June 14, 2013


MI: Detroit eyes privatization of trash hauling. Representatives from Waste Management Inc. and Republic Services Inc. have met with officials in Detroit as the city’s emergency financial manager explores privatizing residential trash hauling. Waste & Recycling News

NY: New York cautioned about public-private partnerships. For the second time since 2011, the New York state comptroller is recommending strong oversight and taxpayer protections for transportation contracts known as public-private partnerships…. “If New York allows private companies to finance public infrastructure projects, they should protect taxpayers and include safeguards to avert costly mistakes down the road. This may seem like an easy-money solution to a complex and growing problem, but poorly structured agreements have significantly cost taxpayers in other states.”  Land Line Magazine

VA: Transurban approves transfer of Pocahontas toll road to lenders. TRANSURBAN Group has decided to transfer ownership of the poorly performing Pocahontas Parkway toll road in the US state of Virginia to the asset’s lenders. The company last year wrote down the value of the asset to zero. A related $138.1 million impairment charge brought the company’s profit for the year to June 30, 2012, down to $54.9m from $112.5m a year earlier. The Australian

CA: San Bernardino recall targets say it’s about water control. Officials targeted by a recall effort and their allies are increasingly making one specific charge: that it is all about taking control of the city’s water resources for the personal gain of the developers behind the recall…. “I am opposed to the sale of the City’s Water System to any private for-profit company,” reads the counterpetition, paid for by a committee led by former Mayor Evlyn Wilcox. “I am opposed to the removal of any City official who is committed to keeping the City’s Water System under the jurisdiction of and operated by The City of San Bernardino.” San Bernardino Sun

CA: Stop the Privatization and Permanent Fees at San Francisco Botanical Garden! Hidden within the mountains of paper are legislation which will strikeout a single line, makingethe fees at San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum permanent, and a contract privatizing these 55 acres by handing over control for the next 30 years to San Francisco Botanical Garden Society….Control by the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society has already caused gates to be shut, taxpayers put on the hook for unnecessary yet expensive new signage, ticket booths, and a $725,000 grant agreement in 2012, plus a $400,000 grant agreement in 2011. Bay Area Indymedia

The Human Equivalent of the $640 Toilet Seat. Does privatization work as predicted by the neo-liberal ideologues? According to a report by Elaine Grossman at the Global Security Newswire, the Pentagon now employs about 700,000 service contractors, most of whom do work that was traditionally done by civil servants and military personnel. While contract service employees comprise 22% of the Defense Department’s workforce, they now account for 50% of the workforce cost, by the Pentagon’s own admission. That is because these contractor employees cost two to three times as much per year as the average civil-service employee. CounterPunch



November 30, 2012


TX: Road Tolls Proliferate as State Financing Falls Short

As public officials across fast-growing Texas look for ways to build more roads in the midst of a lack of public financing, toll revenue or investment from private firms hoping to collect that toll revenue are repeatedly emerging as the antidote. But many critics say charging tolls in Texas has shifted from an if-we-absolutely-must option to the default approach for major road projects. “The day will surely come when, if you want to get from point A to point B, you’re not going to have a choice but to get on a toll road,” State Senator John Carona, Republican of Dallas, said at a panel discussion at the Texas Tribune Festival in September on transportation financing. “Well then, suddenly, a toll is just another tax. Let’s not kid one another.” New York Times

PA: Amid objections, county rethinks plan to outsource foster care oversight

Luzerne County officials are reconsidering a plan to outsource the supervision of foster care and kinship care to private providers after hearing objections from two state representatives and a Children and Youth Services supervisor. State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, and state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, are expected to address county council on Tuesday.  “I feel very strongly about doing everything I can to prevent this very bad idea,” Mundy said Thursday. Citizens Voice

PA: Privatizing lottery: Corbett Seeks To Sell It Despite Its Ace Service To Seniors

This doesn’t make sense, according to Lottery executives and its rank-and-file employees, who for years have labored to make it one of the more-successful state lotteries in the  fnation… Hughes said, “There are so many unanswered questions about this plan and how it impacts senior programs. The Lottery is a well-run, highly efficient agency, nationally recognized for its success and has been counted on to fund key senior programs for years. It should not be threatened with privatization.” In a letter to State Secretary of Revenue Dan Meuser and Secretary of Aging Breian Duke, Washington expressed concerns of senior citizens around the state over Corbett’s move.  Philly Record

