June 1, 2015

OR: How Nestlé wants to privatize water in drought-dry Oregon. Like California, Oregon is facing its worst drought in 300 years. It’s in this context that Swiss giant Nestlé wants to move into a small, economically depressed town and tap local spring water for a bottled water plant.   FRANCE 24

CA: Moving toward privatizing our courts in California. California courts have been devastated by deep budget cuts. In California, over 50 courthouses have been shut down and over 250 courtrooms are now closed. . . . Since it is not likely that California will become flush with cash any time soon, a new plan has been devised by several business-friendly advocacy groups in California to construct a more efficient court system. The plan is to create private courts with full judicial authority to issue warrants, subpoenas, declare guilt or innocence and hand down sentences. It is estimated that these private courts would save the state more than $3 billion. Opponents of private courts say that this would give an unfair advantage to the wealthy because they can pay to get to court quicker. Pacific Coast Business Times

VA: How Virginia paid more than $250 million for a road that never got built. Virginia officials are trying to get back tens of millions of dollars from a private company that was supposed to build a 55-mile toll road in southeastern Virginia. State officials had been sending the company multimillion-dollar installments each month to build the road. But the state lacked federal construction permits, so the road wasn’t built. And now the commonwealth is out about $256 million. The problems help explain why top officials in Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration have recently increased scrutiny of public-private partnership deals, a sharp shift in tone in a state that has for 20 years been a national leader in pushing such projects. Washington Post

OH: Charter schools misspend millions of Ohio tax dollars as efforts to police them are privatized. No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio. A Beacon Journal review of 4,263 audits released last year by State Auditor Dave Yost’s office indicates charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency. Since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival .And the extent of the misspending could be far higher. That’s because Yost and his predecessors, unable to audit all charter schools with limited staffing and overwhelmed by the dramatic growth in the schools, have farmed out most charter-school audits to private accounting firms. Akron Beacon Journal

NC: NASCAR teams, small businesses ready to fight tolls. Last week, the private company hired by the state of North Carolina to add 26 miles of toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville completed financing for the $650 million project. . . . On Thursday afternoon at the headquarters of Michael Waltrip Racing, small-business owners and managers, elected officials and others frustrated by a 50-year stranglehold on interstate expansion included in the company’s contract with the state continued to rail against the agreement. Highlights of the meeting included claims by toll-lane critics of billions of dollars in lost economic productivity and growth if the project moves ahead and an if-then pledge by state Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) to introduce a bill to end the toll-lane contract. Charlotte Business Journal

IN: Indiana Toll Road Exits Bankruptcy Protection. A toll road that runs across northern Indiana exited bankruptcy protection and will now be operated by Australia’s IFM Investors. IFM Investors paid $5.725 billion to operate the 157-mile road between the Ohio Turnpike and Chicago Skyway for the next 66 years. The deal closed Wednesday, according to a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago. The 59-year-old toll road filed for bankruptcy last September after struggling for years with a heavy debt load and lower-than-expected traffic. A bankruptcy judge in October approved the chapter 11 plan submitted by ITR Concession Co., the operator of the road, which IFM acquired in bankruptcy. Wall Street Journal

TX: Oops. New Numbers Show That Toll Road Underwater After All. What the city has said for 20 years about flood safety and a proposed toll road along the Trinity River very possibly is not true. In a major flood that road may be underwater and threatened. . . But Frisinger said, given a certain number of adjustments and estimates, the 100-year flood downtown between the levees now would push the river to an elevation above sea level of between 420.6 and 422 feet. City information presented to the city council in briefings has put the toll road at an elevation of 419.06 feet. That’s underwater. Dallas Observer

IL: Why We Organized to Kick Riot Fest Out of Humboldt Park. Organizers of the punk rock music festival Riot Fest announced last week Wednesday that after three years in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, it would not be returning to the neighborhood in 2015. . . . During this past election cycle, Grassroots Illinois Action-Humboldt Park Area (GIA-HPA), an independent political organization comprised of community residents, (full disclosure: of which I am a member) emerged as a powerful force in Humboldt Park. Intended as a venue for residents to organize around issues in the area, Riot Fest quickly became one issue members wanted to address. After three years in Humboldt Park, residents were tired of what we saw as the continued privatization of the park that not only left it severely damaged, but limited its usage for residents months after the festival. . . Residents stood up against the privatization of their park by Riot Fest and won; they can stand up against the gentrification that is displacing the poor and erasing the presence of people of color. In These Times

MT: Opinion: Kary’s bill would have helped privatize public’s elk. Senator Doug Kary, Senate District 22 in the Billings Heights, made a conscious statement, heard by many at a the Fish, Wildlife and Park Region 5 Citizen’s Advisory Council meeting this past December. He said he didn’t believe wildlife was a public resource. It is hardly an exaggeration that Kary believes those who would commercialize and/or privatize our publicly owned wildlife are the true owners of said wildlife, not the general public. Billings Gazette

IA: Privatization of higher education must be addressed soon – Editorial. . . Soon, citizens and the Legislature of this state — and the citizens of this nation — are going to have to re-assess the importance of our public higher education institutions and the access to them in relation to the need for preparing students for satisfactory careers. Many of our state and national lawmakers thrived under the affordable umbrella of public higher education. It is imperative they search for ways to keep these opportunities within reach of most qualified Americans. If the cost of “public” education is too high, then we are failing this next generation and future generations. Mason City Globe Gazette

Opinion: Who wants Amtrak?. . . In fact, you don’t hear much about privatization from the freight railroads, which one would think would be the most interested in acquiring Amtrak. Could it be that the major railroads such as CSX, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern remember their history better than some of the privatization zealots calling for Amtrak to be sold? That history includes the reason Amtrak came into existence in 1971 – the private railroads wanted to ditch passenger service because it was a drain on their bottom lines. Philly.com