May 15, 2014


Obama calls for spending to improve nation’s roads and rails. . . . The White House sent the Grow America Act, a broad transportation measure that includes guidelines for allowing new toll highways, to Congress this spring. A bipartisan group of senators is working on its own long-term transportation plan. . . . The administration, drawing on calculations made by the American Society of Civil Engineers, estimates that $3.6 trillion in spending will be needed to sufficiently address the mounting infrastructure problems by the end of the decade. Washington Post

VA: Millions spent and not even a road to show for it. . . . McDonnell administration made the project its top transportation priority but it is has been clear for years that business case for this project simply didn’t make sense. Instead of it being a public-private partnership, the taxpayers were going to have to foot most of the project’s bill and then all a private company to operate it and collect tolls on the road. It was a lose-lose deal for Virginia taxpayers. . . . The longer this goes on, it appears this boondoggle is Virginia’s version of the bridge to nowhere. Now we have a ghost road that has already cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.  Progress Index

CA: The Fight to Save San Francisco’s Public College. . . . “We feel like public education is under attack, including now community colleges, by the movement to privatize,” said Wendy Kaufmyn, who teaches engineering at CCSF. “The accrediting commission is definitely part of what we’d call the ‘reform movement’ in education—it has a political agenda.” She and other members of the growing “Save CCSF coalition” say disaccreditation is an effort to stifle a major voice for more inclusive education. “We see ourselves as serving the diverse community of San Francisco, and that includes the formerly incarcerated, foster kids with nowhere else to go, immigrant populations and undocumented students,” Kaufmyn said. “We believe in the arts, and having students be there for cultural enrichment. But they just feel like that’s a waste of taxpayer money.” The Nation

IL: Lawmaker Calls On Quinn To Nix Private Company That Runs Lottery. . . . State Representative Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, says privatizing the lottery has been a disaster, as it has continually failed to meet goals.  “And here we are paying them $100 million to go down.  It’s ludicrous. It’s—it’s tantamount to lunacy. There’s no reason to be doing this,” Franks said. Franks says Northstar has come up 445 million dollars short than initially promised.  He says that’s money lost that should be available to fill budget gaps in state operations. WUIS 91.9

NC: Privatized N.C. Commerce takes first step during legislature’s short session. A bill to take the privatization of the N.C. Department of Commerce from an idea to reality was introduced this morning on the opening day of the General Assembly’s short session. . . .N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory advanced the idea to privatize the department last year as a way to streamline the state’s job retention and recruitment process. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker and others toured the state in 2013 to publicize the idea of a privatized state department.  Triangle Business Journal


May 14, 2014


60 Years After Brown, Educators Demand More Focus on Public School Support “It’s 60 years later and our schools are still separate and unequal,” said Ocynthia Williams, a parent leader. “They are more separate today than ever. Our schools have become high-stakes testing factories. Corporate America is trying to privatize them. … We are reclaiming our public schools, and we are demanding that the promises of Brown v. Board of Education be fulfilled.” U.S. News & World Report

NJ: Newark parents, community group file Civil Rights complaint against school reorganization. Responding to a “national crisis of school closures,” the Journey for Justice Alliance and the Advancement Project filed a complaint on behalf of local parents, citing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in public schools. The groups are asking the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice to stop the school reorganization plan known as One Newark until it can be investigated. . . . The One Newark plan will consolidate, relocate or redesign almost one-third of the city’s schools, including transitioning two neighborhood elementary schools into charter schools. . . . “Education ‘reformers’ and privatizers are targeting neighborhood schools filled with children of color, and leaving behind devastation,” the groups wrote. “By stealth, seizure, and sabotage, these corporate profiteers are closing and privatizing our schools, keeping public education for children of color, not only separate, not only unequal, but increasingly not public at all.”

PA: State auditor rips charter school oversight. Oversight of charter schools in Pennsylvania is “a mess,” state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has concluded, based on a series of public meetings across the commonwealth. . . . “With more than $1 billion being spent on charter schools every year,” according to the report, “improved oversight is imperative.” The board would settle disputes between charter schools and districts, enforce regulations, develop a streamlined appeals process, and verify data that charter schools include in annual reports filed with the state. Now, DePasquale said, there is little evidence that anyone reviews the reports. . . .”Today, many school districts and charter schools are combatants fighting for students and for public dollars,” the auditor general wrote.

