September 14, 2012


TX: As officials mull HOV lane changes, North Texas’ toll-filled future comes into focus…Fee-based express lanes – open to all drivers, but with discounts only for vehicles with three or more people on board – start next year on the LBJ and DFW Connector highways that are being reconfigured in an effort to ease congestion. And as officials look for ways to safely integrate those changes into the current system – and eventually transition existing HOV lanes to some kind of a toll – they are weighing what to do with the tens of thousands who already frequent the carpool lanes every day…“Motorists don’t like toll roads,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday at a Regional Transportation Council meeting in Arlington. “But what they really don’t like is when something free becomes a toll road.” No matter what officials decide in the coming months – and the grandfathering option seems to be the favorite right now – the debate underscores of the reality of Dallas-Fort Worth’s major road improvements now and in the future: tolls, tolls and more tolls.  Dallas News

IL: Push to Add Charter Schools Hangs Over Chicago School Strike. Of the issues that remain to be settled in the contract dispute here between the teachers’ union and the city, expanding charter schools is not officially on the table. Related… But the specter of those plans — an oft-cited goal of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — hangs heavily over the teachers’ strike. “Even if it’s not explicitly something that we’re bargaining over,” said Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, “everyone knows it’s the elephant in the room.” While 350,000 students here remained out of school for the third day of the citywide teachers’ strike, about 50,000 who attend the city’s 96 charter schools went to class as usual. The charters, which are publicly financed but privately operated, are not required to hire unionized workers, and a majority of them do not. Experienced teachers at charter schools make about $15,000 to $30,000 less than their counterparts at traditional district schools, where the average salary is $75,000. New York Times

IL: Rahm Emanuel’s Privatize Chicago Plan – opinion. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years waging war on progressive politics. He’s a corporate predator turned politician… He’s handing over as many city functions to corporate profiteers as possible. He launched what he calls “a public private partnership.” The sky’s the limit. He bought off unions with promises to invest pension funds in profitable enterprises. Instead of investing in Chicago’s future, he’s giving it away to corporate friends and cronies. His schemes are still unfolding. They involve city airports, water system, community colleges, public transportation, parks, public health, schools, and various infrastructure projects.

FL: Critics attack ‘back door’ prison health outsourcing. On the eve of a key legislative vote, critics of outsourcing all inmate health care in Florida promised Tuesday to file suit if the proposal goes through as expected… Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, and Tom Brooks, an attorney for the AFSCME public employee union, criticized the proposal as a misuse of the legislative budget commission and an end-run around the entire 160-member Legislature. (The Senate last session defeated a proposal to privatize all prisons in a 19-county region in South Florida). The Legislature, in last year’s budget (fiscal 2011-2012), included fine-print language known as proviso directing the health care outsourcing. But when a new fiscal year began July 1, the old proviso language died. Now the state is pushing ahead, claiming it has the authority under state law — an action that surely would be the crux of a union legal challenge. Tampa Bay Times

FL: Jackson Memorial Hospital holds privatization meeting. It got heated inside a Jackson Memorial Hospital board meeting where doctors, nurses and county leaders asked board members to stop plans to privatize. Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Financial Recovery Board is discussing plans to outsource the hospital’s emergency room and Rape Treatment Center. “Jackson has morphed, in the nation, as the best hospital in the country and I would hate to hear that diminished,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan. “So, you don’t do the entire hospital, but you take the heart of Jackson. Over 70 percent come through your emergency room.”

MO: KCI bus privatization decision is delayed. A proposal to privatize the blue and red bus system at Kansas City International Airport stalled Thursday, but a City Council vote is likely later this month. The proposal would replace 58 shuttle bus drivers and eight managers at KCI with employees of Standard Parking.  The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday split 2-2 in a vote on whether to move the contract forward, so it stalled in committee. But later Thursday, committee chair Russ Johnson used a procedural move to place the contract on the full City Council’s docket. A vote could come as early as Sept. 27… KCI is one of the few airports in the country that still operates buses with city employees. The drivers and their union representatives say privatizing the system would eliminate good city jobs and could hurt customer service… Under the private contract, drivers would not get a pension, as they do with the city, and their base wages would drop from an average of $17 per hour to $11 per hour. Standard Parking argues that tips would increase the average wage, but the city drivers are doubtful. The Kansas City Star

Privatizing War. There’s a new link in the chain that operates U.S. forces in war zones. You can see it in the Air Force’s own crash reports. Usually, there’s a section up front called “Unit Information,” and it deals with the outfits involved in the accident. In this recent case, for example, the units involved were — starting with the biggest — the 12th Air Force, the 366th Fighter Wing, and the 391st Fighter Squadron. But in the case of a recent drone accident, the units involved were the 432rd Wing, the 18th Reconnaissance Squadron, the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, and “Battlespace Flight Services, LLC (Based in Las Vegas, NV).” Huh? Well, according to the accident report – which blamed the Feb. 14 accident in Afghanistan on a material failure compounded by operator error – Battlespace seems to do everything for the drones deployed to Afghanistan except fly them. Time

