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- D.C. issues press release essentially saying it will overpay for streetlights for no reason.
- A $444 million cost overrun by Lockheed for the F-35 cockpit upgrade is about the same amount the Biden administration is requesting for “the weatherization of low-income homes.”
- The Florida House has passed legislation expanding the state’s school voucher enrollment by 60,000 students.
1) National: The Partnership for Working Families says “the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer brought many people a measure of relief and the validation of having a jury affirm that the violence that police inflict on Black communities is real and is wrong. It was an acknowledgement of George Floyd’s humanity. At the same time, we know this verdict isn’t justice. (…) Our work now is to grow our movement and fight for a world without police and prisons and for investment in institutions that actually keep communities safe—housing, healthcare, thriving schools, and all the resources we need to care for each other and live full and dignified lives.”
2) National: Responding to a question about calls for police defunding or abolition, Tracie Keesee, a 25-year Denver police veteran and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, says “a lot of this will have to do with who’s paying attention. This is a lot about government. This is about budgets. And this is also about who’s a priority. And this has been a number one question for decades. And so folks are going to have to have a lot of patience, and making sure that they understand that what may not work will have to be reenvisioned and redone, but it’s doesn’t mean we’re going to give up and we’re going to roll backwards.”
3) National: Dozens of organizations, including the Service Employees International Union, American Federation of Teachers, Feminist Majority Foundation, In the Public Interest, Jobs With Justice, the NAACP, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and The Center for Popular Democracy have come behind President Biden’s proposal to strengthen and invest in “building a durable caregiving system as a core pillar of the American Rescue Plan, and we champion your plan to create over one million high-quality jobs and to advance racial equity by investing $400 billion in Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS).”
For more see the Kaiser Family Foundation report, How Could $400 Billion New Federal Dollars Change Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services?
4) Maryland: Acknowledge its history of racism in land-use decisions, Anne Arundel County’s long-term development plan will now include specific reference to slavery and its legacy. “Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, D-Annapolis, introduced the slavery language after a request from an Arnold resident, the county NAACP and the Caucus of African-American Leaders. While the slavery language does not require specific steps, Rodvien called it an important step to make sure guiding document of county planning considers the context of historic slavery in the county and how government-supported actions over decades helped white families at the expense of Black families and others.”
5) Maryland: Prince George’s County officials and residents celebrated the groundbreaking for a new mental health facility that is being constructed “with funds diverted from a police training facility, part of the county’s response to nationwide calls for racial and social justice. “County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), who decided to redirect the $20 million after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, said her response was also shaped by encounters Prince George’s police have had with mentally ill people over the years. The facility at Doctors Community Medical Center in Lanham will be one step toward addressing a long-standing disparity in access to mental and behavioral health care in the county, Alsobrooks said at a news conference.”
6) New Jersey: New Jersey Policy Perspectives has published a Blueprint to Secure a Just Recovery. “This new Blueprint is more than a pathway out of the pandemic and recession—it is also a new vision for NJPP. Produced in close collaboration with dozens of partners, the Blueprint encompasses both the issue areas that have long been the backbone of our work, as well as new priorities which NJPP identified as critical to securing just and equitable outcomes. The needs of our state are great and we can no longer afford to silo our policy concerns; we must recognize the inextricable links that tie housing to school funding to transportation and beyond. To avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul, we must grow the pie and be forthright about the level of investment that our communities truly need.”
7) Think Tanks: The Partnership for Working Families has published People Powered Budgets: Democratizing Local Budgets to Transform Our Cities and Care for Our Communities, by Kathryn Cai. “This paper makes a case for organizers to democratize the way local budgets are set to meet the multiple crises of this moment, build a larger base, and sow seeds that can give rise to a true multiracial, feminist democracy for the first time in our country.”