NY: Ex-NYRA head: Bruno wanted foes of privatization ousted. Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno wanted two state racing officials “gone” in favor of a top industry figure who favored privatizing the racetracks, the ex-president of the New York Racing Association testified. . . . Federal prosecutors aim to show that Bruno, 85, acted to support privatization to stay in step with Jared E. Abbruzzese, a Loudonville businessman who was paying Bruno $20,000 a month as a consultant and was involved in Friends of New York Racing. The prosecutors contend it was kickback and bribery money. Albany Times Union

FL: Jackson: Toll road didn’t come as advertised. . . As reported first by the Tribune’s Laura Kinsler, there was no scenario under which IIP — which includes OHL Infrastructure, a giant Spanish construction company with expertise in private toll roads — could proceed without a substantial input of tax dollars. Cue Emily Litella: “Ooooo. That’s different. Never mind.” And that was that. Game over, announced Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad. Time to “hit the reset button” and entertain more traditional projects. This is exactly as it should be. For all that remains intriguing and forward-looking about an elevated toll road across Pasco’s urbanizing southern corridor, the only feature recommending it just now was the notion that it would be privately financed. When that proved false, there was no reason to go further.


May 13, 2014


The Privatization Scam. . . Unfortunately, as governments at the city, state and federal level continue to lack the political will to raise taxes or cut spending, as our infrastructure continues to deteriorate, and as political leaders such as President Obama and Congress peddle the idea, the pressure to privatize public goods will continue to rise. Indeed, it’s no longer companies like Deloitte offering to do deals; we’ve reached the point where the Motley Fool is pitching retail investors. It’s a topic I’ve given a lot of thought to, because in my role as Legislative Advocate for NJPIRG, I played a meaningful role in defeating then-New Jersey Governor, nee Goldman Sachs Jon Corzine’s push to privatize New Jersey’s ‘three big roads’–the Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the Atlantic City Expressway. The policy arguments we made then (2007)–and which USPIRG and others continue to make today–remain true, and provide a good, accessible framework for judging any privatization deal that may affect you.  Reality Check

The Road to Ruin: Can We Afford the Anti-Tax Movement? Experience has shown that the anti-tax movement is a luxury we cannot afford. Its clout and legislators’ fear of that clout means that taxes cannot be raised – even to keep pace with inflation. The result is crumbling infrastructure and no way to build new or repair what exists. As a result, we are left without money to maintain, repair and build our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure – not to mention other needs that we are unable to meet. We are told that the private sector can fill these needs, but, as it turns out, privatized infrastructure depends on public money – and a lot of it. How much public versus private money is invested in infrastructure privatization? At the March 5, 2014, congressional hearing called Overview of Public-Private Partnerships in Highway and Transit Projects, witnesses who are fans of privatization testified that the private “partners” in PPPs invest as little as 3 percent to 20 percent – leaving the public to fill the 80-97 percent gap in funding.  Truth-Out

Public-private Monument model? The public-private partnership that funded the nearly three-year, $15 million effort to fix the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument should be a model for future projects, billionaire David Rubenstein said in a CNBC interview Monday—the day the iconic obelisk reopens to visitors. Rubenstein matched the federal funding of $7.5 million to expedite the renovation, following damage from a rare D.C.-area quake in August 2011.

Transportation Secretary: Obama Administration’s Plan for More Toll Roads Not ‘Free-For-All ‘ Proposal. “There has been a lot of interest in the toll issue, but it’s actually not how we pay for our bill,” Foxx told TheBlaze. “The way we pay for our bill is the way I said we would pay for it, which is pro-growth business tax reform. . . .The legislation would add business taxes, close some corporate tax loopholes and would include numerous provisions of one-shot revenue of $150 billion – which would cover about half the cost of the bill. “The tolling piece, which is a smaller piece of our bill, but what it basically does is it enables a given governor if they decide they want to pursue tolling to apply to the federal government and to have a decision made about whether they are using that toll revenue to improve the facility they’re using or to relieve congestion,” Foxx said. “Then, at that point, if its acceptable to the U.S. DOT, they would have more capability to do it. But it is not a free for all, it’s not a way we pay for our bill.”

