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Here’s this post on the In the Public Interest website.
- If prior elections are any indication, the labor movement was a crucial part of stopping the “Red Wave.”
- Suspicions arise that the city of Chester, Pennsylvania, is using a municipal bankruptcy filing as a scheme to privatize the city’s water works.
- Will the New York City Council go along with privatizing retiree healthcare?
First, the good news…
1) National: There were big wins in the elections last Tuesday for good government, public interest priorities, democratic norms, and public services and infrastructure at the national and the state levels. While the talking heads toss around various explanations of why the “red wave” turned into a red trickle, one decisive factor has often been missed: the fact that the outcomes were made possible by the labor movement.
2) National: While noting that the elections “delivered a mixed bag for those of us looking to fight inequality and stave off the destruction of our representative democracy,” In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler ticks off some notable victories.
- Voters in Massachusetts agreed to increase taxes on income above $1 million.
- Illinois voters agreed to create a constitutional right to collectively bargain and to be represented by a union.
- Voters in Republican-controlled South Dakota approved a measure to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.
- Nebraska voters opted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, up from the current $9 an hour. Nevada voters raised it to $12 an hour.
- Washington, D.C., will raise the minimum wage for workers who receive tips. Voters approved the measure in 2018, but it was repealed by the D.C. Council.
- Voters in four states—California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Mexico—chose to increase public education funding.
- Voters in Kentucky rejected adding language to the state constitution to say that nothing in the document could be interpreted to protect a right to abortion. Voters in Vermont, California, and Michigan added a right to abortion to their state constitutions.
- Four states—Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont—saw voters choose to end the practice of enslavement after criminal conviction, which will end the practice of forced prison labor.
- Arizona voters voted to cap the interest rate on medical debt at 3 percent and limit wage garnishment for medical debt to a maximum of 30 percent of earnings.
- Voters in San Francisco, California, agreed to give $60 million in grants to public schools for the “community school” approach.
- Colorado will slash tax breaks for households that earn more than $300,000 to help pay for a new school meals program.
3) National: The Social Security and Medicare privatizers lost big last Tuesday. “As the country awaits full election results, we congratulate all of the seniors’ champions who prevailed in key races across the U.S. last night. Several candidates who the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare enthusiastically endorsed have emerged victorious in both the House and the Senate (see below). These wins represent a resounding rejection of MAGA-nomics by voters in bellwether districts and states. While clearly concerned about inflation, these voters have said ‘NO’ to more tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful corporations – and NO to cuts in workers’ Social Security and Medicare benefits, including reducing COLAs or raising the eligibility ages for both programs.” Democratic control of the Senate should block any ideas on this front, as well as any notion of a national abortion ban, for now.
4) National: Election administration is more secure. Trump’s picks to oversee elections in key 2024 battlegrounds all lost. “I think voters took seriously this idea that we’re at a pivot point, when it comes to our democracy,” victorious Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in an interview. “It’s OK to be skeptical—always—about government, and elections are no different. But when you go beyond that to outright hostility and disinformation, people don’t want to be a part of that.”
5) National: Progressive prosecutors won in midterm elections across the US in spite of tough-on-crime rhetoric from Republicans. “Lead prosecutors who oppose cash bail and charging people for low-level drug crimes won local races even in Republican-leaning states. Reform-minded prosecutors in Dallas and San Antonio fended off law-and-order challengers. Indianapolis stood by its lead prosecutor, who vowed not to charge doctors providing abortions in spite of a state ban, even with strong opposition from the local police union and an opponent who tried to blame him for a ‘public safety crisis.’ In Oklahoma City, the former executive director of the state’s Innocence Project will be its new district attorney. (Bolts has a complete rundown of local races, along with criminal justice initiatives, from across the country.)”
6) National: Look at this graphic on the steady expansion of Medicaid, ten years after the Supreme Court blocked Obama’s national plan and left it up to states to decide. [H/t to Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond].
7) National: Even if the Republicans narrowly win the House, they will not be able to block money from the Biden-backed infrastructure law from reaching the states, The Bond Buyer reports. “If in control, Republicans are likely to launch dozens of investigations, including into the use of stimulus funds and federal spending of the infrastructure dollars. But they have no ability to affect the flow of the infrastructure dollars, [said Jeff Davis, senior fellow at The Eno Center for Transportation]. ‘Republicans love complaining about elements of the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act],’ he said. But ‘all the money provided directly by the IIJA is guaranteed by law,’ so any disruption of funds is ‘not going to happen.’ Meanwhile, the House Municipal Finance Caucus, which protects the tax exemption among other Muni agenda items, is expected to see the return of the majority of its roughly 34 members.”
