June 15, 2015

 WI: This City Is Fighting Against Public School Privatization. As Governor Scott Walker’s state budget inches toward passage, parents, teachers and students are taking to the streets to oppose sections of the education budget, which include sweeping changes they say would effectively privatize many public schools while draining funding from others. . . .Diaz said he’s “worried the charters wouldn’t care for the students. MPS has to cater to every student, no matter how much help you need. When a charter comes in, they don’t have to offer that, so students will be neglected in the system, especially students with disabilities.” The parents and teachers marching beside Diaz echoed his concerns, pointing to recent cases of private schools in Milwaukee expelling struggling students after cashing their voucher checks. ThinkProgress

IN: Whistleblower says Indiana’s healthcare system risked mothers’ and babies’ lives for money. Dr. Judith Robinson says Indiana’s largest health network defrauded Indiana taxpayers to the tune of at least $100 million dollars. The claim is that IU Methodist clinics, HealthNet Clinics and MDWise all profited while providing less-than-adequate care for poor mothers—specifically ones with high-risk pregnancies. The U.S. government, with the help of Dr. Robinson, are suing. Daily Kos

VA: Virginia Motorists Fight Back Against Excessive Toll Road Fines. Toll road users who have been slapped with five-figure fines over transponder errors are hoping to convince the Virginia General Assembly to their cause. Toni Cooley and Lisa Comras are motorists who had valid E-ZPass accounts who found themselves in a high-profile legal battle with tolling giant Transurban. The Australian firm demanded over $10,000 in penalties from each when credit card errors failed to account for less than a dozen trips taken on the 495 Express Lanes outside of Washington DC. Although Virginia courts have, so far, sided with Cooley and Comras, they believe it is essential that the toll road fine statute be rewritten so that a private firm no longer has the right to set an “administrative fee” of $1000 for each alleged instance of failing to pay a $1 toll. The pair created the group Changing Lanes to advocate for reform. TheNewspaper.com

AZ: Privatizing federal lands back before board. Public land transfers would not include tribal lands, national parks or forest lands but mostly BLM lands. If transferred to state and local control, BLM land could be made available for private economic development and add to the county’s property tax revenue. Arizona and Mohave County voters rejected transferring federal lands to the state in the form of Proposition 120 in 2012 Mohave Valley

CT: Custodians cite grievances with school district as result of outsourcing. It’s been a year since the Norwalk Board of Education exercised a clause in the school custodians’ contract to outsource cleaning services to an outside vendor. School officials say the move has saved them a little over $200,000 this school year and has achieved “phenomenal” results. Custodians employed by the school district, however, say that work conditions are on the decline for them as a result. Thehour.com

IN: Opinion: Privatization needs skepticism. Then-Hoosier Lottery head Karl Browning said three years ago he could see “no scenario” in which the state could produce – on its own – the revenue and profits that a private vendor promised it could. Turns out that private firm – GTECH – couldn’t do it either. In fact, the company fell so far short of those promises that the Hoosier Lottery board on Friday revamped its contract – reducing GTECH’s financial goals significantly. In Fiscal Year 2016, for example, the company will no longer need to achieve $365 million in revenue for the state or face financial penalty. It will now be just $270 million. The Courier-Journal

OH:Ohio ignores online school F’s as it evaluates charter school overseers. It turns out that Ohio’s grand plan to stop the national ridicule of its charter school system is giving overseers of many of the lowest-performing schools a pass from taking heat for some of their worst problems. Gov. John Kasich and both houses of the state legislature are banking on a roundabout plan to improve a $1 billion charter school industry that, on average, fails to teach kids across the state as much as the traditional schools right in their own neighborhoods. But The Plain Dealer has learned that this plan of making charters better by rating their oversight agencies, known as sponsors or authorizers, is pulling its punches and letting sponsors off the hook for years of not holding some schools to high standards. The Plain Dealer

MI: New bills give and take away powers, and more. . . HB 4702-05: Require a cost study and public disclosure of the impact of privatizing state services, establish specific performance criteria for privatized state contracts, allow state workers to provide pre-privatization cost benefit analysis and prohibit bad corporate actors from being awarded state contracts. Detroit Free Press

CA: Mulligans Café May Lose Big in Privatization of Muni Links. . . Mulligans Café & Bar, which has been run by the Medina family for more than two decades, will likely become a casualty of the city’s move toward privatizing the upkeep of the golf course under a single management company, starting next year. That company would also oversee the onsite pro shop and restaurant. Santa Barbara Independent

AL: Privatization of Alabama’s liquor stores to get fresh look from lawmakers. Legislation to take the state out of the retail liquor business failed this year, but the idea is not dead. The new Alcoholic Beverage Control Reform Task Force will study the issue and outcomes in other states and report its recommendations by January. AL.com

June 12, 2015

Racial History of American Swimming Pools. . . So, municipal pools, in at least the northern and western United States, were racially-desegregated in the late 1940s and the 1950s. And what I found is that in city after city after city, when a municipal pool became racially-desegregated, and so a court would order that the pool has to be open to blacks and whites without discrimination, what I found was that the overall attendance to the pool would plummet, and that, literally, the majority of whites who had been using the pool previously stopped using the municipal pools. They abandoned them, but they didn’t stop swimming. What they did is they then retreated to private pools. They built private club pools, which were able to continue to legally discriminate against black Americans. Or they build at-home residential pools, so they could really enclose themselves off from the larger public and truly exercise control over who they were swimming with. NPR