Counterfeit feds. . .The column also prompted this email from an IRS employee who worries about scam artists posing as federal workers. He said: Mike, we could be looking at a lot of stuff like that for sure. But can you trust the private sector more or less than the current fed? I just wanted to relate to you a story that happened this week. I’m not looking for a pat on the back, I felt I was just doing my job. Late Tuesday I got a call from one of the guys in my golf league who is an accountant. He had a 70-year-old lady on the other line, because she had someone on the phone claiming to be from the IRS threatening to throw her in jail if she didn’t pay $70 she owed. . . I told my friend to calm the lady down that this was a scam and to save that number and come into our walk-in office and report the number. . .I went home really upset over slime bags trying to steal from vulnerable retirees. So the point of all this is that, if Congress does privatize a lot of services, can you trust them? I feel you can trust the fed on the front line dealing with the public — but those overseeing the agency is another story. Unfortunately, we get lumped in with those people.” The IRS got a reputation awhile back for having mean collectors. Turns out the vast majority of them were private bill collectors. Congress forced the IRS to turn over hard-to-collect debts to take-no-prisoners, meaner-than-a-junk-yard-dog private collectors who worked on commission. Congress finally ended the program (this was the second time it was tried, crashed and burned). But it will probably come up again. Stay tuned… Federal News Radio

Private Prisons Eat Our Humanity. Somebody figured out, once again, how to build a machine that can quantify the life of an African-American man and make money off him. They figured out how to use the value of his body to fuel their machine. They learned how to drive its engine, and how to turn a profit. They call it prison privatization. I call it mining black gold, and I have watched black gold be mined from the streets of my community every day. ACLU

VA: Roanoke to privatize downtown parking enforcement. The city is outsourcing on-street parking enforcement to the same contractor that has operated and managed city-owned parking garages and surface lots for at least six years, Atlanta-based Lancor. . .  Lancor will be paid a flat fee for on-street parking enforcement, so they have no incentive to write more citations to generate more income, Townsend said. . . .The switch will be cost neutral for the city, he said. Current full-time city parking department staff, including enforcement officers and one office staffer, have been offered positions with Park Roanoke. If they don’t want those jobs, the city will work with them to find a position elsewhere in city government, Townsend said. Roanoke Times


May 12, 2014


Despite Shocking Reports of Fraud at Charter Schools, Lawmakers Miss Opportunity to Increase Oversight. . .On Friday, lawmakers in the House largely missed an opportunity to strengthen oversight of charter schools, passing a bill to encourage charter school growth by boosting federal funding without including several amendments that were offered to increase transparency and accountability. The bill, called the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, increases federal funding for charters from $250 million to $300 million. The bill received wide bipartisan support—it passed by a overwhelming 360-45— although it is being championed by GOP leaders, who tout charter expansion and “school choice” as a central part of their anti-poverty agenda. . . .Very few Democrats pushed back on the legislation, in part because it includes a few provisions sought by charter critics, including allowing charters to prioritize special-needs students and English language learners in the admissions process. Still, this is the first reauthorization of the federal charter program since 2001, and the charter sector has vastly changed and expanded since then. The fact that Democrats did not rally around bids for better oversight indicates how murky the party’s education platform has grown. Charter advocates are increasingly vocal on the left, helping to secure new federal resources; meanwhile, financial and political support for traditional public schools is quietly eroding.  The Nation

New report cites $100 million-plus in waste, fraud in charter school industry. The report, titled “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, & Abuse,” and released by the nonprofit organizations Integrity in Education and the Center for Popular Democracy, cites news reports and criminal complaints from around the country that detail how some charter school operators have illegally used public money. It also makes policy recommendations, including a call for stopping charter expansion until oversight of charter operators is improved. . . .The Obama administration has supported the spread of charter schools but has also called for better oversight. Proponents of charter schools say they provide choices for parents and competition for traditional public schools, but critics note that most don’t perform any better — and some of them worse — than traditional public schools and take resources away from school districts. Some critics see the expansion of charter schools as part of an effort by some school reformers to privatize public education. The Washington Post

Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign to Tackle Student Debt and the Privatization of Education. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a bill addressing two of her top legislative priorities: The crushing burden of student debt and tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans to shell out a smaller share of their incomes than do many of those in the middle class. The measure would allow people who took out student loans at a higher rate than they could get today to refinance their debt the same way one might refinance a home mortgage. It would also give people with high-interest private loans to roll them over into the Federal Direct Loan program. . . . We want to make quality higher education more affordable, as well as accessible, because we believe that higher education is a public good and no one should have to struggle under the financial burden of going to college. And we are working to combat the privatization of higher education and confront the role of Wall Street in the compounding student debt crisis. Truth-Out

FL: FDOT says no to private toll road in Pasco County. The Department of Transportation is officially passing on a private company’s plan to build a toll road in south Pasco County. In an announcement released Sunday to a citizen’s group spearheading opposition to the proposed road, the department said it had ” rejected the unsolicited proposal from International Infrastructure Partners, LLC.” It included leasing state right-of-way along state roads 54 and 56 to build and operate the road. A private consortium that included International Infrastructure, a Spanish road building company, proposed the elevated toll road last summer from U.S. 19 to U.S. 301. . . . A group called Pasco Fiasco crowded town hall meetings and sent emails to Pasco County commissioners in recent months urging the project’s rejection by local officials. The FDOT started evaluating the project in January. FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said at the outset that if Pasco did not support the project the department would not approve it.

LA: Lafayette hospital privatization runs over budget in Louisiana. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s privatization deal for the LSU hospital in Lafayette was running $6 million over budget by April’s end, with two months remaining in the fiscal year, raising questions about whether the contracts could cost more than anticipated. The overspending was detailed in an update to lawmakers about payments made for the outsourcing contracts involving nine state-owned, LSU hospitals for the budget year that ends June 30. The hospitals are safety-net facilities that care for the poor and uninsured. . . .The issue comes as federal officials rejected financing plans for six of the hospital privatization deals. The Jindal administration is trying to broker a compromise with the federal agency that oversees the Medicaid dollars that pay for much of the patient services. But a reworking of the financing arrangement could have the state forced to repay dollars that federal officials might deem improper. The Times-Picayune

LA: Our Views: For Jindal, all is well. If you are the governor of a small state and you criticize the president of the United States every time you take a breath, then you ask the health agency in the president’s administration for a very significant discretionary waiver — what do you expect to get? Put that way, we wonder why anyone thought Gov. Bobby Jindal had much of a prayer for the waiver he used to fund a privatization of most of the state’s old charity hospitals. Because not only did the financing provisions deserve scrutiny under federal rules — Louisiana has cheated the U.S. government in various ways many times in the past — the waiver was constructed to pad the state budget that is chronically in crisis under Jindal’s administration. The Advocate

IL: Indiana, Illinois sign deal to build Illiana road. Indiana and Illinois have signed an agreement to build the 47-mile-long Illiana Expressway toll road. The 33-page document posted online May 6 specifies that Indiana will spend $80 million to $110 million and Illinois will pay a minimum of $250 million. The overall cost of the highway between Interstate 65 near Lowell in northwest Indiana and Interstate 55 south of Chicago is expected to be $1.3 billion, with investors expected to pay the remaining costs.  The agreement states the road will be reserved for vehicles using electronic toll devices with no option for paying cash. Agri News

TX: Texas Voters Ban Red Light Cameras For A Sixth Time. Voters in Conroe, Texas flocked to the polls Saturday to become the sixth town in the Lone Star state to outlaw red light cameras. The automated ticketing machines owned and operated by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) lost by 59 percent of the vote. The Arizona-based firm did its best in the final hours of the race to sway the vote. Using a front group directly controlled by ATS executives, the firm paid $50,000 to Jamestown Associates, the direct mail firm used by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and $5000 to Thomas Graphics of Austin to come up with a compelling message. Full color flyers began hitting residents Friday that showed a pair of white children standing on a curb.

