March 12, 2014


IN: Australia’s IFM Investors to pay $5.7 billion for Indiana toll road. IFM Investors of Australia agreed to pay $5.725 billion to buy the bankrupt operator of a 157-mile (253 km) toll road in northern Indiana, the investment fund said in statement. The road operator, ITR Concession Co LLC, put itself up for sale when it filed for bankruptcy in September after it was unable to support its $6 billion in debt. In 2006, Indiana agreed to lease the highway to ITR Concession for 75 years in return for $3.8 billion, a record for a road privatization deal. IFM will assume the responsibility for contract to operate the road, according to court documents. Reuters

CO: A failed experiment in privatizing. . . The Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank, is of that opinion and has developed models to replace federal agencies with private interests. What many people don’t know is that Congress implemented one of the Cato Institute’s ideas in 2000, on the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. For some critics of the federal government, this was the experiment in land management that would signal the end of the BLM and Forest Service in the West. The Cato experiment in New Mexico, however, failed, chewed up by the friction between monetizing the “services” that landscapes provide — recreation, timber, grass, wildlife — and fulfilling citizens’ expectations for public access and protecting natural resources. For example, New Mexicans had very little tolerance for paying high fees to visit public property that had already been paid for using federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. Colorado Springs Independent

MS: Troubled Water, Part I: Explaining Jackson’s $91 Million Siemens Contract. . . The water meter upgrade project, under way now for two years, was the single largest expense in a $91 million contract inked with Siemens Industry Inc., a division of European multinational conglomerate Siemens AG, in fall 2012. On Friday, Feb. 13, city officials halted all new meter installations when a Department of Public Works employee found a water meter calibrated to read gallons instead of cubic feet, which could make a water bill more than six times larger than it should be. Some want to terminate the contract outright. Jackson Free Press

NV: Lawmaker calls privatization of youth prison a failure. . . On Tuesday, state officials began removing the 43 juveniles from Red Rock Academy after dissolving the $11.5 million contract it had with Rite of Passage to operate the prison. The Red Rock Academy was the state’s only maximum security juvenile corrections center. It has been beset by problems throughout its 15-year history. This is the third time the state has closed the facility. Reno Gazette Journal

IA: IA House in full support of privatizing gun permit holders. A bill about the typically polarizing issue of firearm rights passed through the Iowa House of Representatives on Tuesday without any debate. The legislation has several parts. One of the largest components says personal information of gun permit holders will no longer be public record. KTIV

NJ: Protesters slam Christie policies at Statehouse rally. Trina Scordo, executive director of New Jersey Communities United, said the governor puts the needs of Wall Street ahead of the people of New Jersey. “Public schools continue to be taken over by charters and private money is funneled to private charter schools as opposed to making sure that public schools are solvent,” Scordo said. “He also just cut a sweetheart deal with Exxon that puts certainly the needs of Exxon ahead of the needs of those communities that were damaged by that deal.” Protesters from Camden and Newark say state-appointed public schools superintendents are not listening to residents’ concerns.

CA: Letter: For-profit option worsens our underfunded libraries. If present levels of service are too burdensome — that is, they present an unbearable tax load — what do these county officials think will happen to that service once private enterprise takes over? The aims of any profit-oriented business are to cut costs, including payrolls, and cut services to whatever minimal levels employees and the community will tolerate, in order to maximize profits. A commercially successful library system, properly run to serve investors, must necessarily pursue those ends, which would be achieved, again necessarily, at the expense of the people whom a public library system is intended to serve. Introducing the profit motive into what most aware observers see as an already underfunded system can only worsen it — by imposing the fees, charges, penalties and reductions in service required to make it pay. The Bakersfield Californian

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

March 10, 2015


IN: Lake County commissioners vote to pursue toll road lease. Lake county commissioners voted unanimously Monday to pursue a bid for lease rights to the Indiana Toll Road in a joint venture with LaPorte County. A positive vote is still needed by the Lake County Council to join the bid pursuit. That vote is scheduled for Tuesday. It’s all part of a quest for local government to claim the revenue rights to the state-owned toll road, which was leased to a private Australian-Spanish consortium in 2007, Commissioner Gerry Scheub said Monday.

