June 26, 2014

Standard & Poor’s rates outlook for charter school sector as ‘negative’
Standard & Poor’s has issued a new report that extends its “negative” outlook for the charter school sector. Of 214 public charter school ratings done by the agency, 41, or 19 percent, are negative while only 4 — or 2 percent — are positive. Furthermore, it says, funding has not generally “returned to pre-recessionary levels, and some schools are struggling to operate in this “new normal.’” Washington Post (blog)

MI: Bigger Implications of Detroit’s Water Shut-off For Up To Half Its Population
The city of Detroit has announced that it will be shutting off the water for customers who are $150 or two months behind in paying bills. Half of the customers fit the profile– over 150,000 people. It’s so bad that a collection of groups are appealing to the United Nations for help. This is worst than bad. It’s sick. It is also something we can expect a lot more of, on several fronts. What we have here is a city run by an un-elected mayor appointed by a right wing governor. This action is a warning for several trends we can expect from rapacious, predator capitalists.  OpEdNews

CA: Highway 156 private toll road concept explored
Highway 156 could become a privately operated toll road in an effort to pay for a long-delayed widening project for the crucial link between the Monterey Peninsula and the Bay Area. On Wednesday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County board of directors approved an agreement with Caltrans to explore a partnership with a private entity capable of helping pay for and construct the highway project in exchange for a share of the toll road proceeds. Monterey County Herald

ME: Bangor charter school controversy continues
For the past year, the Queen City has had a moratorium on charter schools to keep any from being built in the area. However, the rule does not include virtual schools. “A virtual school is a little bit different because it doesn’t have a physical location. There will not be a physical location here in Bangor,” said Councilor Joe Baldacci, who spearheaded the moratorium. The city’s concerns with charter schools remain the same, virtual or not. City leaders said they worry about the financial burden a charter school would impose. According to Baldacci, if Bangor students choose this virtual option, it will take money away from an already strained budget. “Every student that comes out of the Bangor school system that would enroll in this, we are going to be paying for it. Property tax payers will, to the tune of $9,000 per student,” said Baldacci.  WCSH-TV

June 25, 2014


MI: Tangled web at two charter schools shows shortcomings of state law. Alison Cancilliari was a Grosse Ile teacher making $64,000 when she and her husband, builder Dino Cancilliari, founded Summit Academy in 1996 in Flat Rock. A second charter school, Summit Academy North in Huron Township, soon followed, and the couple would later claim they invested more than $750,000 to launch the charter schools. They would also be accused of a textbook case of self-enrichment as millions of dollars in school funds were steered into companies founded by the Cancilliaris and the president of the schools’ for-profit management company. . . . John Austin, president of the Michigan Board of Education, which makes education policy and advises lawmakers, said “self-dealing and personal enrichment of one’s self and family members in operating a public school would not stand the light of day at a local school board meeting.” Detroit Free Press

IL: Perils of privatization. Touted as the biggest tourist attraction in Illinois — has long been a patronage haven where political insiders turned for jobs and lucrative deals to sell everything from expensive meals to gumballs. Who was cashing in used to be a matter of public record. It no longer is, since the state of Illinois and City Hall turned over operation of the government-owned pier to a private, not-for-profit group three years ago for $1-a-year rent. Navy Pier Inc. doesn’t have to explain how it’s spending $115 million in government bonds that were sold to pay for a face-lift for the 98-year-old pier, either. […]On Friday, the Better Government Association, which also was denied Navy Pier Inc. records, filed suit against McPier and NPI in Cook County circuit court to get them. The watchdog group argues the not-for-profit agency was created to shield pier operations from public view.  Chicago Sun-Times

LA: LSU hospital closure ruled unconstitutional. Lawmakers didn’t follow the Louisiana Constitution in authorizing Gov. Bobby Jindal to close the LSU-run public hospital in Pineville, a judge ruled Monday, but the judge is not requiring the Jindal administration to stop plans to shutter the facility next week. Judge Robert Downing said the Senate violated the open meetings law when the legislation was heard by its Health and Welfare Committee. He granted a preliminary injunction request sought by two hospital closure opponents. However, Downing also suspended that judgment — effectively allowing the closure plans to continue — pending an appeal of his decision. The appeal heads directly to the Louisiana Supreme Court because it is a question of constitutionality.  Chron.com