September 13, 2012


Keep Wall Street Out Of Our Waterways. Up until now the United States has adhered to a public trust approach to our waterways, maintaining that waters were part of the commons–owned by no one and by everyone–and protected for future generations. As populations grow and water demands increase and as industry seeks workarounds from our environmental laws, the Wall Street investment industry is looking for new ways to profit. And what’s the best “commodity” for any investment banker? As Goldman Sachs puts it, “As a necessity for life, there is no substitute for water. It is the only utility you ingest….” For the investment banking industry, water-related death, drought and degradation aren’t calamities; they’re profit opportunities. “If you play it right,” says one hedge-fund advisor, “the results of this impending water crisis can be very good.”  Huffington Post

FL: Florida Investigates K12, Nation’s Largest Online Educator. Florida’s Department of Education has launched an investigation of K12, the nation’s largest online educator, over allegations the company uses uncertified teachers and asked employees to help cover up the practice. K12 officials told certified teachers to sign class rosters that included students they hadn’t taught, according to documents that are part of the investigation… The documents suggest K12 may be using uncertified teachers in violation of state law. In 2009, K12 asked Seminole County Public Schools if it could use uncertified teachers in some of its online classes. That uncertified teacher would be overseen by a so-called “teacher of record” — a certified teacher. Seminole County Public Schools consulted with the Florida Department of Education and then denied the request, citing state law requiring certified teachers.  NPR

FL: State panel approves privatization of prison health care. A GOP-dominated state budget panel signed off on a plan to turn over health services for the state’s 100,000 inmates to two private companies, ignoring threats of lawsuits and concerns about questionable savings…But the outsourcing is far from a done deal. The prison health care privatization has been mired in court since last year. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Florida Nurses’ Association challenged it as a major policy change that needed to be approved in a stand-alone bill, not just as part of budget language. Palm Beach Post

FL: Unions Protest Privatization Outside Jackson Memorial Hospital. Local unions protested a plan to privatize part of Jackson Memorial Hospital Wednesday. The unions claiming the move would put profits before patients. “The doctors and nurses here do not serve bankers. Theydo not serve lobbyists. CBS Local

MN: Political differences impede regulation of for-profit schools. Building on a U.S. Senate investigation that concluded that for-profit colleges employed aggressive or misleading recruiting tactics, state officials are weighing tighter regulation of the institutions in Minnesota. Larry Pogemiller, director of the state Office of Higher Education is gathering information on the schools, an inquiry that follows a two-year investigation by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee into companies that run 30 for-profit schools in the United States. The committee did not review Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, but some former employees of those schools told MPR News how recruiters there emotionally manipulated prospective students and fed them misleading information to get them to enroll. MinnPublicRadio

MI: City of Muskegon moves to privatize its building inspection services . The privatization of building inspections will mean the layoff of five city employees and is estimated to bring more than $100,000 in annual savings to the city, City Manager Bryon Mazade said.  It also is a signal that the Muskegon-area cities and townships could not come to an agreement over a local, consolidated inspections department. “This is never easy nor desirable,” Mayor Steve Gawron said. “These people (facing layoff) are known to us. They have been and are dedicated employees. But we have to be proactive in facing the new financial realities. We are not in control of our funding sources.” Muskegon Chronicle

IN: VIEW: Privatization of lottery cause for pause. Despite the Daniels administration’s proclivity toward privatization and its desire to bring in more revenue outside taxes, the administration should carefully reconsider going forward with hiring a private company to run the Hoosier Lottery. Two of the four companies that submitted proposals decided to withdraw them. One, Camelot Global Services, said the state’s plan “strongly incentivizes all bidders to propose artificially high income targets.” Even worse, the company said the plan did not adequately protect the state if revenue falls short…. Hoosiers and their elected leaders must not lose sight of this issue: To increase revenue, the contractor has to sell more tickets, and the only real way to do that is to entice more Hoosiers to buy more tickets. Does the state really want to encourage more people to lose money gambling?  The Star-Press

September 12, 2012


OH: Lawsuit challenges privatization of state roads, prisons in Ohio. Plaintiffs hoping to stop the privatization of correctional facilities in Ohio are also challenging the constitutionality of Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to lease the Ohio Turnpike to private investors.  The lawsuit filed in August in the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County, OH, takes aim at the privatization effort by attacking a state spending bill that consolidates and/or privatizes a number of state facilities. The plaintiffs say Kasich and others violated the “single subject” provision of the Ohio Constitution because the bill tackled multiple unrelated subjects. The plaintiffs want the court to void the law and prohibit the governor from privatizing assets. Land Line Magazine