AR: Walmart lobbyists push bill privatizing Arkansas’ public schools. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will back legislation from lobbyists connected to Walmart that would open the door for private contractors to take over management of local school districts, the Arkansas Times reported. The bill, HB 1733, was introduced by state Rep. Bruce Cozart (R), and was written by Walton Family Foundation lobbyists. Cozart is also chair of the state House Education Committee. The bill was sent to the committee for review on Friday, and needs 11 votes to advance to a vote on the floor. According to the Times, the bill would establish an “achievement school district” that could include any school district found to be under “academic distress.” Raw Story

MA: Massachusetts Teachers Association calls charter school threat of lawsuit ‘appalling and deceptive’. . . “Any claim that the charter school cap is the basis of Massachusetts children being denied their civil rights is appalling and deceptive,” MTA President Barbara Madeloni said in a statement Sunday. “The real threat to our students — and to our democracy — is the two-tiered school system funded by public dollars that charter proponents will go to any lengths to expand.” Madeloni went on to say, the lawsuit “will represent just one more step in the effort to dismantle public education, put public resources into private hands, and undermine the schools in our poorest communities.” Current limits allow for up to 18 percent of the state’s lowest-performing school districts to be spent on charter school tuition.

KY: Outlook bad for public-private partnership bill. The bill allowing the state to contract with private companies to finance major road and bridge projects appears it may be stalled for the duration of the 2015 legislative session. . . . One key opponent to the bill is Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who said Monday, “I would say that bill is in jeopardy.” Thayer said he and other legislators from Northern Kentucky are concerned that the bill could lead to the use of tolls as a way to finance the $2.6 billion plan to build a new Brent Spence Bridge linking Covington and Cincinnati. The Courier-Journal

PA: Sustainable community schools: An alternative to privatization. . . . The reality of understaffed, poorly resourced public schools destabilized by punitive and largely ineffective school transformation policies has driven many families to seek refuge in charters, few of which perform better than the schools they left. The charter lobby ignores the fact that charter school expansion, given the present charter school law and the absence of additional funding in the form of a charter school reimbursement line in the state budget, can only come at the expense of children in traditional public schools. Philadelphia Public School Notebook

March 9, 2015


Don’t Privatize The Postal Service. Build On. . .Instead of shrinking the Postal Service, we should build on it. That means, first of all, appreciating that the USPS can be much more than a delivery service. In many small towns, the local post office continues to be a community hub, a place to meet neighbors and get news. And postal carriers don’t just deliver letters — they often keep an eye on the elderly and homebound, and alert first responders if things look amiss. They could do even more. The Postal Service’s fleet of vehicles — the largest in the country — could be equipped to detect air pollutants and report potholes, water leaks, and other infrastructure repair needs. Why stop there? The USPS could raise tens of billions of dollars each year by reinstating post office savings accounts and banking services, which it efficiently provided for 55 years in the first half of the 20th century. Customers received 2-percent interest on their savings accounts, and the post office loaned their money to community banks, which then made loans to local businesses. This virtuous circle benefitted the entire community. At its peak, 4 million Americans took advantage of these services, saving $36 billion in 2014 dollars.

Charter School in Miami Fails, but Proves Useful on Jeb Bush’s Résumé. . . Now trash and fronds from the palm trees that students planted litter the grounds, and cafeteria tables are folded away in a dark doorway. Jeb Bush’s charter school is a ruin baking in the Miami sun. Co-founded in 1996 by Mr. Bush with what he called in an email a “powerful sense of pride and joy,” Liberty City Charter School was the first school of its kind in Florida and a pioneer in a booming industry and national movement. It became an image-softening vehicle for Mr. Bush’s political comeback, though the school’s road was anything but smooth. New York Times

Private Email Use a Source of Friction in Many Statehouses. Governors and other elected officials routinely use private emails, laptops and cellphones for government business, a popular strategy that sometimes helps them avoid public scrutiny of their actions. Open-records fights over private emails have had varying results. New York Times