VT: Vermont Senate approves school privatization pause. The Vermont Senate has indicated support for a moratorium on allowing public schools to convert to private status.   Brattleboro Reformer





May 9, 2014


Congress to consider charter-school legislation. A bipartisan group of senators plans to introduce a bill Wednesday meant to encourage the growth of charter schools across the country, mirroring legislation expected to be taken up in the House later this week. The legislation would consolidate existing federal grant programs that encourage new charter schools to open and that help charter school leaders afford suitable buildings. The bills would also boost charter-school funding from the $250 million budgeted in fiscal 2014 to $300 million, though the Senate version would reserve more of those dollars for replicating existing successful schools as opposed to opening brand new schools.  Washington Post

LA: Privatization plan passes despite scrutiny. As the state’s spending plan made its way through the House Thursday, lawmakers achieved some small success in countering the efforts of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to privatize various state functions. “I will not vote for a budget that takes care of the private entities that we contract with rather than the people of this state,” Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, said during a debate regarding contracts with private prisons. The plan, contained in House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, for the next budgetary year starting July 1, totals over $25 billion. It made its way through the House after seven straight hours of debate with a 64-36 vote.  Daily Comet

LA: Inside Report: Privatization plan worries lawmakers. . . Gov. Bobby Jindal was so certain that his structure for dismantling the state’s charity hospital system and shifting patients to private hospital providers would work that he didn’t wait for the federal government’s OK. He kept details close to the vest, handing the LSU Board of Supervisors dozens of blank pages on the Shreveport-Monroe hospital agreement. Then he set his idea into motion. Now that the proposal has met with the federal government’s disapproval, legislators are worried. State Treasurer John Kennedy is worried. The Jindal administration, meanwhile, is focused on finding a resolution before the financial impact hits in fall 2015 — all the time assuring legislators that the state is on sound legal footing.  The Advocate

IL: Illiana Expressway numbers still don’t add up – Editorial. The people who love the idea of building a $1.25 billion tollway between Illinois and Indiana say it’ll be a wonderful public-private partnership. The supporters of the Illiana Expressway, starting with Gov. Pat Quinn, tell taxpayers: relax. But the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which recommended against the project, has said the road isn’t needed and would cost taxpayers $440 million to $1.1 billion because it won’t generate enough in tolls. The Illinois Department of Transportation, controlled by the governor, scoffed at CMAP’s analysis, calling it “simplistic.” Lo and behold, a bi-state agreement released this week shows those predictions were on the mark.  Chicago Tribune

MI: Michigan House approves $453M extra for roads. . . A measure that would have permitted Michigan’s first road tolls — on new lanes or newly built highways — was dropped from the package but could be taken up later. It would have authorized the Michigan Department of Transportation to enter into “public-private agreements” to build new roads that “may be financed by user fees, charges and other revenue.”  After a representative of the National Motorists Association charged the bill was a back-door way to allow toll rates that could be set and increased without oversight by the Legislature, Bolger said it wasn’t crucial to the funding scheme. House Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, said the bill needs more work. The main sponsor, Democratic Rep. Marilyn Lane of Fraser, said lawmakers may need to remove the possibility it would permit toll roads.  The Detroit News

MI: Michigan prison food vendor survives union challenge in 2-2 vote. Michigan’s Civil Service Commission deadlocked 2-2 on a union challenge to the state’s privatization of its prison food service, meaning a three-year, $145-million contract with Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia will remain in place. It’s likely the fight over the contract will now move to the state courts, a union spokesman said. AFSCME Privatization Update

OR: Liquor privatization effort gets another $100000 from Distilled Spirits Council. Money continues to flow into the effort to privatize Oregon liquor sales. … Privatization backers, who call themselves Oregonians for Competition, want to allow retail stores with more than 10,000 square feet to be able to stock and sell liquor. The Oregonian




May 8, 2014


FL: DOT official close to pulling plug on Pasco toll road. Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad says he is close to pulling the plug on a controversial toll road project across southern Pasco County. “We’re at a point where I don’t think the project looks very promising,” Prasad told The Tampa Tribune. . . .  The Florida Department of Transportation has been in negotiations since January with a consortium headed by the Spanish construction company OHL to build and operate an elevated toll road over State Road 54. If approved, it would be the state’s first private toll road and would have linked U.S. 19 and U.S. 301. Prasad said he met last Thursday with OHL representatives, who presented various options for the road in an effort to respond to overwhelming public opposition to the project. That’s when the firm said it could not build the project without taxpayer dollars.  Suncoast News

