July 28, 2014

News

NY: Green feared interference with utility commission
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration attempted to “strong arm” his first Moreland Commission on public utilities into supporting a “pre-cooked” plan to privatize LIPA, according to a commission member who said he threatened to resign to put a stop to it. Mark Green, the former New York City Public Advocate, said that during the commission’s early work and its attempt to produce an interim report by January 2013, there was pressure to indicate the full commission supported privatizing LIPA, when at least three of the 10 members weren’t yet prepared to do so.  Newsday

NY: Red Hook library privatization plan panned
A scheme to rent out a big chunk of the Red Hook library branch to an arts group is a sweetheart deal that sells out everyday bookworms, residents argued at a packed community board meeting inside the branch on Thursday.  Dozens turned out to the evening meeting of Community Board 6’s land use committee concerning the fate of the prose depot, most to condemn the privatization plan.  Brooklyn Paper

CO: Critics say CDOT making same US 36 mistakes on I-70
. . . Jones and others claim the Colorado Department of Transportation recently rammed through a recommendation to turn the retooling of I-70 into a public-private partnership, similar to the 50-year agreement CDOT sealed for U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver. The agency also touted an online poll, conducted among 1,643 visitors on CDOT’s website from June 24 to July 9, that showed more than 50 percent of respondents want some sort of tolling and public-private partnerships to pay for new roads and maintenance. . . .Thaddeus Tecza, a senior instructor emeritus of political science at the University of Colorado, said from an academic perspective the poll “was a joke. It was one of the most biased polls I’ve ever seen.”  The Denver Post

CA: Caltrans to put toll lanes on 405 Freeway in Orange County
The battle over toll lanes on California freeways moved to Orange County on Friday when Caltrans announced it would defy local officials and place what critics call “Lexus lanes” on a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway. The lanes would be on a notoriously congested section of the freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. The cost of the tolls has not been finalized, but some existing toll lanes can charge about $10 one way during rush hour. The move comes as communities throughout Southern California are increasingly considering toll lanes in order to relieve traffic and generate funding. Los Angeles Times

OH: Ohio, France, Germany: Traffic Cameras Disabled
In Milan, Italy, peaceful protesters from the Northern League covered up a speed camera with a cardboard box on the Via Enrico Fermi on Monday, La Repubblica Milano reported. A large warning sign read, “Slow Down, Pisapia will fine you,” referring to Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia. In Greenwich, Ohio, vigilantes have been twisting the speed camera owned and operated by the for-profit vendor Optotraffic, preventing the devices from generating tickets, the Norwalk Reflector reported.  TheNewspaper.com

AR: Highway Department ready to shaft consumers with toll roads
Let the users pay. (And avoid a common-sense reliance on increases in the fuel tax, which encourages more fuel-efficient cars and living patterns.) But who really pays? Study after study has shown that regular passenger vehicles cause, comparatively, almost no damage to interstate highways. But the big rigs that use Arkansas as a bridge state crumble the roads at a fearsome rates. Truckers don’t like tolls, but they really hate tonnage charges and other fees that truly recoup the damage they do to roads. Think: How often have we had to rebuild Interstate 630 through Little Rock, which carries a heavy commuter load but virtually no trucks? Never is the answer, compared with the perpetual rebuilding of I-40 and I-30, destroyed as soon as rebuilt by steady rig traffic. Arkansas Times (blog)

KY: State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky
The Kentucky Department of Parks is poised to allow private corporations to develop at, or even operate aspects of, state parks, and expansion of previous efforts permitting commercial activity. Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker suggested to a state legislative committee Thursday that General Burnside State Park, a 400-acre park 10 miles south of Somerset, could serve “as a potential pilot” for the effort. WKMS.org

IL: Vote Postponed On Privatization Of North Riverside Fire Department
North Riverside officials put the brakes on a contentious cost-savings proposal to privatize the village’s fire department at a Thursday meeting. Village officials, who, according to Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, were planning to vote on the privatization plans Thursday evening, did not take up the proposal. Progress Illinois

FL: South Miami workers concerned by plan to privatize garbage collection
. . . Eleven jobs within the city’s public works department will be affected if the city decides to hire Waste Pro of Florida Inc. and passes the ordinance at its second reading Aug. 5. “I think maybe 14 employees, that have been working an average length of eight years for the city will be impacted,” said Norman Herdocia, regional director of AFSCME council 79, the union that represents the city employees. Miami Herald

ME: For-profit charter school opens in Maine
. . .But the charter school is also drawing sharp criticism from public school advocates because taxpayer dollars for curriculum and programming are being paid to a corporation – in Maine’s case, the second-largest for-profit provider of online schools. Seacoastonline.com