TX: Toll Roads, State Gas Tax Hike Discussed by Legislature. Lawmakers now say it will take between $4 billion and $5 billion a year to simply maintain the state’s crumbling road system, and state lawmakers are considering the possibility of a hike in the gas tax.. . . State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) also says toll roads ‘have to be one of the tools in the tool box.’ . . . Calls fore more toll roads are also being made in the shadow of major financial problems facing the company that operates the State Highway 130 toll road.  Moody’s says it is ‘dangerously close to default’ and its problems are liable to discourage other private investors from getting involved in Public Private Partnerships to build more toll roads. WOAI.com

NC: McCrory signs bill to privatize job recruitment. Pat McCrory signed a bill Tuesday to privatize part of the state’s commerce department, moving its recruiting, marketing and tourism functions to a non-profit entity. News & Observer

OR: Fred Meyer donates $139000 more to failed liquor privatization initiative: Oregon campaign finance. Liquor won’t be on grocery store shelves anytime soon after organizers of the liquor privatization campaign pulled the plug on the initiatives June 4. . . . Privatized liquor sales would have meant booze on the shelves of grocery stores, so it’s no surprise that grocers were the initiative’s largest backers. Fred Meyer had previously donated more than $1 million to the effort, with Safeway another major supporter. The Oregonian


June 23, 2014


MI: Michigan spends $1B on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable. Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools — but state laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest, and the state demands little accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent and how well children are educated. A yearlong investigation by the Detroit Free Press reveals that Michigan’s lax oversight has enabled a range of abuses in a system now responsible for more than 140,000 Michigan children. That figure is growing as more parents try charter schools as an alternative to traditional districts. . . . Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them.  Detroit Free Press

TX: The real story behind Cintra nearing bankruptcy on SH 130. . . .Cintra is also in financial trouble on its Indiana Toll Road concession, and hoping to restructure its overwhelming $3.8 billion debt on its 75-year lease in order to stay solvent despite doubling the toll rates once it took over the tollway from the state. Transurban just handed over operation of the Pocahontas Parkway (895) in Virginia to its creditors in yet another fledging P3. TransUrban owed $300 million to a consortium of European banks who had DBi Services now take over operations of the lackluster toll road. . . .There are private roads, but public infrastructure is inherently a governmental function. So free market principles don’t apply. It’s why we have eminent domain – the public understands that sometimes private property must be condemned for public necessity. But under P3s, that land is taken for a private profit. Examiner.com

IN: Indiana voucher report raises funding questions. Nearly half the kids who used state-funded vouchers to attend private school last year never tried the public system first. That startling fact was part of a new report released recently by the Indiana Department of Education. It comes just a few years after the voucher program first launched. And the number of those students heading straight into vouchers is likely to increase, even though one original intent of the program was to provide an alternative to parents and students for whom public school wasn’t working.   The Courier-Journal

CA: Riverside, California Prepares To Dump Red Light Cameras. Officials in Riverside, California have lost faith in red light cameras after eight years of use. On Tuesday, Councilman Chris MacArthur moved to have staff draft a proposal that cancel the city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and bring down all fourteen cameras — to applause in the council chambers. The motion passed six to one. MacArthur made his case by listing each photo enforced intersection in his ward along with the number of accidents before and after camera installation. There was no reduction in collisions.  The Newspaper.com

Beachfront Access. Though the rules of public beach access differ from state to state, the “public trust doctrine” ensures that the water and the part of the beach covered by high tide belong to all. But that can be rendered moot when property owners close off access to the public.  Is privatization of beaches appropriate? Should those with beachfront homes have to open their land to all comers?  New York Times

June 20, 2014


TX: High-speed toll road near Austin risks default
The private company that operates a 41-mile toll road from Seguin to south of Austin is trying to restructure its debt to avoid a potential default by the end of the month, according to a report released Thursday confirming traffic remains far below expectations. . . .Under a first-of-its-kind deal with the state, the company spent $1.4 billion on the road, assumed all the financial risk and collects most of the toll revenue, but the Texas Department of Transportation is the owner and gets a cut. . . . SH 130 Concession Co. is owned by Cintra, a Spanish company, and San Antonio’s Zachry American Infrastructure. The report said the road’s future performance “will likely heavily rely on toll rate increases, coupled with economic expansion and increased congestion on (Interstate) 35, to drive revenue growth.” In October, Moody’s slashed the company’s credit rating to junk status.  Houston Chronicle