OH: Ohio Turnpike will see record tolls this year

The Ohio Turnpike will see record revenues of about $270 million this year, thanks to toll increases that took effect in early January. The question now is how Gov. John Kasich’s administration will opt to leverage that flow of cash. The governor’s office is expected to announce by year’s end whether it wants to lease all or parts of the turnpike operation, such as toll collection, or merge the toll road with ODOT.  Plain Dealer

CA: State Supreme Court rejects Costa Mesa’s appeal on job outsourcing

The California Supreme Court has declined to hear Costa Mesa’s appeal of an injunction that for months has blocked the city from moving forward with a plan to lay off hundreds of workers and outsource jobs.  Los Angeles Times

CA: Private information on LA ambulance users leaked

Private identity information, including Social Security numbers, may have been leaked for up to 900 Los Angeles ambulance patients as part of a multistate data breach, officials said Thursday…. The city’s decision to contract with ADPI follows a growing pattern of the city using outsourcing to increase efficiencies and save money. As part of the move, about 50 positions were eliminated at the LAFD. The decision to outsource operations was criticized at the time by Pat McOsker, head of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City. On Thursday, he said he’d warned the City Council such a breach could occur. “This is an unfortunate example of what happens when you privatize,” McOsker said. “The city isn’t able to ensure that people’s information is kept private.” Contra Costa Times

FL: Higher rates for non-STEM students bound to backfire – opinion

Pushing toward privatization: The universities are now under pressure to seek private funding for programs. But while private funds are available for the professional schools, such funds are scarce for the rest of the university. Orlando Sentinel

Ditching West Publishing Could Save Court $350K

The 9th Circuit said Thursday that it will save $350,000 over the next year by processing its opinions in-house instead of contracting that service to West Publishing.  Courthouse News

November 12, 2012


MN: Lapses in prison medical care have produced tragic results for inmates

Since 2000, at least nine prisoners have died after medical care was denied or delayed by corrections staff, a Star Tribune investigation has found, and another 21 have suffered serious or critical injury. …The Minnesota Department of Corrections has contracted since 1998 with Corizon Inc., a private, for-profit corporation based in Tennessee. The firm, formerly known as Correctional Medical Services, is the nation’s biggest prison health care company, holding contracts with 31 state and local prison systems… Working for a fixed annual fee — $28 million last year — Corizon has an incentive to maintain strict cost control. A review of Corizon’s state contract shows how lean the operation can be. Doctors employed by Corizon leave their prison clinics after 4 p.m. and do not work weekends. Prison nurses generally finish their last shifts by 11 p.m.   Star-Tribune

PA: Gov. Corbett: State has ‘an obligation’ to look at privatizing state’s lottery system

On Friday the Commonwealth announced it had developed a framework for the agreement. It includes annual profit sharing requirements and that ownership and ultimate control of the system will remain in state hands. Over the next two months that state will work with selected qualified firms to nail down a contract that both sides can agree on and will review business plans to ensure the selected firm can deliver as promised…. “We’ve said from Day One we’re looking to see what all we can privatize,” said Gov. Tom Corbett on Friday at an unrelated press event..,Not everyone agrees with the state’s proposal. AFCME, which represents about 160 of the lottery’s 200-plus employees, has objected to plans to privatize management of the system. The Patriot-News

LA: Lawmaker, Jindal clash over costs of privatizing insurance benefits

A state lawmaker is questioning why, if the state is saving money through transferring state employee and retiree health insurance policies to a private management firm, Office of Group Benefits administrative costs go up $154 million in next year’s budget.  Alexandria Town Talk

TX: Central Texas 85 mph toll road now charging

The free ride has ended for drivers on the Central Texas toll road with the nation’s fastest speed limit at 85 mph. The SH 130 Concession Co. on Sunday began charging on the new segment, which is meant to help relieve traffic on Interstate 35. The company developed and manages the toll road through a contract with the Texas Transportation Commission. Motorists with state electronic toll tags must now pay about 15 cents per mile, up to $6.17 for the full 41 miles. Drivers without toll tags will be billed $8.21 for the full length. Rates are higher for trucks.  San Francisco Chronicle

FL: Critics: Florida oversight lax for contractors like LightHouse

Looking for a lesson in how government outsourcing is working in Florida? Try this: Organizations that win business with the little-known state Division of Blind Services can bill taxpayers $58 an hour for travel time to meet with a blind person. The same organizations can charge taxpayers $2,000 or more to place one phone call. If the deal sounds good for the groups that win the no-bid state contracts, it’s because it is. Why? Because the private third-party vendors largely dictate the terms and receive little oversight, former Division of Blind Services employees say. Tampabay.com

