October 22, 2014


Effects of New Inspection Rules on Poultry and Other Meat. . . Touted in the press as the “privatization’ of poultry inspection, critics raise concerns that leaving more of the inspection responsibility to the facilities themselves will reduce the effectiveness and objectivity of the inspections. At the same time, the process of transitioning to this new poultry inspection system has raised questions about whether the transition has caused a decrease in the effectiveness of the entire USDA system. . . . The net result of NPIS will be to reduce the USDA presence in the targeted poultry facilities by as many as 630 poultry inspectors nationwide. In anticipation of the implementation of the new system, USDA has implemented hiring freezes on inspectors across the board so that they are prepared to integrate the displaced poultry inspectors into other poultry or red meat plants. During this interim period, critics claim there is a severe shortage of USDA inspectors nationwide. Food Safety Magazine

The Future Of Toll Roads In The US. Toll road mileage is increasing nationwide as cash-strapped states try to relieve traffic congestion without raising taxes. But some transportation officials are facing a political backlash. Diane and her guests discuss the future of toll roads in the U.S. The Diane Rehm Show

TX: NCTCOG Acknowledges Public Criticism, Drops Private Toll Road Idea. From the beginning, the private toll road that would run parallel to Interstate 30 seemed like a sure thing, no matter how many people who lived in the way who said they didn’t want the road. . . . Late last Friday, however, local transportation planners suddenly seemed to care what the residents thought. The North Central Texas Council of Governments announced in a press release Friday afternoon that it is no longer recommending the toll road proposal be included in the Mobility 2035 plan, a key document that outlines where federal transportation money is going to go. Dallas Observer (blog)

TX: Opinion: Time to put the brakes on building more toll roads. . . For years some local and state officials have regarded privately built toll roads as an acceptable alternative to the decreasing state and federal funding needed to construct “free” highways. More toll roads are on the drawing board, but some members of the public and political leaders are raising objections to the pay-as-you-drive system of transportation. Last week, in reaction to an outcry from residents and municipalities along the route, the North Central Texas Council of Governments withdrew the Northeast Gateway, a proposed toll road between Rowlett and Greenville, from its long-term transportation plan. That doesn’t mean that the highway won’t be built, but the council’s action has to be viewed as an obstacle to construction. Several candidates for public office, including some who are likely to win election in November, are on record opposing construction of more toll lanes.   Fort Worth Star Telegram

TX: Texas selects company to run psychiatric facility. . . State health officials said privatization might be the best way to improve the hospital, which was scrutinized following a patient’s death. . . . . .Mental health advocates have protested the privatization move and said there has been a lack of transparency in the bidding process. They say they were blindsided by the move to put a private company in control of the hospital. “There was a shocking lack of transparency in the process, which raises alarms about transparency in the contracting and oversight of the facility and patient care,” said Lynn Lasky Clark, president of Mental Health America of Texas. Still, state officials say they are listening to those concerns. News & Observer

GA: MARTA, transit union in standoff over privatizing paratransit operations. . . MARTA is moving to privatize Mobility, which the perpetually cash-strapped transit agency says could save tens of millions of dollars. But privatized paratransit here has failed before, and has a track record of lower-grade performance than in-house versions, says the Amalgamated Transit Union’s Atlanta chapter. Mobility provides curb-to-curb assisted service by car or van to qualified riders. . . MARTA must “deal with providing paratransit service without breaking the bank,” says agency spokesman Lyle Harris. . . . [A]n Oct. 13 Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed, union president Curtis Howard unloaded on the privatization plan as a “dismantling and selling off of MARTA.” “It means endangering riders aboard unsafe vehicles operated by overworked and underpaid part-time employees driving over 30 hours per week,” he wrote. Creative Loafing Atlanta

FL: Opinion: School-voucher groups fill mailboxes with malarkey. . . .The group is called the Florida Federation for Children — a school-voucher advocacy group that is trying to sway elections all over the state, from local school boards to state House seats. In one mailer, the group accuses Democratic House incumbent Karen Castor Dentel of wanting to de-fund public schools. It’s an odd position for Castor-Dentel … seeing as how she’s a school teacher. Nonetheless, the Florida Federation (which is backing Republican challenger Bob Cortes in the Maitland-area District 30 race) claims that Castor-Dentel wants schools “unfunded” and special-needs children “ignored.” . . .Unfortunately, the Florida Federation for Children (which gets funding by a Washington D.C.-based school-choice advocacy group) is getting involved in state and local races all over Florida. It is trying to sway school-board races in Volusia and Sarasota counties. And it’s trying to oust other legislative incumbents who have pushed for accountability and limits on voucher programs. Orlando Sentinel