IN: States sign deal for Illiana toll road. Indiana and Illinois have signed an agreement to build the Illiana Expressway toll road, with Indiana paying $80 million to $110 million, Illinois agreeing to pay at least $250 million, and the rest of the $1.51 billion for the project coming from private investors. . . . The agreement calls for the two states to have contracts for design, construction and operation and maintenance of the road by early 2015 and to use their “best efforts” to have the road completed by the end of 2018. . . . Critics argue the road won’t have much of an effect on economic development and will harm the environment. Andrew Armstrong, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which has filed two lawsuits trying to stop the highway, said the agreement highlights the financial risks to both states. “This is a time of really uncertain funding levels at the state and federal level for transportation, and there’s no need to build this project using very precious taxpayers’ funds when it’s going to be used by so few vehicles in comparison to the existing roads that need maintenance and upkeep,” he said. Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

MI: State employee unions cite safety as privatization ramps up. Unions representing state employees asked the Michigan Civil Service Commission on Wednesday to consider not just price, but quality, when approving deals to lay off state employees and privatize government services. The commission took no action after state officials testified that quality assurances are built into privatization contracts. The unions allege that recent deals to privatize food service in Michigan prisons and nursing aides at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans have hurt quality and decreased safety. . . . Wednesday’s move by state employee unions came as state lawmakers are considering further privatization efforts, including a bill that would place a cap on the inmate population in state prisons, possibly sending any overflow to private prisons. Lansing State Journal

NY: Prosecutor suggests Bruno orchestrated NYRA coup to help friend. For three days, federal jurors hearing the retrial of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno . . . .Bruno, 85, is charged with two counts of honest services mail fraud in connection with hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting payments he received from Abbruzzese between 2004 and 2006, as well as the $80,000 sale of a horse called worthless by the prosecution.. . . . Earlier Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe suggested to Barr that in 2005 Bruno tried to oust then-NYRA chairman Steve Duncker in favor of a chairman who supported privatizing the racetracks. By supporting the privatization, she suggested, Bruno would be in step with Abbruzzese.

Albany Times Union

May 7, 2014


The perils of privatized probation. Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would have expanded the portion of probation service that the state contracts out to private companies. The bill would also have exempted private probation companies from the state’s open-records laws. Kudos to Deal. He’s a Republican governor in a Southern state. That veto took some political courage. But it was important. The Economist’s “Democracy in America” blog recently detailed all of the awfulness in this bill.  Washington Post

CO: US 36 toll lane controversy sparks new Colorado road contract requirements. A Colorado bill prompted by public anger over public-private road contracts is on its way to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper. The bill requires the Colorado Department of Transportation to hold more public meetings about road projects. The bill also requires lawmaker approval for any road project that exceeds 35 years. The House voted for the bill 35-29. It was prompted by citizen displeasure with a public-private partnership to widen U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder. The plan includes toll lanes, and many said the public didn’t have adequate notice of the plan.  The Denver Channel

IN: Agreement on Illiana toll road plan says Illinois would pay $250M. An agreement between the Illinois and Indiana transportations departments aimed at building a toll road linking highways in both states calls for Illinois to spend at least $250 million on its half of the project. The public-private development would fund the proposed Illiana toll road, a 47-mile east-west road connecting Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill., and Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.  . . . “IDOT appears to be committing the money, even though the Illinois General Assembly hasn’t specifically approved an appropriation,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which has filed a lawsuit to try to block the toll road. “Why is IDOT wasting taxpayer money to subsidize private developers who are building this unneeded road to nowhere that will have far less traffic use than other major expressways such as the Dan Ryan or the Stevenson or the Kennedy?” Learner said Tuesday night. Chicago Sun-Times

LA: Bobby Jindal’s hospital privatization plan moves forward, despite federal concerns. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to privatize another state-run hospital for the poor and uninsured, even after the federal government rejected Louisiana’s financial deals related to six outsourced medical facilities last week. The Times-Picayune


May 6, 2014


Charter Schools Gone Wild: Study Finds Widespread Fraud, Mismanagement and Waste. Charter school operators want to have it both ways. When they’re answering critics of school privatization, they say charter schools are public — they use public funds and provide students with a tuition-free education. But when it comes to transparency, they insist they have the same rights to privacy as any other private enterprise. But a report released Monday by Integrity in Education and the Center for Popular Democracy — two groups that oppose school privatization – presents evidence that inadequate oversight of the charter school industry hurts both kids and taxpayers.