MO: Ferguson Mayor bragged about privatized law enforcement services months before Brown shooting. . . In early 2014, just a few months before the city of Ferguson exploded in street protests after the shooting of Michael Brown, Mayor Knowles, gave an interview to Missouri’s leading libertarian think-tank, the Show-Me Institute. In that interview, embedded below, Mayor Knowles explained the many wonderful benefits of privatization. When asked if there was anything he would not consider privatizing in Ferguson, Mayor Knowles answered: “Really there isn’t much that we haven’t explored that we didn’t see was a good idea.” And while Knowles did tell the Show-Me Institute interviewer that he wasn’t in favor of privatizing the police force itself, he explained that he was actively working to privatize law enforcement services. PandoDaily

IN: Consultants try to calm nerves over Toll Road bid. Some Lake County officials have questioned the financial wisdom of getting into the toll road business. Consultants and lawyers trying to sell Wall Street investors on paying for a Lake and LaPorte County takeover of the bankrupt Indiana Toll Road lease agreement this spring tried Thursday to assure skeptical members of the Lake County Council prior to crucial votes set for Monday to undertake the project. “What is the worst-case scenario?” Councilman Dan Dernulc, R-Highland asked. Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, pondered, “If this so lucrative, why did the state take a pass on it?”

FL: Disability Groups Fear Proposal Could Privatize Vocational Rehab…. There’s a plan to bring some changes to vocational rehab. But few lawmakers know about it….. Some disability advocates say they’ve been blindsided by the proposal. Its Senate sponsor is former Senate President Don Gaetz, its House sponsor is Representative and Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. John Pribanic with the Florida Rehabilitation Council, views the proposal as well-intentioned, but problematic. “Unfortunately, I think a repeal of VR is absolutely an extreme, an extreme measure.” The bill creates a sunset date for vocational rehab and requires the agency create a pilot partnership program with local organizations. But the big fear is that the language is a forerunner to privatization. But Gaetz says contrary to those rumors, the program is not being privatized, nor is it being cut. Health News Florida

IL: Still waiting for Gov. Rauner to kill the Illiana – editorial. . . The highway, which would connect Interstate 55 in Will County to I-65 in Lake County, Ind., was envisioned as an alternative to congested I-80. But few truckers will be willing to detour 10 miles out of their way and pay tolls that could run up to $50. Under the public-private arrangement brokered by IDOT, the state would have to make up the difference if — make that when — toll revenues come up short. A thumbs down from CMAP’s staff should have ended the discussion. But the agency’s board was overruled by a state policy committee chaired by former IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider, who was appointed by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. Chicago Tribune

CA: Library supporters concerned about privatization talk. . . “It has come to my attention that there is a forthcoming proposal to place the Kern County library system under private nonprofit management,” Ann Wiederrecht wrote in an email to supervisors. “Such an idea is outrageous. The Kern County Library is truly a public service open to people of all ages and backgrounds.” “In order for a for-profit group to make a profit, it will be necessary to cut services even more than they have been and/or in some way start charging for services,” wrote Bakersfield College luminary Jerry Ludeke in another email. “Free public libraries are an American treasure and a ‘hand-up’ for many in the culture.” The Bakersfield Californian

CA: How Los Angeles Created Skid Row. . . In the late ‘60s, the amount of low-cost rental housing in the area was halved right before the oil crisis in 1971. In the late ‘80s, the explosion of crack cocaine hit just in time for the recession of the early ‘90s and the privatization of state mental hospitals, which was overseen by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. The burst of the housing bubble of the mid-2000s happened to coincide with a hideous practice among several private hospitals found depositing impoverished, mentally ill patients on the doorstep of the Union Rescue Mission in 2005. One especially determined hospital spent five years bussing nearly 500 patients to Skid Row from Las Vegas. Daily Beast

NJ: N.J. group wants state to reduce number of inmates in prison. . . “This is a cutting edge issue,” said Bob Witanek, co-founder of Decarcerate the Garden State, a group that began a year ago in Newark, and has recently been traveling the state with the aim of educating people about what it calls the “mass incarceration” of residents in New Jersey and the U.S. . . . “We now have the privatization of prisons, and just like any other private enterprise, it puts profit ahead of caring for people,” she said. “Their main goal is to increase profit and save money, so they have an incentive to support laws like mandatory-minimum sentences and life without parole.” Decarcerate the Garden State is currently petitioning the state Senate and Assembly to pass a law reducing the number of inmates in New Jersey’s prisons. However, they have yet to find a state legislator to sponsor such a bill.