IL: As Paul Ryan Lines Up Behind Rahm, the Scheme to Privatize Chicago Schools Becomes Clear…Significant sections of the Chicago Public Schools system are starved for funds. They are putting 40-50 students in classrooms without air conditioning. The kids don’t have books or materials weeks into the term. And ultimately, the goal is to make those schools so poorly maintained, staffed and administered that they “fail,” allowing Rahm Emanuel and his hedge fund buddies to essentially privatize them: What we’re seeing in Chicago is the fallout from Jonah Edelman’s hedge fund backed campaign to elect Illinois state legislators who supported an anti-collective bargaining, testing based education proposal giving Edelman the “clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down [the teachers unions’] throats,” political capability he used as leverage to jam an only slightly less awful proposal down their throats. It’s a political deal that explicitly targeted Chicago teachers, while trying to make it impossible that they would strike by requiring a 75 percent vote of all teachers, not just those voting, for a strike to be legal. But more than 90 percent of Chicago teachers voted to strike.…Privatizing the services of public schools, or the entire schools themselves, has become big business. If it takes a standardized test to force that into being, if that becomes the data that “proves” the need for privatization, that’s what will get used. FireDogLake

FL: Union plans to challenge Fla. privatization plan. The administration of Florida Gov. Rick Scott is pushing ahead with a controversial prison privatization plan despite lingering legal questions. Florida’s prison agency is asking a legislative panel to approve spending nearly $58 million in order to privatize prison health care operations by January. The move could affect up to nearly 3,000 employees statewide.  But the union that represents state workers says that the Legislative Budget Commission cannot legally make a major adjustment to the state budget. A lawyer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says that decision must be made by the entire Florida Legislature. The union will sue if the budget panel approves the privatization plan at its Wednesday meeting. Sacramento Bee

WA: Washington liquor privitization raises concerns about cross-state transportation of spirits. Privatization of liquor sales for Washington state took effect on June 1. Three months after privatization took effect in the state, the Washington Department of Revenue and the Liquor Control Board are still examining the issue of spirit tax liability across state borders…Individuals are permitted to bring two liters of spirits into Washington from another state without a tax mark-up on the items, according to the Washington LCB. However, Gowrylow said enforcement of that will continue to be an issue. “If someone goes to Portland and buys a dozen things of whiskey and comes back, they’re obviously over the two liter limit,” he said. “So what do we do?” There is essentially no practical way to enforce limits on cross-state liquor transportation by consumers, he said. OregonLive

WA: Car renters angry at extra charges for highway tolls. It cost me $27.10 in tolls and fees to make the round trip between the Orlando airport and my home in Winter Springs, Fla., in a rental car last month. If that sounds like a lot of money for a half-hour drive, it should. There are no expensive bridges or tunnels between the airport and my house, just suburban sprawl connected by a flat toll road. And technically, I paid only $3.50 to Florida’s turnpike authorities, the rest went to a company called PlatePass. PlatePass is one of several businesses that offer electronic toll payments through an onboard transponder or a system that photographs license plates. These little-known businesses are at the center of a growing number of complaints from car rental customers, and a look at my bill offers a few clues as to why.  Seattle Times

IN: Matthew Tully: Privatizing the Hoosier Lottery won’t make sales tactics any less distasteful … Now, we can debate how much government should be in the business of encouraging or discouraging personal behavior. But when government does encourage certain behaviors, shouldn’t they be healthy? And we can have a debate over how limited or expansive government policies should be. But shouldn’t such policies always be crafted with the goal of uplifting the citizenry? Airing a radio ad that leads people to think they will hit it big — when they almost certainly will not — is not uplifting. Using gimmicks and marketing science to convince people to gamble more, or to start gambling, or to resume gambling, is not healthy. Still, this whole privatization thing is troubling. Yes, it would reduce the state’s role in the lottery, but it’s hard to imagine that the net effect would be positive. A lottery spokesman, after all, said the goal of the plan is to spark an increase in profits by allowing a private firm to control functions such as marketing and sales. If you think the state has gone too far with its marketing tactics, imagine what a private firm driven by profits would do.

NV: Las Vegas Mayor eager for toll roads to be option in Nevada. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says she’s ready to get behind a lobbying effort for legislation that would enable the state to collect tolls on Nevada highways… Nevada is the only state among seven in the West that don’t have tolling authority.  VegasInc

September 11, 2012


Amtrak Funding Caught In Crosshairs Of Presidential Race. The platform Republicans adopted at their convention included a call for full privatization and an end to subsidies for the nation’s passenger rail operator, which gobbled up almost $1.5 billion in federal funds last year. “It is long past time for the federal government to get out of the way and allow private ventures to provide passenger service,” the platform said, arguing that taxpayers dole out almost $50 for every Amtrak ticket. Long a political cudgel in the halls of Congress, Amtrak is among a number of transportation functions Republicans say should be turned over to the private sector – including airport security, also on the chopping block in the GOP platform. At its core, the debate juxtaposes differing visions about what role government should play in ensuring public access to services – even if they’re losing money hand over fist.  Huffington Post