CA: Long Beach Courthouse Cost Up to $160 Million Too Much

The independent California Legislative Analyst’s Office has found that the public-private partnership now building the state’s $490 million Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse in downtown Long Beach is costing $160 million more than it should because cost estimates were flawed.  Long Beach Patch

CA: Los Angeles Prepares City’s First Toll Road           

Metro officials will turn on signs and computers at Los Angeles’ first toll road tonight at 10 p.m., ending the 70-year L.A. tradition of a completely “free” freeway system… The project is a one-year experiment, and Metro and Caltrans will survey traffic speeds and roadway capacity on the 110 Freeway to see if variable tolls can improve speeds. Average tolls are expected to run from $4 to $7, but could go as high as $15.40.  Woodland Hills Patch

TN: School Privatization Picks Up Steam in Memphis

A teacher writes to report that the privatization movement plans to take over her school and several others in Memphis. Tennessee now has a solid rightwing majority in the state legislature, a rightwing governor, and a TFA state commissioner dedicated to advancing privatization. Stand for Children is a major presence in the state, assuring that Wall Street money will be available to facilitate privatization and portray it as part of the “civil rights issue” of our day.  Diane Ravitch


November 5, 2012


IN: Critics say plans for outsourced Indiana lottery target more play by low-income people

Critics question whether a private manager’s plans for the Hoosier Lottery may profit from those least able to afford to play. Rhode Island-based GTECH last month won the deal to manage key state lottery operations…. However, the plan does list six retail chains as potential targets for expansion: Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens. Julia Vaughn, public policy director for Common Cause Indiana, noted that some of those stores aren’t likely to locate in affluent neighborhoods. “Everyone knows lotteries prey on low-income people,” she said. “There aren’t a whole lot of Dollar Generals up in Carmel.” Greenfield Daily Reporter

IN: Indiana University Taps Goldman as Advisor for Parking Privatization

Indiana University has tapped Goldman Sachs  to act as an advisor on a proposed privatization of the university’s parking system that would raise cash to help offset falling state aid. The firm will work with the university for six to nine months. If IU decides to solicit bids, Goldman will help evaluate the responses, according to the school.  The Bond Buyer ($)

FL: Florida’s failure to protect children – editorial

The Tampa Bay Times last week published a series of articles by staff writer Alexandra Zayas that detail how Florida’s privatized and porous regulatory system of religious group homes and so-called boarding schools allowed several institutions to flourish that repeatedly beat, ridiculed and isolated children….Last week, the agency said it had discovered even more irregularities. The Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies, the private agency that accredits group homes that obtain a religious exemption under an ill-advised 1984 state law, is finally considering tightening its child protection standards. For example, the group is moving to ban shackling and establish strict procedures for corporal punishment. But that’s not enough. The revised standards would still fall below the state’s requirements and no one, given FACCCA’s enforcement record, should be satisfied. Tampa Bay Times

LA: Booted lawmakers lash out at speaker

…Their removal by Kleckley was apparently fallout for their opposition to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to privatize the administration of an Office of Group Benefits health plan by turning it over to Blue Cross Blue Shield. The administration pulled its OGB proposal during an Appropriations Committee meeting Thursday when it became apparent the plan would die but promised to bring it back for consideration…. “The speaker and the administration don’t seem comfortable with members asking questions,” Henry said. “They want us to just trust them and vote yes. They have always seemed more interested in policy than in the people the policy affects. That’s why we’ve been at odds since last year’s budget process.” In the meantime, the spokesman for Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said it was an oversight for there to be a “For Rent” sign in front of the Office of Group Benefits’ regional office in Monroe at North 19th Street.  Monroe Star News

Sandy’s Wrath Gives Obama Boost in Debate on Federal Role 

After Sandy, Romney aides had to rush to explain a statement the candidate made in a June 2011 Republican primary debate that he might shift the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s duties to the states or the private sector. Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Romney wouldn’t abolish FEMA if elected. Romney repeatedly declined to answer questions about the statement that reporters shouted out at campaign events.  Bloomberg