CO: Judge: Fees for parking, other basic recreation-area access are OK. A Washington, D.C., court ruling quashed a grassroots lawsuit that protested day-use fees collected by private contractors managing public recreation areas. . . . The decision is a blow to fee critics as well as five individuals from Colorado, Arizona and Oregon and a forest advocacy group who sued the Forest Service in September 2012. The lawsuit aimed to hold private concessionaires to the same rules that the Forest Service must follow under the Recreation Enhancement Act, which prohibits the agency from charging for simple access or undeveloped camping spaces but notes “a third party may charge a fee for providing a good or service to a visitor.” The lawsuit wasn’t challenging the right of concessionaires to collect fees but wanted to keep such things as parking at a campground or trailhead by hikers free. It also sought public review of fees charged by contractors. “The ruling confirms the Forest Service position that once they let private companies run these sites, they don’t have to abide by the same restrictions that the agency itself does,” said Matt Kenna, the Durango attorney who represented the plaintiffs. The Denver Post

LA: Jindal won’t scrap hospital privatization model. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration won’t reverse course on privatizing state-owned hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured and will continue negotiating with federal officials on ways to pay for the deals, Jindal’s chief budget adviser said Monday. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, rejected financing plans submitted by the Jindal administration for most of the privatization contracts late last week, and lawmakers were trying to determine the state’s next steps. The Daily Advertiser




May 5, 2014


Postal workers resist privatization plans. . . As seen in the simultaneous demonstrations in 27 states last week, as well as the postal employees’ presence at International Workers’ Day rallies on Thursday, several decisions by Donahoe have only heightened fears among America’s postal workers. The most visible sign of union angst is the movement to thwart Donahoe’s aim of putting full-service USPS counters in 1,500 Staples stores, to be staffed with the office supply chain’s own, lower-paid employees. Yet that’s just the latest in a string of changes that seem geared toward outsourcing various postal jobs, which include efforts to consolidate processing plants and contract out the trucking of mail from plants to post offices.  Al Jazeera America

LA: Federal officials deny state’s public-private partnership with LSU hospitals. It is a decision that impacts the future of several hospitals in the metro area and a decision Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to fight. The federal government recently shot down Jindal’s plan to privatize six state-owned hospitals, including the LSU Interim Hospital and the new University Medical Center under construction now. . . .The reason? Any payments made to the state by a private company, in order to manage a state hospital, is considered a provider donation. If a private entity sends dollars to the state, it can not gain in any way from the dollars it would send to the state,” says Heitmeier. WWL

NY: Teachers picket in the North Country. Despite the rain, a group from New York State United Teachers, also known as NYSUT, gathered in Lake Placid.  They protested what they call efforts to privatize public education, expansion of standardized testing and the common core, and test-based teacher evaluations. Demonstrators are also calling for more teachers to be included in decision making for public education in New York. The group picketed outside a meeting organized by Education Reform Now. WPTZ

NJ: Privatization deals / Oversight needed – Editorial. Democratic leaders in the state Senate are pushing a bill that would increase oversight of deals privatizing government services. The bill will never become law – not as long as Chris Christie, or any other privatization-loving Republican, is governor. . . But all that aside, the measure (S770) is sound. Indeed, for the most part, it isn’t increasing oversight of privatization deals as much as it is establishing oversight for the first time. . . . But if privatization is such a good deal, there is no reason why proponents should not be willing to have these arrangements scrutinized, as the measure being pushed by Senate Democrats would do. Press of Atlantic City

MI: Michigan could soon see more toll roads. Michigan has three toll roads–all around major bridge crossings. But the National Motorists Association warns that could soon change. A bill in the Michigan legislature looks to increase road funding by $500 million, and would also give the legislature the authority to come up with new revenue streams.  This could give M-DOT and the Transportation Commission the ability to create a toll road. WWMT-TV



