You don’t have to be a dedicated doomscroller to notice the words “hellscape,” “Dumpster fire,” and—yes—“doomsday” popping up in the media you consume in any given day.
But you don’t have to be a Pollyanna to be able to look past that and see that there is good news, too—news worth sharing and celebrating.
Every week, in addition to this newsletter you’re reading, In the Public Interest issues The Privatization Report, a weekly scan of, broadly interpreted, news on the privatization front (it comes out Mondays except for when that’s a holiday—like next week—when it comes out on Tuesday; see previous issues and sign up here if you’re interested). And, sure, there’s plenty in it to fret about: the threat to public education, to faith in democratic institutions, to government’s potential to do good, to the environment—it’s all in there. But sprinkled in there are also some sparkling gems of successes, people fighting back, democracy winning.
Last Monday’s issue was no exception, but we’re just going to share with you here the good news for once.
The Minnesota House of Representatives’ Judiciary and Public Safety budget bill includes, among other things, an effective ban on No Knock Warrants, the creation of the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women, and funding for community violence prevention. It also includes a provision that would make voice communication free across all state prisons. ”Incarceration can be a very isolating experience, and it can be difficult for incarcerated people to maintain their relationships with their loved ones,” said Rep. Esther Agbaje, who authored the legislation. “There is a significant financial disparity among BIPOC incarcerated people. Eliminating the financial barrier will allow individuals to maintain strong family ties, reduce recidivism rates and increase mental and emotional well-fare. Incarceration can take a toll on mental and physical health, but research has shown that regular contact with family members can help to improve both.”
When a Colorado law takes full effect in 2025, phone calls for people in Colorado prisons and youth detention facilities will be free. The costs to Colorado families for prison phone calls had been $7.7 million annually, according to Worth Rises, the organization that helped craft the legislation.
“At its core, this bill is about keeping families connected,” said state Rep. Mandy Lindsay, an Arapahoe County Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, which Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign, according to the Colorado Sun. “We’ve heard from countless Coloradans who’ve racked up thousands of dollars worth of debt communicating with their incarcerated loved ones. Making prison phone calls free will allow family members, especially children, to stay in-touch with their loved ones which lays a strong foundation to life after incarceration and works to reduce recidivism.”
LOVE WON, PRIVATIZATION ZERO
A candidate whose platform included fending off attempts to privatize Jacksonville, Florida’s community-owned utility won the runoff to become the first female to serve as mayor of that city. In a tweet, Democratic Mayoral candidate Donna Deegan called the legislation that would lead to privatizing JEA a “five alarm fire.” After she won, her posting became a little less incendiary, in favor of unity.
“Love won tonight, and we made history,” she tweeted. “We have a new day in Jacksonville because people chose unity over division—creating a broad coalition of people across the political spectrum that want a unified city. Together, we will bring change for good to Jacksonville by making good on the decades-long broken promises on infrastructure, building an economy that works for everyone and improving access to healthcare. We will break down the wall between City Hall and bring all the people in to create a city that works for everyone. #ChangeForGood
And, because good news out of Florida is sometimes hard to find, we’d also like to point out that a commission in the city of Calloway has voted down the city’s manager’s proposal to privatize its trash collection.
BOT AND PAID FOR BY HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES
Bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate are taking concerns seriously about AI playing a major role in health insurance claims denials. Insurance companies had “death panels” long before the term was invented, but at least political leaders are trying to make sure the death panel isn’t a robot. From STAT, an online publication offering “exclusive analysis of biotech, pharma, and the life sciences”:
Lawmakers in both parties have asked UnitedHealth Group, Humana, and CVS Health’s Aetna for internal documents that “will show how decisions are made to grant or deny access to care, including how they are using [artificial intelligence],” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the top Democrat on a subcommittee with the power to investigate government affairs, during the hearing. ‘I want to put these companies on notice,’ said Blumenthal (D-Conn.). ‘If you deny life-saving coverage to seniors, we are watching. We will expose you. We will demand better. We will pass legislation if necessary. But action will be forthcoming.’”
IMAGINE NO POSSESION (OF PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDS)
And, finally, some of our own news. Education activists, including ITPI’s Clare Crawford, worked in coalition to shut down the charter school application of Imagine Schools in Imperial County, California (more on that in a future issue of this newsletter).