May 30, 2014


The political fight over VA privatization. The notion that privatizing veterans’ care is the ideal solution is quickly rising on the list of Republican talking points. It started with Fox News and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime proponent of the change, but the push has generated broader GOP support in recent days, including an endorsement of sorts from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). . . .  As German Lopez explained, veterans’ advocates, who have long opposed privatization, haven’t changed their minds – they see this was an approach that would “undercut a system that specializes in veterans’ needs.”. . . A typical VA patient “might have a spinal cord injury, plus an orthopedic issue, plus a mental health issue. They’re a multifaceted patient,” Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America explains. “The VA is a system constructed to provide holistic care for the life of that patient. The private system is not constructed with those ideas in mind.” If the VA system offered substandard care, this would be a very different kind of conversation, but it doesn’t.  MSNBC

MN: Minnesota governor signs bill making private companies’ government contracts public. Gov. Mark Dayton has signed a bill making private companies’ contracts on government projects public under Minnesota’s open records law. . .The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. . . . The bill excludes health plan companies, managed care organizations and county-based purchasing plans until June 30, 2015. Dayton vetoed part of the bill that would fund a legislative auditor’s study on how secure state systems are at securing and transmitting data, including citizens’ personal information.  Greenfield Daily Reporter

NY: NYC outsourcing of chronic dialysis services from public hospitals to a for-profit chain scrapped. Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), testified at the New York City Council Executive Budget hearing today. . .  HHC also announced today that the plan for a dialysis services joint venture would be postponed indefinitely. ” NYCGov

WA: Early data show increase in alcohol emergencies since privatization. Shoppers are buying a bit more hard liquor now that they can find it at four times as many stores and during twice as many hours as it was available before voters privatized liquor sales in 2011. So how is Washington handling its extra liquor? Partly — according to researchers who are trying to answer that question — by making more trips to the emergency room. Those researchers gave a preliminary report Wednesday to the state Liquor Control Board on the effects of Initiative 1183.  The Olympian

NY: Port Authority plans public-private ‘hybrid’ to fund 3 WTC. The Port Authority on Wednesday all but abandoned an arrangement to double the public subsidy for Larry Silverstein’s long-stalled 3 World Trade Center project, choosing instead to pursue negotiations with private-sector financing groups that would likely demand an ownership stake in the tower. Officials said the outside interest had only materialized in recent months and would now be the focus of the bistate agency’s staff. The decision by the Port’s commissioners, announced prior to a meeting in which the $1.2 billion financing package was to be voted on, appeared to rile Silverstein, who said he was taken aback by it. He said he had agreed to everything the bistate agency had asked for in the month since the board delayed voting on the deal.  Capital New York           

LA: In New Orleans, major school district closes traditional public schools for good. With the start of the next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a milestone for New Orleans and a grand experiment in urban education for the nation. . . . But in New Orleans, under the Recovery School District, the Louisiana state agency that seized control of almost all public schools after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005, the traditional system has been swept away. . . . Critics of the all-charter New Orleans model say it is undemocratic, because leaders of charter schools are not accountable to voters. They also say the system is challenging for parents, who have to figure out logistics that were not an issue when their children walked to neighborhood schools. “They don’t answer to anyone,” said Sean Johnson, the dean of students at Banneker, whose father attended the school while growing up in the Black Pearl neighborhood. “The charters have money and want to make more money. They have their own boards, make their own rules, accept who they want and put out who they want to put out.” Washington Post

FL: FDOT discusses First Coast Expressway toll road. The Florida Department of Transportation held an open house Wednesday to answer questions about the new First Coast Expressway already under construction. The expressway will be the first toll road since Duval County voters abolished tolls in 1989.  WJXT Jacksonville

TX: From roads to rail: TxDOT head opens door to raiding road funds for rail. In what appears to be a contradiction with Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ announcement that his next budget will end all un-constitutional gas tax diversions to ensure taxes collected for roads indeed go to roads, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director Joe Weber recently signaled the need to depart from highway-only funding to use road taxes for rail. Weber told the Dallas Morning News that “it’s going to take more than new roads to keep Texans traveling smoothly if population growth estimates prove true.” He also said TxDOT needs to increase funding for rail projects despite an environment where road dollars are already scarce. With the Department’s shift to tolling, some of this money it plans to divert to rail will include toll revenues. Texans won’t take kindly to paying tolls to fund rail that they can’t or won’t use. (blog)