MA: Civil rights fight looms on charter schools cap. . . Paul F. Ware Jr., Michael B. Keating, and William F. Lee, who are partners at three top law firms, say the lawsuit they will file to overturn the state cap on the number of charter schools will break ground on two fronts. It will be the first constitutional challenge to a charter school cap in any state and the product of an unusual alliance among lawyers from rival firms — “a unique occurrence in Boston legal history,” according to Lee. Their decision to challenge the cap in court reflects growing frustration among charter school advocates who have seen recent efforts to expand the number of these schools in Massachusetts defeated by state lawmakers. Boston Globe

MA: Privatized skating rinks freezing out the public. . . Across the region, privately managed state-owned skating rinks such as Ulin Rink offer significantly less public ice time than their state-run counterparts — whether for free or a for a fee — and less than the minimum of 16 hours a week required by state rules. . . . The changes are the downside of privatization at the DCR, a cash-strapped state agency that, for more than two decades, has been turning over management of skating rinks and other recreational facilities to private companies, local governments, and nonprofits. New managers often bring private investment to maintain the facilities but sometimes at a hidden cost to the public. “It stinks when they take away hours because [then] there is nothing for the kids to do,” said Sarah Lacombe, a Milton resident who skated at the rink as a child and now brings her two children. Boston Globe

CT: Contracting Watchdog Concedes It Has Limited Oversight Of UConn. . . The contracting board was created in 2007 as one of the reforms enacted in response to the scandals that drove Gov. John G. Rowland from office. The law allows anyone who bids on a state contract to contest its award by complaining to the board, which determines whether an investigation is warranted. The law also requires state agencies to go through a rigorous process before privatizing services provided by state employees. UConn says the contracting board has oversight over the university only when it seeks to outsource work done by state employees. The debate over the board’s authority was prompted by a complaint about how the winner of a multi-million-dollar contract for janitorial work was selected. The complaint alleged that university administrators improperly reversed a selection committee’s initial decision to give the new contract to GCA Services Group, which had the existing contract. Hartford Courant

OH: Ohio online charter school spent more than $2.27M on ads. Ohio’s largest online charter school reported at least $2.27 million spent last school year on advertising to attract students. That’s about 2 percent of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s revenue for the school year, which was $112.7 million. About 90 percent of that revenue was funded by the state. The charter school’s advertising spending included radio and television time, Facebook and Google ads and mailing lists. The $2.27 million spent on ads only accounts for some of the school’s advertising, the newspaper reports. Other ads are paid for by the school’s for-profit management company, the records for which aren’t public. State Rep. Teresa Fedor, who has called for an overhaul of state charter-school laws, called the school’s advertising spending “shockingly high,” adding that there’s no good reason to spend those kinds of tax dollars on ads. Toledo Blade

HI: Maui Memorial, losing $43M a year, could be privatized. . . A proposal before state lawmakers would allow a private operator such as Hawaii Pacific Health, the parent company of Straub and three other Hawaii hospitals, to take over Maui. But the proposal is opposed by Randy Perreira, the executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association…. Under the proposal, current hospital employees would be guaranteed employment for just six months but would have to re-apply for their jobs. The former state workers would probably see their private sector salaries increase — but their vacation, sick day and retirement benefits would decrease. Private health care workers generally lack pensions and lifetime medical benefits that state workers receive. Private health care employees also have significantly less vacation and sick time, since state workers receive 21 days a year in each category. State officials estimate Maui Memorial would save $26 million a year in fringe benefits under the deal. “And under those circumstances, they can operate on a less costly model,” Rosen said. Hawaii News Now