8) Think Tanks: This Thursday, New Jersey Policy Perspectives will be holding the first session of its Progress 2021 virtual speaker series, featuring Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., New York Times Bestselling Author and Chair of Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies, and Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). This discussion, moderated by NJPP President Brandon McKoy, will focus on ways lawmakers can center racial equity in the nation’s pandemic recovery. Register here.
9) National: Schoolchildren as a commodity? “U.K. transport firm FirstGroup Plc agreed to sell the biggest operator of America’s yellow school buses [First Student—ed.] as part of a $4.6 billion deal, bowing to investor pressure to retreat from a global expansion. The stock surged as much as 19% after Stockholm-based investment firm EQT Infrastructure agreed to purchase First Student, which serves 1,000 school districts, and First Transit, an operator of bus services across more than 300 locations with its headquarters in Cincinnati. Iconic long-distance brand Greyhound isn’t included but remains for sale, FirstGroup said Friday.” Your kids will now be transported by EQT Infrastructure (EUR 67 billion in AUM), which has purchased these “assets” on the advice of Morgan Stanley.
Profiting from the recovery? The Financial Times reports “the deal is a chance for the private equity group to capitalise on any recovery from the pandemic. The sector has been fuelled by record sums of money committed to their funds and not yet deployed.” [Sub required]. EQT is chaired by Conni Jonsson, who has 52,322,636 indirect shares in the company.
10) Florida: The Florida House has passed legislation expanding the state’s school voucher enrollment by 60,000 students, “even as critics derided the proposal as a zealous diversion of public funds to unaccountable private schools. (…) The issue of accountability, however, has emerged as a key point of debate. Public-school advocates are bemoaning what they call a double standard, as the bill funnels more taxpayer dollars to private institutions that aren’t subject to the same student testing and school grading standards as their public-school counterparts. ‘The lack of accountability has created dozens, if not hundreds, of new schools that only exist because of these voucher programs, and how will we ever know if voucher programs really work?’ asked Rep. Kamia Brown (D-Orlando).”
11) Indiana: School bus drivers in Kokomo are battling to join AFSCME. “The bus drivers, now joined by custodial and maintenance employees of KSC, massed to last Wednesday’s school board meeting. Alongside them were members of the regional AFSCME Council 962, as well as other local unions, including IBEW 873 and United Steelworkers Local 2958, showing support for the group’s unionization efforts. Primarily, concerns ranged from understaffing and low pay to “basic dignity and respect,” according to a press release from AFSCME Council 962.”
12) Oklahoma: Tulsa Public Schools have filed a fresh lawsuit against the State Board of Education over its March 25 vote to settle a longstanding legal challenge over charter school funding. “‘The resolution demonstrates an intent by the SBE to refuse to comply with the school funding provisions in the Oklahoma Constitution and statutes; and to direct or cause others, including the Oklahoma State Department of Education and county and/or state officials to effectuate and implement the unlawful resolution,’ TPS attorneys wrote in Friday’s filing. The district claims in the lawsuit that the state school board’s decision to settle would cost TPS at least $4 million annually should charter schools be granted an equal share of the revenue from sources that are currently restricted to traditional school districts.”
The Putnam City Schools Board of Education has also “voted in support of taking legal action against the Oklahoma State Board of Education in response to the State Board voting to equalize funding between charter schools and public school districts.”
13) Wyoming: The Casper Star-Tribune reports that “a bill that allows applications to create charter schools in Wyoming to circumvent school districts has passed into law without Gov. Mark Gordon’s signature. The legislation allows the State Loan and Investment Board to approve a charter school. Typically, local school districts have approved charter schools in the state.”
14) National: As something concrete struggles to emerge from what so far has amounted to competing White House and Republican infrastructure fact sheets rather than real bills, the question of how to pass both social and physical infrastructure—and how to pay for it—is challenging the Biden administration and Congress.
“If there’s going to be one big infrastructure bill, with all the pain and wrangling that comprises, splitting it in three (AJP, AFP, and now this American Health Care Plan I guess) just makes it more likely that whatever’s second or third never happens,” writes David Dayen. “The Republican counter-offer that only deals with the first part, in an underweighted way, makes that more likely.”