May 29, 2014


6 things that should never be privatized. From prisons to fire departments, these essentials must be protected from corporate greed. The idea behind operating gas, water or electric services as public utilities is that those things are important to people’s health and survival and therefore, must be protected from corporate greed. Some things belong in the private sector, others don’t. Here are six things in the United States that should remain in the public sector. Salon

IN: Corporate takeover of Indiana public education illustrated by new documentary. The 2011 school reform movement supported by Republican lawmakers and then Gov. Mitch Daniels was no more than sham to let corporate interests dismantle traditional public educations, according to a group of experts. . . . Education professionals spent two years developing the film that shows the decline in money and support for public education in favor of charter schools, choice and vouchers for education provided by faith and other private interests. And author Doug Martin, a college professor, offered his expose called Hoosier School Heist that documents money from big corporations like Walmart and Amway along with education foundations representing Bill Gates and Milton Friedman promoting lawmakers and laws that fostered charter schools and public money to fund them.  Muncie Free Press

CO: Colorado lawmakers approve new rules for public-private partnerships. A bill on the Colorado governor’s desk would place new rules on public-private partnership deals for highway projects. . . .The effort follows a deal early this year between the Colorado Department of Transportation and an Australian-based company, Plenary Group, for a portion of U.S. 36. The 50-year, $425 million deal calls for widening the highway between Boulder and Denver and adding a toll lane in each direction. Critics of the deal said it was done secretly with little public input. To help guard against similar actions in the future, one provision in the bill would require public and legislative “check-ins,” including town hall meetings.  Land Line Magazine

IL: West Side charter renewal halted until operators agree to rating system. The Chicago Board of Education tabled a vote Wednesday on whether to renew an agreement with the operators of a West Side charter school and indicated no action will be taken until the private group signs on to a new citywide accountability system.  Chicago Tribune



May 28, 2014


Group: $12.3B water bill ‘opens door for privatization’. A group that advocates for increased spending on public water infrastructure projects said Tuesday that a $12.3 billion port and waterways funding bill that is expected to be signed soon by President Obama will “open the door to water privatization.” . . . The Boston, Mass.-based Corporate Accountability International’s Public Water Works! campaign said Tuesday that the bill was less promising than it appears because it includes a provision that is designed to boost public-private partnerships called the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, however. “We are alarmed by the implications of this bill, which would open the doors to an increase in water public-private partnerships in the U.S. and effectively subsidize water privatization,” CAI Public Water Works Campaign Director Erin Diaz said in a statement. The Hill (blog)

Detainees Are Slave Labor in Private Prisons. Last year, at least 60,000 immigrants worked in the federal government’s nationwide patchwork of detention centers — more than worked for any other single employer in the country, according to data from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. The cheap labor, 13 cents an hour, saves the government and the private companies $40 million or more a year by allowing them to avoid paying outside contractors the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Some immigrants held at county jails work for free, or are paid with sodas or candy bars, while also providing services like meal preparation for other government institutions.  Blue in the Bluegrass

PA: Group Says 1000+ Signed Petition Against Privatization of Philly Gas Works. About a dozen local activists delivered petitions today to members of City Council, urging the lawmakers to oppose Mayor Nutter’s plan to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works. “It will bring nothing but hardship and misfortune to the people of Philadelphia,” said Madeline Schikomba of South Philadelphia, one of eleven community activists distributing reams of petitions signed by what she said were residents who fear the fallout of a PGW sale. CBS Local

LA: Contract review bill killed. For the second year in a row, the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee killed legislation that would require review and oversight of contracts that would privatize services provided by state government. “It’s hard for us, as representatives, to go back home and tell our constituents that we didn’t review the contract and we’re 100 percent sure that it’s going to be saving us money,” said state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, moments after the Senate Finance Committee voted 7-3 Tuesday to reject House Bill 128. The panel deferred a similar bill by Havard last year on a vote of 8-2. HB128 focused on the large contracts of more than $5 million that would, for example, replace the state workers running a prison or hospital with managers from a private company, Havard said. Havard said he wasn’t surprised because Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staff had lobbied against the legislation.  The Advocate

KS: Privatization initiative offers window on Kansas government. Soon after Gov. Sam Brownback’s inauguration, his then-chief of staff David Kensinger sat down for a private meeting with his recent lobbying firm partner, Matt Hickam; a Cabinet secretary, Rob Siedlecki; and a Brownback campaign contributor seeking to expand his company’s business in Kansas.. . . But at least one person in the meeting recalled feeling uncomfortable about it all.  “It appeared to be a meeting for the contractor to sell himself to the governor’s staff. No other contractor was sitting at the table. Was that the point? It was uncomfortable in that one contractor had the ear of the governor’s top staff, made the sales pitch, and no other contractors were invited or in attendance,” said the person, who requested to be unnamed, citing fear of possible retribution for speaking about it.