John Oliver, Bail Bonds, Charter School Owners, ALEC and Privatization. So, I was watching the latest Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The main topic was our out-of-kilter bail system which can victimize low income people and their families from the moment they’re taken into custody, whether they’re innocent or guilty. It’s a topic I’ve become more interested in lately with my growing understanding of the evils of our system of mass incarceration. (The most eye opening book I’ve read in years is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I recommend it highly.) I was more than usually attentive to what John Oliver was saying, and something kept knocking around in the back of my head. “Bail bonds. Bail bonds. When have I looked into that subject before?” Tucson Weekly

Commentary: Delay privatizing commissaries. . . A survey last year shows that 95 percent of service members are using commissaries to achieve needed savings in their family budgets, with a satisfaction rate of 91 percent. According to the Military Officers Association of America, the average family of four that shops exclusively at the commissary sees a savings of up to 30 percent — roughly $4,000 a year in savings for a military family. Commissaries also provide jobs for the families of service members and veterans. According to the Armed Forces Marketing Council, more than 60 percent of Defense Commissary Agency employees have links to the military. Their jobs are transferable, giving much-needed employment and income certainty when families are regularly relocated all over the world due to permanent change-of-station orders. Military Times

AZ: Arizona high court lets stand ruling on charter school funding. Arizona Supreme Court is letting stand a lower court’s ruling that said charter schools aren’t legally entitled to the same state funding provided to district schools. The justices on Thursday declined to review the Court of Appeals’ Nov. 18 ruling that said the state’s school funding system isn’t unconstitutional though charter schools and district schools get unequal funding. A lawsuit filed on behalf of parents of students attending charter schools had argued that the school funding system violates the Arizona Constitution’s requirements for a general and uniform public school system and for equal protection under the law. azcentral.com           

MI: Problematic privatization. Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed a bill permitting a closed correctional facility in Northern Michigan to reopen and operate as a privatized prison under the authority of the GEO Group of Florida. The new legislation provides for the upheaval of a restriction that previously prevented the Baldwin area prison in Lake County from housing inmates categorized under the highest security level, designated by a “Level 5” category. The intent of the legislation was to promote job creation and alleviate economic hardship in one of the state’s poorest regions. Under its new operation, the facility will house roughly 1,675 inmates from other states, such as Vermont and Washington. While the legislation provides some economic incentive — roughly 150 jobs — to Lake County, the privatization of the Baldwin facility only exacerbates existing issues surrounding the country’s high rates of mass incarceration as well as issues of safety and human rights violations. The Michigan Daily

WI: Education professors in Madison say teaching standards need to be higher, not lower. Anyone who wants to reform public education should be advocating for more professional training of teachers, not less, says Jed Hopkins, an associate professor in the School of Education at Edgewood College in Madison. . . . The idea that teachers need more training, not less, is catching on, said UW-Madison education student Briana Schwabenbauer, who on Wednesday delivered an online petition to Gov. Scott Walker with the names of 37,000 people who oppose dropping standards for teacher certification. . . . “It shouldn’t be left to an individual employer to say who is suitable…it’s a profession. It’s a collective. Education belongs to the community and should involve lots of players,” Hopkins said at a recent gathering of Edgewood teacher educators. It takes trained professionals to respond to the kind of proposals making their way through the legislative system – like the corporatization and privatization of education, said Sheila Hopkins, director of graduate programs in bilingual educations at Edgewood. Madison.com

VA: Editorial: Money wasted on 460 creates skepticism. State officials are approaching the home stretch in negotiations to recover some of the $300 million shoveled toward a road that never was built. . . . Despite spending an inordinate amount of their first 18 months in office working on the issue, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his transportation secretary, Aubrey Layne, are unlikely to fully repair the damage caused by their predecessors. The structure of the project’s contract heavily favored the private contractor, making it unlikely that Virginia will be able to recover even half of the money already spent. “The state’s going to be out a bunch of money for a road that’s not being built,” Layne said. “There’s no way around that.” . . . Legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by McAuliffe established stronger processes requiring more oversight and assigning greater accountability to prevent such embarrassingly bad deals from ever being repeated. That does little to assuage the frustration over the current mess, but it should help improve the public’s confidence that officials will strike a reasonable deal on future projects. PilotOnline.com

IL: Environmentalists ask feds to kill Illiana. With Gov. Bruce Rauner shelving the Illiana toll road, environmental groups want to make sure there’s no change of heart and have moved to try to ensure that the controversial road is truly dead. Several organizations — including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Midewin Heritage Association, Openlands and Sierra Club Illinois — are asking the Federal Highway Administration to rescind its approval of the 50-mile tollway and also withdraw its environmental impact report that supported the Illiana. Chicago Tribune

June 11, 2015

These states’ prisons are so full that they have to ship inmates thousands of miles away. . . States argue that it’s cheaper to send prisoners far away to private prisons than building and managing new facilities on the taxpayers’ dime. But advocates say the practice brings its own problems. “It’s just not a good idea when you separate these inmates from their families and any support system that they might have,” Doug Honig, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, told Fusion of the contract his state just signed with the prison. “It doesn’t do anything towards rehabilitating them, and helping them get back on their feet when they get back out.” Fusion.net

WI: Wisconsinites Blast Scott Walker’s Stadium Deal As ‘Outrageous. Depending on who you ask, building a new, publicly financed basketball stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks is either a horrendous example of corporate welfare and official corruption, or a chance to reinvigorate an economically depressed city. . . [T] he county held its first public meeting Tuesday night to discuss the proposal to use tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to keep the team in the city. The large crowd took issue with many aspects of the deal, which would sell public land valued at nearly $9 million for $1 dollar to the team’s billionaire owners. ThinkProgress

