March 11, 2015


AR: Little Rock crowd rallies to oppose school privatization bill. More than 200 people gathered on a rainy night at Calvary Baptist Church in the Heights to hear speakers urge defeat of Rep. Bruce Cozart’s HB 1733 to allow the state to take over any school or school district judged in academic distress and turn it over to a private charter school operator. Legislators, teachers, parents and other urged the crowd to call the House Education Committee, which could prove the last hurrah for conventional public schools in Little Rock. Arkansas Times (blog)

TX: The Trinity Toll Road Is a Civil Rights Project? One big number the Trinity toll road hustlers don’t want us to see before the May City Council elections: How much it would cost to drive on that dog. You saw the story about the new North Texas toll road where they jumped the rate to $7 to drive four miles during the recent ice storm. The Texas Department of Transportation said later it was looking into how that happened. We know how it happened. You know those big overhead electronic message boards they have over the highways? The message that day should have been “What’s your other choice today, suckers?” Dallas Observer (blog)

CA: California Court of Appeal Blocks Red Light Camera Lawsuit. California motorists may not sue cities for violating their constitutional rights with red light cameras, according to a ruling last week by the state Court of Appeal. A three-judge panel threw out a class action lawsuit claiming that the photo ticketing system undermined the confrontation, due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution. . . . Carole Jaquez, John Macias, and Michael Curran filed suit together after Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia mailed them citations on behalf of Victorville. The San Bernardino County Superior Court Appellate Division had thrown out the case against Macias in 2011 (view decision) because the person who testified at trial for the city had no personal knowledge regarding the alleged events that produced the citation. The plaintiffs, however, ran first into technical problems regarding their standing to sue. “Civil rights actions cannot call into question undisturbed criminal convictions,” Justice Richard D. Fybel wrote for the panel. “Since Curran never went to trial, he did not suffer the alleged civil rights violation and lacks standing. Macias went to trial, appealed his conviction for violating Vehicle Code section 21453, and obtained a reversal. He therefore has standing to pursue a section 1983 claim.”

AL: Charter school bill up first in Alabama Senate. The Alabama Senate today made a bill to allow charter schools in Alabama the first one considered this year. The proposal by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, was at the top of the calendar today, the first day lawmakers can vote on bills.  

IL: O’Fallon considers plan to privatize city water, sewer. A growing southwestern Illinois bedroom community is considering leasing the city’s water and sewer systems to a private company. Voters in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon will consider dueling, non-binding ballot measures on the topic in the April 7 municipal election. One was written by city officials who support leasing the city-owned water and sewer systems to one of three interested private companies. The other was crafted by opponents of the city plan and asks voters to also consider a possible sale. Belleville News Democrat

MO: Dave Helling: Ferguson shows profits and public interest not always on the same page. . . Ferguson seems less like a city and more like a plantation. Privatizing public services is a tradition in Missouri. It’s still weird, for example, that car tags and licenses are issued through private fee offices, a system that enriches fee-office operators by providing incentives for poor services. A few years ago, legislators tacked on a $3 ticket surcharge charge — not to reduce speeding but to fund the sheriffs’ retirement fund. Not every public function must be run for someone’s profit. On Monday, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver introduced a bill making it illegal “to enforce criminal or traffic laws solely to raise revenue.” Kansas City Star (blog)

The Militarization of US Police Departments. . . Often the U.S. elite are constrained in implementing the policies domestically, due to laws that prevent this. They then will try to circumvent the restricting laws or attempt to overturn them. There has been a similar pattern with economic policies as with structural adjustment economic initiatives internationally by the IMF and World Bank and now neoliberal privatization in the U.S. itself. This is mostly thanks to Congress overturning, for example, the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 (Crawford) and politicians and government agencies allowing for the privatization of many of our formerly “public” institutions (Gray). CounterPunch

Government Debt Collection Scam: How the Government Robs Poor People. A recent CNN investigation uncovered some rather disturbing practices by collection agencies. These debt collectors are going after people and making big profits by tacking on huge fees on top of the debts already owed. So how do these debt collectors get away with such a practice? Wouldn’t the government have some laws to protect people? Well, there are consumer protection laws to protect against overly aggressive debt collectors. But the problem here is that these collection agencies are actually doing work for the government. Wealth Daily