July 25, 2014

News

NC: Cotham: New NC Senate bill shields salaries of for-profit charter school staff. Conflict over disclosure of charter-school salaries flared anew Thursday as House Democrats said a Senate-approved bill shields for-profit management companies from revealing who they hire and how much they pay. In a Thursday evening news conference, Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, led the call for the public and Gov. Pat McCrory to fight a move that she says blocks accountability and transparency at charter schools, which are run by nonprofit boards and funded with public money. “It’s a simple principle: The public should know where public money is going,” she said. At issue is a much-revised bill introduced in May after the Observer requested charter school salaries and questions arose about what those schools are required to release. A new version was quietly brought before the Senate Thursday and approved unanimously. Charlotte Observer

PA: Pennsylvania bill intended to derail I-80 toll talk. . . . Citing possible federal efforts to permit charging toll taxes to access existing roadways, Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield, introduced a bill that would forbid handing over state roadways such as I-80 without legislative approval. “This bill is intended to make sure any future discussions about tolling run a transparent course through state government to avoid surprises and give citizens a strong voice,” Gabler said in a news release. He also said the bill would help avert “economic uncertainty” that existed following the passage of Act 44, which was detrimental to jobs and economic development along the I-80 corridor. Land Line Magazine

ME: Private property owner cut public Cliff Walk out of plans for York Harbor land. The Friends of the Cliff Walk are expected to turn out in force Thursday for a Planning Board meeting in which a York Harbor resident has submitted a revision to his oceanfront property that does not include the Cliff Walk on the plan. . . . Community Development Director Steve Burns, who oversees the planning department, said before York moves forward to uphold the public’s right to use the Cliff Walk, town officials were waiting to get the status of the state Supreme Court’s reconsideration of the precedent-setting Goose Rocks Beach case. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of private property owners over the public’s right to use Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport.  Bangor Daily News

ME: Lewiston parents worry privatized gymnastics program would be out of reach. Parents of city gymnasts say they’re worried that efforts to privatize a recreation department program will price their kids out of the sport. Lewiston Sun Journal

Unions put teachers on streets — for votes. While other interest groups focus on the frenzied fight for control of the Senate, teachers unions are pouring their resources into state politics. They’re pushing to flip legislative chambers in several states to Democratic control and put allies in key offices such as attorney general and secretary of state in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Above all, they’re out to oust incumbent Republican governors, especially Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott and Michigan’s Rick Snyder. Education rarely shows up as a top concern for voters in national polls. But it’s been a galvanizing force in recent mayoral elections in New York and Newark, and unions believe it will stir voters on the state level in a year roiling with debates about the Common Core, standardized testing and the soaring cost of college. Politico

July 24, 2014

News

‘Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection’ Rule Would Eviscerate Inspections: Experts
A sweeping rule sent to the White House by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month would eviscerate the poultry inspection standards that currently protect consumers from tainted chicken and turkey, many experts say. Euphemistically called the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” rule, the statute would speed up processing lines and reduce the number of inspectors overseeing their operation, while simultaneously handing key inspection duties over to poultry companies’ employees. . . . But rather than improving slaughterhouse practices in the service of public health, the changes proposed under the rule are actually “a prescription for disaster” that would lead to higher incidences of salmo  nella and other pathogens, according to Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.  International Business Times

Tolling lobbyists attempt to hijack highway funding discussion
A pro-tolling lobby group attempted to steer the discussion about highway and bridge funding this week toward interstate tolls. Fortunately, an alliance that supports toll-free interstates is in place to counter their arguments. The plot thickened this week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 former transportation secretaries including Ray LaHood joined together in a letter to Congress to urge long-term solutions to road, bridge and transit funding.  Land Line Magazine

CA: Highway 156 private toll road concept explored
Highway 156 could become a privately operated toll road in an effort to pay for a long-delayed widening project for the crucial link between the Monterey Peninsula and the Bay Area. On Wednesday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County board of directors approved an agreement with Caltrans to explore a partnership with a private entity capable of helping pay for and construct the highway project in exchange for a share of the toll road proceeds.  Monterey County Herald

NY: Nassau County Legislature OKs sewer privatization
The Nassau County Legislature’s seven-member, bipartisan rules committee unanimously passed a plan on July 18 to implement a long-term contract for the control of the county’s wastewater system. Promising to save taxpayers roughly $240 million over the next 20 years, County Executive Ed Mangano had announced a partnership with United Water on June 30, in which the company will manage and operate the county’s three wastewater treatment facilities.  liherald.com