IN: Indiana Toll Road operator facing debt woes
A state agency says it is monitoring the Indiana Toll Road operator’s finances as it works to make an upcoming debt payment on the financing of its $3.8 billion lease payment to the state eight years ago. The Indiana Toll Road Oversight Board has asked the Spanish-Australian investor group Cintra-Macquarie about the status of the payment it owes this month after state officials made similar inquiries after news reports that it was struggling last year to make an interest payment, board Director James McGoff told The Times of Munster. . . .Cintra-Macquarie made the upfront payment of $3.8 billion to the state in 2006 for a 75-year lease of the highway that crosses Indiana’s northern counties, but its toll revenue since then hasn’t met expectations .In addition to the upfront payment, Cintra-Macquarie agreed to spend $4.5 billion on toll-road maintenance and improvements over the life of the lease.  Indianapolis Business Journal

IN: Opponents hope bat, mussel stop Illiana Tollway
A bat and a mussel could jeopardize construction of the Illiana Tollway, something that hundreds of local residents opposed to the project have been unable to do. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has raised concerns about how the proposed 47-mile highway would affect the endangered sheepnose mussel and the threatened long-eared bat. . . . Patricia Mussman, wife of West Creek Township Trustee Harold Mussman, said that’s what they and those opposed to the Illiana Tollway have been saying all along. Those against the tollway have been pinning their hopes on environmental lawsuits to derail the project after resident and local politician opposition failed to halt it. “It’s been red-flagged. I’m thrilled. I’m absolutely thrilled,” Patricia Mussman said. “There are so many reasons why this is not a good idea.” She said the tollway will cut through several Indiana wetlands, and opponents are concerned about the long-term effects it would have on those areas as well as what they believe is the understated cost to build the tollway. Post-Tribune

PA: Jail privatization mulled
Mercer County stands to save millions of dollars if it hires a private company to run the county jail, and that decision could be made by the end of the year, county Commissioner John Lechner said. . . .Lechner said a private company could take over the canteen fund, commissary, food service, medical services, counseling, and labor to manage and operate the jail. Jail Warden Erna Craig opposes the idea. “Probably the only advantage to the county taking privatized companies in here would undoubtedly save money, but I personally do not think it’s a good move,” Craig said. “I’m afraid they’d have a tough time keeping that same method of operations going.”  Sharonherald

NC: Opinion – Final Commerce privatization bill still a bad deal for taxpayers
The unfortunate quest to privatize the state’s business recruitment and job creation efforts took a big step forward yesterday, when the Senate agreed to a House proposal creating a new nonprofit partnership to oversee much of the state’s economic development efforts. This misguided proposal is a bad deal for North Carolina taxpayers, businesses, and workers—schemes for privatizing economic development have repeatedly proven to be ineffective at job creation, wasteful of taxpayer dollars, and prone to financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest and pay-to-play incentive granting, and the inability to raise private funds in many of the states where they’ve been tried. The Progressive Pulse

June 19, 2014


How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign To Sell Off America’s Public Lands. The recent Cliven Bundy debacle in Nevada put a national spotlight on the long-running, and long-failing, effort by right-wing Western legislators to seize federal public lands and either turn them over to the states or sell them to the highest bidder. While the renewal of this so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” has thus far been carried out with limited resources by part-time legislators like State Rep. Ken Ivory (R-UT), new research shows that its leaders are now using taxpayer money from at least 42 counties in nine Western states to advance an aggressive and coordinated campaign to seize America’s public lands and national forests for drilling, mining, and logging. Think Progress

Water Privatization: Coming to a Century Old System Near You? The good news is that our more than a century old, dangerously deteriorating water and wastewater systems are about to get long overdue attention. Not only did Congress give the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) a landslide vote – House (412-4) and Senate (91-7) – but on June 10, President Obama signed on. . . . Over time, we may find many controversial aspects to WRRDA, but, for now, Title V and WIFIA – the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act – seem most likely to be the most controversial because of WIFIA’s connection with privatization.  Truth-Out