Already the Democrats are divided over the Republican counterproposal. “Centrists led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally, see advantages in passing a scaled-down infrastructure package with Republican votes and then passing the rest of President Biden’s infrastructure package with only Democratic votes through budget reconciliation rules that sidestep the filibuster later this year.” But West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has flatly rejected this idea and called for a scaled down bill.
Biden is expected to unveil a $1.5 trillion “human infrastructure” plan this week that will focus on education, child care and paid leave for workers, among other things. “It would be paid for in part by new taxes on the rich, including the end of a tax break that lawmakers have tried to eliminate for years.” This has induced hysteria in some quarters of Wall Street even though CEO pay remains “stratospheric.”
Finally, will the infrastructure bill(s) be subject to public hearings by the relevant House and Senate committees, or be cooked up behind closed doors by party leaderships?
15) National: Meanwhile lobbyists and their allied think tanks are pouring over Congress and the op-ed pages trying to get their favorite pet items into whatever bill(s) emerge. The privatization industry is no exception, pushing its longtime hobby horses—such as private operations and maintenance contracts—together with public design and build components as the magical solution. In other words, so-called public-private partnerships. Squeezing privatization industry priorities into the infrastructure bill(s) is a contact sport: “I was thrilled to hear Senator Carper talk about Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) and user fees, because ultimately, infrastructure needs to be paid for by the people who are using it,” gushed Austin Ramirez, CEO of Husco and Vice Chair of AEM’s Infrastructure Vision 2050 Task Force, at a Brookings virtual event on Thursday.
16) National: The chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio (D-OR), has announcedthe full list of Vice Chairs for each of the Committee’s six subcommittees for the 117th Congress. The six subcommittees and their Chairs and Vice Chairs are as follows:
- Subcommittee on Aviation: Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Vice Chair Conor Lamb (D-PA)
- Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation: Chair Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Vice Chair Jake Auchincloss (D-MA)
- Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management: Chair Dina Titus (D-NV) and Vice Chair Chris Pappas (D-NH)
- Subcommittee on Highways and Transit: Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Vice Chair Greg Stanton (D-AZ)
- Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials: Chair Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) and Vice Chair Marilyn Strickland (D-WA)
- Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment: Chair Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) and Vice Chair Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA)
17) California: The California Water Resources Control Board has drafted a cease and desist order against Nestlé, asking the Swiss company to stop removing millions of gallons of water a year out of the San Bernardino National Forest in Southern California, reports the California Globe’s Evan Symon. “It is concerning that these diversions are continuing despite recommendations from the initial report, and while the state is heading into a second dry year,” said assistant deputy director of the Division of Water Rights Jule Rizzardo on Friday. “The state will use its enforcement authority to protect water and other natural resources as we step up our efforts to further build California’s drought resilience.”
18) District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia: Express lane traffic in the DC-area is still below pre-COVID-19 levels, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Traffic on Transurban’s many electronic toll roads across the globe is creeping back to pre-COVID-19 figures, but express lanes traffic in the Washington metro area is lagging, according to a quarterly report released Thursday. Transurban noted that traffic ‘recovered to pre-COVID-19 levels in markets where restrictions have lifted,’ highlighting a 4.5 percent increase in Sydney, Australia. ‘In the Greater Washington Area,’ the report added, ‘traffic continues to be impacted as a result of ongoing restrictions on movement.’”
To say the least, this raises questions about the financial feasibility and even general necessity of Gov. Larry Hogan’s multibillion dollar I-495/I-270 P3 toll lanes boondoggle—which Transurban has been selected to develop. Perhaps this news has made the P3 boosters at the Washington Post a bit nervous. The Post, perhaps stung by Josh Tulkin’s recent evisceration of the project in the pages of Maryland Matters, ran a rather hysterical editorial pushing the dubious P3 on Saturday.