PA: PennDOT seeks outside help to make bridge repairs
State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions. . . . The Department of Transportation is finishing a deal with one of four international teams of contractors to replace the bridges, then maintain them for 25 years. PennDOT plans to announce which group gets the work sometime this fall. Construction is set to begin next year. . .  Also, unlike most public-private transportation projects, the bridge program will not tap toll revenue. Instead it will use higher wholesale gas taxes and vehicle fees outlined in the recent transportation plan, which aims to collect $1.2 billion more per year for road and bridge work. Critics of such public-private arrangements complain of an uneven record of savings compared with more traditional approaches to roadwork, because the deals lean on large multinational companies to front the money.  The Tribune-Democrat

MI: Steve Miller: Why did Aramark get the prison food contract? Here’s some insight
. . . Curiously, the state almost shelved the idea of privatizing food service for the state’s prisons when it determined that its savings would not be enough to justify it. At the last minute, though, several Republican lawmakers insisted that the deal be made. While it screams of money being exchanged, a search of campaign contributions finds nothing remarkable coming from the Aramark PAC going into the campaign coffers of its statehouse advocates. Michigan lawmakers are shielded from open records laws, so the natural open records request for email exchanges between Aramark and state legislators is off the table. . . . It would have been nice to see just what Aramark officials involved with the contract were saying to each other, but its $145 million contract with the state protects Aramark from FOIA requests, directly stating that “[Aramark] is not required to respond to any state or federal FOIA requests by third parties” – meaning the public that is spending the $145 million. MLive.com

July 23, 2014

News

Our Old Friend, Public-Private Partnerships
Three years ago, a veteran Republican transportation staffer told me that the ideal role for the federal government in public-private partnerships would be as technical advisors to states and cities who are trying to make deals with private investors to build roads, bridges, or transit systems. The aide said that cities and states are better brokers of their local deals because they are intimately familiar with the tics of their own communities, but they desperately need help analyzing the complex metrics of the financing and modeling. Private infrastructure firms are giants compared to most city governments, and the feds could help mitigate a potential David and Goliath scenario. Last week, President Obama unveiled an investment center to be housed in the Department of Transportation that looks much like what this GOP congressional staffer described. National Journal

Rural US ripe for investment, Vilsack says
Rural America take note: the U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to bring a touch of Wall Street to Main Street. The agency’s newest funding model, the subject of a national conference that begins Wednesday in Washington, D.C., promotes private investment as the way to spur economic growth in rural communities. . . . Taylor said while Oregon does not maintain toll roads, there is a variety of infrastructure that generates revenue through operation, and other infrastructure needs — city halls and other public buildings, for example — can gain private interest if the government offers compensation for the construction and maintenance of the building.  Statesman Journal            

MI: Kevyn Orr looking for proposals to privatize Detroit’s parking system
Orr’s office today asked the City Council’s permission to seek bids to privatize the parking system. The council could vote on the request next Tuesday. The city wants to give private companies flexibility in bidding on the parking system, which includes seven parking garages, nearly 3,200 metered spaces and a towing operation for abandoned vehicles. A bidder could offer to buy the entire system, for example, it could offer to manage the system, or it could even offer to manage a portion of it, such as meter enforcement.  Detroit Free Press

MI: Thirsting for Democracy in Detroit: Activists Resist Water Service Shutoffs, Wall Street and Privatization
People previously blockaded to keep Homrich, a private contractor employed by the city, from shutting off people’s water on July 10. Another blockade took place the day of the rally, lasting six hours before police arrested a pastor, a veteran journalist in her 70s, welfare rights organizers and others. The water disconnections constitute a human rights violation if the people affected are genuinely unable to pay, said Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on safe drinking water and sanitation, in a press release. Truth-Out

IL: Postal union workers to protest at Staples in Loop
A long-simmering feud between the U.S. Postal Service and organized labor will hit the streets of downtown Chicago today as the American Postal Workers Union protests what it calls the outsourcing of its jobs to private industry. The object of the demonstration will be a Staples office supply store at 111 N. Wabash Ave. The union says as many as 2,000 of its members, in town for a convention, will gather outside at 3:30 p.m. to protest the chain’s establishment of mini-post offices in some of its stores. Chicago Tribune

NJ: Surfboard campaign in Asbury Park makes surfers irate
Members of the Surfrider Foundation and some city residents, including Quinn, want to keep Bradley Cove as open space. They cite the privatization of much of the city’s oceanfront through the massive redevelopment project over the past decade as the main reason for the need for public space at the beachfront.  The Star-Ledger