IN: Indiana monitors Toll Road operators’ financial troubles. The Indiana Finance Authority continues to monitor the financial difficulties of the Indiana Toll Road, where operators who hold the 75-year lease are struggling to meet a June debt payment. . . .Cintra, a Spanish firm, and Macquarie Group, of Australia, paid the state of Indiana $3.8 billion in 2006 in exchange for the right to operate the 157-mile road and collect all tolls for 75 years. But traffic on the road has never lived up to expectations, taking a direct hit almost immediately from the recession that started at the end of 2007. . . .The Toll Road turns an operating profit on tolls, but it has struggled under a mountain of debt now calculated at $4.4 billion in the most recent annual report from Macquarie Atlas Roads. Some $3.9 billion of debt matures in 12 months and will have to be refinanced by June 2015, according to the same report. The concession agreement the state signed with the consortium formed by Cintra and Macquarie Group in 2006 allows the state to take various actions in cases where the Toll Road operator misses payments to creditors, defaults, or goes bankrupt. In a worst-case scenario for investors, that includes Indiana basically serving the Toll Road operators with an eviction notice.  nwitimes.com

LA: The Jindal Tour Of The Americas. . . He’s dialed up his devotion to privatizing almost everything in his state, which already was a profoundly poisoned well of corporate depredation. . . . But it has been in the field of education in which Jindal’s starboard floundering has been the most pronounced. His voucher program has been exposed as a fountain of misinformation — Party Of Stupid! — and the Louisiana courts set fire to what was left of it. And today, he finally went over the falls, declaring that, unilaterally, he’s going to pull Louisiana out of the Common Core program into which he signed the state four years ago. There are good reasons to be wary about Common Core; Diane Ravitch has been busy citing most of them. But one of the good reasons is no the current frenzy ginned up by people who believe the standards are the thin edge of the collectivist, One World wedge, a kind of classroom equivalent of our old pal Agenda 21, the secret UN plan to steal all our golfs. Guess which approach Jindal has chosen?  Esquire (blog)




Indiana Toll Road Remains Contentious Infrastructure Financing Case. For Rep. Michael E. Capuano, the senior Democrat in a group of House Transportation Committee members that met with New York investment bankers Monday, the key private infrastructure investment case that needs explaining is the 2006 lease of the Indiana Toll Road by a group of investors including Macquarie Atlas Roads, created by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group, an Australian firm. As states take a keener interest in public-private partnerships to pay for infrastructure, “the first major one in the country that I remember was the Indiana Toll road and, as I sit here today, I still do not have answers” on the benefits and costs of that deal, Capuano, D-Mass., said during the discussion. Roll Call (blog)

Transurban flags toll interest in US roads. Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton has flagged interest in expanding the company’s US network by adding tolled lanes to interstate highways near Washington, DC. . . . Most US interstate highways are free but a $302 billion White House transport bill released in May wants to reverse a federal prohibition on most interstate tolling. Maryland, next to Virginia, was also passing laws to allow more private-sector involvement in roads, Mr Charlton said. WA today

PA: Bethlehem Area School Board blames charter schools for tax increase. When Bethlehem Area School District taxpayers open their property tax bills this year, they will see a letter letting them know who to blame for their almost 5 percent tax hike: Charter schools. . .When families opt to send a child to a charter school, Pennsylvania law mandates districts pay the charter tuition for that child. Charter schools are funded by local property taxes but operate independently, and the state stopped reimbursing districts for charter tuition during the 2011-12 school year. Tuition now creates “the greatest upward pressure on local property taxes,” Faccinetto wrote in the letter. The Express-Times

ME: Locals fight to stay on the right road. . .While the push to privatize is gaining momentum in the state many districts are not successful in their efforts to actually outsource staff. Local communities, with the help of MEA, have recently stopped privatization in several communities including RSU 4 where the district wanted to outsource bus drivers. The local association was able to bring the issue to voters who overwhelmingly told the school board they wanted to keep their existing drivers. Currently, statewide, there are less than 10 districts that outsource some or all of their custodial work. Similar community rejections to outsourcing for custodial work happened in both RSU 23 (Saco/Dayton) and South Portland. In fact, while school boards claim the effort saves money for taxpayers what many fail to realize, in the initial stages, are the implications of what privatization means for those workers who may be forced out, for the community and state as a whole.  NEA