8) Arkansas: Idaho ballot activist Luke Mayville passes on some “good news in Arkansas: The attempt to require a 60% supermajority for ballot measures was voted down in a landslide.”
9) Connecticut: In a big win for the public interest, a slate of anti-privatization incumbent Democrats won in Strafford County and will now press on with a public project to replace the Riverside Rest Home with a new 215-bed nursing home nearby on County Farm Road in Dover, instead of privatizing it. “I’m very humbled by the support I received in this election. Working to help the sick and the elderly and frail has been the work of my life and it’s nice to have that be recognized by the voters,” County Commission chairperson George Maglaras said.
10) Georgia: The Southern Poverty Law Center, National Education Association, and Georgia Association of Educators plan to sue the state over passing into law a list of divisive concepts that teachers are prohibited from discussing in class, and creating a chilling effect on classroom speech. “The Georgia lawsuit alleges that the state’s law violates the First and 14th Amendments, claiming that it is attempting to censor classroom discussions. The teachers that are part of the lawsuit have not been able to do their jobs of teaching students the truth about history or social studies because of fear of retaliation, according to Craig Goodmark, an attorney who is representing an AP World History teacher in the lawsuit. Goodmark also works as a network attorney for the Georgia Association of Educators, which would be one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.”
11) Maryland: Check out Baltimore Magazine’s profile of Eric Jackson, a leader of the Black Yield Institute (BYI), a Black-led food sovereignty organization and urban farm in Southwest Baltimore. “To Jackson, at least part of that answer lies in the community garden some two blocks away, where rows of collards, tomatoes, squash, and kale were once in full bloom. But the garden lies empty now.
Last June, the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden, a 1.25-acre plot of land which BYI had run and operated for over five years, and which had distributed more than 3,200 pounds of fresh produce to residents, was served an immediate eviction order by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. BYI was occupying the land without permission. After months of back and forth between city officials and local activists, the organization agreed to move the farm three miles away to a new property in Mt. Clare. Now, one year later, the incident continues to serve as a painful reminder to activists, farmers, and community members alike that the movement toward food justice and food sovereignty starts and ends with the land.” The article is a tour de force on food insecurity and resistance in the inner city.
12) Michigan: A “faithful member of the Network for Public Education,” Mitchell Robinson, has been elected to the Michigan State Board of Education. “You beat Betsy DeVos!”
13) Mississippi/National: Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba was interviewed by the Clarion-Ledger on the water crisis. [Video, about 2 minutes]. Yesterday the Clarion-Ledger reported that a deal may be in the works. “Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has some idea of what might come next in the saga to save the city’s long-ailing water system. While the city is under a non-disclosure agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, during an interview with the Clarion Ledger, which took place in his office earlier this week, the mayor said there are some things residents can expect the federal government to do. ‘Let me try to answer that question doing the delicate dance of speaking to the overall framework without violating our non-disclosure agreement at this time,’ Lumumba said Wednesday. Lumumba said it is likely that a third-party administrator will be appointed to oversee the water system and make decisions about how any coming federal or state funds will be spent. Under this arrangement, the city would maintain its ownership of the O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water treatment facilities, and it would keep the revenue that comes from the system. Both are aspects that Lumumba has long insisted are vital to any agreement moving forward.” [Wicker Perlis, “Lumumba: Private, Regional Approach Not an Option for Jackson,” The Clarion Ledger, 13 November 2022]
14) South Dakota: Medicaid expansion wins in deeply conservative South Dakota. “South Dakotans know their families and neighbors deserve health care without going into debt or avoiding check-ups, procedures, and medication they need,” Kelly Hall, the executive director of the Fairness Project, which worked with the ballot initiative’s supporters in South Dakota and has helped other states win Medicaid expansion.. “Citizens took matters into their own hands to pass Medicaid expansion via ballot measure—showing us once again that if politicians won’t do their job, their constituents will step up and do it for them.”
15) International: Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has assured supporters he will not privatize state-owned Banco do Brasil, the largest financial entity in Latin America, nor will he sell off parts of state oil giant Petrobras. “In addition, the National Bank for Economic and Social Development, and the Bank of the Northeast will once again become investment banks, ‘even for small and medium entrepreneurs,’ he said. In his speech, Lula questioned why Brazil has an inflation target but not an economic growth target, saying the country needs to spend more on health care and education which, in his opinion, will help spur growth.”