July 22, 2014

News

IL: Illinois Man Sues Over Chicago Redflex Fraud
Crime should not pay, says an Illinois motorist red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems. Matthew G. Falkner, an investment banker, argues that the Australia firm unjustly enriched itself to the tune of $100 million from vehicle owners in Chicago through bribery and corruption. He does not want them to get away with it. TheNewspaper.com

FL: Gov Scott’s fundraiser comedy gold for HBO’s John Oliver
. . . Zoley, who was netting between $22 million from the GEO Group between 2008 and 2012, has become a big supporter of Scott’s. Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s reelection campaign, has accepted $415,000 from Geo Group and its affiliate, Geo Care. . . . “We love prisons so much a shocking number of Americans are currently inside one,” Oliver said at the beginning of 17-minute segment that was mainly focused on the privatization of the American prison system. “We have more prisoners at the moment than China. Than China. We don’t have more of anything than China, other than, of course, debt to China.” . . . “The key problem running prisons like businesses is that prisons are then run as businesses,” Oliver said, seguing into his main example of the Geo Group. Miami Herald

CA: Countywide outsourcing? Supervisors to take up ballot option
Orange County supervisors are slated to decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve changes to the county charter that would allow more county jobs to be outsourced to private companies. The proposed ballot measure, requested by Supervisor John Moorlach, would change the county’s charter to allow the county to privatize more county work than currently is permitted by state law. OCRegister

MI: Detroit suspends water shutoffs for 15 days
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills. . . . The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a policy that has been framed as a human rights issue for low-income residents who can’t afford to pay their bills. It also was announced n the same day that a group of Detroit residents filed a lawsuit in the city’s bankruptcy case asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore water service to residential customers. Detroit Free Press

The GOP’s real shame on the border: ignoring an industry that makes billions off immigrants to give to politicians

Private prisons have taken up immigration as a profit center, based on assembly-line ‘justice’ of the Bush era – and kept alive by Republican presidential contenders who look the other way.  The Guardian

July 21, 2014

News

As Investors, Officials Meet, a Warning Note on Public-Private Deals
Even as President Barack Obama was headed to Delaware on Thursday to promote public-private partnerships to finance infrastructure, Peter Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, was telling a conference of officials and investors who put together such deals that there’s growing resistance in Congress to the “P3s” trend. Even proven programs such as the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program “could be subject to cuts or elimination” by Congress, Ruane told the conference.  Roll Call (blog)

Reinventing the American highway: The promise (and pitfalls) of learning to love tolls
Want a glimpse of the future of roads in this country? Look elsewhere. As Congress juggles stopgap solutions, the U.S. road network is in the beginnings of a profound structural shift towards privately run turnpikes. . . .Progressives, too, have reason to be concerned. Tolling isn’t a less equitable way to raise money than the highly regressive gas tax, but building roads with profit in mind does influence planning decisions. According to a recent report from the Dallas Fed, “road placement has generally occurred in areas where personal incomes have been higher, making the toll collection used to repay bonds more predictable and, thus, supporting the credit rating.”  Salon

Our Voice: Must we keep going down the same road?
. . . President Obama used the same cliché on Tuesday when he announced the Build America Investment Initiative, a program to encourage public-private partnerships to improve infrastructure. Rep. Raul Ruiz issued a statement on Tuesday supporting the short-term fix, but he also encouraged his colleagues to work toward a “pragmatic, long-term solution to ensure appropriate investment in essential infrastructure across the country.” . . . . Raising gas taxes and tying the rate to inflation is the most equitable long-term solution. Drivers who wear out roads should pay for the upkeep. The Desert Sun

The privatization of public campground management
If you camp at a U.S. Forest Service campground this summer, you’ll probably hand your fee directly to a host employed by a private company, rather than stuffing it into a little brown box on the honor system or giving it to a retiree volunteering for the Forest Service. That’s because the majority of the agency’s campgrounds are now managed by for-profit companies called “concessionaires.” High Country

John Oliver Calls Out America’s Racist, Broken Prison System: ‘We Are Doing A Terrible Job’
After dropping the bombshell that the United States has more people in prison than China, Oliver detailed the racial inequity in incarcerations, the horrid conditions in which prisoners live, thanks in no small part to privatization, and how most Americans are so disassociated from caring about prisoners, “prison rape” has become a common and acceptable punchline in mainstream media.  Huffington Post

