April 24, 2008

NYC: Judge blocks overhaul of park
TN: Private security cracking down on panhandling in Memphis
IN: Riot costs add up for New Castle prison
WY: State juvenile facilities draw ACLU’s attention
CA: Savings from privatized state lottery at a cost
States explore privatizing roads
NH: Private firms could provide kindergarten
MI: Southfield schools to privatize services
NM: Army cancels White Sands privatization study

News Summaries
NYC: Judge blocks overhaul of park
A state judge has temporarily blocked the Parks and Recreation
Department from continuing its $21 million overhaul of the north end of
Union Square Park. The project, which includes installing a new
restaurant in the park’s pavilion, has been opposed by various
neighborhood groups, which say the establishment of a privately owned
restaurant would be an illegal use of public parkland. “The temporary
restraining order is a small but important step in the right
direction,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, whose district
borders Union Square. “They are taking away a piece of the park. You
wouldn’t use the park for a bookstore or a shoe shop, and you shouldn’t
use it for a restaurant.” The New York Times
TN: Private security cracking down on panhandling in Memphis
Many people say employing private security guards to patrol parts of
downtown has stopped many aggressive panhandlers. The guards carry stun
batons. They say, so far, no one has been stunned. Eyewitness News (Memphis)
IN: Riot costs add up for New Castle prison
A riot one year ago at the New Castle Correctional Facility cost a
private prison contractor more than $1.1 million in police protection,
repairs and improvements. And though that’s a bullet dodged by
taxpayers, they’re not out of the woods yet. What remains to be
calculated is the cost of ongoing legal proceedings in Henry County,
where 28 inmates are charged with dozens of felony and misdemeanor
crimes. Seven of the men have pleaded guilty and their cases now are
complete, but 21 others are pursuing jury trials, and they could rack
up significant costs for taxpayers. Already, taxpayers are paying for
the defendants’ attorneys, depositions, and in at least two cases,
private investigators, according to court files. The Star Press (Muncie)
WY: State juvenile facilities draw ACLU’s attention
The American Civil Liberties Union said it is concerned about
conditions in Wyoming’s two privately run juvenile detention centers
and would like to hear from youth who have spent time in the jails. Billings Gazette
CA: Savings from privatized state lottery at a cost
Hoping to improve on the returns, the Schwarzenegger administration
last year suggested the state could generate as much as $37 billion in
one-time money in exchange for letting a private investor run the
business for 40 years. The governor suggested some of the cash could be
used to close persisting deficits while the rest could be saved for a
"rainy day" account. Dickerson said private investors would likely want
to loosen the rules so they could offer bigger jackpots and create new
games. Currently, the lottery is hamstrung by the constitution from
using new technologies, such as video lottery terminals that look like
slot machines and feature instant payouts. It is also banned from
using casino themes such as roulette or blackjack. California is
currently among a number of states — Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts and
New Jersey — considering at least some privatization of their
lotteries. Sacramento Bee
States explore privatizing roads
The most talked-about piece of real estate in Pennsylvania at the
moment isn’t a pricey vacation home or high-rise office building. It’s
a stretch of road. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is for sale. State
officials there are hoping to sell the road in a move that could
generate billions of dollars for state, money that could be used to pay
for other road projects, according to news reports. The sale of the
turnpike is one of the more dramatic examples of a recent trend in many
states, including West Virginia. The construction and maintenance of
roads, once considered the sole domain of government, is increasingly
being turned over to private businesses, either through selling road
systems or, more commonly, through entering into public-private
partnerships with businesses that put up the money to build new roads,
taking the burden off taxpayers. The State Journal (WV)
NH: Private firms could provide kindergarten
The 12 New Hampshire school districts that don’t have public
kindergarten soon may get more leeway under the law that makes
kindergarten mandatory. A new proposal would allow those districts to
contract with private providers, rather than offer the service in
public schools. The Union Leader (Manchester)

MI: Southfield schools to privatize services
Southfield Public Schools has voted to privatize bus and janitorial
services. The move comes despite offers from unions on concessions. ClickOnDetroit
NM: Army cancels White Sands privatization study
Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation say the Pentagon has
decided to cancel a study on whether to privatize some jobs at White
Sands Missile Range. The study would have looked at replacing civil
service employees at the southern New Mexico installation with a
private contractor’s workers. Members of the delegation had sent
letters to then-Army Secretary Francis Harvey when the study was first
announced in 2006. They argued that with many changes expected at White
Sands during the next few years, such a study would be unfair to
employees and a waste of taxpayer money. KOB.com (Southeast, NM)