September 17, 2012


In Prosecutors, Debt Collectors Find a Partner. In exchange for a fee, district attorneys’ offices have been allowing debt collectors to use their letterhead when going after people behind on their bills… Consumer lawyers have challenged the debt collectors in courts across the United States, claiming that they lack the authority to threaten prosecution or to ask for fees for classes when no district attorney has reviewed the facts of the cases. The district attorneys are essentially renting out their stationery, the lawyers say, allowing the companies to give the impression that failure to respond could lead to charges, when it rarely does. “This is guilty until proven innocent,” said Paul Arons, a consumer lawyer in Friday Harbor, Wash., about two hours north of Seattle. The New York Times    also Jonathan Turley Blog

U.S. Privatizes National Forests, Nonprofit Claims. The U.S. Forest Service lets private companies charge people for using undeveloped public lands, in violation of federal law, an Oregon nonprofit claims in Federal Court.… “The Forest Service issues special use permits to concessionaires that allow them to charge visitors to Forest Service areas managed by the companies even when visitors do not use any facilities or services of the area, but simply wish to enter Forest Service lands to engage in undeveloped recreation,” the complaint states. BARK claims that private companies charge an $8 parking fee at Rose Canyon Lake in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, and walk-ups must pay $1 apiece if they park at within 3 miles, regardless of whether they use any facilities or services. Courthouse News

NY: Islip weighs privatizing town hatchery. For nearly a quarter-century, the Town of Islip has operated its own shellfish hatchery, in an effort to spur growth in the clam and oyster populations in the Great South Bay. But with a tight budget planned for next year, town officials are looking to trim expenses, and the East Islip hatchery’s annual $650,000 budget may be the fiscal fat they cut. The town board is considering a range of proposals that include privatizing the hatchery and ramping up oyster spawning.  Newsday

Niagara County to privatize jail medical services. The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office plans to privatize medical services for county jail inmates as of Jan. 1… He said negotiations are under way with Armor Correctional Services, a Florida company that provides medical services at several jails, including in Nassau County on Long Island. In 2010, Niagara County privatized mental health services for inmates, and this is a continuation of that trend. It’s presumed there will be savings from the move, but the price of the Armor contract is not yet settled. Armor was the lowest of three bidders “after we compared apples to apples,” Beatty said.  Buffalo News

FL: Florida Law Requires Public Hospitals to Justify Their Tax-Supported Status…But the new law, approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by GOP Governor Rick Scott last April, also includes a more far-reaching mandate: All of Florida’s 29 public hospitals must now evaluate themselves to determine whether another type of ownership, most likely non-profit or private, would be cheaper or result in better medical care. The Bert Fish scandal alone probably would not have prompted that provision had it not been accompanied by the ascension of Scott as governor. Scott is the former chairman of the behemoth Columbia/HCA hospital chain, and he has been outspoken in his belief that the private sector can run virtually any enterprise—from hospitals to schools to prisons—better than the government. In effect, the law forces an existential question on all of Florida’s public hospitals. The self-examination could lead to the transformation of some or all of them from tax-supported institutions into tax-exempt or even tax-paying facilities, perhaps generating savings or new revenue for the cash-strapped state.  Stateline

FL: Unions Sue to Block Privatization of Health Care in Prisons. A pair of unions went to court late Friday in an effort to block plans to privatize inmate health-care services in state prisons. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Federation of Physicians and Dentists/Alliance of Healthcare and Professional Employees filed suit in the 1st District Court of Appeal against Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker, saying he doesn’t have authority on his own to allow private companies to handle health-care services. The action comes two days after the Legislative Budget Commission passed an amendment to the state spending plan that shifts money around to allow DOC to continue its privatization push. Opponents say the full Legislature would have to approve the decision to contract out the services.  Sunshine State News

IN: Former school superintendent argues against privatization. When you privatize schools, “you get what you pay for,” according to former Lafayette School Corporation superintendent Ed Eiler… Eiler has an issue with the rhetoric used in arguments about using vouchers for public schools. Using the word “choice” is a misleading concept for parents, he said. “(Choice) is like using mothers, puppy dogs and apple pies,” he said. “They say it’s important for children and parents to have a choice. The reality is that it’s not giving them the choice. It’s giving the schools the choice to choose students. That’s the real choice being created.”With voucher systems, teaching concepts such as a specific religion, holding an anti-evolution stance or being able to segregate schools with taxpayer dollars are all possible, Eiler said. Another reason education is such a hotly contested issue is $800 billion are spent on it annually, and private businesses will make the government seem like it is incapable of providing good education so “businesses can get a bigger piece of the pie.” “There are tons of foundations, such as Amway, a company based out of Michigan, that go so far as to post on their website a pledge to the separation of school and state,” he said. They don’t refer to public schools as public. “Instead, they say government schools. This isn’t the millionaires club, it’s the billionaires club.”  Purdue Exponent

LA: Louisiana AG: Jindal’s OGB privatization contract must be approved by legislature. The Louisiana Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell’s office, has determined that the proposed contract between the Office of Group Benefits (“OGB”) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, which has been pushed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration in its efforts to privatize state government functions and in this case the Office of Group Benefits requires review and approval by the Louisiana Legislature.  Bayoubuzz

DE: Editorial: Privatization of Delco prison was a bad idea. More than 15 years ago when the Daily Times editorialized about the questionable wisdom of privatizing the Delaware County Prison. Delaware County Council members took exception to the suggestion. Since then, their successors have regularly had to clean up the mess created by their ill-advised decision. In 1995, Delaware County Council members insisted that putting prison operations in the hands of a profit-driven company would save the county money, and so they awarded a contract to Wackenhut Corrections Corp. to build a state-of-the-art facility for $58 million and run the prison for five years for $70.6 million. But the false economy of the move became apparent almost from the outset.  Delaware County Daily Times

Anatomy of a Campus Coup…Hunter Rawlings, the chief executive of the Association of American Universities, calls Sullivan’s forced resignation the “most egregious” case of boardroom intrigue he has ever witnessed. But the situation was not unique. “There was once a consensus in America that higher education was a public good,” Rawlings says. “What is new now, and radically different, is that after five, six, seven years in reductions in state funding for higher education, the whole system is under stress.” He notes that the leaders of a dozen or so other state institutions, including those in Oregon, Wisconsin and Illinois, have recently departed under similar pressure. “It’s just one after another, after another,” he says.  The New York Times

UK: 70% want end to Britain’s rail privatisation. Seventy per cent of people want to see Britain’s railways renationalised, according to a new survey. ]..Results showed that 70 per cent would like to see the railways returned to public ownership, with 28 per cent disagreeing and two per cent having no opinion. Mich Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union ASLEF, said that the “experiment had failed”. He added: “This is the biggest ever survey result in favour of returning rail to public ownership. “It shows clearly that the public is fed up with the franchising farce, a system that is now so discredited that the government stands in total isolation in supporting it. “The time for tinkering with the existing system is over.”