TX: Power shift in Texas election to benefit anti-toll cause. It was another great night for the anti-toll cause in Texas. Today was the Republican primary run-off election and voters toppled the incumbent David Dewhurst, replacing him with tea party favorite State Senator Dan Patrick for the powerful Lt. Governor seat. . . . Under Dewhurst’s leadership, Texans experienced a massive shift away from an affordable gas tax funded freeway system to a reliance on tolling (just about everything that moves). The Perry-Dewhurst regime brought us the Trans Texas Corridor, quick take eminent domain, tolling existing freeways, handing our public roads to private toll corporations who charge Texans 95 cents a mile to drive, and using gas taxes and a host of public money to subsidize and guarantee the loans on toll roads. (blog)






May 27, 2014


Right-Wing Media Ignore Facts In Push For VA Privatization. Conservative media are exploiting alleged problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to argue for the privatization of the VA’s health care system — a solution opposed by experts and veterans organizations as unnecessary and ineffective.  Media Matters for America (blog)

“Boehner Suggests Privatizing The VA: ‘I Still Like The Idea, And Especially Now'” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is floating the idea of privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs following multiple reports of abuses and delays of care at the agency. . . . Privatizing or partially privatizing veterans health care was most recently considered during the 2012 presidential election by Mitt Romney, who proposed giving service members government vouchers to “choose whether they want to go in the government system or in a private system with the money that follows them.” Veterans groups quickly rejected the idea, arguing that access to VA-sponsored care through private providers would undermine the existing system that is exclusively suited to meet veterans health needs and treat war injuries and could lead veterans to “lose the many safeguards built into the VA system.” Following the backlash, Romney abandoned the proposal. ThinkProgress

IN: Hoosier privatizing no longer windfall. . . Instead, investors in state projects are more likely to demand guaranteed fixed annual payments before providing money for the projects, The Times in Munster reported. The shift reflects investors’ desire to insulate themselves from the risk that revenue from the projects won’t meet expectations, said Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation. Poole said many public-private partnership projects “have gotten into trouble because projections were a little too rosy.” The new approach to privatization has forced officials in Indiana and Illinois to rethink their funding plans for the 47-mile Illiana Expressway. In early 2013, the states had hoped that investors might pay the entire cost of the toll road in exchange for keeping the toll proceeds. But that idea was dropped, and the states are now offering private investment teams competing for the project annual payments throughout the 35-year lease. If toll collections fall short of those fixed payments, the states will have to make up the difference.Indiana and Illinois also estimate they may have to pay a combined $270 million in cash to investors in the form of milestone payments in 2018 and 2019 once the road is built.  The Herald Bulletin

MA: State considers a private route toward pricey public road projects. . . Now, a commission created by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2009 is studying public-private partnerships, which could be used to eliminate Route 3’s Hingham bottleneck, build a second Sagamore Bridge and create revenue-producing opportunities at some of the 133 state-owned rest areas, weigh stations and park-and-ride lots. . . . Route 3 could see the first high-occupanecy toll lane in the state. The lane would stretch 9 miles, from the Braintree Split to Exit 14 in Rockland, where the road drops from three lanes to two. It would be built by a private developer, who would use open-road tolling to recoup the construction costs and generate a profit. Enterprise News

VA: State roads board wants greater transparency in public-private projects. The Commonwealth Transportation Board wants greater transparency – and possibly a greater role — in the public private transportation project process. The 17-member body on May 14 passed a resolution asking the director of the Office of Transportation Public Private Partnerships to undertake “an extensive and exhaustive review of the processes, policies, manual, and guidelines” used in soliciting, developing, negotiating and implementing the public-private projects. The review is aimed at increasing transparency, the competitive process and public involvement, as well as more direct involvement by the CTB in the development, negotiation and implementation of such transportation projects.  Richmond Times Dispatch

