August 10, 2015

Privatize the VA? Senators Get Behind a Radical Program for Vets that Could Cost Billions. . . The bill, unveiled just before the Senate left town for a month, surprised many in the veteran’s community and raised the possibility that the GOP-controlled Congress might look to put more of a burden on the VA to pay for private health care for veterans. . . An official for one of the country’s top veteran’s service organizations warned that McCain’s bill “could be a very, very expensive proposition.” The Fiscal Times

Corizon Health Services Breaks Second Death Settlement Record This Year. 2015 has been a big year for Corizon Health Services: in the span of six months, the nation’s largest for-profit inmate healthcare provider has managed to break not one, but two different state records for the largest wrongful death settlement payouts in history. On August 6, Corizon and Lane County in Oregon announced they would pay a combined $7 million to the family of Kelly Green — a 28-year-old mentally ill inmate who died from a major spinal injury after a psychotic episode at the local jail. Green broke his neck and became paralyzed after running headfirst into a concrete wall one day after he was arrested in February 2013. . . .County officials maintain Corizon misdiagnosed Green’s injury and failed to take him to the hospital for six hours. He became quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent for ten months before he passed. ShadowProof

Stemming the tide of injustice in the surfing industry. . . Surfers have some history of coming together around issues of importance to themselves and the sport. For example, in 2012 a group of surfers launched the Save Trestles Campaign in order to stop plans to build a toll road through the protected wetlands – and prized surf locale – of Trestles in San Onofre, California. Discussions of the toll road had been underway for decades, and throughout that time surfers came together and initiated small actions to make barriers for the Transportation Corridor Agency, which was leading the road planning. Through popularization of the campaign under Surfrider, surfers were able to put an end to the toll road talks once and for all – preserving important ecosystems, and uniting around a cause that was important for, but much bigger than surfing. Oxfam America

FL: Guest Column Ed Slavin: Privatizing public resources is a growing threat to livability. St. Augustine Foundation walled off our Spanish Garden in 2001. You can enjoy our statue of Queen Isabella only one day annually. Burghers hounded our street artists, attacking cherished First Amendment rights, for decades. Our City embarrassed us in the eyes of the world, repeatedly losing First Amendment lawsuits. Meanwhile, our once-lively downtown is now a T-shirt shop. Another federal lawsuit is pending because city hall still deprecates tourism worker rights. St. Augustine Record

NC: Ex-head of NC’s public-private economic development group got $30K bonus to stay, left three months later. . . Richard Lindenmuth, a Raleigh business executive, was selected in January 2014 to get the largely publicly-funded Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina off the ground. He had specialized in helping troubled companies but had no prior economic development experience. . . . The privatization of the state’s job recruitment strategies, which proponents say allow for more aggressive and effective job recruitment, has encountered accountability issues in some states that have taken similar approaches. . . . He submitted a resignation that was effective as of March 31, less than three months after he received the $30,000 stay bonus, according to Mary Wilson, a spokeswoman for the agency. . . . In all, Lindenmuth received $71,770 for his three months of consulting work in 2015 – the $30,000 stay bonus, $35,538 in regular pay and $6,231 for accrued time off. Progressive Pulse           

MI: Lansing schools privatization plan drawing criticism from union. . . On Thursday night, prior to the administration’s recommendation, Mark Troisi, a daytime custodian at Holt Public Schools, advised the board to consider his district’s privatization experience. He said his district has been slowly privatizing custodial services for some time, and the differences are profound. “Our experience has been one of high turnover, a lack of training and substantially poorer conditions,” he said. Because of low wages, many contracted staff have a low regard for their work, he said, and it’s reflected in the cleanliness of the district’s buildings. Under Lansing’s plan, the union employees in attendance would keep their jobs and seniority, but would lose access to state-sponsored pensions in transitioning to SodexoMAGIC, Hamilton said. Those perilously close to reaching full benefit status, including many who’ve worked for the district for decades, have the most to lose from privatization, he said. Lansing State Journal

NC: Key vote pending on toll lane construction plan. Opponents of toll lanes on Interstate 77, as well as on other highways, have turned their attention to an Aug. 19 vote of a regional transportation planning group, which must endorse a 10-year construction plan for the toll projects to move forward. . . The DOT has said it would cost up to $100 million to break its contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, the private developer, to build the toll roads. A bill filed in the N.C. House last week would make Mecklenburg County, as well as the towns of Mooresville, Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius, pay for the penalty over a five-year period. Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio has said being forced to pay the cancellation penalty could have a “detrimental” impact on the county’s budget. Charlotte Observer

NJ: Troubled Newark charter school to stay shut, court rules. A Newark charter school shut down by the state two years ago—citing its poor academic record and alleged conflicts of interest involving its controversial founder—will stay shut, a state appeals court has ruled.