WHY IT MATTERS: Infrastructure

Mitt Romney favors less involvement by the federal government in infrastructure, preferring to let states lead the way. Romney shuns the idea that public-works spending is a good way to jumpstart the economy, saying decisions on worthy projects should be based on need and potential returns. Romney also wants to privatize Amtrak by ending federal subsidies for the money-losing passenger rail system. He’s OK with borrowing to pay for megaprojects if there’s a revenue stream to pay the money back, like tolls or port fees.  AP

Privatizing marriage

The primary argument for this change of policy is that the state allegedly has no business regulating marriage, which is a complex cultural and religious practice. However, the state does have an interest in promoting private caregiving within families — the care of children, elderly parents and sick or disabled relatives. According to advocates for marriage privatization, the state can better pursue its interest in promoting nongovernmental forms of caregiving by establishing and regulating civil unions for all who qualify, and steering clear of defining, interfering with or regulating “marriage.”  New York Times


October 26, 2012


Public or Private: The Fight Over the Future of Water

In an article published Oct. 24 in Nature, Fredrick Kaufman, author of Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food, describes what he calls “Wall Street’s thirst for water” — the push to turn water into a commodity like food, with the same instruments that produced the mortgage-backed security collapse and 2008 financial crisis. At risk, says Kaufman, are the 80 percent of humanity already threatened by water shortages and everyone who depends on a stable, affordable supply of life’s essential ingredient.  Wired

Voters in Three States Take on Traffic Cameras

The issue of red light cameras and speed cameras is heating up at the ballot box. Residents in in five cities in California, Texas and Washington state have battled for the right to have a say in whether automated ticketing machines are installed in their community. The November 6 results could raise to 25 the total number of municipalities nationwide that prohibit cameras…..Elsewhere, photo ticketing companies and city leaders fought the ballot measures at every step of the way. In League City, Texas, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia turned to the courts in an attempt to thwart the vote. City officials did succeed in re-writing the text of the initiative so that the ban would not take effect until 2014. As a result, campaign mailers recently hit residents’ mailboxes targeting the councilmen who support Redflex.  The Newspaper

Head of major university group weighs in on university leadership crisis

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of  the Association of American Universities speaks on the leadership crisis at the Univ of Virginia and across universities: ….We must recognize that the more universities divorce themselves from the state financially, intellectually, and culturally, the more they precipitate the malign trend towards the privatization and instrumentalization of education in this country. Thomas Jefferson created a vision of public higher education as an indispensable component of democracy. He was right to do so, and now that practically everyone needs a college education to be a contributing citizen, it is more important than ever. As many governors and legislators make the case that higher education is not a public good, but a private interest, we aid and abet that argument by using the language of privatization ourselves. I think we should be making the most cogent case possible for our public universities to be truly public.   Washington Post

There Are Better Way Than Parent Trigger to Improve Education – opinion

Parent trigger laws pretend to meet the very real need for more and better opportunities for parents to work alongside teachers and other community members to help improve schools. But often these laws put forward charter schools as the solution—despite the lack of evidence that charters as a whole outperform traditional public schools, and without providing for real and lasting parent and community participation in reform. In doing so, they take some of our most important local institutions out of the public sphere and entrust them to private charter management organizations that lack transparency. And we advance a larger agenda of privatization that threatens to undermine hard-won victories in the areas of civil rights, workers’ rights, and good government.  U.S. News & World Report

CO: Pinnacol Assurance holds off on privatization push

Pinnacol Assurance’s privatization effort is on hold until at least 2014, said Ken Ross, president and CEO. The state-chartered workers’ compensation insurer, which writes policies for 57 percent of the state’s businesses, caused controversy during the 2012 legislative session. First, it announced it wanted to privatize itself despite business leaders’ skepticism. Later, Pinnacol revealed it spent $3.5 million on legal, lobbying and public relations efforts. Negative reaction to that spending caused Pinnacol to shut down its efforts to buy its way from under state control. Denver Business Journal

FL: Tolls upon tolls? Florida’s Turnpike express-lane plan gets nod

A plan to add variable tolls to part of Florida’s Turnpike — already a toll road — was put into a higher gear on Thursday. With a 12-1 vote, Miami-Dade commissioners, mayors and other elected county officials…endorsed a plan to add variable toll express lanes to segments of the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike….But Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who was the only one to vote against the project, said the plan was unfair to commuters. “They are taking away a regular lane from the commuters,” Barreiro said. “It’s a toll within a toll and I don’t like that concept. It takes from the regular commuters who are already paying a toll. It’s like double taxation.” Miami Herald ‎