June 4, 2008

Texas DOT slammed by panel over toll road
NV: State mulls mental health fix — privatizing
MA: Board chews on privatizing school lunch
PA: Panel recommends privatizing sewage recycling
IN: Fire privatization proposal ignites safety debate

[click on ‘continued reading’ link for articles]
News Summaries
Texas DOT slammed by panel over toll road
The Texas state legislature’s Sunset Advisory Commission released a
report yesterday slamming the Texas Department of Transportation
(TxDOT) and its high-level focus on toll financing. In a blistering
157-page report, the commission condemned the agency’s attitude and
argued for shakeup in the way the department does business. "Early
concerns about the department’s approach to toll roads and its interest
in public-private partnerships have become a deep-seated distrust of
TxDOT’s motives and direction, as reflected in the legislature’s
insistent drive to recapture policy ground lost to the department," the
report explained. "Many expressed concerns that TxDOT was ‘out of
control,’ advancing its own agenda against objections of both the
legislature and the public." TheNewspaper.com
NV: State mulls mental health fix — privatizing
With Nevada facing a potential 14 percent budget cut, the state is
considering the possibility of turning all or part of its mental health
system over to private companies to reduce costs. Gretchen Greiner,
chairwoman of the state Commission on Mental Health and Developmental
Services, questioned whether private companies would be interested in
Nevada because of budget problems. “There’s no money for ourselves,”
she said. “How are we going to get money to pay them?” Greiner, of
Elko, also expressed concern that privatization would cripple mental
health in rural Nevada, which is short of services. Las Vegas Sun
MA: Board chews on privatizing school lunch
Salem Superintendent William Cameron Jr. says schools can’t afford to
keep food service in-house and guaranteed it would be cheaper to hire
an international company to feed local students. The School Committee
was supposed to vote last night on whether to privatize school lunches,
but postponed the decision until its next meeting. The group opposing
privatization distributed its suggestions last week to the superintendent,
School Committee members and Mayor Kim Driscoll in the form of a binder
divided into chapters that outline the proposed the finances, menus, staffing
and management of a revamped program. It includes an executive summary,
a conclusion, and various supporting materials with numbers, history and
student comments. It is titled "Proposal for Salem Public Schools
Lunch Program," with the subtitle "Local Solutions for a Strong Local
Economy." The Salem News
PA: Panel recommends privatizing sewage recycling
A Philadelphia City Council panel recommends privatizing a city sewage
sludge recycling operation. The city Water Department runs the 70-acre
Philadelphia Biosolids Recycling Center. The site under the Platt Bridge
converts sewage sludge to a "cake" product safe for landfill and
fertilizer use. The city pays to send it to landfills, farms and old strip
mines. The City Council’s Finance Committee recommended Tuesday
that the council approve a 23-year contract for a partnership led by
Synagro Technologies of Houston to operate the center. York Daily Record
IN: Fire privatization proposal ignites safety debate
There’s no doubt a private fire department would cost less than the
current public fire department, according to Ball State University
economist Michael Hicks. "The question is: Do you get the same
service?" Hicks said. Mayor Sharon McShurley announced Monday she was
considering — among other things — privatizing the Muncie Fire
Department to help compensate for an expected shortfall of $7 million
in tax revenue between 2009 and 2010 combined. A private fire
department, Whited said, would put profits before public safety. Whited
doubted that privatization would find support among the general public,
pointing to the fact that hundreds of fire department supporters
attended Monday’s council meeting. "Muncie firefighters have a vested
interest in this community," Whited said. "Not every firefighter lives
in the city but a lot of us own property in the city limits or have
businesses in the city limits. It’s our friends and family and people
we know that we are making runs to." The Star Press