VA: Pocahontas 895 toll road under a new operator. Pocahontas 895 has a new operator, a year after an Australian company walked away from a long-term concession for the underperforming toll parkway across the James River between Henrico and Chesterfield counties. DBi Services, based in northeastern Pennsylvania, quietly assumed control of the parkway — the first road built by public-private partnership in Virginia — on May 15 and informed local government officials two weeks later. Richmond Times Dispatch





June 17, 2014


No Simple Calculation in Comparing Public, Private Investment. . . .One reason why government officials and investors are looking at public-private partnerships is the high cost and long lead time of traditional infrastructure – Boston’s Big Dig being the notorious example. But the public infrastructure process is complex and rule-bound because of built-in checks against theft and corruption, suggested Capuano. “We got where we are because for a hundred years public and private people stole money repeatedly on massive public projects and, little by little, we threw laws in the way… to make it a little harder to steal money,” he explained, but “we end up with this crazy system” under which “we Balkanize every single step of the way.” It’s also necessary to assess whether revenues coming from the public paying tolls or fees are being used to improve public transportation — or merely to plug short-term budget holes. Roll Call (blog)

New York Financiers Weigh In on Public-Private Partnerships. When members of the House Transportation Committee trekked to this morning to Manhattan for a roundtable discussion on private financing for public projects — also known as public-private partnerships, or P3s — with financiers from J.P Morgan and other firms, they got a message of both opportunity and caution. Roll Call (blog)

What if we made transportation systems regulated public utilities?. . . David Levinson, a professor who specializes in transportation issues at the University of Minnesota, says that there’s no need for us to live with such shabby transportation or for government to continue shell out bigger and bigger subsidies. In a story recently published on the Atlantic Monthly’s CityLab website, Levinson makes the case for returning to private ownership — kind of. He would like to see our transportation systems, even the highways, operate as highly regulated public utilities.  MinnPost.com

RI: Social impact bonds legislation advances in Senate despite strong union opposition. Supporters hope the bonds can provide a way of financing social programs for the homeless and incarcerated that the state otherwise could not afford. Opponents worry that it is a risky, untested funding model that could be used as a back-door approach to privatizing social programs. “We just see this could be a back-door way to privatize the delivery of social services programs … and to most likely reward wealthy investors while you’re at it,” said Jim Cenerini, a lobbyist for Council 94, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The legislation advanced last week defines a “social impact bond” as “a contract between the public and private sectors in which a commitment is made to pay for improved financial and social outcomes that result in public sector savings.” The Providence Journal

NJ: Bill regulating privatization efforts heads to Christie’s desk. A bill that Democrats say would guard against “irresponsible” plans to outsource government services is heading to Governor Christie’s desk. The bill, which passed the Assembly 48-30 today, would forbid privatization unless real cost savings could be shown. In addition, the work environment, including wages would have to stay the same or be better than the public sector and there would also be public disclosure requirements. NorthJersey.com


June 16, 2014


The VA Reform Legislation Is a “Trojan Horse” for Privatization. In the aftermath of the Veterans Affairs scandal, Democrats and Republicans are moving swiftly to pass legislation to fix the problems at the department. In their haste, though, policymakers have crafted a bill that would do more harm than good—and it comes with a hefty price tag. . . . The bills have not received much attention this week, but that could change: the Congressional Budget Office reported that allowing certain veterans to seek care at non-VA facilities would cost $35 billion over the two-year program, as The New Republic’s Brian Beutler predicted. If made permanent, CBO estimates it could cost $50 billion a year. For comparison, the VA currently spends $44 billion a year on its health care system. CBO notes that its estimate is preliminary, but it still is much higher than the expected cost. And this is only for the partial privatization part of the bill. While the potential for a new $50 billion a year program is worrisome, the bill would not even address the underlying problems at the VA. The New Republic

VA: Virginia investigating VDOT outsourcing contract. Watchdog learned this week that VDOT’s contract with Serco Inc. has come under fire from agency workers, who allege tax dollars are being squandered. The Serco contract, which handed over various VDOT functions to the Reston, Va.-based firm, was advertised last year as “net-neutral,” meaning the state would pay neither more nor less than it had previously. Though details of the Virginia investigation remain under wraps, Serco has encountered criticism elsewhere. . . . In 2012, independent researchers concluded Serco’s operation of British pathology labs led to a decline in the quality of services, including medical errors, according to news reports. Closer to home, the Georgia Department of Transportation canceled its $21 million contract with Serco after discovering a GDOT employee who helped approve the pact had secretly done side work for the company. Virginia Press Association executive director Ginger Stanley said the Inspector General’s decision to withhold the VDOT complaints is discretionary.  Watchdog.org