In order to boost his branding efforts as he eyes a possible run at the White House in 2024, Hogan convened a two-day meeting in Annapolis last week prominently featuring Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (see above) and Trump’s former infrastructure czar D.J. Gribbin, who is a former employee of Koch Industries.
19) District of Columbia: According to a press release, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), and the Office of Public-Private Partnerships (OP3), issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) “to three short-listed offerors for the DC Smart Street Lighting project, the District’s first-ever public private partnership. Once finalized, the District will partner with the selected company to modernize DC’s more than 75,000 streetlights by converting to LED technology with remote monitoring and control capabilities.”
20) International: The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has called on Canada Pension Plan Investments Board (CPPIB) to reject a plan to invest in the privatization of water and sanitation sewer services in Brazil. “Canadians don’t want their pension funds invested in dodgy privatization schemes. This will not be the first time that the CPPIB has invested Canadians’ pension funds into dodgy privatization schemes. In 2019, there was a public outcry after it emerged that the CPPIB had invested in CoreCivic and GEO Group, 2 companies operating privatized prisons in the United States. Both of these companies profited from the Trump administration’s detention of migrants. ‘If the investment in Iguá goes ahead, Canada Pension Plan Investments will be repeating the mistake it made when it invested in CoreCivic and the Geo Group,’ said [NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer Bert Blundon].”
Criminal Justice and Immigration
21) National: In an investigation into ICE’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, The New York Times points to the contributory factor of a lack of transparency by private companies running immigration detention centers. “‘It was clear the eye of the storm was the detention center, and it was inevitable that it was going to spread to the community.’ ICE outsources the day-to-day operations of this facility to a company called GEO, the second-largest private prison company in the country. ‘The first thing we wanted was just information, and we were not getting any answers. The only resort we had was public pressure.’”
22) National: CoreCivic, the private, for-profit prison and immigration detention company, has announced that it will release its 2021 first quarter financial results after the market closes on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, and that a live broadcast of its conference call will begin at 10:00 a.m. central time (11:00 a.m. eastern time) on Thursday, May 6, 2021.
23) National: How much do the executive officers of the GEO Group, the private, for-profit prison and immigration detention corporation, make? Have a look at their current proxy statement, p. 34. Seems George Zoley has taken a $4 million pay cut since 2019.
24) National/Alabama: After the collapse of their so-called public-pr ivate partnership to build new prisons, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is running around trying to patch up an alternative path with legislators. The deal fell through when Barclays Bank and the Wisconsin-based Public Finance Authority (PFA) got cold feet over the widely criticized deal. The pullout was not precipitated by some pang of conscience on the part of Barclays but a decided souring of the debt market for prison bonds. “Barclays took this offering to the market last week—the Alabama Political Reporter noted, ‘the deal originally sought $633 million in taxable private activity bonds, which are open to a limited number of institutional investors, and another $215 million in private placement bonds, open to individual investors and banks.’ But as Jason Appleson of PT Asset Management commented, ‘they weren’t having much success,’— reflective of an overall trend of asset owners consciously moving away from supporting the infrastructure behind mass incarceration.”
25) National/California: The ACLU is demanding the closure of Otay Mesa immigration detention camp, which is operated for profit by CoreCivic. “The number of detained immigrants nationwide reached a high of more than 50,000 in 2019. Since then the number has fallen to around 15,000 people. Lawyers with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties say that drop proves immigration detention is unnecessary, with no tangible impact on public safety or the functioning of the immigration courts system. ‘The bottom line is that people can be released due to orders that call for a large number of people released at once, and the system will not fall apart,’ said Monika Langarica, an attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. ‘It will continue to operate as it has. People will continue to show up for immigration court.’”