PA: Parents, union, rally against plan to privatize school nursing services. . . “This is not a job that you can simply hire a private healthcare worker to do,” Jordan told reporters at a news conference held at the PFT’s Center City headquarters. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has said that the district has made no decision on whether it will outsource health services, but if it does, it would require that privatized workers have the same certifications required of school nurses. The privatization push would be made only if he could offer more and better health services to district students, he said. Philly.com

IN: Below the Waterline: Privatization of lakes, rivers could happen here. . . Can it happen here? You bet. As water resources become more scarce adjacent landowners to our lakes and streams can look for legal loopholes and align themselves with big business to privatize areas on the lakes and its tributaries. The Illinois River is under fire constantly where business and private sector interests come to blows. Adjacent landowners and the rights of outdoors and boating interests have been to court on numerous occasions. Bloomington Pantograph

LA: Bill sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal would give legislators more say on contracts to privatize government services. With little discussion, the Louisiana House agreed Tuesday that legislators should have a greater say in the contracts the governor’s administration enter to privatize government services. ….. HB137 would require that agreements with the private sector — valued at more than $5 million — that would take over tasks being done by government would first have to go through the competitive bidding process; require the legislative auditor to analyze the costs, including the so-called “legacy” expenses, such as insurance and pensions of state employees; and require legislative oversight of the contract. The bill also would require the records related to the privatization contract be available under the state’s public records law. AFSCME Information Highway


HI: Hawaii governor signs bill opening privatization path for Maui state hospitals

Gov. David Ige on Wednesday signed into law legislation that opens discussion for Hawaii’s state-owned hospitals on Maui to enter in business with a private entity, and the new partner could begin operations as early as 2016. Pacific Business News

June 9, 2015

Senators Push Back On Plan to Privatize Some Military Commissaries. The Senate this week will consider a measure that would prevent the Pentagon from privatizing military commissaries at five installations next year. The amendment to the fiscal 2016 Defense authorization act would require the Defense Department to study the costs and benefits of contracting out commissary operations and report the findings to Congress before moving ahead with any plans. The legislation, which the chamber resumes consideration of this week, requires a pilot program that would privatize commissaries at five installations as well as a report assessing potential costs and benefits. GovExec.com

Opinion: Will TPP Kill The Post Office?. . . As if we needed yet another reason for the public to see the text of TPP before Congress pre approves it with fast track, here is a question: Does the TPP contain provisions that corporations can use to force us to privatize “public” things like our Post Office, public schools, public roads etc., so they can replace them with profit-making enterprises that provide a return only to the wealthy few? We need to see the provisions of TPP that are designed to regulate “state-owned enterprises” (SOEs) and see them now. Huffington Post

Study criticizes OMB suggestion to sell TVA: Privatizing TVA would raise rates. A new study commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute suggests that selling or privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority would raise power costs and hurt economic development and research in TVA’s seven-state region. . . . “Over its 80-year existence, the TVA has had an excellent track record in almost every area of its operation, and its success has delivered substantial benefits throughout the Tennessee Valley,” Dr. Joel Yudken, an economist and principal of High Road Strategies LLC, concluded in a 44-page study of TVA’s finances. “The TVA is addressing its serious financial problems and its new leadership is preserving its capabilities as a system that provides wide-ranging benefits to the region and people it serves.” Chattanooga Times Free Press

How the rise of gated spaces like swimming pools can quietly perpetuate racial tension. . . As public resources were desegregated in American cities, communities increasingly found ways to privatize them. In McKinney, the black teens were not using a public pool. They were swimming, rather, in the communal pool of a private community in the predominantly white part of town where civic resources like parks and pools are funded directly by homeowners. McKinney has three public pools, Appelbaum points out, but none of them are in this part of town.   Washington Post (blog)

Behind Scott Walker, a Longstanding Conservative Alliance Against Unions. . . More than any of his potential rivals for the White House, Mr. Walker, 47, is a product of a loose network of conservative donors, think tanks and talk radio hosts who have spent years preparing the road for a politician who could successfully present their arguments for small government to a broader constituency. . . By the time Mr. Walker ran for governor in 2010, he was clashing regularly with unions, calling for cost savings through shorter hours, layoffs, privatization, even an imagined disassembling of the very government he ran. New York Times

FL: In Miami-Dade, drivers (and politicians) feeling toll shock. Miami-Dade’s dream of an east-west commuter rail line has died multiple deaths through the years, but Esteban “Steve” Bovo thinks he has a powerful new force to get it done: people fuming over more tolls from the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. “The anger that MDX has created has put the wind behind our sails,” said Bovo, the county commissioner who heads up the board’s transportation committee. “That’s the driver. People want to see an alternative.” Miami Herald

FL: Jackson considers returning to city ambulance service.Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber says he is open to more discussions about the city reopening its ambulance service, which was closed 25 years ago. Yarber tells The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/1dRE9Xd) that support is coming from Fire Chief R.D. Simpson and some city council members. Ambulance service was privatized in 1991 when Hinds County signed a contract with Mobile Medic Ambulance Service, which later became American Medical Response, for countywide ambulance service. Miami Herald

LA: Privatization oversight advanced by the Louisiana Senate. Louisiana legislators would get greater say in the contracts that the administration enters to privatize government functions under a bill approved Saturday by the Senate. The New Orleans Advocate

PA: Phila. eyes privatizing school subs. The Philadelphia School District is poised to pay a Cherry Hill firm up to $34 million to provide substitute teachers for its classrooms over two school years. PressReader

