June 18, 2012

News summaries
U.S. mayors support parents seizing control of schools
Hundreds of mayors from across the United States this weekend called for new laws letting parents seize control of low-performing public schools and fire the teachers, oust the administrators or turn the schools over to private management. Reuters

Maude Barlow: Don’t award PepsiCo for privatizing water
As activists from around the globe are convening at the Rio +20 conference to protect our common resources from private interests, the Stockholm International Water Institute’s decision to award PepsiCo for its water efficiency is a cruel irony. PepsiCo has inflicted massive harm on vital community water resources around the globe. This award validates and aids that activity, further justifying PepsiCo’s PR efforts to spin itself as “green.”  Huffington Post

VA: What happens when universities are run by robber barons
In the 21st century, robber barons try to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris. At least that’s what’s been happening at one of the oldest public universities in the United States—Thomas Jefferson’s dream come true, the University of Virginia. On Thursday night, a hedge fund billionaire, self-styled intellectual, “radical moderate,” philanthropist, former Goldman Sachs partner, and general bon vivant named Peter Kiernan resigned abruptly from the foundation board of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He had embarrassed himself by writing an email claiming to have engineered the dismissal of the university president, Teresa Sullivan, ousted by a surprise vote a few days earlier. The events at UVA raise important questions about the future of higher education, the soul of the academic project, and the way we fund important public services. Slate

PA: Greens stand against sale of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW)
The City Committee of the Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP, www.gpop.org) has taken a firm stand against the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW). Green Party leaders say that Mayor Michael Nutter has failed to make his case in favor of selling PGW to the highest bidder. Green Party Watch

NJ: Willi Horton’s revenge
…Cut to 2012. A long front-page story runs in the New York Times on Sunday about a halfway house program in New Jersey from which no fewer than 5,100 inmates have escaped since 2005, including 1,300 since Republican Governor Chris Christie took office. These are not the halfway houses you think of — small, homelike places where prisoners can adjust slowly to a return to society. These are gigantic human warehouses, apparently, indistinguishable from prisons except for less security. The Times has several Willie-Horton-like stories of prisoners just walking away from these facilities, or from job-release programs connected to them, and resuming their careers of murder and mayhem. In keeping with current fashion, the halfway houses are privately managed, most by a firm called Community Education. Christie, apparently so blinded by ideology (privatization is good; state government is bad) that he can’t see the obvious, has praised Community Education as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” Christie has actually been a paid and registered lobbyist for Community Education. A close pal is a senior vice president of the company. A son-in-law of Community Education’s CEO was hired in 2010 as an “executive assistant” in the governor’s office. Bloomberg

NJ: Englewood schools’ outsourcing plan has other districts watching
Englewood’s plan to save $2 million by outsourcing school secretaries and teaching assistants has reverberated throughout North Jersey, where education leaders are closely watching the district to see how it handles strong community and union opposition. The city schools, which first privatized custodians 20 years ago, are seen as a bellwether for a rising tide of privatization as administrators grapple with ever-increasing costs for health care, pensions and special education at the same time state and federal funding is falling. The outcome in Englewood, a 3,000-student district made up largely of black and Hispanic students, could signal the fate of hundreds of school employees throughout the region in coming years. NorthJersey.com

CA: Calif seeks private fix for public parks
California is close to finalizing bids from private companies to take over day-to-day operations of six state parks, including Brannan Island here, in an unprecedented step by the state to prevent mass park closures after stiff budget cuts. On Monday, the state expects to finish its first corporate agreement, under which American Land & Leisure Co. would take over operations of three state parks for five years, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said. Three other state parks also are slated for private management, which covers running all concessions, visitor services, security and parks’ legal liabilities. Wall Street Journal ($)

NH: NH to privatize ENTIRE prison system
The state of New Hampshire may not only be moving toward privatizing its entire prison system, but it is also partially privatizing the process involved in making the decision. So far, NH has had to deal with the worst bunch of teahadists that we’ve ever seen. Legislatively we’re right up there with Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin as far as bad politics. The only saving grace is that we have a democratic (albeit a bluedog) governor to stop this extreme legislation. But now we’re going to be the first to privatize the ENTIRE prison population.  Daily Kos