MO: Gov. Nixon will veto school transfer bill. Gov. Jay Nixon will use his veto pen on a bill allowing students to transfer to private, nonreligious schools because he says it doesn’t address problems in the current school transfer law. “Every child in Missouri deserves a quality public education, and that is why I am vetoing (the bill),” Nixon said Friday. “(The bill) fails to address the challenges resulting from the existing school transfer law and instead, would create even more problems by allowing public funds to be used for private schools and pulling the rug out from under students who have transferred.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch

MS: State hospital cancels private contract. Five months after the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield privatized its Community Services Division, the contract with Key Behavioral Essentials has been terminated. “The Department of Mental Health has terminated the certification of the provider that was to assume responsibility for providing services to some of the individuals who had been receiving services through the hospital’s Community Services Division,” Mississippi State Hospital spokesman Adam Moore said last week. “Based on that decertification, Mississippi State Hospital canceled the agreement with the provider.” The Clarion-Ledger wasn’t able to get a response Friday from the Department of Mental Health on the reason for the termination. Key Behavioral Essentials also couldn’t be reached for comment. Jackson Clarion Ledger

NC: Tensions rise over NC charter school rejections. A state screening board’s recent decision to reject most charter school applications has sparked tension over the role private management companies should play in public education. The N.C. Charter School Advisory Board approved only 11 of the 71 applications filed to open schools in 2015. That’s fewer than half the number approved for 2014, with a similar number of applications.  Charlotte Observer

OH: Ohio’s charter school dropouts soar, push state in opposite direction of US.  Dropout rates nationally are on the decline, but Ohio’s rate is on the rise. Granted, some dropout charter schools graduate nearly half of their students on time, a notable feat considering students enter these programs at least a year behind their peers in traditional high schools. But that’s not the norm. Many dropout charter schools, including White Hat’s chain of Life Skills centers, consistently report single-digit graduation rates. Over the course of last school year, more students dropped out of Life Skills than attended on the average day. Together, they are dragging down the state’s overall rate. Akron Beacon Journal

FL: Public-Private Partnerships (P3) Legislation a Hot Topic at the Florida Logistics & Trade Conference. Public-private partnerships (P3s) received significant attention at the 2014 Florida Logistics and Trade Conference.  The overall consensus of the conference’s P3 Panel, which was moderated by Albert Dotson, is that the state of Florida has cultivated a positive climate for P3s to thrive. Florida is prime for new infrastructure development and has established itself as a place where deals actually get made.  The National Law Review

CA: Public comment: The Silent Infiltration of Privatization. . . The private sector has been slowly and subtly implementing changes in Berkeley to marginalize people’s rights. For instance, in late 2011, residents in Berkeley were introduced to Measure S, an act that would ban sitting and lying down on sidewalks from 7:00am to 10:00pm near business districts. Business owners favor this measure because it would potentially promote a cleaner and friendlier environment that would attract more clientele. According to the measure, people who periodically violate the rules “within 30 days of a warning, would receive a $75 fine or community service.” Berkeley Daily Planet


May 23, 2014


 Bill would privatize IRS debt collection. The Internal Revenue Service would be required to turn over millions of unpaid tax bills to private debt collectors under a measure before the Senate, reviving a program that has previously led to complaints of harassment and has not saved taxpayers money. The provision was tucked into a larger bill, aimed at renewing an array of expired tax breaks, at the request of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.); New York is home to two of the four private collection agencies that stand to benefit from the proposal. Newsday

Don’t Turn Over IRS Debt Collections To Private Contractors – Opinion.  . . For many taxpayers, these private debt collectors would become the public face of the IRS. And I’m not sure they are quite the people who should be playing that role. The agency already must deal with incendiary congressional rhetoric about jack-booted thugs. Imagine the possibilities when the service has only limited ability to oversee private tax collectors who are working in its name—and on commission. . . . Privatization has been an on-gain off-again fad in Congress and the White House for years. And outcomes have sometimes been less than optimal. . . . I’m not suggesting government contractors are always incompetent or unreliable. Indeed, they have become an integral part of government and are far more effective at doing some tasks than federal or state employees. But based on past experience, it’s pretty clear that collecting taxes is not one of them. Forbes

Video: McCain Continues His Push To Privatize The VA. Senator John McCain interviewed on FoxNews about privatizing the Veterans Administration. Crooks and Liars

