October 20, 2014


TX: Regional agency pulls support for Garland-to-Greenville toll road. The North Central Texas Council of Governments on Friday reversed its recommendation to add a controversial rural toll road to the region’s long-term transportation plan. The decision could complicate a private company’s development of the Northeast Gateway — but it doesn’t necessarily kill it. NCTCOG is sending comments and petition signatures from more than 4,500 people who oppose the Rowlett-to-Greenville road to the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT will determine whether Texas Turnpike Corp. should conduct a tougher environmental study of the project than originally planned. Dallas Morning News

TX: Dallas Transport Agency Cooks Up Fishy Traffic Projections. We’ve reported on the way state agencies justify spending on expensive road expansions by overestimating the traffic that will materialize in the future. In an encouraging sign, one local press outfit is calling out the fishy traffic projections before a project gets built. Brandon Formby of the Dallas Morning News‘ Transportation Blog (yes, it’s a long-time member of the Streetsblog Network) has been taking a critical look at traffic projections from the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Big D’s regional planning agency. Residents who oppose the 28-mile Northeast Gateway-Blackland Prairie toll road – planned for a rural area between Garland and Greenville — question the assumptions behind the project. The numbers certainly do look suspicious. Sreetsblog

IN: Lease critics urge Indiana to reclaim toll road. Lawmakers including Sen. Joe Donnelly are urging the state to reclaim the Indiana Toll Road amid concerns over whether its bankrupt operator can maintain the 157-mile roadway. Chicago-based ITR Concession Co. filed for bankruptcy in Chicago last month. It wants to sell the toll road lease to a new operator. Donnelly calls the situation “a mess of epic proportions” and says travelers have complained of long waits at toll plazas, bridges that haven’t been repaired in over a year and rest stops that reek of urine. . . .Experts say ITR’s bankruptcy filing isn’t enough to return the road to state control under terms of the 2006 lease. WISH-TV

KS: Kids as Crash Test Dummies: Brownback Outsources Child Support Services to Donor. When he was elected in 2010, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback began to slash core government services and privatize the rest. His austerity politics resulted in the state being downgraded by S&P in August 2014, and his privatization initiatives have also drawn criticism, causing one leading Republican to state, “I had hoped that it wouldn’t be as extreme as it’s been … what we didn’t know was that Sam would use this state as crash test dummies for his own fiscal experiments.” Kids receiving child support payments from absent parents would be among Brownback’s first “crash test dummies.” Huffington Post

VA: Virginia Board Proposes Tighter P3 Rules. Virginia officials would have to notify lawmakers and the public of potential risks to the state from any new transportation public-private partnership under revised procurement guidelines proposed Tuesday by the director of the commonwealth’s transportation P3 office. . . .The transportation board will have the responsibility to review the financial risks involved before any state money is spent on a P3 project, before it goes into the procurement process, and before a final contract is signed, he said. “There will be no quiet decisions made,” Koelemay said. Bond Buyer

FL: Inmates Die in Droves After Governor Rick Scott Outsources Prison Healthcare. Suffering from lung cancer? Here’s a Tylenol and some warm compresses. Are your intestines escaping? Not to worry; here’s some K-Y Jelly to shove them back in. Between 2008 and 2013, Corizon Health – the country’s largest prison health care provider – was sued 660 times for malpractice. But Governor Rick Scott’s administration failed to take note of this history when it awarded Corizon a $1.2 billion contract in 2011. Now an investigation by The Palm Beach Post reveals that Florida inmates have been dying in droves since the state privatized prison health care. PR Watch

MT: Montana public education under attack, officials say at Missoula conference. . . “The opponents of public education haven’t read our Constitution,” said Eric Feaver, president of the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers. “Should a bill like these ever pass the Legislature, we’ll be in court to discuss that issue.” . . . Feaver views the push toward privatization as a drive toward profiteering and ideology. He said the state already allows for charter schools, though the option hasn’t been pursued by advocates. . . . .“Another element the privatization folks seem to miss is that our Board of Public Education already has rules in place for charter schools,” she said. “Those charter schools need to be under the control of a school district and locally elected school trustees. It’s the part they don’t like.” The Missoulian

PA: Gubernatorial Campaign Leaves Liquor Privatization Behind. A once popular issue is now falling into the background, especially in the upcoming gubernatorial general election: the privatization of liquor. Back in January of 2013, Governor Tom Corbett proposed changing Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and joining the already “48 other states,” whose sale and control of wine and spirits rests in the hands of the private market. Utah is the only other state with controls similar to Pennsylvcania’s. Although state liquor laws vary greatly and government oversight – or lack thereof – is by no means uniform from state to state, Corbett was adamant about eliminating the barriers in place that restricted the sale of wine and liquor to state-stores only. . . .In Corbett’s re-election bid, however, he has spoken very little on the privatization of liquor. . . . But a Republican majority in the Senate is not as open to the idea of liquor privatization as its House counterpart. 90.5 WESA

OK: Opinion: The failed Lake Texoma redevelopment. . . In Oklahoma, our state land commission is suing Aubrey McClendon’s Pointe Vista Development for failing to construct a promised hotel since purchasing a large section of Lake Texoma State Park in 2008. . . . But the end result of all their promotion of the project was that 758 acres of federally protected park land now hangs in the balance in the Oklahoma County District Court. Meanwhile, Pointe Vista has just received Marshall County approval for a private rural water and sewer district to serve their planned residential development north of U.S. Highway 70 adjacent to the Chickasaw Pointe Golf Course. This does nothing to meet their legal obligation to construct the promised hotel and convention center which they could have begun in 2008. We have reached the endgame of a dispute with an estimated $100 million in public lands at stake if the state fails to act to protect the public investment in Lake Texoma State Park. State and federal officials conspired to take this park land from the public taxpayers. They violated multiple state and federal laws in the process. Privatization without public accountability is nothing less than theft. Durant Daily Democrat