CA: Grand jury: Mentally ill not getting crisis care in Mendocino County. Crisis care is lacking for Mendocino County’s most severely mentally ill because of a poorly-worded contract drafted when the county privatized its mental health services, according to the Mendocino County grand jury. . . . [A]ccording to a report the grand jury recently released, “The imprecise language and provisions included in the contract for privatization results in ineffective services for clients who are diagnosed as Level 3, the most severely impaired.” The grand jury’s report, titled, “Privatization of Mental Health Delivery Services,” found “a serious oversight in the preparation of the contract.” According to the report, “The clients most in need of mental health assistance were specifically excluded from the language of the contract.” . . . The grand jury fielded several complaints that “mental health clients were confused when they went to the access centers and did not receive the service they were expecting,” the grand jury stated. Staff at the centers “did not know where to refer the clients during the transition, according to the complaints. “As of the close of this investigation, this still appears to be the case,” according to the report.  Ukiah Daily Journal

TX: Firm Proposes Building Private Toll Road Near Dallas. In an area northeast of Dallas, a company hopes to build a road unlike any other in Texas. The Texas Turnpike Corporation has proposed a toll road connecting Greenville and Wylie. The Dallas-based firm hopes to buy the land and build and operate the toll road itself. It would be the only entirely private toll road in the state and one of the only such highways in the country. Local transportation officials are keeping an open mind. “This would be a private-sector company that would 100 percent finance the project,” said Tom Shelton, a senior program manager with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which coordinates the region’s transportation planning. “As a result, they would take 100 percent of the risk, and they would take 100 percent of the benefits.”  Texas Tribune


June 13, 2014


Treasury official pushes back on idea to privatize Fannie, Freddie. Mary Miller, the under secretary for domestic finance, told the National Housing Conference that much of the recent profits at the mortgage-buying giants have come from tax-related one-time gains and legal settlements as well as income from retained portfolios, which are being wound down. “In short, adequately recapitalizing the GSEs would take longer than many realize or would admit,” Miller said. “Only legislation can protect taxpayers by responsibly winding down the GSEs and replacing them with a system where a government guarantee is transparent and explicitly priced,” she added.  MarketWatch

TX: Private Toll Road Considered to Counter Population Boom. Facing traffic congestion that is only expected to get worse, officials in North Texas are weighing a proposal to build a toll road for commuters into Dallas. The Texas Turnpike Corporation of Dallas has proposed a private toll road, the only of its kind in the state, connecting Greenville and Wylie, and local transportation officials say they are keeping an open mind. . . . Any road, however, is years away. A private road would have to be approved by the Texas Department of Transportation and comply with regional regulations, including how to set tolls, Mr. Shelton said. In addition, the corporation would need to acquire the land. The possible route of the Blacklands toll road has already drawn some opposition from rural residents. . . . Over the last decade, as state and federal transportation funding has dropped, communities across Texas have increasingly turned to tolling to fund highway projects. The state is now home to more than 20 toll facilities, with more in development. Texas has long encouraged public-private partnerships in transportation projects, most notably the southern leg of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin, which opened in 2012. A private consortium designed and built the road and agreed to operate and maintain it for 50 years in exchange for a cut of the revenue. The consortium, however, does not own the land.  New York Times

TX: Era of the toll is about to dawn on Dallas-area highways. Virtually every major Dallas-Fort Worth highway project includes plans for new tolls, in many cases replacing what have traditionally been free carpool lanes. By the time billions in planned construction is done, most of the area’s major corridors will either be toll roads or feature some sort of toll component. In large part, the growing network of toll highways can be attributed to living in a state with a booming population and a Legislature that dodges solving transportation funding shortfalls. Texas lawmakers haven’t raised the state gas tax, the primary revenue source for transportation funding, in decades. They also haven’t developed a meaningful, long-term alternative funding source. When inflation and fuel efficiency in vehicles are factored in, Texans effectively are paying far less to fund transportation needs than they were 20 years ago. Dallas Morning News

