October 23, 2014


Toll Road Rage Points To Reputation Challenge. Our Wall Street Journal colleagues report a political backlash against toll roads in Texas, “as residents realize that many major urban freeways are increasingly no longer free.” That phraseology is infelicitous: in fact, roads never were free; people just didn’t know which of their pockets the money was coming from. “ . . . The reputation risk of PPP occurs as pressures build on the historic sources of infrastructure finance, municipal bond markets and the gasoline tax, and as the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates a $3.6 trillion need for infrastructure investment by 2020. So the stakes are high and the advice from practitioners is that project sponsors communicate clearly and well in advance what users are getting for what they are paying. “A lot of it is managing expectations early in project so people understand that if they want a project built, current funds don’t pay for it and they will have to pay more, through tolls or taxes,” said D.J. Gribbin, a managing director at Macquarie Capital specializing in PPP. Wall Street Journal

October Charter School Investigations—Tales of Fraud, Mismanagement, and Mis-Education. There is so much news from place to place about the financial and management scandals in particular charter schools and charter management organizations that it is hard to keep track. Schools are taking public money—and too frequently finding a way to make a profit—while failing to serve the children they enroll or neglecting to enroll particular groups of children with special needs. All of this increases the burden on public schools and misspends tax dollars, thereby undermining the public good. Here are just three examples that have surfaced during mid-October. Progressive.org

Postal workers appeal to Harvard president. The American Postal Workers Union is calling upon Harvard University’s president to oppose a deal between Staples Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service, or resign her seat on the office supply company’s board. “We’re not talking about just selling stamps,” union President Mark Dimondstein said in a statement. “Staples is pretending to be a post office, using low-wage, poorly-trained workers in an environment with weak security. Mail handled by Staples isn’t even considered U.S. Mail until it is handed-off to a uniformed postal worker.” The postal workers union said Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust earns over $300,000 a year as a Staples board member and should use her position on the board to push for an end to the deal, or resign from the company board. Fort Worth Star Telegram

MI: So How’s That Privatization Thing Working, Republicans? Where to begin? Ever since Gov. Snyder decided last year to save the taxpayers some money by privatizing the food delivery system in Michigan’s Department of Corrections, it’s been a domino effect of catastrophes. One after another, after another, after another, after another. But rather than considering the fact that, you know, maybe we have a problem here, Gov. Snyder has steadfastly insisted that hiring Aramark was the right move. PoliticusUSA

TX: Texas state, local ballots include road funding questions. Voters throughout Texas and specifically in the Austin area will cast ballots next month on efforts to raise money for transportation work. The statewide ballot will include a proposed amendment to the state Constitution about transportation funding. Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask voters whether to authorize tapping the state’s oil and gas severance tax to boost revenue for non-toll roads and bridges. Land Line Magazine