MI: Prison employees in Michigan fight against privatization. A public employees’ union says it will offer a counter-proposal if the state goes ahead with plans to privatize prison health care. Governor Rick Snyder has ruled out privatizing entire prisons. But corrections officials think there may be savings to be had if the state turns to private companies to provide health care services. Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, which represents many of the corrections employees who would be affected. He said the union will offer its own plan to save taxpayers money by reducing the costs of management and outsourcing. Michigan Radio

CA: Huntington Beach City attorney warns against outsourcing her office. City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said the City Council has no authority to outsource her office, and even if it could, contracting with outside counsel would end up costing the city at least $1 million more each year.  McGrath issued an analysis and an opinion last week after the city compiled a list of firms that offered to take on the city attorney’s office work. She also urged the council to hold a meeting to address and clarify the direction it wants for the city…Twelve law firms have responded to the city’s request, and now the city manager has set up a selection committee to determine which of those firms qualifies to represent the city before presenting the findings to the council, McGrath said.  Huntington Beach Independent

NC: So many toll-road transponders, so little TriEx traffic…The state Department of Transportation last week told a legislative oversight committee that overall traffic counts are running about 7 percent below projected levels. Some drivers now choose other routes to avoid the toll collection that started Aug. 2. But David Joyner, the turnpike authority director, said the flow of paying customers on this part of 540 is about twice as heavy as the road’s planners had expected.  News Observer

IL: Teachers’ Strike in Chicago Tests Mayor and Union. This city found itself engulfed on Monday by a sudden public school strike that left 350,000 children without classes, turned a spotlight on rising tensions nationally over teachers’ circumstances, and placed both the powerful teachers’ union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a risky, politically fraught standoff with no clear end in sight… Teachers also clearly saw the strike as a protest not just of the union negotiations in Chicago but on data-driven education reform nationwide, which many perceived as being pushed by corporate interests and relying too heavily on standardized tests to measure student progress…Steve Parsons, a teacher, said he believed the city was ultimately aiming to privatize education through charter schools and computer programs that teach classes online. “We need to stay out as long as it takes to get a fair contract and protect our schools,” he said.  New York Times

September 10, 2012


TX: Texas Toll Road To Boost Speed Limit to Record 85 MPH. Texas stands to receive $100 million from the private operators of a state toll road for raising its speed limit to 85 miles per hour, a contractual payoff that is drawing criticism from consumer groups….. “Desperate for cars on a vacant toll road, private toll-road operators now offer the state an extra $33 million to win a reckless competitive advantage,” said Andrew Wheat, research director for Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based consumer-advocacy group. “Such cozy deals are unsafe at any speed.” Safety experts have criticized the new speed limit, noting that crashes are likelier to be deadly at higher speeds. Wall Street Journal Blog

IN: With two companies looking to run lottery, Indiana weighing options. Now that bids from two firms are in, state officials will review their options for privatizing functions of the Hoosier Lottery and make a recommendation to the state’s lottery commission at its Sept. 26 meeting. Evansville Courier & Press

OR: Oregon’s ‘archaic’ alcohol rules come under fire…Voters in Washington recently ended that state’s 80-plus year monopoly on liquor sales. As of June, fifths of vodka and other hard alcohol began appearing on grocery store shelves, and retail stores were allowed for the first time to buy directly from wineries. The upheaval in Washington sent seismic ripples through the alcohol industry and focused attention on Oregon, now the lone holdout “control” state on the West Coast. Oregon liquor officials are watching closely what happens north of the border, but they remain strong in their resolve to keep a firm grip on the alcohol business on this side of the Columbia River. The laws may be old, says Cassandra SkinnerLopata, chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, but they’re effective.  The Oregonian

GA: Transit Agency’s choice of CEO could help it with legislators. The MARTA Board’s choice for a new CEO could determine whether the Legislature exerts more control over the transit authority or stands back to allow that leader to do what’s necessary to get the agency out of financial trouble…For years, legislators have threatened to give the state more control of the transit agency, and some want the authority to privatize certain functions to reduce expenses.  Atlanta Journal Constitution

LA: LSU Board to consider privatizing state-run hospitals. LSU Health’s future as a public hospital was once again in flux today. The second item on the agenda for the LSU System’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting in Baton Rouge looks to explore the possibility of private partnerships for the facility. Budget slashing to the university teaching hospital seems to be around every bend these days, with Caddo Parish’s largest employer reeling from over $46 million in cuts this year. LSU System leaders are exploring the possibility of privatizing the facility to keep it afloat.  “LSU is a life-saver in this area.” District 39 Senator Greg Rarver says it’s not a matter of the hospital making money. It’s a matter of the state properly funding the medical school. “LSU is making money but the med school is supported by $40 million a year from the hospital. The state is not giving LSU the right amount of money to run a med school,” says Tarver.  KTBS