IA: Is Medicaid privatization about money or health? Iowa Medicaid leaders stress that the main reason they’re shifting the $4 billion program to private management is because they hope doing so will improve participants’ health. But some people fear the real point is to save serious money by limiting services. At a public hearing in Des Moines Friday, Department of Human Services Director Charles Palmer called the shift “a major venture” and “a journey.” The department plans to turn over most of the state’s Medicaid program to two to four managed care companies, starting next January. Des Moines Register

Countries Backtrack on Privatizing Retirement. Poland is among 11 countries that have recently rolled back or abandoned efforts to privatize their retirement systems. . . The privatization, strongly encouraged by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, reflected what was seen as an urgent need to backstop traditional government retirement systems in which benefits are paid by contributions from people still working. These so-called pay-as-you-go schemes face funding shortfalls in many countries, including the U.S. But the problem is especially acute in countries such as Poland where birthrates have declined or many young people work abroad. Privatization was supposed to “provide greater financial stability and make pensions less prone to political interference,” says Stephen Kay, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. So far, it appears to have achieved neither goal. Bloomberg

March 5, 2015


Where Have All The Teachers Gone?. . . Why have the numbers fallen so far, so fast? McDiarmid points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching’s image as a stable career. There’s a growing sense, he says, that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment. The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you’ve got the makings of a crisis. The job also has a PR problem, McDiarmid says, with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media. “It tears me up sometimes to see the way in which people talk about teachers because they are giving blood, sweat and tears for their students every day in this country. There is a sense now that, ‘If I went into this job and it doesn’t pay a lot and it’s a lot of hard work, it may be that I’d lose it.’ And students are hearing this. And it deters them from entering the profession. NPR

CCA & The case against privatization of our public marine resources. . . This is the last opportunity to make the case against privatization of our public marine resources, this time to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Amendment 40 proposes to take almost half of the recreational quota of red snapper and reserve it solely for the charter/for-hire industry for its own use. It is the first step to enacting a catch share program for charter/for-hire operators, modeled on the ownership program for the commercial red snapper sector in which less than 400 individuals own 51 percent of the entire fishery. The Eagle

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp. . . Until recently, America’s workers could rely on a compact struck at the dawn of the Industrial Age: They would give up their right to sue. In exchange, if they were injured on the job, their employers would pay their medical bills and enough of their wages to help them get by while they recovered. No longer. Over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year, a ProPublica and NPR investigation has found. The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty. ProPublica

NY: Affordable Housing Needs a Reset. . . The mayor’s plan tracks the pattern New York City has religiously followed for quite some time of trying to “incentivize” private development. The city effectively pays a fortune to private developers to build this kind of stuff. Here is a frightening statistic from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development: in 2013, New York City gave private developers a pass on $1.2 billion in taxes in order to stimulate the building of 153,000 units of housing ― just 12,000 of which met the messed-up definition of affordability. Hard to believe we couldn’t have done a lot better by simply collecting those taxes. . .We desperately need to press a reset button on all of this. Far from doing that, the mayor’s plan just doubles-down on the same game of “leveraging of private capital with public dollars” to create the appearance of a huge initiative. There may have been a time in the 1970s when it made sense to respond to urban decay by offering substantially unconditional subsidies and tax abatements to stimulate economic activity. But in an environment of virtually unchecked gentrification and social stratification, such tools and their underlying philosophy are totally misplaced. They don’t ameliorate the problem, they fuel it.   Huffington Post

FL: Opinion: Privatizing prisons prioritizes profits over humans. . . I voted for Rick Scott, not that I liked him, but because I was actually voting against the other guy. In many aspects, I think the governor has done a decent job. But not when it comes to private prisons. If anyone chooses to investigate, a journey through Google offers eye-opening horrors on what has gone on inside American private prisons. Warehousing human beings cannot be treated as a low-value commodity. Slavery ended 150 years ago. Yes, many inmates are criminals who committed dastardly deeds. But not all are murderers and robbers. Thousands are in for nonviolent offenses, particularly drug possession. When inmates are treated inhumane and invisible, without a voice, we citizens will reap the results when they are back among us. After giving it a trial, Canada discontinued private prisons. So did Israel. So should we. Florida Today

TX: Texas: Judge Rejects Traffic Camera Company Attempt To Block Public Vote. A Tarrant County, Texas judge on Tuesday did not buy the argument of a red light camera company that the public had no right to vote on whether cameras should be used in their community. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed for an emergency injunction last week in an attempt to keep the residents of Arlington from casting a ballot in the upcoming May election on the subject of automated ticketing. The Arizona-based firm found someone local who claimed he would suffer injury if fellow residents were allowed to vote.