VA: Mecklenburg Commissioners Have Votes to Support Anti-Toll Lane Resolution. Mecklenburg County commissioners have the votes to pass a resolution asking the state to stop the Interstate 77 toll lane project. The Department of Transportation signed a deal with a private company to move forward with the $655 million toll road. The lanes would run from Interstate 277 to to Mooresville. Commissioner Jim Puckett told Time Warner Cable News he’s spoken to five other commissioners who will support a resolution. It will be on the commission’s June 16 agenda. TWC News


June 5, 2015

Insiders Detail The Decline And Fall Of Corinthian’s For-Profit College Empire. . . According to Lueck, students signed an open-ended “master promissory note,” allowing the school to recertify new loan amounts every year. This would happen annually through a chaotic process known as repackaging, in which students would turn in financial information and the staff would shuttle them into new loans and grants. Corinthian students attracted huge amounts of financial aid money from the federal government: Close to 90 percent of the company’s revenue, around $1.4 billion per year, came from taxpayers. Huffington Post

Commissary privatization stokes concern among critics. A Senate proposal would require the Defense Department to develop a plan for private companies to run commissaries is drawing criticism. The Obama administration has joined the growing chorus of critics of a Senate proposal that takes steps to privatize commissaries. “The administration has concerns with commissary privatization and the willingness of private sector entities to participate in such a project,” said Tuesday’s statement from the Office of Management and Budget. . . .Meanwhile, two organizations wrote to leaders of the Senate defense committee, expressing their opposition to the provisions that would raise prices and would set in motion the process of privatizing the stores. “These committee actions set in motion price increases and would severely damage a benefit long cherished by millions of beneficiaries who rely on commissaries to stretch their household budgets by providing a 30 percent discount on their groceries,” wrote The Coalition to Save our Military Shopping Benefits, in a letter Monday. Military Times

Understanding Amtrak and the Importance of Passenger Rail in the United States. . . Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states. Passenger rail service supports economic development, connects rural communities to the nation, and helps reduce roadway congestion in major metropolitan regions. In addition, Amtrak facilities and services are vital to commuter rail agencies, allowing 840,000 commuters to reach their destinations every weekday. Center For American Progress

Scott Walker: The First ALEC President?. . . If Walker is successful in his presidential bid, he would be the first ALEC alum to take the oval office. . .Walker continued to push ALEC agenda items in the coming years, particularly education privatization measures – and often by way of the governor’s biennial state budget, which limits public discussion and debate. Walker’s 2013-2015 budget included several ALEC-inspired measures to transform and privatize the public school system, with provisions limiting local school board oversight for charter schools, expanding “voucher” programs, and creating new teaching licenses for individuals with no education background.  PR Watch

IL: Rahm’s privatization of school janitors is still a mess. For the last several months, teachers in Chicago have been doing two jobs for the price of one: instructing kids, and occasionally taking a moment to mop, scrub, or vacuum their dirty classrooms. The extra duties are the result of a $340 million privatization boondoggle from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Among other things, it’s resulted in the Chicago Public Schools firing hundreds of janitors. Now teachers at Oriole Park elementary on the northwest side have decided to take matters into their own hands. They’ve filed a union grievance that, if successful, could force CPS to hire back some of the janitors. Apparently this is the state of things: to get CPS to clean its schools, teachers have to go all legal on them. Chicago Reader

IL: Illiana foes happy, some unsure, about its apparent demise. Opponents of the Illiana toll road are elated but remain a bit skeptical about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s announcement that the controversial road will be removed from the state’s multi-year transportation plan. “The Illiana … is on hold indefinitely due to the refusal of the General Assembly to pass a budget that includes any meaningful reforms,” Carson Quinn, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said in an email, adding that IDOT has stopped all funding for the project. . . . IDOT envisioned it being built by a private company through a private-public partnership, but critics said it was too costly and the high tolls needed to pay off the bonds sold to build it would deter drivers from using it. Learner said he “hopes and expects” that Rauner and IDOT will take the next steps to implement their decision by removing the Illiana from Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning’s 2040 plan and working with the Federal Highway Administration to rescind its official approval of the tollway. Chicago Tribune

VA: Virginia Tempers its Enthusiasm for Public-Private Partnerships. Since Virginia passed a law 20 years ago authorizing public-private partnerships in the state, it’s been a model for other states interested in tapping private businesses to help deliver state services. Virginia officials frequently testify on Capitol Hill or at international conferences about their efforts. Both Democratic and Republican governors have used the partnerships in Virginia. The most well-known examples are toll roads and tolled lanes on highways in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. So it was significant when Aubrey Layne, Virginia’s transportation secretary, suggested recently that Virginia may be able to save taxpayer money by financing a $2.1 billion interstate widening project itself, rather than relying on a public-private partnership (P3) to finance, design and build the project. Government Technology

CA: UC President Janet Napolitano Urges State To Fund Expanded Enrollment. Napolitano: We have a plan that would enable us to meet the demand. We’ve asked the legislature to increase state funding by $50 million this year and $50 million next year to expand in-state student enrollment by 10,000 students over the next four years. NAM: What’s your read on what the legislature will do? Napolitano: Sacramento has realized that higher education has to be a priority. I’m sympathetic to the legislators because they have so many conflicting demands. Nonetheless when you look at the prison budget and compare it to higher education, that needs to change. The legislators have the opportunity to expand enrollment to the best university in the world.   NewAmericanMedia