Obama Vows to Fight ‘Privatizations’. Campaigning in a state that has long drawn retirees, President Barack Obama on Saturday promised to fight the privatization of Medicare and Social Security, the popular health and retirement programs for seniors. In making the vow, Mr. Obama appeared to be implying that his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, supports Social Security privatization, which he doesn’t. Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has been a leading proponent of privatization—that is, of allowing workers divert some Social Security tax payments into privately owned accounts.  Wall Street Journal

Is Michelle Rhee taking over the Democratic Party?…The real issue here is how much the Democrats have acted like Republicans when it comes to school reform and efforts to privatize public education. Rhee, whose standardized-test-centric school reform efforts include support for charter schools and vouchers, says she’s a Democrat. Her reform agenda has been embraced by some Democrats, with others applauding most but not all of it. For example, the Obama administration likes a lot of it, but not vouchers. Education historian Diane Ravitch, on her blog, addresses this issue by asking a series of questions about just how much of a Democrat Rhee really is.  Washington Post Blog

The Seafood Industry Is Being Consolidated — Why Consumers Should Care…While often misleadingly touted as the solution to over-fishing, catch shares actually divvy up our nation’s fishery resources for exclusive use by the biggest and fastest fishing operations and then allow corporations and banks to buy and sell these “shares” for profit. This turns the opportunity to go fishing into a commodity. Fishermen have to buy shares before being able to head out for a day’s work catching fish for our tables.  But, don’t take our word for it; just listen to the fishermen. Food & Water Watch produced a video to give some of our nation’s fishermen a chance to express their opinions about catch shares.  As has happened with family farms on land, the added costs push smaller-scale fishermen out of business and consolidate the industry, paving the way for industrial fishing methods that can destroy sensitive ocean habitats.  AlterNet



September 7, 2012


TX: Ready. Set. Go! Texas to open toll road with 85 mph speed limit, the highest in the US…The Texas Transportation Commission has approved a speed limit of 85 mph for a 41-mile toll road several miles east of the increasingly crowded Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio…“The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He said higher speed limits get people to their destinations faster, “but the trade-off is more crashes and more highway deaths.”…The state contract with the toll operator allows the state to collect a $67 million up-front cash payment or a percentage of the toll profits in the future if the speed limit is 80 mph or lower. At 85 mph, the cash payment balloons to $100 million or a higher percentage of toll revenues.  The Washington Post

NY: City Courts Investors to Fix Schools. Officials in Yonkers, N.Y., are looking to partner with investors to raise $1.7 billion for renovating the city’s crumbling public schools, in an unusual approach to education funding that is being watched by other cash-strapped school systems. U.S. school districts traditionally finance infrastructure improvements by issuing bonds backed by local tax revenue, and they routinely maintain facilities through their operating budgets. The Yonkers school district, which sits just north of New York City, is weighing plans to contract with investors to pay for improvements and maintenance for as long as 30 years on more than three dozen school buildings with an average age of 73. In exchange, the investors would receive a steady stream of payments from the city and the state—which helps fund the district. The investors also might be able to use school facilities after school hours for profit, sharing any proceeds with the district.  The Wall Street Journal

NJ: NJ moves to privatize lottery sales, marketing. Four companies interested in running portions of the New Jersey Lottery attended a mandatory information session Thursday, taking the first step toward privatization. The Treasury Department is looking to hand over sales and marketing operations to a vendor next year, with incentives to the vendor to boost sales. The vendor would be penalized if revenue falls below expectations and would realize bigger profits if it exceeds targets. The state would retain ownership of the lottery…New Jersey isn’t the only state looking into privatizing lottery programs. Indiana is set to complete a deal to privatize its lottery by Nov. 1. Pennsylvania is researching whether to outsource its lottery, and Illinois took its lottery private last year. In New Jersey, the selected vendor would be required to pay $120 million up front and sign a 15-year contract.  Philadelphia Inquirer

PA: Allentown’s tab for water sewer study tops $200,000. Allentown City Council learned Wednesday that the city has already spent $237,000 planning and studying Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s proposal to lease the city’s water and sewer systems to a private operator to head off a pensions-fueled fiscal crisis. The  figure was made public by Councilwoman Jeanette Eichenwald, who requested an accounting of the spending from the administration, and it came on the same night a citizens group presented a petition with 70 signatures requesting that council conduct an independent investigation of the proposal. The Morning Call