IL: Chicago schools trying to privatize their PE programs. The push to privatize the physical education curriculum was clear on the day the Board of Education was presented with an extensive Power Point outlining the program, which was voted on and approved at the January 2014 Board meeting. The actual policy approved by the Board was put together by stringing a bunch of clichés and nostrums, accompanied by a lengthy list of supposed partners, endorsers, and “stakeholders.” The endorsers and stakeholders supposedly really like the program. A Power Point timeline presented how the program would be rolled out during the 2014 – 2015 and 2015 – 2016 school year. How the principals and schools were to pay for it was left out, except when the presentation was challenged, briefly, by one Board of Education member. Discussionist

VT: Our Opinion: The downside of privatization. Much has been said in recent years about income inequality, the disappearing middle class and the widening gap between the super-rich and the rest of us. Some of this can be attributed to manufacturers and other companies outsourcing good-paying jobs to other countries with cheap labor. However, new studies indicate that our own local, state and federal governments are contributing to the problem by outsourcing and privatizing public services in order to save money and balance their budgets. The irony is that this practice has been shown to actually have greater financial and societal costs in the long run. “In theory, privatization is a great deal for taxpayers because it saves a few bucks in the town budget,” according to Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “In reality, taxpayers are funding the downward spiral of their own communities — and often paying far greater costs in the long run. The degradation of formerly family-supporting jobs through government outsourcing turns middle class careers into poverty-level jobs. Governments across the country are using our public dollars to fuel the low-wage economy and increasing economic inequality.” Brattleboro Reformer

June 12, 2014


Right-Wing Billionaires To Use California Ruling to Nationally Crush Teachers’ Unions. The billionaires’ lawsuit had absolutely nothing to do with guaranteeing a quality public education to students in poor neighborhoods, and was solely about eliminating, what the supporters of Students Matter believe is, the biggest obstacle to a privatized education system; teacher unions, due process protections, and decent salaries. Anti-public education advocates have tried various methods to privatize education and destroy public schools whether it was the Koch-puppet and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker single-handedly eliminating collective bargaining arrangements for teachers or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shifting public school funding to private religious schools to inculcate students in the Christian religion.  PoliticusUSA

Should We Be Concerned About Privatization of the V.A.? But there is a down side to this private option. As Philip Longman argues, outsourcing V.A. medical care compromises the very thing that makes it so good: coordination. The V.A. was a pioneer in the development of electronic medical records, and its record of quality care comes in large part from the fact that it’s a unified system. If you’re a veteran who lives in Florida and you walk into an ER at a veteran’s hospital in Oregon, in seconds the doctors and nurses there will know every medication you’re on and every procedure you’ve had. . . .Nevertheless, it sure looks as though Republicans are using the V.A. scandal as an opportunity to push privatization of medical care, a key goal for them when it comes not only to the VA but also to Medicare and Medicaid. As Ed Kilgore said: “They know a camel’s nose under the tent when they see it.” And the consequences of V.A. privatization could be more serious than with Medicaid or Medicare. Those are insurance programs and not health-care programs; privatization could make them more costly and less efficient, but privatizing V.A. health care would lead more directly to worse care for the veterans everyone says they care so much about.  The American Prospect

Poultry Inspectors Union Urges Passage of DeLauro Amendment Blocking USDA Outsourcing Plan. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut has introduced an amendment to the fiscal 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would prevent the USDA from spending any money to finalize and implement its proposed poultry inspection rule. AFGE strongly supports the amendment and encourages all lawmakers to vote for it when it comes to the floor on Wednesday. “The current poultry inspection system certainly has its flaws. But the USDA’s cost-cutting plan would transform an imperfect system into a potentially lethal one,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.  AFGE

MD: Residents, workers protest housing authority plan to privatize public housing. Sixty city public housing residents and union workers staged a protest Wednesday against a plan to sell the housing to private developers. Protesters fear the Housing Authority of Baltimore City’s plan would lead to lost jobs, displaced residents and less available public housing. . . .The plan, announced in March, involves the city selling 40 percent of its public housing to private developers to raise money for upgrades and maintenance. The federal government is offering tax credits to developers who buy and renovate public housing. Baltimore Sun