CA: Costa Mesa settles lawsuit over outsourcing with employees union. A costly four-year lawsuit between Costa Mesa leadership and its public employees union, stemming from the City Council’s effort to outsource municipal services, has ended in a settlement. . . . The settlement allows Costa Mesa to privatize parks and maintenance services in 2017, but prevents the city from outsourcing other services for four years, which Righeimer called a “cooling-off period.” Daily Pilot

June 3, 2015

Why The Privatization Of America’s Police Is Such A Dangerous Trend. Though a potent effort to silence dissent is underway in the US, directly doing so would be a flagrant breach of constitutional rights. And so the ostensible explanations for tactically-geared police at peaceful protests and insidious surveillance programs fall under nebulous terms like protecting public safety, keeping the peace or national security. But when Kinder Morgan wanted to push through construction of a controversial gas pipeline, it felt no need for such pretenses—and its justification for hiring off-duty police officers highlights disturbing implications of a dubious national trend: the privatization of American police. Center for Research on Globalization

VA: Road to Ruin: A Cruise Down the Mythical Public-Private Partnership. Over the weekend, The Washington Post brought us another true tale of what a scam “public-private partnerships” can turn out to be, and how it’s usually the “public” half of these enterprises that takes it in the neck.….Handing what we used to call The Commons over to private enterprises — especially private enterprises operating in the ethical wasteland of modern American corporations — doesn’t work. It is an invitation for the wolverines who run such enterprises to steal as much of the public treasury as they can and then stick us with the bill when they inevitably fail, because these corporations are not about building things. They’re about abetting the transfer of money upwards, to a stockholder class. They are vehicles for the financial services industry.   Esquire

NY: Contract With Rikers Health Provider to Be Terminated. A private health care company that has been criticized for doing such a poor job at the Rikers Island jail complex that its medical performance contributed to several inmate deaths is expected to lose its contract with New York City, according to two high-ranking city officials. Corizon, a for-profit company based in Brentwood, Tenn., with a three-year, $126 million contract to run the jails, has been accused by state investigators of repeatedly neglecting and improperly treating inmates, playing a role in at least a dozen deaths at Rikers. In one case that the State Commission of Correction found to “shock the conscience,” an inmate was left dying untreated for six days while uniformed officers, doctors, mental health clinicians and nurses made 57 visits to his cell without assisting him. New York Times

NC: Commentary: The ongoing push to privatize public education in the state budget….The state budget increases funding to the completely unaccountable school voucher scheme that diverts $7 million from public schools to private and religious academies with no requirements at all on how they spend the money or what they teach.   NC Policy Watch

TN: Hamilton County looking into privatizing all local jails. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger says the county is going to seek a consultant to look into privatization of the county’s jails. . . . The county’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Silverdale facility, runs out in April next year. And Coppinger said he’s been talking to CCA about taking over all of the county’s jails. “We are looking at total privatization of our jails and our Silverdale workhouse,” Coppinger told commissioners. Chattanooga Times Free Press

TX: Texas legislature leaves without stopping toll roads. The 84th session of the Texas legislature just concluded yesterday, but the fallout will be felt by taxpayers for decades to come. Over 75 bills were filed to replace or curtail tolling or to make it more transparent and accountable. When factoring in property rights and efforts to restrict eminent domain abuse, the total came to 96. So with a pipeline full of bills should have sent a strong message to leadership that the taxpayers sent elected officials to Austin to significantly curb if not stop toll roads. But the momentum quickly came to a halt when only a handful of anti-toll bills got a hearing, and very few key bills passed. Of those that did, most were watered down. Examiner.com

MN: Editorial: Why Minnesota needs an Office of the State Auditor. Minnesotans likely don’t know much about the work of the Office of the State Auditor. That’s because they haven’t needed to. For decades, the office has competently and effectively guarded taxpayer interests in the large cities, counties and public pension funds it audits, allowing citizens the luxury of trust in those entities’ fiscal integrity and fidelity to the law. . . .The House prevailed in a wee-hours conference committee on May 17 in a provision that was described as allowing all 87 counties to obtain audits from private auditing firms rather than the state auditor, allowing counties a lower-cost option. . . . Private auditors may be qualified to review county bookkeeping, but few such firms can provide the compliance review that the state auditor performs to assure that county practices comply with state law. That oversight, plus the expertise of a staff that has received national awards, would be lost if the privatization provision stands. So would be the independence that’s designed into an office that’s accountable to Minnesota voters rather than to those who hire them. Minneapolis Star Tribune

MI: Maggots Discovered At Michigan Prison During Lunch At Correctional Facility. The beleaguered state contractor for prison and school foods program, Aramark Correctional Services, is coming under scrutiny again in Michigan. Corrections official Chris Gautz confirmed that maggots were spotted in potatoes that were being cut up in the kitchen as lunch service was in full swing at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson. . . .The state of Michigan, under the guidance of Governor Rick Snyder, privatized the food service in Michigan prisons two years ago, and since that time a series of scandals, has left Aramark’s performance scrutinized due to allegations of employee misconduct and food contamination. . . . .Democrats and a liberal advocacy group have called on Snyder, a Republican, to cancel the Aramark deal, saying problems were inevitable because of high turnover and lower pay for private workers who replaced roughly 370 state employees who lost their jobs in the outsourcing.The governor has defended the decision to stick with the food vendor, saying the state was on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. He also absolved Aramark of responsibility for suspected food poisoning and maggot problems. CBS Local