CO: Boulder Drivers Should Be Raising Cain Over US 36 Proposed Tolls. . .US 36 is one of the only decent ways to travel from Boulder to Denver. And seemingly knowing that drivers have little to no choice in the matter, the private company who will run and maintain the road is taking full advantage of the situation. If drivers do not have a pre-purchased pass and have the temerity to want to use the express toll lanes during peak hours, they will likely pay nearly $14. If you are in the same position on I-25, you will pay $7. That’s right, getting out of Boulder is twice as valuable than getting through Denver. . . I’m surprised that Boulderites are not up in arms over the obvious way they are being abused by this system. I understand that a private firm can do essentially what they want and if people will pay it, why not charge as much as possible. But beyond the basic economic lesson here, we also need to examine how a major city in Colorado is being treated by civic planning policies in the metro area. CBS Local

NJ: City of Bridgeton to create water study committee to examine privatization. . . With basically everything from cuts and changes in certain services to tax increases being considered, Kelly is asking the water study committee to examine privatization of the city’s water utility to see if it would be something that could deliver the service with less strain on the city’s budget and at a reasonable cost to residents, the news release said. Kelly also said that because much of city’s water and sewer infrastructure is more than 100 years old, maintaining and upgrading the system is difficult and expensive.

NJ: Letter: Liberty State Park still not free from threat of privatization. . . There has always been a broad public consensus against the privatization of this sacred American public resource, the free and green park behind Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. I am concerned that the commission would be used by the governor to privatize and commercialize the park without the traditional public hearings and public comment periods provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

IN: Counties Finalizing Indiana Toll Road Bid. Two northwest Indiana counties are finalizing their tax-exempt bond-financed bid for the bankrupt Indiana Toll Road. Bids are due on March 15. Bond Buyer

March 4, 2015


The Tragedy of Privatizing the Commons. . . Absentee owners rarely have the same sense of stewardship and restraint as local owners. A group of local owner-operators (say, fishermen) have a strong incentive to stick it out through a difficult negotiation to agree on self-imposed restrictions that preserve their fishery. After all, they have most of their life savings tied up in their trade, they don’t have skills that they can readily apply to other businesses, and they may want their children to be able to follow in their footsteps. They’re in it for the long term. From an economists’ standpoint, the investment horizon for local owner-operators is measured in decades or more. But a corporate owner that seeks only a financial return will have a much shorter time horizon when making decisions. It may simply not be worth it to preserve the future productivity of a natural resources if that means forgoing a much greater profit today. All of this says that privatizing the commons may not work in a lot of cases. The incentive to chase a quick buck may outweigh the financial and social rewards of long-term stewardship. Ownership is not necessarily stewardship. U.S. News & World Report

The Perils of Privatization. . . Blackwater went into the annals of government contracting as one of the great disgraces of privatization. A staff report prepared for the Oversight Committee found that Blackwater billed the government $1,222 per day per guard, “equivalent to $445,000 per year; over six times more than the cost of an equivalent U.S. soldier.”. . . As Blackwater showed, many of the efficiencies are spurious, because contractors cut corners. The notion of market discipline can be short-circuited by political influence that steers contracts to favored companies despite their poor performance. Often, apparent savings are bogus because of costs that are passed along to the government. In some cases, privatizing something as necessarily public as national defense is convenient because the contractor, not the government, takes the fall when something goes wrong. This is precisely the opposite of accountability. The American Prospect