16) National: The New Yorker’s Jessica Winter has a good breakdown of how “Education Freedom” played out in the Midterms. The outcome in Charleston, South Carolina, was a disaster, but things may turn out somewhat better in the race for education superintendent in Arizona, which is extremely close. “As beleaguered as they are, most public-school systems are not yet splintering along DeVosian lines into a privatized mix of living-room salons and strip-mall micro-schools,” Winter writes. “Until then, public-school parents will continue to hand their children off to public employees in a public building for six hours per day, or eight, or nine. A degree of trust in these educators’ qualifications, their good faith, and even their state of mind is nonnegotiable. Poor working conditions for teachers are necessarily synonymous with poor learning conditions for students; overcrowded, under-ventilated classrooms are at once a political issue, a labor-rights issue, and a children’s-rights issue. Something the members of Moms for Liberty say a lot is ‘We don’t co-parent with the government.’ Don’t we, though?”
17) National: Jennifer Berkshire observes that there are “so many ‘GOP at a crossroads’ stories but no acknowledgement that big donors pushed education culture war issues in order to *soften the ground* for school vouchers (and the dream lives on).”
18) California: Thousands of UC academic researchers and student employees are planning a strike today. “UC officials are in contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers regarding four separate academic bargaining units: postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, academic student employees (teaching assistants/readers/tutors) and graduate student researchers, Ryan King, spokesman for the UC President’s Office, told City News Service on Sunday. ‘Our primary goal in these negotiations is achieving multiyear agreements that recognize these employees’ important and highly valued contributions to the University’s teaching and research mission with fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits, and a supportive and respectful work environment,’ King said in a statement provided to CNS.”
Capital and Main’s Mark Kreidler reports that UC’s student workers can’t afford California. “The union is asking for a minimum of $54,000 per year for all student academic workers, a figure negotiators say is based on the median cost of housing in the state. A university spokesman said UC is offering wage increases to help the workers ‘meet their housing needs.’ Those proposals ranged from 4% to 7% and are not close to what the union is seeking. Unsurprisingly, then, more than 50 negotiating sessions, going back months, haven’t tightened that gap. In addition, the union workers say, the university has changed working conditions and wages more than once without bargaining, something they want addressed in any new agreement. The vote in favor of authorizing a strike was 98%.”
19) Indiana: Fed up with racism, students are seeking change in Monroe County. “Although it’s common for schools to have policies addressing diversity, equity and inclusion, [Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Markay Winston] said it’s rarer for students to be involved in the development process like they are in Monroe County.”
20) Indiana: The Court of Appeals has rejected a claim by public school districts and will allow charter schools to buy closed school buildings for $1, to which the districts vehemently objected. Meanwhile, MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is donating $3 million to a network of Indiana charter schools.
21) Tennessee: The Tennessee Education Report says “Nashville education blogger and new Tennessee Star reporter TC Weber reports that Bill Frist’s education reform organization—SCORE – has hired a national education funding consultant to help charter schools extract public funding for their private operations. Afton Partners, a national organization specializing in school funding and education policy, has announced via social media a new partnership with the Tennessee State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE) and The Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC). The stated purpose of the budding collaboration is to help Tennessee’s charter school leaders better understand the operational and financial implications of Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA)—the state’s new funding formula for public schools. The bottom line: The consultant is being paid to help charter operators get the most money from TISA – meaning a greater negative impact to local school system budgets. This comes as no surprise, as SCORE has been driving the TN education reform bus for more than a decade.”
22) National: It’s been a good election year for transportation funding, Route Fifty reports. “Across the country, 14 out of 19 measures to back public transit passed. More broadly, voters approved 88% of state and local proposals to boost or maintain spending on roads and other transportation infrastructure, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Those 380 approved ballot questions will generate $19.6 billion in revenue in 18 states, the group said.
“A key takeaway from the results is that voters remain committed to investing their tax dollars in better streets, roads, bridges and transit systems even in the face of record inflation and high gasoline prices that are straining household budgets,” said Carolyn Kramer Simons, the director of the group’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center.”
23) National: Public support for state and local transportation funding improvements remains strong, ARTBA reports. “Voters in 18 states approved 88 percent of 380 state and local ballot initiatives that are expected to generate $20 billion in one-time and recurring revenue for transportation improvement projects. (…) Voter endorsement comes a year after passage of the landmark federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The revenue generated by the Nov. 8 results will help local governments compete for IIJA-related discretionary grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation.”
