nor individual, and a different conception of ‘man’. Magna Carta gave us homo liber, or “free man”; Carl Linneas gave us homo sapiens, or “wise man”; E.P. Thompson spoke of homo economicus, or “economic man.” Our era of privatization has produced another ideal historical species of man, one opposed to the commons, and deriving etymologically from the Greek work for private, I mean homo idioticus. He is idiotically polluting the air and waters, engrossing the land and forests, and creating misery in his ceaseless, selfish accumulation and wars of drones. CounterPunch

IL: Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Opens the Door to Privatizing Half its Public Housing. Chicago, long a pioneer of privatization, is poised to embark on a sweeping experiment with the city’s public-housing stock. The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) plans to court private investment in as much as half of its public-housing units through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a new federal program billed as a way to “revitalize” housing for the poor and address a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs. But housing advocates around the country worry that RAD is just a prelude to privatization. BillMoyers.com

IL: Editorial: Illiana findings disappoint, then disappear. Illinois taxpayers spent $112,500 last year for a study to determine whether the proposed Illiana toll road would qualify for a key federal construction loan. But then-Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t get the answer he was looking for, and the information ended up in a drawer, or a wastebasket, or something. . . .Officials at the Illinois Finance Authority told Hinz that the finding was negative and that Fitch had submitted a bill for $112,500. So hey, let’s see what Fitch had to say about the Illiana, a project regional planners have already warned would require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. Sorry, folks. The Illinois Department of Transportation says it never got anything on paper. The analysis “was provided verbally,” an agency spokesman said. Chicago Tribune

IL: State Senator Brady wants to push university privatization discussion. As Illinois’ 12 public universities were planning last month for the possibility of steep funding cuts proposed by the state’s new Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, a state senator quietly proposed legislation that would have gone much further: privatizing them all. Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, introduced his university funding legislation on March 18 and withdrew it a week later. Although he said he won’t try to push his plan further this year, he hopes it will start a serious discussion about the state’s future role in the funding of higher education. The State

TX: Advocates Declare Victory After Contract to Privatize Terrell State Hospital Scrapped. After a 9 month battle, a coalition of mental health, labor, and civil rights groups, including Grassroots Leadership, was able to declare victory last week over GEO Care/Correct Care Recovery Solutions’ efforts to take over the Terrell State Hospital. This effort was a privatization scheme that was part of the company’s expansion ambitions into state hospital and civil commitment centers. The victory was aided by a large contracting scandal in the state, a damning state audit, and some terrific investigative reporting. Grassroots Leadership

TX: Editorial: Where did toll roads go so wrong in Texas?. . . Incorporating private companies into the building and maintaining of toll roads was a mistake. Public-private partnerships work in many areas, but building roads is not one of them. Taking land by way of eminent domain for a new road is a dicey process even when the Texas Department of Transportation does it. Imagine how landowners feel when they’re forced to give up land to an ambiguous shell corporation backed by overseas investors. The practice was ended by lawmakers in 2009, but the damage was done on the perception front. Waco Tribune-Herald

DC: Charter schools still a DC hot-button issue. For years, District residents have forecast — for better or worse — a future where charter schools consumed neighborhood schools. And with charter school enrollment growing every year for nearly two decades, that day has seemed not too far away. But this year, the percentage of students attending charters in the District has leveled off, with 44 percent of school-age city residents enrolled. At the same time, the city’s traditional public schools marked their third consecutive year of growth. Washington Post

NC: Disclosure differs for charter schools run by for-profit firms. Public school districts must account for every dollar they spend. Charter schools operated by for-profit companies often do not have to. Charters can keep salaries of supervisors, academic consultants, back-office staff – sometimes even school administrators – secret and still abide by North Carolina’s public records law despite being funded by tax dollars. These positions are often considered employees of the management company instead of the school, and therefore not subject to disclosure. Charolette Observer

NC: New Bill Proposes Privatizing NC Ferry System. State republicans have introduced new legislation that asks for more information on possibly privatizing the North Carolina ferry system. . . There are seven regular routes in the North Carolina ferry system, with 22 boats transporting more than 2.5 million passengers annually across the Currituck and Pamlico Sounds, and the Cape Fear, Neuse and Pamlico Rivers…. However, regular ferry riders are not keen on the idea of a private company controlling the cost of a ferry ride. “My concern would be that if they privatize it, the amount of riders that come across may decline because people don’t want to pay the higher prices because they’re willing to drive rather than take the ferry,” said Manual Avalos, a Wilmington resident. TWC News

PA: Five Indiana County bridges to be replaced through public-private partnership . . . To help kick that effort into high gear, Pennsylvania this year is launching a Rapid Bridge Replacement Project that is expected to put about 500 new spans in place by 2018 through a single contract with a group of companies that are combining efforts as part of a public-private partnership with PennDOT…. While PennDOT will provide snow removal on the completed bridges and will take care of line-painting on approaches to the spans, McAuley said the PWKP group will have to maintain the structures for 25 years. Tribune-Review

April 2, 2015

News

Privatization of Medicare: Urgency of the Latest Threat. This is a dangerous time for Medicare. The bill passed by the House on March 27, by a surprising bipartisan majority of 392-37–H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015–threatens to end traditional Medicare as a social insurance program that protects seniors in a single large risk pool. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in two weeks. Huffington Post

Obama bill would ease tolling ban.The $478 billion transportation bill that the Obama administration sent to Congress this week is reigniting a debate about increasing the use of tolls to pay for new infrastructure projects. For the second year in a row, the administration included language in its infrastructure plan that would lift the ban on states placing tolls on existing highway lanes. The anti-tolling Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) said Obama’s tolling proposal, part of a larger draft dubbed Grow America Act 2.0, should be a nonstarter with lawmakers. The Hill