26) National/Kansas: The Leavenworth Times reports that CoreCivic has asked Leavenworth County to take over the operations of the company’s Leavenworth Detention Center. “The idea is being proposed as a way to keep the local facility open following a presidential executive order that prohibits the U.S Department of Justice from contracting with privately-operated detention centers. Under the proposal, CoreCivic would retain ownership of the Leavenworth Detention Center property, which would be leased by the county. Damon Hininger, president and CEO of CoreCivic, reviewed the proposal Wednesday with Leavenworth County commissioners. He acknowledged there are still a lot of ‘what ifs’ associated with the proposal.”
27) National: BlackRock was the top institutional investor in CoreCivic at the end of March 2021, according to Dow Jones, holding 17,391,204 shares. Next up was The Vanguard Group, holding 13,666,897. [Dow Jones Institutional News, 20 April 2021]
28) California: Santa Barbara property owners are considering the creation of a State Street Association that would hire private security guards to address the homeless situation downtown. “Interim Santa Barbara Police Chief Barney Melekian sat in on a recent meeting at which the State Street Association idea was discussed. He said versions of the idea have been done in other places. ‘I don’t see any super downside to it,’ Melekian said, adding that there would need to be conversations with private security firms to discuss jurisdictions. Melekian said it’s time for a public-private partnership and alliances across government entities.”
29) Colorado: The state’s halfway houses receive millions in state funds every year despite poor outcomes. “Of the 29 residential community correction facilities spread across the state, only five are locally managed. The remaining 24 are owned and operated by five private companies: Intervention Community Correction Services, a private nonprofit; CoreCivic, a for-profit private prison and detention company; ComCor Inc., a private nonprofit; Advantage Treatment Centers, a private for-profit company; and The GEO Group, a for-profit private prison company. ‘I just don’t think they’re truly working with their community. And I feel like it’s a big component that’s missing from the puzzle,’” said Terry Hurst, policy coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
30) Iowa: Danny Homan, President of Iowa AFSCME Council 61, told a Senate committee meeting on April 14 that it is urgent to provide adequate funding for corrections workers to maintain adequate staffing and safety.
31) Oregon: The Oregon Senate has voted to ban private security firms from using vehicles or uniforms that could be confused with law enforcement agencies. “Senate Bill 116 is modeled after a 2019 measure that was meant to make it easier for the public to tell the difference between a security guard and a police officer. It applied to college campuses, and was named “Kaylee’s Law” after a student who was murdered by a security officer at Central Oregon Community College.”
32) Texas: Next Saturday San Antonio voters will cast their ballots on a measure that would decertify—repeal collective bargaining for—the city’s police union. This has kicked off a sharp debate with resonance across the country. “Supporters say this would allow the public to have a say in future police contracts. Opponents claim this will make it harder for the department to recruit and maintain officers.”
33) National: Waste Management, one of the largest municipal trash outsourcing companies in the U.S., has announced that it will release first quarter 2021 financial results before the opening of the market tomorrow, April 27, 2021. Following the release, Waste Management will host its investor conference call at 10 a.m. ET. A live audio webcast of the conference call can be accessed by visiting investors.wm.com.”
34) National: Maximus has announced it will acquire Veterans Evaluation Services for $1.4 billion. “Privately held VES serves the U.S. Federal Government and has established a strong reputation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a leading provider of Medical Disability Examinations to determine Veterans’ eligibility for compensation and pension benefits. The proposed transaction is subject to U.S. antitrust filing requirements and customary closing conditions. The acquisition is expected to close in the Company’s third fiscal quarter.”
35) California: In his budget speech, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to spend close to $1 billion to address the city’s massive homelessness crisis. He also announced a plan to let low-income Angelenos ride public transit for free; Operation Next, an $8 billion plan to recycle and distribute water across Los Angeles; the largest guaranteed basic income pilot of any city in America, $1,000 a month to 2,000 households for a full year. Garcetti also outlined a plan to get the police out of the mental health business. “Some $10 million would go towards alternative mental health crisis response programs, which have yet to be finalized.”