WI: Scott Walker And ALEC Allow High School Dropouts To Teach High School. According to an ALEC template, Wisconsin Republicans have proposed an ALEC rule change that allows high school dropouts to “be licensed to teach” in public high schools. It is something that critics, and likely every conscious American, have labeled as “breathtaking in its stupidity.” The ALEC measure was slipped into a 1:30 a.m. Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee along with other underfunded K-12 budget items during a late-night session by Republican state Representative Mary Czaja. Koch Governor Scott Walker has tried to ‘sneak’ the ALEC legislation into the state budget for the past three years, and it appears that this year will be the year when high school dropouts will replace University-trained educators in teaching Wisconsin public high school students. PoliticusUSA

LA: Louisiana health department seeks restoration of public health funding. . . Senators received an updated shortfall calculation for the LSU hospital privatization deals, and were told they need to come up with another $67 million in state financing for hospital managers or risk cutbacks to the hospitals that provide most of the charity care to Louisiana’s uninsured. . . . Hospital operators said that without the extra funding, they’d have to shrink specialty care and other programs. Gregory Feirn, CEO of LCMC Health, which runs the state-owned hospital in New Orleans, said his board would have “to rethink the deal” and decide whether to stay in the partnership with the state. The New Orleans Advocate

IN: Editorial: A continuing toll. . . Then the centerpiece of the “Crossroads of the Midwest” began to look a little frayed. There were complaints about dirty restrooms, and the easternmost rest stop at Fremont closed – only portable toilets were available. Some of the social media comments from travelers were virtually untweetable. Lake and LaPorte counties tried to put together an offer for the road, but quick as a speeding semi, another consortium rolled in with an offer that was reportedly much higher – $5.72 billion, almost all of which will go toward paying off the debts of the former owner. . .. There’s probably some economically sound reason an 75-year lease that apparently lost its owners double-rig trailers of money is worth almost $2 billion more to a buyer now, as a 66-year lease. Oh, and if you’re thinking, somebody must be getting some money out of this deal, you’re right. Under the bankruptcy agreement, the five top ITR executives will divide $2.45 million in bonuses for getting such a high resale price . . .So, overall, has the deal stood the test of time? Drivers who use a lot of the new roadway it funded around the state might say yes. Others might say no. Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

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

May 28, 2015

OH: Cleveland Heights may delay vote on water-system agreement with Aqua Ohio. Mayor Dennis Wilcox said he would support delaying a vote on a water-system agreement with Aqua Ohio, during a public hearing on the proposed contract with Aqua. More than 250 residents attended the hearing, howling and heckling at points, furious over a proposed agreement for the company to take over the city’s troubled water system. One resident said she would circulate a referendum petition if council approves a contract with Aqua Ohio and try to overturn the agreement on the ballot. Under the agreement, Aqua Ohio would take over operations of Cleveland Heights’ water system for 20 years or more. The company would give Cleveland Heights $3.7 million upfront to cover a projected 2015 deficit in the city’s water system budget, in exchange for a rate plan “that would generally cover five-year increments and cap rate increases at reasonable levels.”…. Residents wanted the city to look at other options, like joining the Cleveland Division of Water or borrowing money to repair its own system. Cleveland.com

OH: Ohio’s Experiment in Public-Private Partnership Just Tripled in Cost. The Portsmouth Bypass will provide Ohio’s first test case of public-private partnership on a major transportation project. As such, the news about the project’s ballooning costs could have been better. “Ohio’s largest road project and first public-private partnership will cost taxpayers nearly three times its announced price tag of $429 million,” reports Pick Rouan. “The state will pay about $1.2 billion over the life of a 35-year agreement to build and maintain the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway, a 16-mile link between Rts. 23 and 52 that will help drivers skirt the Ohio River city of Portsmouth, financial documents show.” Planetizen.com

IL: Democrats shelve Rauner plan to privatize business creation. House Democrats have abandoned Gov. Bruce Rauner’s idea to privatize the state’s business-development agency but are moving ahead with Speaker Michael Madigan’s plan to make the state’s shrine to Abraham Lincoln a separate agency…. Rauner’s representatives objected to putting a sunset clause on the privatization plan in order to monitor its success….Whether Rauner will continue pursuing the public-private partnership for commercial expansion and job creation is unclear. Washington Times

MI: Senate OKs reopening Mich. prison for Vermont inmates. The State Senate voted Wednesday to allow Vermont inmates at a mothballed private prison as critics labeled the move as risky profiteering and the first step in a hidden privatization agenda for Michigan’s corrections facilities….The measure, now headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder, would let Florida’s GEO Group Inc. house high-level Vermont inmates there. Built in 1999 for young “punk” Michigan prisoners, it was idled in 2005 owing to higher costs than state-run prison, a declining state prison population and other issues…Opponents argue it’s a sneaky effort by majority Republicans to reopen the contracting out of prison space to private firms as an option for Michigan inmates. The Detroit News

IL: Environmentalists sue to stop Illiana Tollway.  Ilinois environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit over the proposed Illiana Tollway, claiming that the Federal Highway Administration’s approval relied on exaggerated population forecasts, faulty financial information and failed to adequately consider the environmental impact. . . The lawsuit also cites a Fitch Ratings report that IDOT failed to disclose last year after spending $112,000 for it. Fitch, a major bond rating agency, would not give an investment grade rating for the bonds that would be sold for the Illiana Tollway, indicating that the project had a higher risk of default through its proposed private-public partnership. “The decision to move forward with this project was based on the belief that a public-private partnership was possible,” Grosboll said. “Fitch makes it clear that no one would buy the bonds, and this information was kept secret. Any time a public agency pays for a report that they do not want to put in writing, that tells you something.” Chicago Tribune