FL: Private Prison CEO Will Host Florida Governor At $10K-A-Plate Fundaiser
Over the past few years, private prison firm GEO Group has become known for inmate abuse, workplace violence, and fraudulent reporting at its U.S. facilities. One federal judge found that GEO “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate” at one Mississippi facility for juveniles. But on Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will headline a $10,000-per-person VIP fundraiser at the home of GEO Group Chief Executive Officer George Zoley, Mother Jones reports. Attendees can also attend a general reception for $3,000 per person. The proceeds will go to both Rick Scott’s gubernatorial campaign and the Republican Party of Florida.
ThinkProgress

FL: Despite state money, private schools skirt public records laws
. . . Private organizations typically aren’t subject to the public records laws, though there are circumstances when they may be subject to them, said Jason Bent, an assistant professor of law in Stetson University’s College of Law. He said it would not appear that private schools like Warner meet the current test, which considers the level of public funding, as well as whether the activity was conducted on publicly owned property and whether a public entity created the private entity. Daytona Beach News-Journal

MI: Outsourced in Michigan
Colleges and universities have outsourced lots of services in the past several decades, from food preparation and delivery to bookstores to sanitation. But to many academics it is taboo to even consider outsourcing the faculty. Not in Michigan. In recent years, a handful of community colleges in that state have outsourced the recruitment and hiring of adjunct instructors – who make up the overwhelming majority of the community college teaching force – to an educational staffing company. Just last week, the faculty union at a sixth institution, Jackson College, signed a collective bargaining agreement allowing EDUStaff to take over adjunct hiring and payroll duties. Inside Higher Ed

DC: DC charter board member has $195000 contract with DC charter school
A member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board is receiving $195,000 to do consulting work for a network of schools that the board is responsible for overseeing, according to a list of recent contracts the board published on its Web site. Washington Post

July 18, 2014


News

Obama Shifts to Urge Private Investment in Roads, Bridges
. . .Speaking beside a project to repair a closed interstate highway bridge in Wilmington, Delaware, Obama called for making it easier for states and local governments to access private capital for roads, bridges and other infrastructure. “So far Congress has refused to act,” said Obama, who criticized lawmakers for failing to fully fund federal infrastructure projects through the Highway Trust Fund. “I’m going to do whatever I can to create jobs rebuilding American on my own.”. . . The focus on private money for road projects marks a shift for the administration, which had previously resisted efforts to seek commercial resources for highways and other pieces of the country’s transportation system. The result may be more tolls for drivers as companies look to make profits by operating roads and bridges. Business Week

Water Wars and Creeping Privatization
The newly enacted Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act holds promise for life in a world shaped by climate change. However, privatization proponents are working hard to privatize ownership and control our water infrastructure. Truth-Out

WI: A War Worth Fighting
Voucher supporters in Wisconsin and across the nation want to set up exclusionary schools on the public dime. The federal government shouldn’t let them. For three years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating Wisconsin’s school voucher program for systematically discriminating against students with disabilities. . . . Very few students with disabilities in Milwaukee or the rest of the state use private school vouchers, either because they perceive that the program is only for non-disabled students or because the schools themselves push children with disabilities out of the program. This has had the effect of segregating students with disabilities in the local public schools, while cannibalizing the local district’s resources through the diversion of money from public schools to private institutions.  ACLU

MI: How a Bogus, Industry-Funded Study Helped Spur a Privatization Disaster in Michigan
. . . Officials in Michigan are already regretting a recent move to privatize food services for inmates in the state’s prison system. Early results have proven disastrous. . . .Maggots in the kitchen and on the chow line. Workers caught smuggling contraband or engaging in sex acts with inmates. Food shortages and angry prisoners. . . As Michigan’s legislature debated prison privatization, the Free Press ran an op-ed by Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone, two economists at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The scholars called for “a debate rooted in data and facts,” and touted their research ostensibly showing that privatization saved states money without compromising the quality of correctional services. What Free Press readers weren’t told is that the scholars’ paper, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal, was funded by the private prison industry. Nor were readers made aware of other “op-eds they published in newspapers around the country, most with no mention of their funding source,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Their lack of disclosure of the apparent conflict of interest is the subject of an ethics complaint now being investigated by the university. BillMoyers.com

MI: What Happens When Detroit Shuts Off the Water of 100,000 People
. . . The campaign to crack down on overdue bills—which is aimed at customers who are more than two months behind on their bills or who owe more than $150—has been described by activists and scholars alike as an effort, pushed by the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, to get rid of the bad debt associated with the water department and prep the public entity for privatization. In a city where the median household income is less than half the national average, 38 percent of residents live below the poverty line and 23 percent are unemployed, it comes as no surprise that at least 40 percent of customers are delinquent on their bills. The water shut-offs have taken no prisoners. Since this year’s shut-offs started at the end of March, at least 15,000 Detroit households have had their water turned off.  The Atlantic