Postal union targets Staples over mail services program. The announcement last year drew little notice: The long-troubled United States Postal Service was teaming up with equally distressed retailer Staples Inc. to offer mail services in 82 of its office supply stores. Initially pitched as a modest public-private partnership, the deal has blown up into a major confrontation between the Postal Service and its main union. The postal workers contend the Staples deal amounts to privatization of a basic government function, and they have run protests outside the company’s stores. “We have no problem with Staples staying in the office supply business,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “We have a big problem with Staples trying to become the postal service for the people of this country.” Boston Globe

How Teachers Are Fighting to Change One of the Most Segregated School Districts in the Country. . . . The ideological backbone of the high-stakes testing frenzy is a neoliberal school reform agenda backed by Silicon Valley philanthropists and the educational product industry. This marketized educational model that promises to close achievement gaps by managing schools like tech startups, measuring intellect with data and firing teachers deemed underperforming. Yet for all the hype around “innovation” and “standards,” schools remain plagued by racial and economic inequality that speak to the unfulfilled promise of Brown v. Board, sixty years on. . . Many progressive educators are wary of the boosterism surrounding charter schools, especially because many are geared toward “underperforming” poor Black and Latino communities. These are the schools that tend to be targeted for shutdowns because they are labeled “failing.” They’re also the schools that are being squeezed by the expansion of charters, which are known for hogging scarce facilities and resources in impoverished neighborhoods. Brian Jones, a former teacher and now an activist and Green Party candidate, warned, “Our schools are more segregated than most in the nation, and it’s the charter schools and the privatization… that are causing that.” The Nation

NE: Child welfare money Nebraska owes reduced to $15M. State officials have reduced the amount that Nebraska owes the federal government for child welfare services that weren’t properly documented, but could still end up paying $15 million. . .  Federal officials called for reimbursement in January after noting that Nebraska failed to properly track payments made as part of its troubled effort to privatize child welfare services. Nebraska didn’t require its child-welfare contractors to give a breakdown of how much money was going to foster parents versus other services for neglected and abused children, federal officials said in a January letter to Nebraska DHHS officials. A review of 40 foster-care payments in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 found that the state didn’t comply with federal rules in at least half of the cases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

State officials have reduced the amount that Nebraska owes the federal government for child welfare services that weren’t properly documented, but could still end up paying $15 million. . .  Federal officials called for reimbursement in January after noting that Nebraska failed to properly track payments made as part of its troubled effort to privatize child welfare services. Nebraska didn’t require its child-welfare contractors to give a breakdown of how much money was going to foster parents versus other services for neglected and abused children, federal officials said in a January letter to Nebraska DHHS officials. A review of 40 foster-care payments in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 found that the state didn’t comply with federal rules in at least half of the cases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

TX: Toll roads: a tax on roads you’ve already paid for – Opinion. . . It’s a metaphor for how our state government is charging Texans twice for fixing the awful highway system in North Bexar County and beyond. Throw in federal tax subsidies to fix our state’s misuse of taxes dedicated to Texas transportation infrastructure needs, and it’s a trifecta of state financial and political malfeasance.

May 22, 2014


Company Bidding on D.C. Metro Expansion Hires Ray LaHood. On Wednesday morning, private equity fund Meridiam Infrastructure announced a new hire: Ray LaHood. The former U.S. secretary of transportation, who stepped down in July of last year, is joining the firm, with the title of senior adviser to Meridiam North America. . . . Thierry Déau, Meridiam’s founder, told me that LaHood will help the firm identify future markets for infrastructure investments, which the firm funds through public-private partnerships (PPPs). . . . As for projects in the American market that Meridiam is bidding on, Déau listed a few — a major new terminal at LaGuardia Airport in Queens (where Meridiam is partnering with, among others, Skanska, Tishman Construction and Parsons Brinckerhoff on the construction side, and Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Wells Fargo for financing), the Purple Line light-rail project in D.C.‘s Maryland suburbs (where they’re joining forces with Fluor for construction and engineering and one of Star America’s funds on the money side), plus a judicial facility in Indiana and roads across the U.S., including in Nevada.  Next City

The Republican Party Has a VA Problem, Too: Privatization Isn’t Popular. . . . I recall Veterans’ Day in 2011, when Mitt Romney proposed something similar, though perhaps less expensive. “Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce some private-sector competition,” he said. “Somebody else that could come in and say, you know, that each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them, and then they can choose whether they want to go in the government system or in a private system with the money that follows them.” Vets condemned him immediately and he quickly reverted to the more liberal view that if demand for VA medical care exceeds supply, we should spend the money required to increase supply. . . .For every possible reason, Democrats would rather the VA failure never have happened. But as Romney and our old friend Social Security can attest, dismantling public programs and turning them over to rich private-sector donors, many of whom have worse track records, will be poorly received. The New Republic