IN: Indiana Toll Road Officially Changes Hands. ITR Concession Co. (ITRCC) on Wednesday announced that the financial close has been reached on the acquisition of ITRCC by IFM Investors. The announcement of financial close signifies that all documents related to the transition have been executed and all approvals and conditions have been satisfied. . . . ITRCC is planning a $260 million capital injection into the toll road over the next five years, including an increased focus on safety improvements for ITR customers and employees and the communities that we serve. WNDU.com

ID: Democratic lawmakers say Idaho should ditch private prisons. Two Democratic state lawmakers want Idaho to sever all ties with private prison companies and say they will pursue legislation on the issue next year, according to a letter sent Wednesday. . . .[T]he move is needed because of a recent FBI investigation into prison contractor Corrections Corp. of America and in light of Idaho’s history with such private companies. Despite reports of excessive violence, chronic understaffing and other management problems, board members opted to continue renewing CCA’s contract to run the state’s largest prison until Otter ordered the state to take over the facility last year. seattlepi.com

Gail Collins: Let’s Do Some Railing. . . . Transportation unites the country, but the crowded parts and the empty parts have different needs. Cities require mass transit, which is something that tends to irritate many rural conservatives. (It’s that vision of a whole bunch of strangers stuck together, stripped of even the illusion of control.) Remote towns and cities need connections to survive, even though the price tag seems way out of proportion to those of us who don’t live on, say, an Alaskan island. Amtrak’s operating budget is about the same as the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes commercial air service to remote communities. . . . Fix Amtrak. Connect the country. New York Times

‘The Water Knife’ Cuts Deep. . . The story is steeped in ethical debates about humankind and its obligation to the planet that nurtures it, but Bacigalupi paints his characters in shifting shades of moral gray that are no less sharp because of it. That’s not to say that the The Water Knife doesn’t have a clear message, or that Bacigalupi isn’t an unabashedly activist author. But his case is so dramatically compelling — and so terrifyingly substantiated — that the book never feels like a sermon. The focus, rather, is on the people who are at the losing end of The Water Knife’s trickle-down dystopia, and how deregulation, privatization, and the concentration of power in the hands of the few might take strange new shapes in the coming decades. NPR

May 27, 2015

MT: Groups bring private hunting schemes to Montana. Big Game Forever director Ryan Benson has been touting sage grouse as the end of public hunting on public land. Ironic, because BGF and their close ally SFW have done more to end public hunting in their home state of Utah. Both groups have done this with private landowner tags and a giant auction in which both groups net millions in profit while the regular sportsman is cut out of hunting opportunity. The real coup, the fact Benson has taken $4.6 million in sportsmen’s dollars over the past few years under the guise he’s defending hunting rights by fighting against wolves and sage grouse. Utah taxpayers and sportsmen have been duped by their own state government, while hunters see less and less opportunity yearly because of privatization schemes of that state’s public wildlife. Billings Gazette

PA: Nurses protest District plans to privatize school health services. Umbrellas in hand, more than 50 people demonstrated outside School District headquarters Thursday against District plans to outsource school-based health services, a move that could further reduce the ranks of unionized school nurses. Several speakers said that the proposal was nothing more than a union-busting move that would line the pockets of private health-care providers on the backs of children. Philadelphia Public School Notebook

OH: Fight over sale heads to Ohio Supreme Court. The status of the nation’s first privately-owned state prison is up for debate in Ohio as litigation brought on behalf of union workers displaced by the historic sale is argued before the state’s high court. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a group of individuals and the liberal think tank ProgressOhio sued in 2011 after Republican Gov. John Kasich and the GOP-controlled state Legislature passed a biennial budget bill authorizing the sale of Lake Erie Correctional Facility in Conneaut, along the shores of Lake Erie, and placing a second state prison under private management. The union argues that placing the privatization plan in the budget violated the Ohio Constitution’s single-subject rule for legislation. Defiance Crescent News

NC: Study proposed of leasing historic sites. . . Senate Bill 486 sponsored by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and titled N.C. Trail Expansion/Economic Corridors, includes investigating leasing portions of several state-owned properties, including the North Carolina Zoo, to developers. The proposed bill also instructs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or any other department given responsibilities for the North Carolina Aquariums, to study economic development opportunities for the Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station related to fishing, boating, camping, hiking, general outdoor activities, lodging, special event rental and other tourism-related economic development. The historic structure is on the south side of Oregon Inlet and has been stabilized but never restored inside. The Outer Banks Voice

IA: Branstad rapped by critics as he signs mental health proclamation. Progress Iowa, a liberal activist group, submitted petitions to Branstad’s office prior to the declaration’s signing with the names of more than 2,500 people against plans to end state management of Iowa mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. In addition, about a half-dozen people showed up at the proclamation-signing ceremony wearing black armbands in an bid to call attention to a need for better mental health care for military veterans. The Des Moines Register

IA: Opinion: Government shrinks, but costs grow. . . Part of the impulse to privatize is ideological — the (mistaken) belief that the private sector can always do things more cheaply and efficiently than the public sector. Part may also be political — replacing Democratic-leaning and unionized public employees with Republican-leaning and non-union contracting businesses. Decisions to outsource ought to be made on a more rational basis than that. Which is why the state should pause in its rush to privatize health and social services. Before moving ahead, the state should undertake a nonpartisan review of when it makes sense, and when it doesn’t, to turn over government functions to private businesses. There should be an overall policy on privatization, rather than drifting into it piecemeal. DesMoinesRegister.com