LA: Our View: Privatization has hurt local providers
. . . As St. Francis CEO Louis Bremer explained to The News-Star editorial board earlier this week: When an insured patient chooses University Health Conway, the costs are reimbursed by the state 100 percent. When an uninsured patient shows up at St. Francis, the hospital has a legal and Christian responsibility to evaluate the patient’s status, stabilize the patient, and inform them of treatment costs and options to transfer to Conway. Unfortunately, few uninsured are choosing the totally reimbursed Conway option, leaving St. Francis with the chore of attempting to collect medical bills from people who cannot afford to pay them. Those who have Medicaid provide a reimbursement to St. Francis of 45 percent of cost. That’s a very slick way for the state to reduce its medical bills for its charity institutions, but it’s at the cost of communities relying on long-term major employers and institutions like St. Francis. Monroe News Star

TX: Texas’ flagship toll road faces financial problems
Since 2006, the state of Texas has put a ton of trust in private companies to build and operate toll roads in exchange for a cut of the profits. Just eight years in, the state’s flagship public-private toll road, the SH 130 that connects Austin and San Antonio, is facing financial difficulties, low traffic volumes and a “junk bond” rating from financial analysts. Moody’s Investor Service, which twice downgraded the SH 130’s bond rating in 2013, announced this month that the SH 130 Concession Co. had failed to make a full debt-service payment to lenders on the money it borrowed to build Segments 5 and 6 of the roadway. According to the 50-year contract between the SH 130 Concession Co. and the Texas Department of Transportation, the builder-operator carries the financial risk while the roadway itself remains owned by the state of Texas. An actual default could lead to a termination of the contract and leave TxDOT with a decision to operate the roadway “in house” or farm it out to another operator.  Land Line Magazine

MA: Massachusetts Senate Votes Not to Lift Cap on Charter Schools 
In a surprise move, the Massachusetts State Senate voted 26-13 not to increase the number of charter schools in the state. A similar bill cleared the House by a vote of 114-35 in May. “The Senate proceeded in a separate 9-30 vote to also defeat the underlying bill that had cleared the House.”. . . “Unions, meanwhile, cheered the bill’s defeat. “We congratulate the Senate for taking a stand for public schools and for public school students, many of whom live in poverty and who need all the resources they can get. The vote against raising the cap keeps resources in our locally controlled public schools where they are most needed,” said Tom Gosnell, president of American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts.  DianeRavitch.net

NY: Nassau lawmakers expected to back sewer privatization
Nassau County legislators are expected to approve a contract today to privatize the county’s massive sewage treatment system — a deal that officials say will save taxpayers a total of more than $200 million. Newsday

July 17, 2014

News

Sweden’s School Choice Disaster
Advocates for school choice might be shocked to see how badly the country’s experiment with vouchers failed. . . . Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.  Slate

A New Gameplan for Taking Down Privatizers
. . . The new Cumbers report for the London-based Centre for Labour and Social Studies describes and compares a variety of these imaginative new forms. Some are just getting underway. Others — like Denmark’s new approach to energy policy — are already delivering rather amazing results. Denmark is nurturing innovative “public-public” partnerships. In 2001, one of these partnerships constructed off the coast of Copenhagen what then rated as the world’s largest wind farm. The partners: Copenhagen Energy, the municipally owned local utility of Denmark’s largest city, and a cooperative run by the over 10,000 local residents who had purchased shares in it. A similar cooperative-local government utility model, observes the University of Glasgow’s Cumbers, has helped the Danish island of Samsoe “become one of the first places in the world to become 100 percent efficient in renewable energy.”  Truth-Out

UK: The tide is turning against the scam that is privatization
Privatisation isn’t working. We were promised a shareholding democracy, competition, falling costs and better services. A generation on, most people’s experience has been the opposite. From energy to water, rail to public services, the reality has been private monopolies, perverse subsidies, exorbitant prices, woeful under-investment, profiteering and corporate capture. The Guardian

MI: Opinion: Hasn’t outsourcing cost Michiganians enough?
. . . With ongoing efforts to outsource public services including nursing homes and schools, the impact of unaccountable services and nebulous oversight could be devastating. The report also details the impact of outsourcing on a state-run veterans’ home. The contractor slashed wages and eliminated benefits and the results are as you might expect—higher turnover with reduced reliability and quality of care. . . . Our state’s elected leaders should work for good jobs here, not reward the CEOs shipping our tax dollars out of Michigan. Snyder has left a deplorable legacy of outsourced jobs while rewarding powerful CEOs. The Detroit News