24) National/International: Angst over environmental and public consultation requirements isn’t only troubling the infrastructure industry in the U.S. Across the pond, The Economist is singing the same tune, arguing that government policy and confusion between the goals of infrastructure development and environmental stewardship is creating intolerable delays. “Not everybody wants the road,” they admit. “Soon after the government gave its formal consent to the project in August, an environmental group called Transport Action Network applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision. The group argues, among other things, that the Department for Transport did not properly consider local targets for carbon emissions. If a review goes ahead, the bulldozers will sit idle for many more months.” [Sub required]
For its part, the Transport Action Network is warning about the current government’s mania for road development as a substitute for broader economic growth strategies and sound environmental stewardship, and has put together a vigorous advice effort to help local communities fight against unnecessary or destructive projects.
25) National: Inflation is dragging down project proposals for infrastructure improvement and development. “United Bridge Partners and its subsidiary Bay City Bridge Partners was planning to build a new Independence Bridge while demolishing the old structure after it entered into an agreement with the city in 2019. However, the company announced during the Monday, Nov. 7 Bay City Commission meeting that it is planning on rehabilitating the existing structure instead due to factors such as inflation and supply chain issues.”
26) New York: Is a significant infrastructure P3 crackup on the way? “Macquarie and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are in talks to review certain terms of the agreement for the public-private partnership that built the Goethals Bridge, said a source familiar with the matter,” Ion Analytics reports. “The discussions come weeks after Macquarie paused an effort to find a buyer for its 90% equity stake in the concessionaire, NYNJ Link Developer, citing unspecified ‘market conditions.’ The Australian infrastructure investor teamed up with developer Kiewit to win a USD 1.5bn contract in 2013 to build a new bridge that links Staten Island, New York and New Jersey. The P3 agreement, the first for the PANYNJ, was structured as a USD 1bn loan payable over 35 years in monthly principal and interest payments that increase annually, a 2022 PANYNJ budget document shows. P3 industry sources said one risk hanging over a potential sale is that the PANYNJ has a right to terminate the concession at its full discretion and at any time.”
27) Pennsylvania/National: Suspicions arise that the city of Chester is using a municipal bankruptcy filing as a scheme to privatize the city’s water works. “The solicitor for the Chester Water Authority has likened the city receiver’s bankruptcy filing on behalf of the city of Chester to ‘bank robbers’ logic.’ ‘They hold retirees as hostages and they use bank robbers’ logic,’ Francis Catania, solicitor for the Chester Water Authority said of Receiver Michael T. Doweary, adding that that logic is ‘I need money. You have money. I’m taking your money.’ The attorney repeated his claim that the receiver wants to privatize the CWA. ‘He’s going to ask the court to take over the Chester Water Authority,’ Catania said, adding that the burden of paying for Chester’s financial woes would then switch from the government to the citizens and ratepayers. On Thursday, Doweary filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for the city of Chester so that it may resolve its financial debts and disputes, including a projected $46.5 million deficit next year.”
Judge Ashely M. Chan will conduct the Chapter 9 case in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, reports The Bond Buyer. It has been assigned case number 22-13032. [Sub required]
28) International: Privatization of another of Greece’s key ports, Alexandroupoli, has been called off. “A source at the country’s privatization agency, HRADF, told Reuters that the bidding process was likely to be cancelled because of the port’s elevated role after its ‘upgraded role, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.’ Since then, the port of Alexandroupolis has also been used as an alternative route for the shipment of NATO military equipment to its eastern flank via Romania and Bulgaria, irritating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He’s also upset over a renewed US-Greece military cooperation deal that would bring more American bases and has already seen more US forces in the port city but it wasn’t said what the cancellation of the sale means for that.”
29) National: Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies has an article in CounterPunch on how grassroots organizing underpinned the victories on Medicaid expansion and other progressive issues in the reddest of states. “In South Dakota, the ‘Love Your Neighbor’ campaign won big. By a margin of 56 to 44, voters approved a proposal to force their state government to expand Medicaid eligibility, a move that will help an estimated 42,500 working class people get care,” Anderson writes. “At a time when more and more Americans are worried about the future of our democracy, we should be applauding the advocates in South Dakota, Nebraska, and elsewhere who are engaging their fellow citizens in political decisions that affect their lives. We need more democracy. Not less.”
For news on underreported progressive issues in the traditionally conservative states, follow The Institute for Nonprofit News’ Rural News Network.
