June 5, 2008

A brighter light on federal spending
NY: Triborough will not be the RFK bridge
MN: 3rd bridge closed as inspections continue
FL: Word change ups chances for school vouchers
PA: Two introduce Rendell’s turnpike-lease plan
AR: Camps may turn private
ME: Toll road has supporters and detractors
FL: Beltway P3 postponed
Policy threatens conservation on public lands
Unappetizing politics of school lunches
Senate restaurants poised for privatized ownership

[click on ‘continued reading’ link for articles]

News Summaries

A brighter light on federal spending
If you read the morning paper, you know that Senator Obama has clinched
the Democratic presidential nomination. What you might not know is that
yesterday, Senators Obama (D-IL) and Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation
to improve public access to government contract, grant, and lease information.
The "Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008"
(S. 3077) would expand the Senators’ first creation, USASpending.gov–a
user-friendly web site where taxpayers can see how our money is spent. POGO
NY: Triborough will now be the RFK bridge
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F.
Kennedy, the state Assembly yesterday voted to rename the Triborough
Bridge in his honor. Gov. David Paterson plans to sign the measure to
call the span the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, his spokesman said. New York Post
MN: 3rd bridge closed as inspections continue
State officials have closed a bridge over the Mississippi River after
finding problems similar to those suspected of contributing to the
fatal collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis
last Aug. 1. The bridge is the third to be closed since the state began
special inspections three months ago. The New York Times
FL: Word change ups chances for school vouchers
A majority of Florida voters don’t want to spend public money on private
and religious schools — but they’ll probably vote by large margins to do
it in November, anyway, according to a new poll. The reason: A tactical
decision by the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to combine
private-school vouchers with a proposal to ensure that 65 percent of
every education dollar is spent in the classroom. The Miami Herald
PA: Two introduce Rendell’s turnpike-lease plan
Gov. Rendell’s proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private
operator for $12.8 billion was introduced in the state House yesterday by
a powerful Philadelphia Democrat and a rural Republican. The Philadelphia Inquirer
AR: Camps may turn private
The Corp of Engineers is considering a plan to turn campsites at three
Arkansas lakes over to private firms. The lakes in question are some of
the best in Arkansas, and the campers who use those lakes fear the plan
will lead to undesirable development around them. Camper Ricky Dunn
says things would be better if the money collected at the campsites was
used to manage them, instead of going to other budget items for the
Corp of Engineers. Dunn fears the lakes will never be the same, "These
boat docks, if they privatize they’ll be plum around this lake here.
It’ll be solid boat docks. Todaysthv.com
ME: Toll road has supporters and detractors
The proposal to build a privately owned, $1 billion toll road through
Maine has its supporters and its critics on both sides of the Canadian
border. Ivan Court, who last week was sworn in as the new mayor of
Saint John, is clearly an advocate of construction of a 220-mile,
east-west toll road through the wilderness of north-central Maine.The
project’s critics include Tim Sullivan, a self-described environmentalist
who is a manager of the Good Tern Natural Food Co-op & Café in
Rockland, and Jack McKay, president of the Bangor-based Eastern Maine
Labor Council. “It’s a little crazy, especially with the rising cost of fuel,”
said Sullivan, an advocate of free trade. “And having a right of way that
is 2,000 feet wide is really insane. A normal, two-lane highway is 100 feet
wide, which is why I think 2,000 feet is environmentally disastrous.”
Sullivan terms the proposed toll road “a [North American Free Trade Agreement]
highway” that will benefit Canada at the expense of Americans.
The Ellsworth American

FL: Beltway P3 postponed
The Florida Department of Transportation has postponed the receipt of
qualifications from potential concessionaires interested in designing,
building, and operating a nearly $2 billion project near Jacksonville
known as the First Coast Outer Beltway. The state is planning to use a
public-private partnership to build a four-lane, 46.5-mile-long,
limited-access toll road between Interstate 95 in St. Johns County and
Interstate 10 in Duval County. It includes a new bridge over the St.
Johns River and 13 interchanges. The Bond Buyer ($)
Policy threatens conservation on public lands
Acting behind closed doors, the Bush administration is rewriting a key
policy manual for management of endangered, threatened, and other
special-status species found on federal lands that would eliminate key
protections currently given to the most at-risk wildlife and plants.
“This is part of the Bush administration’s drive to privatize public
land management and promote industrial exploitation of public lands
resources for the profit of a few,” said Lisa Belenky, staff attorney
with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These changes would direct
BLM staff to limit conservation efforts on public lands rather than
ensure that wildlife and rare plants are conserved for future
generations.” Center for Biological Diversity
Unappetizing politics of school lunches
The USDA’s inability to achieve the lunch program’s goals opened the
door to privatization. To accommodate the products of brand-name foods,
federal nutrition standards were bent so far out of shape that ketchup
was declared a vegetable (although this is no longer the case). Still,
the nutrition of schoolroom lunches has not improved with private
companies nor have they improved the financial woes of the National
School Lunch Program (NSLP). CampusProgress
Senate restaurants poised for privatized ownership
The U.S. Senate is close to finally having privately run restaurants,
ending decades of in-house cafeterias whose large deficits have cost
the chamber millions of dollars. Roll Call ($)