My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked. . .In America, libertarian ideas are attractive to mostly young, white men with high ideals and no life experience that live off of the previous generation’s investments and sacrifice. I know this because as a young, white idiot, I subscribed to this system of discredited ideas: Selfishness is good, government is bad. Take what you want, when you want and however you can. Poor people deserve what they get, and the smartest, hardworking people always win. So get yours before someone else does. I read the books by Charles Murray and have an autographed copy of Ron Paul’s “The Revolution.” The thread that links all the disparate books and ideas is that they fail in practice. Eliminate all taxes, privatize everything, load a country up with guns and oppose all public expenditures, you end up with Honduras. Salon

FL: Florida’s Privatized Prison System Is Chronically Underfunded. . . Prisons weren’t discussed as a priority for either Scott or legislativeleaders on the campaign trail, but budget records reviewed by the Herald/Times show the private prison industry was given special attention. Over the past four years, lawmakers and the governor increased spending on prison vendors by creating new programs and steering millions to them in state contracts, even as the public prisons crumbled and became more dangerous for inmates and staff. Governing

PA: Does privatization work? Ask Harrisburg. . . . [A]s part of the city’s deal to get out from under its incinerator debt, the city parking authority’s “assets” were leased in a complex transaction. . . . First, parking rates doubled. Well, OK, they needed to as part of the deal to bail out the city; the private partner was only going to be interested if it was worth their while. But beyond that, according to PennLive reports, the new system has been one snafu after another: Its zero-tolerance enforcement is so zealous, its agents sometimes try to ticket drivers as they are walking to the payment kiosk. Technical glitches and operator errors have led to mass ticketing of drivers who have properly paid. Making sure a ticket is paid on time to avoid a penalty (the grace period is all of four days) involves either paying on line, which carries an extra credit card surcharge, or a trip downtown to pay in person. . . . Private enterprise doesn’t exist to serve you, it exists to make money. If it can make money by serving you well – it’ll do that. If it can make more money by serving you poorly – why wouldn’t it do that? That’s the difference between a system owned by the public, which has an express duty to the public, and a private operator whose chief duty, always, is to the private operator.. LancasterOnline

PA: Liquor privatization faces uncertain future in Pennsylvania. . . Just like the previous time the House voted for privatization, the proposal faces an uncertain future in the state Senate. Lawmakers there are interested in improving consumer convenience and selection, but aren’t as adamant about privatization as the House.

IN: Rutter: Toll Road fever grips gullible investors. . . The chance that no one listens also does not dissuade you from shouting at government officials in Lake and LaPorte counties. Do not borrow $4 billion to take the white elephant Indiana Toll Road off the hands of international investors and operate the 157-mile road the state of Indiana still owns. If the two counties actually do possess the creditworthiness to borrow billions, is the Toll Road what anyone would want to rent for 67 years? Yep, say the involved public officials who insist the auction is too good to pass up. They might even get a sweet deal because it’s an auction. All that is required is entering a seven-figure deal with the bankruptcy court to bail out an international money operator whose dealings have been called “like wrestling in the dark with a ghost.” What possibly could go wrong? Chicago Tribune

WI: Kathleen Vinehout: Another awful Scott Walker idea: privatizing Family Care. . . “You have got to be kidding!” a Chippewa Valley advocate responded when I told her about a plan to potentially turn Family Care over to a for-profit insurance company. Family Care and its fee-for-service sister, IRIS, provide thousands of Medicaid-eligible frail elderly and disabled people the help they need to remain in their homes . . . If the current version of the governor’s budget becomes law, it will mean big changes to care for frail elderly and disabled people of modest means. For the rest of us, it could mean many more of our neighbors and family members end up in expensive institutions. Worse yet, folks could be stranded at home without the services they need to independently live and work.

