November 20, 2012


Water Industry Outlook: ‘The Time Is Ripe’ for Water Privatization

The privatization of the nation’s water industry is set to explode in the next five years, according to the findings of a recent survey. And what the next three to five years hold, according to the results, is a surge in privatization and public-private partnerships in a quest to capitalize on the resource. As Jerome Devillers, Head of Water Infrastructure/Project Financing at WeiserMazars stated bluntly in a release, “Our study shows the time is ripe” for water privatization.  Common Dreams

Facing Rates Of $17 For 15 Minutes, FCC Takes Up Regulation Of Prison Phone Industry

This industry is so profitable because prison phone companies have state-sanctioned monopolistic control over the state prison markets, and the government agency with authority to rein in these rates across the nation has been reluctant to offer meaningful relief. Prison phone companies are awarded these monopolies through bidding processes in which they submit contract proposals to the state prison systems; in all but eight states, these contracts include promises to pay “commissions” — in effect, kickbacks — to states, in either the form of a percentage of revenue, a fixed up-front payment, or a combination of the two. Thus, state prison systems have no incentive to select the telephone company that offers the lowest rates; rather, correctional departments have an incentive to reap the most profit by selecting the telephone company that provides the highest commission.  Think Progress

Fla. judge skeptical about prison privatization

A skeptical judge on Monday raised questions about whether it was legal for the state to move ahead with a plan to privatize nearly 3,000 health care jobs in Florida’s prisons. Circuit Judge John Cooper spent more than two hours Monday hearing a lawsuit from three public employee unions that challenged a move by the state’s prison agency to have private companies take over inmate health care. Cooper did not rule, saying he needed more information before he can decide whether an obscure legislative panel had the authority to sign off on the privatization proposal in September. Business Week

NY: SUNY Buffalo buries controversial Shale Institute

SUNY Buffalo has decided to shutter the Shale Resources and Society Institute in response to criticism of its funding and the independence of the scholarship it produces. …Reports released under the institute’s aegis include a study that examined Pennsylvania’s fracking history and compared its enforcement actions with New York’s proposed regs (such as are known at this point). Its conclusion: Most of the negative incidents in Pennsylvania would have been prevented under New York’s proposed rules…..Considine’s research has been underwritten by the drilling industry. The institute later was forced to clarify that the report wasn’t “peer-reviewed” in the technical sense of that term.  Albany Times Union

PA: Corbett stresses pension crisis in 2013 agenda

Corbett presented a broad outline of his agenda for 2013, saying his chief priorities are addressing the pension crisis, privatizing state liquor stores, and combating the high cost of college. ” Philadelphia Inquirer




November 13, 2012T


TX: Texans call for boycott of first foreign-owned toll road

Today marks the first day Spanish toll operator, Cintra, starts charging Texas commuters tolls to use SH 130. San Antonio-based Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Austin-based Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) object to Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road, especially since SH 130 is part of the original Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 (see it here). Though Cintra invented an innocuous sounding name, like the SH 130 Concession Company, make no mistake, a Spanish company, Cintra, controls and operates SH 130 for the next HALF CENTURY — and some say it represents a multi-generational theft of public assets.

TX:  Death revives questions about high-speed toll road

A Lockhart woman was killed on the Texas 130 toll road in what is believed to be the first fatality since the corridor’s new segment opened last month with an 85 mph speed limit. Houston Chronicle

WA: Charter Schools Narrowly Win Approval in Washington State

Initiative 1240, the measure that will allow 40 charter schools to open in Washington state, has passed.  Seattle Times

GA: Georgia Legislative Caucus to Join Lawsuit against Charter School Amendment

Georgia voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that will allow a state committee to authorize charter schools, but some legislators and educators are not dropping their fight to stop it.  Augusta Chronicle

PA: Power to the people – opinion

Citizens of Allentown should think twice before privatizing their water supply. Publicly owned utilities are accountable to the public that owns them. When you privatize them, you hand them over to an unaccountable board that cares about shareholders not the people. Look at how privately owned utilities work: PPL has allowed my family to freeze for four days after Superstorm Sandy. When I called, I was told to make alternate arrangements (on my dollar), which is the equivalent of saying, “Let them eat cake.” Being a virtual monopoly, PPL could take its sweet time restoring power to thousands across the Valley and do pitifully little to prevent a repeat of this event. Allentown Morning Call

VA:  State panel seeks ‘truth’ about the port’s finances

Against the backdrop of the possible privatization of the port of Hampton Roads, a state panel has asked the General Assembly’s oversight agency to take a close look at three recent studies of the port’s performance to make sure they’re presenting a fair picture. The request comes amid a morass of conflicting data about how the port is faring financially. The Virginian-Pilot

VA: Virginia studies toll options for I-64 from Richmond to Hampton

The Virginia Department of Transportation is studying whether to toll some or all of the lanes on Interstate 64 between Richmond and Hampton to pay for widening the corridor. Truckers can sound off on the proposal during three scheduled hearings in December or in writing through Jan. 7, 2013. VDOT has put forward three alternatives for the proposal, starting with a “no build” alternative. The other two alternatives involve tolls – one that would toll all lanes of traffic in both directions, and one that would toll only the new lanes being added. Land Line



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 ‎