December 22, 2014


NJ: Water privatization bill removing public vote requirement moves to Christie’s desk
A bill fast-tracking sale of public water systems into private hands was approved by the state Senate on Thursday, and will now head to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. About an hour of debate preceded the vote on the Water Infrastructure Protection Act, which was approved 21-16 and would allow local governments to sell public water systems without a referendum, as is now required by law. “This is such a bad deal for the citizens of New Jersey,” said State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex). “This is crazy… just giving away our water supply.”. . . The bill, which was introduced in September, drew opposition from a wide variety of groups, including the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Food and Water Watch. . .If signed by Christie, the bill would allow public entities to sell their water infrastructure to private companies if certain conditions are proved, including whether a system is losing water or has salt intrusion. State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), another of the sponsors, unveiled an amendment to the bill earlier this month which he said narrowed the scope of which systems could be sold without a public vote.

KS: Study of privatizing Kansas public pensions sought
Two top aides to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback proposed Friday that Kansas study privatizing the pension system for teachers and government workers. . . Their list included converting pension benefits into annuities managed by a private insurer. . . The committee urged Brownback’s aides to gather more information about private companies’ experiences with such moves and present it once legislators open their next annual session Jan. 12. But members of both parties were skeptical. Clark said with converting pension obligations into annuities, a private company assumes the long-term financial risks for a fee, while the state can provide competitive benefits at a lower cost. . . .And Rebecca Proctor, interim executive director of the largest union for Kansas government employees, said private companies’ need for profits would compete with the pension system’s drive “to generate benefits for employees.” “Any time you put a profit motive in a state service, it’s a problem,” she said. Kansas First News

NY: New York Fashion Week Booted Out of Lincoln Center
C’est la vie, fashionistas. The city of New York and Lincoln Center are evicting the invitation-only, twice-yearly Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in a court spat over destroyed trees and displaced park benches. A judge Friday approved a pretrial settlement in a complaint brought by community groups. They objected to the onslaught of the fashion industry at Damrosch Park, a 2.4-acre stretch on the Upper West Side that is adjacent to and managed by Lincoln Center. The groups argued the insular nature of the fashion shows that draw top designers and hundreds of buyers, editors and journalists violate laws governing public use of the land.. . .”We objected to the whole idea of demolishing a park and of throwing the public out and of making this a place for raising money,” she said. “Private people aren’t supposed to be making money on it.” New York Times

IL: Emanuel vows to introduce his own privatization ordinance
Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Thursday to introduce his own ordinance spelling out how much time a City Council rushed into approving the hated parking meter deal would have to consider privatization deals and how the proceeds would be spent. A similar privatization ordinance championed by the anti-Emanuel Progressive Caucus has been languishing in a City Council committee for years. During a forum Thursday on ethics reform and good government issues, Better Government Association CEO Andy Shaw pressed the mayor on why he doesn’t support that ordinance. Instead, Emanuel said he would introduce a privatization ordinance of his own that would “codify” the process he used to evaluate and ultimately reject privatizing Midway Airport after one of only two bidders left the runway. Chicago Sun-Times

UT: State senator discusses possibility of toll road to cut commutes between Salt Lake, Tooele counties
A Utah senator is among those who want to consider creating a toll road that could cut commute times between Utah and Tooele counties by more than half. . . Osmond said they are looking into funding a toll road through a combination of public funds and money from private investors.

MO: Resurrecting I70 tolls may be a tough sell
. . . The idea of adding tolls to existing interstate highways has been raised — unsuccessfully — from time to time in Missouri and elsewhere. But Missouri is still one of three states with “provisional” authorization to impose tolls on an existing interstate as a pilot project. Kansas City Star

FL: Medicaid privatization may pose risk to those with complicated health needs
. . .But the new managed care system is also exposing some Floridians in Medicaid, the state/federal insurance program for children, the poor and disabled, to the uncertainties of the private market for the first time. . . . Malissa Miller applied for disability and was placed in the state’s new privatized, Medicaid managed care system, which offers different plans depending on your county of residence. But none of the Medicaid plans offered in Broward County, where Miller lives, allowed her to see the doctor she believed could save her life. . . . People with rare and serious conditions like Miller could be at risk of being denied the treatment they need in the private market, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University and an expert on Florida’s Medicaid system. “This is exactly what I was worried about when Florida began moving to managed care,” Alker said. “There must be exceptions for people with rare conditions to access the care they need.” She called Miller’s initial inability to seek treatment at UM a potential sign of “network inadequacy.” Miami Herald

DC: The Shady For-Profit Company Poised To Take Over DC Prison Healthcare
. . .The largest private prison healthcare company in the country, Corizon has come under fire for neglecting and abusing inmates in Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, New York, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland and, most recently, Arizona. In a class action lawsuit this year on behalf of tens of thousands of inmates, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona documented many instances of abuse and neglect by Corizon in Arizona prisons. The suit eventually forced the state to agree to some reforms, though they have yet to fund and implement them. A major piece of that settlement will allow inmates’ attorneys to monitor the care Corizon provides them. ThinkProgress

CA: Congresswoman Maxine Waters Condemns RAD Public Housing Privatization Scheme
. . . In a Dec. 10 letter to the President, Waters states: “I am writing to express my concerns about the expansion of the new demonstration program at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that could have far-reaching and potentially long-term negative consequences for the nation’s public housing stock and the residents who rely upon this important resource. While created with the intention of preserving the nation’s stock of deeply affordable rental housing, I believe HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), may very well do more harm than good in diminishing a crucial public asset. I strongly urge the Administration to rethink its current strategy for preserving public housing, and renew the government’s commitment to advocate for full funding for the program.” Despite her letter to the President, during the past week President Obama signed the latest $1.1 trillion federal Spending Bill (H.R. 83). Among other things the latest spending bill expands the RAD program from allowing 60,000 public housing units to being privatized, to 180,000 units to be privatized and sold to the so-called affordable housing industry. Bay Area Indymedia