WI: Scott Walker Dumped as Chair of the Jobs Agency He Created. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won his election in 2010 on a promise to create 250,000 new jobs. To lead the effort, Walker created his flagship Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in 2011 and named himself Chairman of the Board. Now, as allegations of cronyism and corruption engulf WEDC, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee has removed Walker as Chairman. Walker’s “love for Wisconsin” may also explain his effort in the same budget bill to shield a wide swath of WEDC documents and data from the requirements of Wisconsin’s open records law. Fortunately, the Joint Finance Committee also rejected that particular embrace. PRWATCH

WI: Legislature Wants to Privatize Low-Performing Public Schools. A radical privatization proposal has been inserted into the Wisconsin state budget and approved by the budget-writing committee. The plan initially applies to Milwaukee (where the public schools outperform voucher schools and get similar test scores to charter schools), but it could be extended to Madison, Racine and other “large, racially diverse” school districts. Under the plan, a commissioner would be appointed and have the power to fire all staff, both teachers and administrators, and hand the school off to a private operator to run as a charter or voucher school. In other words, public assets, schools paid for by the community, will be given away to private operators. Diane Ravitch’s blog




May 26, 2015

Privatization Has Been a Colossal Flop. . . This is a classic mismatch of wonderful theory and disastrous practice. The privatization theory is compelling. Government is inherently bloated, lazy, wasteful, dumb and inefficient because it does not have to face the discipline of the marketplace. Put public services up for private bidding and you will get the lower costs and greater efficiency that comes with free market competition. But privatization practice is often a disaster. An inefficient government monopoly is replaced by an even more inefficient private monopoly that is more expensive, wasteful and lacking in accountability or responsibility for serving the public good. The selection of private contractors is often rife with the corruption of political sweetheart deals. The profit motive consistently trumps public interest And shareholders and executives benefit at public expense, while public services deteriorate. Let’s do a quick review of the scorecard. Huffington Post

IL: Chicago’s $62 million blunder. Ending a costly court fight that City Hall blundered into, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has paid more than $62 million to settle a dispute with the private operators of four city-owned parking garages downtown, records show. The payment last month ended City Hall’s long and unsuccessful legal fight against claims from investors in the four privately operated garages under Millennium Park and Grant Park. . . Under the 2006 privatization deal, the Daley administration received $563 million to lease the parking garages for 99 years. As part of the deal, the city wasn’t supposed to allow any new competitors in a vast area surrounding the garages. But less than three years after the Chicago City Council approved the deal, the Daley administration allowed the Aqua garage to open to the public just a block from the nearest of the privatized lots. Arguing that that violated their deal, the operators of the garages filed a claim against the city, asking for at least $200 million.   Chicago Sun-Times

CO: Editorial: More tolls are in metro Denver’s future. Without additional public money for highways or infrastructure improvements or an appetite to raise the gas tax, costs to build highways will be borne partly by private entities like Plenary Roads that use tolling to recoup their investment. The Denver Post

NY: NY rejects all applications for new charter schools. The state Education Department has rejected all 15 applications for new charter schools, including 12 in New York City, claiming they failed to meet academic standards…. The decision, which was made in the past week, comes at a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate are pushing to raise the cap for charters allowed in the state from 460 to 560. But Mayor Bill de Blasio and the teachers unions oppose charter school expansion, as does the Democrat-run state Assembly. Under the current formula, the city is authorized to open only 25 more charters — publicly funded, privately managed schools exempt from union rules. New York Post

NC: Protesters continue fight against I-77 toll lanes. Protesters said their 2-year fight to try and stop the Interstate 77 toll lane project isn’t over, and are heading to Raleigh Tuesday. . . .”Best case scenario would be (Gov. Pat) McCrory would listen to 1.5 million people in this area who say this is the time to tap the brake on these tolls,” Suter said. “I have teenage boys right now and they’ll be almost 70 before these tolls go away,” Vallee Bubak said. . . . But last week the state closed the financial deal with a subsidiary of Spanish-owned Cintra. . . . Four cities and two counties approved resolutions asking the state to back out of the $647-million deal over concerns about the contract. Suter argues the issue may soon impact people beyond the metro area. Construction crews will begin working on the interstate this summer. WSOC Charlotte

NJ: Liberty State Park supporters protest threat of privatization of park at picnic. Supporters of Liberty State Park gathered earlier this month for a picnic protest against the looming possibility of privatization within the waterfront park. More than 100 people attended the event, organized by Friends of Liberty State Park. . . .In February, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act, merging the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The new agency, the Meadowlands Regional Commission, was initially given control of Liberty State Park. A set of amendments later passed that would require the Department of Environmental Protection to approve any development plans for the park and a public hearing would have to be held at the park. NJ.com

IA: Editorial: Contact Obama administration to stop plan to privatize Medicaid. Medicaid provides health insurance to about 500,000 Iowans. For decades, the government program has been operated by the state, which is not beholden to shareholders. Spending has been held down by reducing fraud, paying lower reimbursements to providers and giving seniors alternatives to expensive nursing homes. On average, the annual cost to insure an Iowan with Medicaid is significantly less than insuring an individual with private coverage. Yet Gov. Terry Branstad is seeking to hand over administration of the huge health insurance program to for-profit managed care companies. With $4.2 billion on the line, businesses are salivating at the idea of landing one of these contracts with the state. Meanwhile, none of this makes sense to Iowans. Privatizing Medicaid will increase administrative costs as much as 300 percent. DesMoinesRegister.com

WI: Letter to the editor: Plan to privatize Milwaukee schools is theft of public trust. Dear Editor: K12 Inc., a virtual education corporation receiving public funds, pays its CEO millions despite the poor performance of its students. Wisconsin’s Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, authors of the plan to privatize Milwaukee Public Schools, must approve this theft of the public trust. They believe in education-for-profit. Madison.com