September 6, 2012


NJ: N.J. prepares to bet on privatized lottery.  New Jersey officials will meet Thursday morning in Trenton with the companies that will submit proposals to take over and privatize the management of the New Jersey Lottery, an initiative that could include launching the state’s first Internet lottery games. …Since it was launched in 1970, the New Jersey Lottery has contributed more than $20 billion to education and state institutions, according to the state…Among the companies planning to attend Thursday’s meeting is GTECH Corp., which has been supplying lottery technology to New Jersey since 1984….According to the RFP, the lottery has 150 employees and sells tickets through about 6,500 retailers statewide, and is now expanding that to 6,700 retailers.  NJ Biz

FL: Jackson bids to privatize emergency rooms.  Jackson Health System president and CEO Carlos Migoya is seeking to privatize the emergency room services in its facilities for adults and pediatric patients by Oct. 1 — a move the union involved is calling “irresponsible.”… “To just to hand [emergency services] over to a private company is irresponsible,” said Martha Baker, a registered nurse and president of SEIU Local 1991, which represents 5,000 Jackson healthcare workers. “This puts profits over patient safety in this community; turning it over to private company that is driven by profits.””.. Ms. Baker said the county’s public health system does not have a primary care strategy and residents depend on the emergency room.  Miami Today

NH: Activist raps privatizing corrections.  If New Hampshire privatizes its prisons, it will spend more, not less, and risk losing control of corrections for good, according to activist Caroline Isaacs, who’s in the state this week lobbying against private prisons. Isaacs, program director for the American Friends Service Committee in Tucson, Ariz., issued a blistering report in February about Arizona’s several private prisons. Isaacs found security in private prisons lacking, staff poorly trained and the cost of housing an inmate higher at private prisons than at state-run prisons, according to her report. And, none of the private companies are measuring recidivism, according to her report.  Concord Monitor

Diane Ravitch: The speech Obama should give to help him win…One more thing. I realize that we were wrong to require states to allow more privately managed schools as a condition of getting money from the Race to the Top. Through our mistakes, we inadvertently unleashed a movement to privatize our nation’s public schools and to turn them into for-profit centers for equity investors and technology corporations. This is unacceptable. Folks on the right have wanted to privatize our schools for half a century. We can’t let that happen. When we look around the world, we see that the top-performing nations have great public systems. We do not want to revive a dual school system in our nation’s cities, dividing up our public funds between a weakened public system and aggressive charter chains. Washington Post Blog

September 5, 2012


CA: UC votes against privatizing UCLA business school. University of California faculty leaders said current policy doesn’t give them the power to allow UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to privatize its funding, a move administrators had sought to put the school on par with private business schools. A graduate affairs committee of the UC Academic Senate voted 10-0 against continuing a review of the conversion, with UCLA’s representative abstaining, according to a letter to Anderson dean Judy Olian on Friday  … The UC committee wrote that “a serious failure” of current systemwide policy does not allow them to approve the move to private funding. The committee “recommends that the UC Office of the President and the Academic Senate develop an explicit policy regarding such conversions,” according to the letter.   Sacramento Bee ‎

CA: Costa Mesa pushes outsourcing despite conflict … And while the Big Issues are pending in Orange County Superior Court (you may recall that the Costa Mesa City Employees Association sued to stop Costa Mesa from laying off workers whose jobs might be outsourced, and won an injunction forbidding the city “from contracting with a private entity for any of the services that are performed by CMCEA members or laying off CMCEA members as a result of such contracting” until those Big Issues are decided at trial), the city is pressing the issue hard, trying to force its opponent into moral checkmate. Last week, even as the legal maelstrom swirled, Costa Mesa asked the union to give its blessing to outsourcing jail services  to save the city millions. Costa Mesa argues that it can proceed with contracting out jail services — even in light of the injunction and pending suit — because state law expressly allows “general law” cities such as Costa Mesa to do so…. If these strike you as fighting words, you’d be right. And the union is fighting.  OC Register

IN: Two foreign firms among four interested in state lottery. Two foreign companies—one based in Australia, the other in the United Kingdom—are among four firms competing for a chance to become the first private manager of Indiana’s lottery… The companies competing to win a private management contract with Indiana include Tatts Group Limited, a Melbourne, Australia-based company that has several lottery licenses in Australia. Also in the running is Camelot, a U.K.-based firm that runs Britain’s national lottery and was a finalist for Illinois’ private lottery management contract that last year became the first of its kind in the U.S. Two American firms are also in the running, including GTECH, a Rhode Island-based company that’s one of the nation’s largest lottery vendors. ….The head of the Illinois Lottery has criticized Indiana’s search for a private lottery manager, saying its process mirrors Illinois’ problem-plagued lottery outsourcing effort that saw revenue fall millions of dollars short of what the vendor promised. “It’s as if they didn’t learn anything,” Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones told Indianapolis Business Journal.  Indianapolis Business Journal