But activists “denounced a budget proposal by the mayor that includes increases to the law enforcement budget, one day after the conviction of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis fueled renewed scrutiny of police across the US.”
36) Georgia: Union organizing in public services is proceeding apace in the South. “After a hard-fought, two-year struggle, Teamsters at Republic Services in Cumming, Ga., unanimously ratified their first contract on [April 10]. The four-year agreement contains better wages, seniority language, a grievance procedure and stronger security for the 40-worker unit. ‘We stayed true to our beliefs of unionization. No matter what the company threw at us, we knew we could stop it by standing together as a union,’ said Greg Dowis, a 23-year industrial driver for Republic Services and union steward for Local 728. ‘I want to thank my brothers and sisters in Cumming for staying united throughout our battle at the bargaining table.’”
37) Maryland: The state is suing a waste management company, Ecology Services, claiming the company operated without permits for most of last year and violated a stormwater discharge agreement at a site in Pasadena. “We have a strong case and a clear urgency to take enforcement action now. We were already looking at a possible enforcement action weeks ago and as soon as we confirmed the noncompliance and the gravity of the situation we wanted to take action immediately,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles in a statement. “It’s important to prevent further harm and send a strong signal to all that violations of stormwater pollution will not be tolerated.”
38) Oklahoma: Dena Drabek, a mom who lives in Moore, says lawmakers need to block a managed care plan. “The governor’s plan takes Medicaid away from the state and puts private insurance companies in charge of patient care, with cost savings being the goal. The Health Care Authority’s own actuarial adviser has said that to achieve that goal, Oklahoma would need to reduce services to Medicaid patients by up to 40%. These cuts almost certainly would involve a rationing of medically necessary care for patients like Eli. Not much is scarier to an adoptive mom like me.”
39) Oregon: There has been significant drama over a legislative effort, SB 554, to remove state preemption of local anti-gun laws. “The House Committee on Rules ultimately passed SB 554, with the A-36 amendments offered by House Democrat Majority Leader Tina Kotek. SB 554, as amended, now heads to the House Floor for a vote, potentially as early as Tuesday, April 27.”
40) Tennessee: The City of Memphis’ trash crews have been left out of the mayor’s plan for raises. “‘We are on the front line,’ said Gail Tyree, Executive Director of AFSCME Local 1733. ‘We consider ourselves the essential workers of the City of Memphis.’ There was plenty of anger and frustration outside AFSCME headquarters in Downtown Memphis on Wednesday. The union represents nearly 1,000 city employees who work in General Services, Parks, Public Works and the Solid Waste division. ‘We have worked through this pandemic,’ said Tyree. ‘We have done some of the nastiest, dirtiest jobs. But we get zero!’ [Mayor] Strickland’s budget proposal includes $7 million to give commissioned police and fire employees a 2% pay raise. There are no pay raises included for the AFSCME workers.”
41) Think Tanks: Opportunity Agenda has released a new report exploring The Narrative Shifts From The War on Poverty to ‘Ending Welfare as We Know It.” This case study “tells the story of how a relatively small conservative movement was able to harness the power and resources of major corporations to fund think tanks and foundations that would produce the intellectual capital to attack the liberal War on Poverty and Great Society of the Johnson years, how the mass media would carry this new conservative narrative, and how the dog-whistle rhetoric of Ronald Reagan would reinforce and reify it.”
Interviewees include Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and author of Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, Vintage Books, 1979; Martin Gilens, Professor of Public Policy, UCLA, and author of Why Americans Hate Welfare, University of Chicago Press, 2009; Rebecca Vallas, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; and Lee Cokorinos, Director of Democracy Strategies and author of Upsizing Democracy: Confronting the Right Wing Assault on Government, 2007.
42) National: There was a $444 million cost overrun by Lockheed for the F-35 cockpit upgrade, about the same amount the Biden administration has had to request ($400 million) in a budget supplement for “the weatherization of low-income homes.”
Photo by Street Sense Media.