16 states have more people in prison than in college dorms. A new report from MetricMaps details a shocking statistic — in 16 states in the nation, there are more people locked up in correctional facilities than those residing in college dorms. Most of the states highlighted in the report are in the South and most of the inmates are Black.. . . Joe Jones, Founder and CEO of the Center for Urban Families, said, “Privatizing prison management is big business.” “These private industries contract with governments, they put quotas in place in their contracts to say that the states have to maintain a certain level of occupied beds in order to fulfill those contracts. So if a state doesn’t have X number of inmates in a cell, the state then has to pay a fee to the contractor who is managing the prison. “That is unconscionable and I don’t think most of us understand how the prison industry works.” New Pittsburgh Courier

NJ: After Christie’s Privatization, N.J. Lottery Missing Targets. When Chris Christie privatized New Jersey’s lottery two years ago, he said its new overseers would “modernize and maximize” the games.  Instead, a lottery once ranked among the nation’s top performers is now lagging for the second straight year, trailing its state income targets by $64 million seven months into the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, the company running it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire lobbyists and a public relations firm with close ties to the governor. U.S. News & World Report

IN: Indianapolis Council Dems: Outsourcing Justice Center construction could cost millions. . . Brown’s analysis, however, found that “it is not possible to achieve 100 percent coverage of availability of payments to WMB (Heartland Partners, the current “preferred private vendor” to build the new complex) without risking cuts to budget obligations unrelated to the project and/or needing an increase in new tax revenue.” The analysis lists the shortfall in funding for such payments at $37.7 million between 2018 and 2026. In addition, Brown’s review found public-private partnerships are “very rare” in the U.S. in the construction of public buildings. His study cites just one other similar infrastructure project, the Long Beach, California Courthouse, as using such a financing mechanism. The analysis concludes that the proposed public-private partnership funding method “is not the most cost effective way” to finance the proposed project. Instead, it suggests a “city financed, design-build project that finances life-cycle costs and uses a favorable operating and maintenance agreement.” WISH-TV

WA: State gives first charter school last chance to improve. The state Charter School Commission sent a letter this week to First Place Scholars in Seattle outlining a third problem at the former private school that re-opened as Washington’s first charter school in September. The new issue involves services to students who are just learning to speak English. The letter from the commission says the school took money from the state to provide special academic help to English language learners but did not do so. KOMO News

April 1, 2015

News

Repubs at it again; want to privatize public lands. . . U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) amendment, which passed by a vote of 51 to 49, is now part of the Senate’s nonbinding budget resolution. The proposal would support and fund state efforts—which many argue are unconstitutional—to seize and sell America’s public lands. These include all national forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, historic sites, and national monuments. Murkowski’s amendment, which would need further legislation to become law, follows a similar proposal from House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) to spend $50 million of taxpayer dollars to fund the sale or transfer of U.S. public lands to states. Democratic Underground

Toll Battles Mount as U.S. States Seek Cash for Ailing Highways. As U.S. states collect record tolls from drivers, political opposition to fee-based highways and bridges is threatening efforts to rebuild crumbling infrastructure. In Texas, supporters of legislation to limit tolls rallied on the capitol steps last week, waving signs reading “Don’t Mess With Texas Public Roads.” Connecticut’s Republican lawmakers have stymied plans to restore toll roads after three decades without them. In Kentucky, lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party have blocked fees the Democratic governor says are needed to replace an obsolete bridge to Ohio.“The sentiment against tolling has so clearly backlashed,” said Terri Hall, the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom in San Antonio, which is fighting them in the state. “You can’t get anywhere without paying.” Bloomberg

Jim Hightower opens new front in fight to save postal service. Progressive broadcaster Jim Hightower is opening a new front in the multi-union, multi-organization fight to save the U.S. Postal Service from its privatizing management and Wall Street interests. In a March 24 nationwide conference call with activists, Hightower and Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein outlined avenues people can use to save the embattled agency and the union jobs-of Postal Workers, Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers and Rural Letter Carriers-threatened by shutdowns and the privatization push. People’s World

IL: Is Rahm Emanuel Planning to Privatize Chicago’s Public Housing? The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) plans to court private investment in as much as half of its public-housing units through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a new federal program billed as a way to “revitalize” housing for the poor and address a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs. But housing advocates around the country worry that RAD is just a prelude to privatization.  In These Times

NJ: After Christie’s push for privatization, New Jersey lottery missing financial targets. When Chris Christie privatized the management of New Jersey’s lottery two years ago, he said its new overseers would “modernize and maximize” the games. Instead, a lottery once ranked among the nation’s top performers is now lagging for the second straight year, trailing its state income targets by $64 million seven months into the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, the company running it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire lobbyists and a public relations firm with close ties to the governor. Minneapolis Star Tribune

NC: National charter school chains could get easier path in NC. Charter schools run by national chains would have an easier time branching out in North Carolina under a bill proposed by a powerful state senator. . . . This would apply to chains such as the for-profit Charter Schools USA or nonprofit KIPP. Both have at least one school in the Charlotte area and have plans for more. Charlotte Observer (blog)

MD: Senate panel approves charter school measure. Maryland Senate panel on Tuesday approved a heavily reworked version of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to ease restrictions on the state’s charter-schools law. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 10-1 for the measure, sending it to the full Senate for consideration this week. WBAL Baltimore