IN: Daniels, Pence want northern Indiana to pay state’s tolls – opinion…Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the toll road that northern Indiana drivers pay for and used the money to pay for freeways throughout the state. Yet he thinks it’s fair for us to pay tolls to rebuild this bridge. Why couldn’t some of the over $3 billion from the Indiana Toll Road lease pay for Cline Avenue? Apparently he just thinks the northern part of the state should pay for the roads throughout the state. Seen any toll roads in Indy? Once again, the governor is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Should Mike Pence be elected he’s got the same agenda. The people of Indiana will be paying tolls to go to the grocery store, at least in northern Indiana. I think I’ll move south so the rest of you can pay my way too!  NWTimes

DC: Memo tells of politics, power for D.C. lottery deal. As a federal grand jury weighs evidence that key figures in D.C. business and politics manipulated the city’s lottery contract because of political considerations, the international gambling firm that won the $38 million-a-year deal in 2008 and again after a rebid a year later has remained largely silent.  But a previously unexamined internal memo drafted by Greek company Intralot SA during that period offers its inside view of a toxic climate in the District that prompted the vendor to spend more time worrying about local political machinations than about the lottery itself. Washington Times

FL:  Analysis: Florida Lottery Rip-Off .  Italian gaming consortium, Lottomatica, has been granted a contract renewal to provide instant-ticket vending machines and online lottery games and services within Florida, through its Rhode Island based subsidiary, GTech corporation, for another 4 years, without allowing any other potential vendor the ability to bid on the contract and to possibly offer better terms, better technology, better oversight, and better games to the Florida residents and taxpayers who are supporting the State lottery…. How does a company with a worldwide reputation of committing fraud, orchestrating bribes, and promoting government corruption get one of the most lucrative Lottery contracts in the country? Examples of GTech’s shady past could illustrate how they are able to acquire so many lottery contracts around the world.  Tea Party Miami

Party Platforms Are Poles Apart in Their View of the Nation…When it comes to Medicare, the Democratic platform says the party will oppose “any efforts to privatize or voucherize” the program, while the Republican platform would reshape the program for those under 55 so they would get “an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice,” including a government plan.  And while the Democratic platform opposes any privatization of Social Security, the Republican platform says younger workers should be given the option of “personal investment accounts as supplements to the system.” New York Times

Analysis: Unions face fights on multiple fronts. Attacks on collective bargaining rights. Pension cuts. Privatization. “Right to Work.” School vouchers. Limits on voting. In the last year and a half, unionists have been like soldiers in a foxhole, surrounded by an enemy that is constantly shelling them. Ever since the anti-worker Radical Right, its business backers and its ideology – crafted into legislation by the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – took control of governorships and legislatures nationwide, labor has been battling an enormous range of anti-worker schemes, state by state. Workday Minn

September 4, 2012


WA: Liquor Buyers Cross State Line. Washington residents are pouring over the Oregon line this summer to buy liquor after Washington state privatized the sale of hard alcohol—and made the booze more expensive by raising state fees. ..Washington is the 33rd state to fully privatize liquor sales, but it is believed to be the first to do so since immediately after the end of Prohibition. That is turning the state into a rare study of how—or how not—to manage such a transition at a time when several other states are weighing exiting the liquor business… Many residents assumed that privatization—and ensuing competition—would drive down liquor prices. Opponents warned that falling prices would foster alcohol abuse and sales to minors. Instead, prices have shot up.   Wall Street Journal


TX: Slow road to Lockhart smells a bit fishy. Anti-toll road activists have been saying for years, ever since the tollway wave hit Texas early last decade, that the Texas Department of Transportation in various subtle ways was making free roads slower to pump up usage of the pay-to-drive roads nearby.  Austin American-Statesman


VA: Angela Petry makes song against Dulles Greenway tolls. Angela Petry authored the tune and says it’s time to roll back the tolls. The West Virginia woman practically had to do a double take when she checked a recent credit card statement after her husband’s drive to DC.  It cost her family $5.55 for a ride through the 14-mile Dulles Greenway and the Dulles Toll Road, and then another $5.55 for the journey back. “Highway robbery…,” she sings. “They built a road in the countryside. Rolling green hills for miles and miles. The farms and the fields no factory, but don’t you dare think you can drive for free…” The singer-song writer is tired of watching her bank account dwindle from toll fees. “We think that it’s really unfair that there’s this major road that cuts right through the center of the county, right through the countryside and that the local people have so much trouble and expense using it,” Petry says.