FL: FCAT’s political aim: Privatize schools: My Word
The Sentinel Editorial Board is appalled that after 16 years of using the FCAT standardized test, the academicperformance of Florida’s kids remains basically flat. The board shouldn’t be surprised. . . .The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test has been designed to flunk a pre-set number of kids — from 40 percent to 50 percent. . . .Why would they do that? A big reason is that if public schools can be made to look bad enough, the public will be willing to hand them over to privatization. It’s always wise to follow the money.  Orlando Sentinel

OH: Teachers Deliver Alarming Allegations Against Charter School
The state board of education is launching an investigation into at least one charter school after hearing disturbing testimony from a group of former teachers. Sexual misconduct, racism, teacher intimidation, questionable testing policies, and mishandling of complaints about those claims were among the allegations the teachers brought to a meeting of the state board of education meeting Tuesday. The teachers were all former employees of the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School, a charter school managed by the Chicago-based Concept Schools. Timothy Neary taught at the high school for two years. He says he witnessed a culture racism and sexism. He also said the schools attendance reports didn’t seem right.  StateImpact Ohio

NC: Public-Private Partnerships Intertwined with Charlotte’s I-77
The deal to design and build high occupancy toll lanes or HOT Lanes on the I-77 corridor running north out of Charlotte for 26 miles has put a spotlight on several concerns including: “The price tag on this project is expected to reach $655 million. NCDOT will contribute $88 million and Cintra will invest $234 million of its own money. Cintra will borrow another $315 million in government-backed loans.” (see Civitas Institute, June 25) Cintra is a Spanish-owned company with a poor track record in toll road building and is facing bankruptcy and Moody’s downgrading in some states. (see Watchdog Wire, April 30, 2014) Watchdog Wire

July 16, 2014

News

Postal privatization protest is having an effect, so Staples resorts to trickery
Staples says it is dropping plans to administer mailing services in retail stores, but Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union claims that the the company’s announcement terminating its no-bid deal with the U.S. Postal Service is a ruse. “This attempt at trickery shows that the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ movement is having an effect,” said Dimondstein. “Staples and the USPS are changing the name of the program, without addressing the fundamental concerns of postal workers and postal customers.” Dimondstein claims the Staples announcement and a July 7 letter from the USPS make it clear: They intend to continue to privatize postal retail operations, replace living-wage Postal Service jobs with low-wage Staples jobs, and compromise the safety and security of the mail. NJ TODAY

A National Call: Come to Detroit, Link Arms to Stop the Water Shut Offs and Fight for Democracy
On July 18, thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge in downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets, and the disconnection of water to tens of thousands of low-income residents – what the UN has called a human rights violation. Demonstrators from around the country will come to rally in Hart Plaza at 1 PM to link arms with the citizens of Detroit to protest the hostile corporate takeover by Wall Street banks and their radical ALEC-led political allies in the Michigan Statehouse.  Truth-Out

OH: Maggots in food, running out of food among new complaints facing Ohio prisons food vendor 
The records show 65 instances where Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services failed to provide food or ran out of it — usually the main course, such as hamburgers or chicken patties — while serving inmates, leading to delays and in some cases security concerns as inmates grew frustrated. Substitute items were provided in most cases. The Tribune

TX: Texas launches effort to shut down Deion Sanders’ charter school
The Texas Education Agency is taking steps to shutdown the charter school started by former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders. . . .In April, Price, a former Dallas ISD trustee, told the FBI he suspected federal money earmarked for the 300 students of the school was being used improperly. When Price made the allegations sources told CBS 11 News some of the concerns centered around some 400 computers, bought with federal money, that instead of going to students were sold for profit.  CBSLocal.com

RI: Review RI’s child-service program – opinion
. . .We continue to see Journal reports and other news accounts about the growing sex-trafficking of young girls in this state. We should offer help to these young girls and make sure services are available to treat them in Rhode Island. If the networks under contract are not fulfilling their job, then a new system has to be created to take care of these children in an environment where they feel safe and wanted. The money allocated for the services should be directed to the services, not to high administrative costs. Philip Keefe, president of the Rhode Island Alliance of Social Service Employees, a public employee union, described the situation as the “collapse” of a system aimed at privatizing jobs once done by state workers. The Providence Journal