Don’t privatize the veterans hospitals – opinion. President Obama can do himself a big political favor this month by saying simply this: “I will not privatize the VA hospitals.” That’s the bottom line for the current right-wing crusade mixing patriotic posturing with loathing of government in general and Obama specifically. We speak of allegations that a Phoenix hospital (and perhaps others) run by the Department of Veterans Affairs hid deadly delays for treatment by using secret waiting lists. . . . “We’re against privatizing the VA system,” Joe Davis, national spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told me in no uncertain terms. “To privatize the VA puts us on a waiting list with everyone else out in the United States.” You see, getting medical care can be rougher outside government-run programs.  The Seattle Times

VA: McAuliffe announces public-private partnership reforms. Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) says he thinks public-private partnerships for road construction in Virginia are a good idea, but they have to be win-win projects. In March, he stopped payments on the 55-mile Route 460 project from Suffolk to Prince William County. At that time, he said the state would demand transparency and competitiveness in all future public-private partnerships. On Thursday, McAuliffe said the Commonwealth Transportation Board passed a resolution to do just that and to better evaluate the public’s risk for projects delivered under the Public Private Transportation Act. Read the resolution.



May 21, 2014


A dozen problems with charter schools. School reformers keep talking about charter schools as if they were the answer to public education’s problems, when there is a great deal of evidence that shows big problems with the charter sector. For example, a report on Pennsylvania’s charter schools recently released by a state legislator found that only one in six of the state’s charter schools is”high-performing” and it notes that none of the online charters is “high-performing.” Washington Post (blog)           

VT: Vt. Transportation Agency to study road tolls. Vermont’s deputy secretary of transportation has asked her staff to re-evaluate whether the state could impose interstate tolls. WCAX

LA: Bobby Jindal administration will send revised hospital privatization plan to federal officials. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration announced Thursday night that it intends to send the federal government a revised financing plan for the privatization of six state-run hospitals by the end of the week. Louisiana will have to adjust the fiscal arrangement that governs some of its medical facilities for the poor and uninsured or face potential turmoil in its operating budget in 2015. The state would have to pay back at least $200 million to the federal government if an agreement over how to structure the hospitals’ privatizations can’t be reached. The Times-Picayune

DC: DC approves three new charter schools. The D.C. Public Charter School Board has approved three new charter schools: a residential school meant for children in foster care, a K-8 school targeted at students with special needs, and a middle school that emphasizes international education. Washington Post

VA: Redflex Caught Using Violation Calculator. Yellow lightRedflex Traffic Systems uses a special spreadsheet to calculate precisely how much profit a city can expect from red light cameras on an intersection-by-intersection basis. WTKR-TV reported about the “violation calculator” that Redflex used to provide the city of Chesapeake, Virginia with the dollar figure it could expect after signing a contract with the Australian firm. The violation calculator is a more refined version of the criteria red light camera companies have always used. In 2001, a team of attorneys in San Diego, California used a court subpoena to obtain a copy of the confidential site evaluation performed by vendor Lockheed Martin (which now operates as Xerox). The decisions on where cameras were installed were based on finding high volume, downhill approaches where the yellow time was less than 4 seconds.

TX: Do not believe the Trinity toll road is dead. I do not believe it. These are dangerous conclusions for those of us who think the road through the levees is a bad idea. The road has a very serious funding gap, north of a billion dollars. That puts it in a very precarious position. But it remains the top priority of transportation planners in the region. It’s possible that the NTTA will get more bonding capacity in coming years and find a partner to go in on the deal. It might not be likely, but to say it is impossible concerns me. The toll road (please don’t call it a parkway) has been the vision for Dallas leaders for so long that it will be hard to shake them from their place. Dallas Morning News (blog)


May 20, 2014


5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers. For decades we’ve been subjected to constant propaganda that government is inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive. We’re told that the answer is to “privatize,” or “outsource” government functions to private businesses and they will do things more efficiently and everyone comes out ahead. As a result we have experienced decades of privatization of government functions. So how has this wave of privatization worked out? Has privatization saved taxpayers money and improved services to citizens? Simple answer: of course not. If a company can make a profit doing something the government had been doing, it means that we’re losing out one way or another. It’s simple math. And the result of falling for the privatization scam is that taxpayers have been fleeced, services to citizens have been cut way back and communities have been made poorer. But the companies that convinced governments to hand over public functions have gotten rich off of the deal. How is this a surprise?  Salon