30) National: Suzanne Gordon was interviewed by NPR about her new book, Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Friends, and Enemies and the New Terrain of Veterans Affairs, on the physical and psychological effects military service has on veterans. “NPR: What is the biggest challenge that veterans face today in terms of their health services? Gordon: Well, there’s just rampant efforts to privatize the nation’s largest health care system. So, the pharmaceutical industry is very involved in trying to privatize the VA. There is a real major assault—really a relentless and multi-tentacled assault—on veterans, healthcare, veterans’ benefits.” [Listen to the interview; about four minutes]
31) National: “States overall have become increasingly reliant on federal funds to help pay for public services since 2000. How has your state changed? And how does it compare?” Pew has the answers.
32) New Jersey: Jersey City has rejected a contract to privatize its 911 system. “Jersey City Public Employees Local 245 President Santo DellaMonica expressed disbelief that the city was trying to privatize the police communications and parks, while they still hadn’t approved a new contract for crossing guards after five months.” Paul Tamburelli, the chief communications officer at the dispatch center, “said while many come to work eight hours, they often are required to work 16 and 20 hours in emergencies, which of course are common in their business. He also pointed out that they sometimes deal with suicidal people on the phone who end up killing themselves while on the line.” Tamburelli “also went on to claim that the city has deliberately not hired people to diminish the quality of the services and make an argument for privatization.”
33) New York: Will the New York City Council go along with privatizing retiree healthcare? “‘I have yet to understand why we would take a good law that protects labor and change it to somehow protect labor when retirees are going to end up paying $2,400 a year,’ said Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, (R-Staten Island). ‘We have retirees in this city whose monthly pension and social security income amounts to a few thousands of dollars a month at best. This is a significant hit or it’s a loss of a good health plan.’ Brooklyn Council Member Charles Barron, (D-Brooklyn) said he was “100 percent with the retirees…because I think they have to keep the commitment they have because it’s beneficial for those who paid their dues and I think the Medicare Advantage approach is privatizing. It’s not benefiting those who sacrificed their lives and did all this study during the pandemic. I think it is a damn shame that we have a mayor that can’t see that.’”
34) National/International: Did Ontario teachers’ hard earned public pension money disappear into what some have called a private cryptocurrency “Ponzi scheme”? The collapse of the cryptocurrency platform FTX has rocked the financial markets, but an investment of US$95 million of its members’ retirement money in FTX by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is now at risk of vanishing. OTPP, an important player in the “public-private partnerships” infrastructure industry is facing hard questions about its due diligence operations.
Investors like OTPP are under scrutiny, The New York Times reports, “for enabling Mr. Bankman-Fried with so little oversight. It was the most dramatic example in recent history of what happens when so-called visionary founders are given lots of money with few strings attached. The events showed that even the top investors—whose money in FTX has vaporized—can wildly miss the mark, said Kevin Werbach, a professor of business at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. ‘You can look like a genius making successful big bets,’ he said, ‘but sooner or later you’ll crash spectacularly if you weren’t doing real diligence.’”
The London Telegraph sums it up. “Yet, investors can’t say they weren’t warned. Earlier in the year, in a barely coherent interview with Bloomberg, the entrepreneur had attempted to explain a growing corner of crypto-investing known as ‘yield farming’ and in doing so led his interviewer to draw comparisons with a Ponzi scheme—an approach that Bankman-Fried suggested was ‘cynical.’ But what really makes Bankman-Fried stand out as the poster boy for all that is wrong with the Alice in Wonderland world of crypto is that he wasn’t a crazy outrider. He was viewed as one of the safest and most reliable bets around. The backing of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is testament to that. Despite its status as one of the most serious long-term asset managers around, and a fund that invests the billions at its disposal for the benefit of ordinary people, Ontario invested not once, but twice into FTX. The second time, in January of this year, it did so at a $32bn valuation.”
35) National: A Trump-appointed judge has thrown out President Biden’s student debt cancellation program. “The Department of Justice has already filed an appeal of the ruling, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. ‘The President and this Administration are determined to help working and middle-class Americans get back on their feet, while our opponents—backed by extreme Republican special interests—sued to block millions of Americans from getting much-needed relief,’ Jean-Pierre said. She added that the Department of Education will continue to hold onto the information of student debt borrowers who applied for the program—about 26 million—so the department ‘can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court.’ Of those 26 million borrowers who applied for the program that launched in October, 16 million have been approved, she said.”
Photo by Joe Piette.