May 2, 2014


Corporate Interests Calling the Shots at ALEC’s Kansas City Meeting. . . ALEC’s Education task force has several tuition tax credit new vouchers on the books, and at this week’s meeting, it will consider adding an expanded “Educational Choice Tax Credit Program Act” to the ALEC library. The bill would allow a 100% tax credit for the first five years of the program, which effectively means that both corporations and individuals can entirely reroute their tax dollars from public schools and services to private entities. The credit is then ratcheted down to 50% over the following five years. The bill specifies that even parents who are currently paying for private school tuition can receive funding through the program. These “neo-vouchers” have been spreading across the country more quickly than traditional vouchers. The tax credit model provides a way to funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools with even less public accountability than with regular vouchers, and to bypass state constitutional provisions that have stood in the way of some state’s traditional voucher programs. PR Watch

Teachers Are Protecting American Classrooms From Corporate Takeover. . . Across the country, teachers’ unions are fighting back against the work of people like Rhee by working to educate children holistically. This means taking into account all the factors that influence students’ chances for success: families, homes, communities — and often the effects of poverty. In Milwaukee, Peterson is working with his union to emphasize teacher professionalism and social justice in the community. In New York City, as part of a union-based program, 16 schools have reinvented themselves as hubs for community services. In St. Paul, Minn., teachers visit parents in their homes to build engagement with families.

MI: Private trash haulers to hit Detroit streets starting Monday. Detroit’s transition to privatized residential trash pickup with more frequent bulk pickup and a first-ever citywide recycling program will kick off Monday as a contractor takes over the service in a large swath of the city.  Detroit Free Press

MI: House bill sparks concerns about toll roads in Michigan. A spokesman for a highway user group accused lawmakers Thursday of trying to sneak toll roads into Michigan through a package of bipartisan bills intended to raise an extra $500 million a year to repair the state’s crumbling infrastructure. House Bill 4925, one of a package of bills now before the Legislature as part of the road funding plan announced in April by House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, has the primary purpose of allowing the Michigan Department of Transportation to enter into “public-private partnerships” on road projects. But it also provides for “the charging and collection of user fees.”  Detroit Free Press

NY: Next battle ground: Privatization of public schools. . . Through de Blasio’s fight with Moskowitz — a long-running feud that dates to their City Council days — the mayor has missed the opportunity to advance an important principle: Public school policy shouldn’t be driven by Moskowitz or the crowd that met at Cipriani. Public schools should be run by officials elected by the voters. The scores of revelers at Cipriani on Monday would rather redefine quality public education as a marvelous favor bestowed by the elite upon a very lucky few. This elite does not need to figure out how to educate the underperforming or ill-behaved kids who aren’t welcome in many charters. These hedge fund managers don’t have to worry that charters are worsening segregation patterns in the city’s schools. Members of the elite who run charters need not fret about the impact of charters on our public schools because they are not elected or paid by the public, and they don’t oversee anyone who is. That’s what privatization looks like. And that’s what the mayor needs to be talking about.  amNY

OR: Liquor privatization ballot should include ‘imposes wholesale tax,’ Oregon attorney general says. The battle over the wording of an initiative to turn Oregon liquor sales over to the private sector came closer to being settled Thursday when the state attorney general’s office said the ballot should include the phrase “imposes wholesale tax.” Opponents celebrated the new wording in hopes that voters may be turned off by the idea of a new tax. Supporters said they could live with it. They’re glad it doesn’t refer to a sales tax.  The Oregonian

Transcript for: An Aging Infrastructure And The Need For A New Era In Transportation Policy. Thanks for joining us. I’m Diane Rehm. Potholes, crumbling pavements and structurally deficient bridges — there’s lots of work to be done on the nation’s roadways. But unless Congress votes to supplement federal gas tax revenue, states and counties will likely be shelving an ever-growing list of projects on their must-do list. Joining me to talk about how we pay for our roads and bridges, Robert Puentes of The Brookings Institution, Chris Edwards of Cato, Fawn Johnson of the National Journal. And joining us at a studio at WGBH in Boston, Phineas Baxandall of US PIRG.  DianeRehmShow