FL: Opinion: Are public schools an endangered species?
. . . The growth of charter schools and voucher credits further drains critical resources from public schools and blatantly mixed church and state with taxpayer dollars. This represents a very deliberate scheme to undermine public school success. Charter schools are not held to such high standards in either curriculum or student progress, and schools accepting voucher credits are not public schools and have no effective accountability. Tallahassee Democrat (blog)

July 15, 2014

News

A Rare Win For The Unions? Staples Abandons Postal Service Trial
. . . And on Monday, days after the 1.6 million member American Federation of Teachers said it would join the boycott, Staples and the USPS told the WSJ the pilot program would be discontinued. The 82 Staples outlets offering postal services will shift to the more established Post Office Approved Shipper program already available in thousands of retail outlets across the country. . . .A USPS spokeswoman also declined to comment on the role of union pressure. “We respect their right to their opinion,” she said. “This decision is all about expanding service to our customers.” The postal union isn’t declaring victory just yet. A statement from APWU president Mark Dimondstein called the USPS and Staples announcements a “ruse”, and said the discontinuation of the pilot program doesn’t go far enough. The company should stop offering postal services altogether, he said. Wall Street Journal Blog

Net Neutrality: Comment Period Closing
. . . The fear among net neutrality supporters is that the FCC will rewrite broadband regulations to allow broadband service providers to build private toll roads on the Internet that offer faster data delivery while neglecting investment in open bandwidth so that congestion drives customers to more expensive offerings. InformationWeek

MI: Stalking Horse: Detroit Water Crisis as Possible Precursor of Privatization
. . . . As others have observed, the suddenly vigorous efforts of Detroit Water and Sewerage to clear up delinquencies through an aggressive regime of shutoffs may be a prelude to an effort to sell a very valuable asset and infuse billions into Detroit’s fiscal picture. The battle over potential privatization of public water services is a core element of water controversies. Anna Lappé, the author of Diet for a Hot Planet, reports that privatization of public water systems “overwhelmingly leads to higher prices for cities and people and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies.” Her findings, based on a white paper from Corporate Accountability International, note significant price rises of privatized water systems in the UK and France. Although water privatizers promise that they will help balance municipal budgets, that’s not the way it happened that way in Stockton, California. The city with its private water system ended up declaring bankruptcy anyhow—and after the bankruptcy returned the water system to public ownership. The Nonprofit Quarterly

MI: You get what you pay when hiring private company for Michigan prisons: embarrassing failures
American is gung-ho for privatization these days, both to save money, and because government at all levels has become something we love to hate. Thanks to years of being told that government is bad, corrupt, expensive and inefficient, we are happy to reduce its size. Well, we may not be quite ready to hand the nuclear arsenal over to an assets management firm, but apart from that, anything goes. And frankly, there are some things that probably should be privatized. Garbage collection, for example. But Michigan decided last year to privatize food service in our prisons, and so far, it has been a highly embarrassing failure. Michigan Radio

AZ: Arizona charter school history book says whites envied “freedom” of slaves
One of the oldest public charters in the state is using wingnut history to promote racism and Christian nationalism. Salon

AZ: Arizona State University agreement with Starbucks contributes to higher education privatization
. . . The Starbucks plan only applies to Starbucks employees pursuing an online degree, which has consistently fallen short of goals around retention, passing, metrics of learning and degree completion. . . . Starbucks is not doing this for charitable reasons. It has two profit-related goals, the first of which is broad public relations. This is evident from the Starbucks press release and a variety of major news headlines falsely stating that Starbucks will fully reimburse their workers’ tuition — one headline even states that Starbucks is paying them to get a degree! . . . .The second goal is to advertise the Starbucks brand to the college.  UT The Daily Texan

LA: Gov. Bobby Jindal leases state parking garage for $2M
. . . The 91-year lease will generate less money than the state paid for the garage, while also giving away possibly millions of dollars the state stood to receive in parking revenue over the life of the contract. The arrangement is part of a Jindal administration trend of leasing and selling state property to patch short-term budget gaps.  Shreveport Times

NY: Report: Nassau sewer deal would save $158 million
Privatizing management of Nassau County’s massive sewer system would save at least $158 million over 20 years — $73 million less than County Executive Edward Mangano has projected, according to a new legislative budget analysis. . . . A range of local environmentalists support the privatization. But Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit consumer rights group on food and water safety, said of United Water’s plan to operate with fewer workers: “Experience has shown that significant downsizing following privatization frequently leads to worse customer service.”  Newsday

TX: Austin Toll Operator Denies Default, Says New Terms Reached
The State Highway 130 Concession Co. that operates a new, lightly traveled toll road outside Austin says it has reached new terms with its lenders and is not in default.  Bond Buyer ($)