How You’ll Get Screwed If Conservatives Kill the U.S. Postal Service. If USPS in its current form ceases to exist, the results will be harsh. . . . But if USPS in its current form ceases to exist, the results will be harsh, not only in terms of the job losses and loss of tax revenue (unionized postal workers pay a lot of federal and state taxes), but because of the hardships both businesses and consumers would suffer. The end of the U.S. Postal Service could mean more business for its two main privately owned competitors, Federal Express and the United Parcel Service (UPS). But to think either would offer a better deal to consumers is pure fantasy. AlterNet

The Right Way and the Wrong Way to Privatize Science. This isn’t America’s first time seeing an infusion of personal wealth getting poured into research, but the last time around, it was done more democratically. The Atlantic

National study of charter schools finds massive fraud, mismanagement, abuse. . . The end goal of the report, say its authors, is to warn the public about the increasing risk that communities and taxpayers face by having an inadequately regulated charter industry. ‘Despite rapid growth in the charter school industry, no agency, federal or state, has been given the resources to properly oversee [charter schools]. Given this inadequate oversight,we worry that the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.’ The Progressive Pulse           

IA: Tensions grow over public-private economic development groups. The North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp. reported in 2013 that it had delivered $65 million in new capital investment and created more than 200 new jobs in Clear Lake, Mason City and Cerro Gordo County.But officials failed to report the names of all of the companies, what incentives they received or what role the nonprofit played in securing that development. The nonprofit also last year hired Iowa State University head football coach Paul Rhoads, who commands fees in excess of $20,000, to speak at its annual dinner but refused to say how much he was paid. Experts say the public-private nature of some local and regional economic development groups raises questions about what information is considered public and what records can be kept under wraps. Similar concerns have been raised in the past with other public-private organizations like the Iowa Association of School Boards. Des Moines Register

IN: Worry Surrounds Privatization Of Public Pension System. Legislation passed this year required the Indiana Public Retirement System Board to delay privatizing a part of the public pension system. But some lawmakers are concerned the delay isn’t long enough. Indiana Public Media

OR: Liquor privatization initiative moves forward; opponents release negative poll data. Supporters of an initiative to allow liquor sales in big Oregon grocery chains have gotten the official nod to begin gathering signatures, and they plan to start as early as next week. Opponents of the change, meanwhile, released results of a statewide poll showing strong voter sentiment against changing the current state-run system of selling booze. The Oregonian

NJ: Ras Baraka Wins In Newark. Education Privatization Loses. On Tuesday I wrote that the mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey, was a referendum on “education reform,” aka education privatization. The election results that night had “reform” candidate Shavar Jeffries losing to Ras Baraka, a Newark high school principal who wants to improve the very damaged Newark school system, not dismantle and replace it. Tucson Weekly

MA: Charter school expansion bill expected to advance. Just more than a handful of mostly urban school districts would be impacted by a proposal to gradually expand charter school enrollment in Massachusetts in what the lead sponsor of the legislation described as a “very modest” increase.

LA: State Rep: Privatization crisis will hurt poor, uninsured. On May 5, the Center for Medicaid Services unequivocally rejected the Jindal administration’s hastily crafted financing plan for the privatization of numerous Louisiana hospitals. As a result, and as confirmed directly by me in a phone call with CMS, Louisiana’s citizens will lose up to $500 million in federal health care funding. Further, due to the Jindal administration’s irresponsible insistence on including nonexistent revenue to balance its budgets, the state is faced with budget deficits in upcoming years exceeding $2 billion. Most importantly, the poorest and most vulnerable of Louisiana’s citizens remain without meaningful access to health care. Opelousas Daily World

May 19, 2014


Heavy hauling shifts to taxpayers in privatizations. . . One recession and eight years later, privatizations are again the rage in the region. But the tables have turned, with most of the risk in the deals shifting to government and windfall payments becoming a thing of the past. Nationally, that trend has played out most predominately on road-building projects. Investment teams are demanding states guarantee them fixed annual payments, known as availability payments, before they will build anything.