OH: Ohio highway projects get boost from bonds, logo sales. Partnering with private businesses, offering sponsorships along highways and selling $1 billion in Ohio Turnpike bonds are among ways Gov. John Kasich’s administration has worked to boost transportation revenue amid lagging federal outlays. Akron Legal News

TX: Israeli firm wins first big US job: $800m Texas toll highway. Three years after setting up an office in the US, an Israeli firm has won its first major road-building job there – making toll lanes on a 10-mile stretch of state highway near Houston, Texas. Infrastructure firm Shikun & Binui is a 50% partner in a consortium called Blueridge Transportation Group, which was selected by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to design, build, finance, operate the new toll lanes on SH-288 in Harris County. Under the public-private partnership agreement, once they build it, Blueridge will collect tolls on the road for 52 years. Spain’s ACS Servicios y Concesiones, and InfraRed Capital Partners are the other two consortium members. Global Construction Review

NC: Widen I-77: Toll roads benefit the wealthy. . . The Widen I-77 group has filed suit against NCDOT and contractor I-77 Mobility Partners. The group is seeking a court order to stop the project. I-77 Mobility Partners has filed its own motion asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit because “it has no basis in law.” . . . Kurt Nass of the Widen I-77 group was the plaintiff’s only witness. Nass presented elaborate and detailed cost analysis that he says proves the toll road would be much more expensive in the long run that hiring a private contractor to build general purpose lanes. Nass says the widening is really only needed in the Cornelius area, not for the 26 miles north of Charlotte. He says toll roads only benefit the wealthy. “If you are wealthy enough to use the road then you have solved the congestion problem.” Nass estimates the cost of the toll will be around $20 round trip. Between 30 and 40 members of the group were in the courtroom Tuesday. WBTV

March 2, 2015


McDonald Tells Congress VA Will Not Completely Privatize Health Care. Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Bob McDonald told lawmakers on Thursday he has no plans to grow the agency’s payroll or bureaucracy, or to completely privatize VA health care. McDonald also countered the perception that VA officials and personnel deliberately would thwart programs such as the Veterans Choice program – which permits veterans to get care from non-VA providers. . . . ” We’ve got to have a combination of VA care and non-VA care to properly care for our veterans.” But McDonald, responding to lawmaker and veterans’ groups concerns that VA may promote the Choice Act as a substitute for VA healthcare, said leaders view it only as a supplement to the system.

TX: North Texas lawmakers taking aim at toll roads. North Texans with toll road fatigue have found champions in the Texas House. Reps. Jeff Leach, Scott Sanford and Matt Shaheen are pushing a series of nine bills that aim to dismantle the bureaucratic and financial mechanisms that have paved the way for a litany of toll projects in the state. Dallas Morning News

CA: Charter school group is political force in LA Unified board election. In Tuesday’s election, this role has shifted to a statewide charter school group, which is raising money, sending mailers and rallying parents in an effort to become a permanent political force.  Los Angeles Times

IN: LaPorte, Lake counties move ahead on Toll Road. LaPorte and Lake counties are pushing ahead in their effort to gain control of the Indiana Toll Road, taking their bid proposal to their respective governmental bodies for approval. . . . In addition to considering the final bid, officials from both counties will be voting on the structure of the Northern Indiana Toll Road Authority, the not-for-profit entity separate from government that would oversee the highway’s private operator. The NITRA would be supervised by a board of directors made up of elected officials from both counties as well as non-elected professionals with substantial experience overseeing large scale projects in fields like tourism, hospitality, transportation, education and health care. There would also be one member of the board representing the profit operator of the Toll Road, officials said. The Toll Road’s current private operator, ITR Concession Co., is in bankruptcy and putting the lease up for sale to help satisfy creditors. USB Bank is conducting and coordinating the bidding process. South Bend Tribune

LA: Regents look at privatizing public universities. Years of deep cuts to state funding for Louisiana’s colleges and universities — and the threat of even further reductions in the near future — have some leaders looking at drastic measures that could change the face of Louisiana higher education. One idea that has recently been floated: Why not encourage some of the state’s public schools to go private? The Advocate

FL: Privatizing prisons could be Scott’s end game – opinion. . . The cynic in me is starting to believe that the Scott administration doesn’t want to fix the problems at the department and doesn’t want to fully investigate the abuse that has been and still is occurring. In the meantime, people in state supervision are dying, and the state is exposed to costly litigation and liability. Perhaps this is the means to an end, and Scott’s true mission is to fully privatize Florida’s prisons — at any cost.