September 3, 2012


IL: Contract writing: The difference between successful privatization and a public held hostage. The city of Chicago has been dabbling in elements of so-called “privatization,” and with mixed results. There’s Rahm’s “managed competition” to help bring down garbage collection prices. There’s the Chicago skyway lease. There’s the possible future Midway sell off. There’s contracted out call centers. Most infamously, of course, there’s the parking meter deal. As the last example demonstrates, not all of the attempts have been successful. So what is the difference between successful privatization and a bad deal that holds the public hostage to private prerogative? Firstly, let’s call these activities what they are. Hiring a contractor for call centers is simply a way to get a better price. Public money is still paying for it, and only the execution has been privatized…. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal is the way the contract is written. Following below, we’ll deal with the three types of privatization mentioned above, and the difference between a good and a bad contract for each.  ChicagoNow

NY: School Choice Is No Cure-All, Harlem Finds…Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has made school choice a foundation of his education agenda, and since he took office in 2002, the city opened more than 500 new schools; closed, or is in the process of closing, more than 100 ailing ones; and created an environment in which more than 130 charter schools could flourish. No neighborhood has been as transformed by that agenda as Harlem….But in interviews in recent weeks, Harlem parents described two drastically different public school experiences, expressing frustration that, among other things, there were still a limited number of high-quality choices and that many schools continued to underperform.   The New York Times

NY: Privatizing highway work shortsighted – opinion …Three roles of government are to provide health, safety and welfare. A highway department is not a source of revenue, but a much needed service in Northern New York. To even suggest privatizing this very important service, should make everyone in the north county, not just Lewis County, concerned…Does any other county in the north country farm out its responsibility to a private firm? Not to my knowledge. Certainly cooperation among towns to contract with counties for municipal road care is a well-accepted practice. But the article also hinted at privatization. Watertown Daily Times

PA: Redding considers outsourcing REU’s customer service center…Outsourcing Redding Electric Utility’s customer service department to a call center in the Midwest would cut costs by half, say top Redding officials who on Tuesday will ask the City Council to vote on the proposal…. Two weeks ago, officials held off on presenting the plan to the council, in part because of push-back from numerous customer service representatives who voiced their concerns about the loss of more jobs in the region. The plan displaces seven workers. The move comes nearly a month after a former REU employee made accusations about corruption and bad deals.  The Record

PA: More privatizing in Philly schools feared. IT MIGHT HAVE once seemed unthinkable: Handing the keys to a large, troubled public-school district over to a high-profile advocate for increasing privatization, including vouchers and for-profit private schools. But activists said that last Friday’s surprise announcement that Gov. Corbett had named the Rev. Joe Watkins – an MSNBC pundit who headed the Students First PAC, the pro-voucher group that’s dumped millions of campaign dollars on Corbett and other pols – as chief recovery officer to run the Chester Upland schools in Delaware County marks a tipping point.

NE: State to lose more than $3 million for failed child welfare privatization. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was told Friday it will lose $3.2 million in federal funds because of problems it had in privatizing its child welfare system. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Nebraska will lose the federal money because it did not get prior approval before signing agreements with some of the private contractors. Nebraska mostly abandoned its privatization effort last year when state lawmakers stepped in.  Lincoln Journal Star

CA: 10 Privatization Fact Checks: Roundup. We’ve examined a bunch of claims over the years about privatizing government services, and one of the biggest issues has been a bidding process known as managed competition. Government employees are basically pitted against private contractors to see who can efficiently provide public services like trash collection or street sweeping. ..Following our latest Fact Check about managed competition this week, we wanted to take a look back at our other fact checking efforts on the topic and outsourcing, a similar bidding process that only involves private contractors. Here’s a quick summary with links to each analysis, broken down by subject. Voice of San Diego

OH: County’s adult day care to be privatized...The agency expects the controversial move — which will eliminate 18 to 20 county jobs — to save an estimated $10 million between now and 2020, the end date for its Challenge 2020 campaign… Charli Crawford is chair of an ad hoc financial committee put together by the board last January to explore privatizaion. She doesn’t believe the dire predictions of the board or superindendent Kim Miller when it comes to DD funding. “They keep saying they don’t have any money, but I went to the (county) auditor’s office and got a date-stamped copy of DD’s account balance,” Crawford said. “They have $14 million in the bank. So I’m tired of that lie.” Crawford has a daughter who uses DD’s adult array day services and is in DD’s WorkNet program. “We are the voice of the DD community and we will be heard,” Crawford said.  Marysville News

Wall Street’s War Against the Cities. The pace of Wall Street’s war against the 99% is quickening in preparation for the kill. Having demonized public employees for being scheduled to receive pensions on their lifetime employment service, bondholders are insisting on getting the money instead. It is the same austerity philosophy that has been forced on Greece and Spain – and the same that is prompting President Obama and Mitt Romney to urge scaling back Social Security and Medicare. …Yet Wall Street strategists view this state and local budget squeeze as a godsend. As Rahm Emanuel has put matters, a crisis is too good an opportunity to waste – and the fiscal crisis gives creditors financial leverage to push through anti-labor policies and privatization grabs. The ground is being prepared for a neoliberal “cure”: cutting back pensions and health care, defaulting on pension promises to labor, and selling off the public sector, letting the new proprietors to put up tollbooths on everything from roads to schools. The new term of the moment is “rent extraction.”   Business Insider