Privatization Is the Problem, Not the Solution. Canadians are forever being informed, explicitly or implicitly, that the solution to the crisis of the day, or decade, is a freedom-sounding word called “privatization.” This, the free-marketeers tell us, will solve our problems. The reality is invariably the opposite. “Privatization” — also known as bailed-out, highly subsidized corporatism — is in fact the problem, not the solution. Furthermore, the crises being addressed are often manufactured for the express purpose of rolling out a parasitical regime of corporatization that profits from calamity, even as its “host,” the public, is fleeced.  Common Dreams

LA: State Police proposing outsourcing driver’s license test. A new initiative by Louisiana State Police could lead to shorter lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Outsourcing driving tests may be on the horizon. . . . “If we have an accredited school that a parent has paid for as a state agency and motor vehicle has accredited that school then we should accept their test,” Edmonson says.  “If they’ve passed the test then why do they have to go to motor vehicle and pass another test?” WBXH

LA: To save time and money, let’s privatize the Louisiana Legislature. . .Why waste hundreds of millions of dollars each year to support an institution that simply takes orders from the governor and the corporate and private interests that contribute to its members’ campaign funds? Times Picayune

MT: Our Readers Speak: State land should not be privatized. The recent guest editorials by Terry Anderson of PERC advocating privatization of our public lands demand a response. I have read Anderson’s columns in the Montana Standard for many years, and his fundamental argument is that privatization of these lands will result in better management. Of course, “better” is in the eye of the beholder. Privatization would certainly be better for the moneyed newcomers, since those are the folks who will be in the best position to buy that land — and we already know their views on access. Most of us have our hands full just making a living. Montana Standard



May 16, 2014


Ted Mitchell, Leader in Privatization Movement, Confirmed as Undersecretary of Education. One of the nation’s leaders of the privatization movement, Ted Mitchell, has been confirmed by the. u.S. Senate as Undersecretary of Education, the second most powerful job in the U.S. Department of Education. Mitchell most recently was CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, which collects millions from philanthropies and venture funds and invests the money in creating charter chains and for-profit ventures.

Public-Private Partnerships Key to US Spaceflight Future, Experts Say. The future of United States space travel will involve significant governmental cooperation with private industry, according to a panel of spaceflight experts.

Interstate Tolling Proposal Is a Bad Idea | Commentary. . . Beyond this shuffling of funds, tolling an existing interstate for any reason is difficult to justify on principle. Interstate construction and maintenance has been funded through fuel taxes since the system’s inception in 1956. Requiring drivers to pay a new toll in addition to a gas tax is paying for the same road twice. Tolling existing interstates for road revenue is not a new idea. Congress passed the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program in 1988, creating a pilot program for designated states to toll existing interstates. To date, none have successfully done so, largely due to the recognition of tolling’s negative effects and significant public opposition. Most recently, both Virginia and North Carolina proposals to toll Interstate 95 were shelved and Missouri I-70 tolls never got off the ground. The lesson from these ill-fated pilot projects is clear — tolling existing interstates is a bad idea.  Roll Call

 IL: Feds Charge Chicago Official Over Red Light Camera Bribes. The fallout from the red light camera bribery scandal in Chicago, Illinois could mean ten years in prison and $250,000 in fines for those involved. The US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois on Tuesday filed charges against John Bills, the Windy City’s deputy transportation commissioner, because he allegedly took bribes from Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian firm that until recently ran Chicago’s red light camera program. Redflex allegedly paid Marty O’Malley, a friend of Bills, $2 million to be a consultant on the program that netted the firm $124 million over the life of the contract. According to the indictment, the “consultant” bought a $177,000 condominium in Gilbert, Arizona that Bills used on nearly two dozen occasions between 2008 and 2012. He also bought a 2000 Mercedes CLK 320 convertible for Bills and covered $643,000 worth of personal expenditures and debts for the city official.

LA: To save time and money, let’s privatize the Louisiana Legislature: Opinion . . . In recent years, Jindal has turned over Louisiana’s public hospitals to private entities. He’s privatized the state’s Medicaid program, as well as the management of medical benefits for state employees. Beyond health care, Jindal has diverted a substantial portion of the state’s elementary and secondary education budget to fund private-school vouchers and charter schools. By slashing the higher education budget, he’s virtually turned the state’s colleges and universities into semi-private institutions that subsist primarily off tuition and student fees. He’s handed over driver’s license renewals to a private company. He has even privatized budget cutting, paying the consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal $5 million to develop ideas for cutting state spending by $500 million. As recent experience has shown, however, privatizing government doesn’t automatically improve anything except, of course, the bottom  lines of the corporations that capture lucrative government contracts. The Times-Picayune