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- Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is moving fast on his school privatization agenda. (see #17 below)
- In the Public Interest executive director Donald Cohen joined Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch to discuss his new book, The Privatization of Everything, co-authored with Allen Mikaelian.
- How to make sure corporations don’t plunder federal infrastructure money from your city and state.
First, the good news
1) National: Ralph Nader welcomed Donald Cohen, the founder and executive director of In the Public Interest and co-author of the book The Privatization of Everything as the featured guest on his weekly radio program to discuss “the many different ways corporatism has corrupted so many of our public goods.” [Audio, at 12 minutes into the program]
2) National/North Carolina: Donald Cohen also joined Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch on a well-attended online meeting to discuss his new book, The Privatization of Everything, co-authored with Allen Mikaelian. “In the book, Cohen chronicles the destructive trend under which so many of our public institutions have been converted into private profit centers—almost always to the detriment of the common good.” [Video, about an hour].
3) National/Connecticut: AFT Connecticut ties together the issues of public education and responsible contracting. “Resisting repeated attempts by special interests to privatize the services public employees provided to residents and businesses was the topic of discussion in this latest podcast episode. AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel was joined by local union leader Bill Garrity, RN, as co-host for a conversation aimed at debunking the mythical claims of outscoring schemes. Their guest [on AFT in Action] was opinion leader and responsible contracting activist Donald Cohen. The founder of the national policy center In the Public Interest shared insights on the issues he and his co-author gathered for their latest book, The Privatization of Everything.” [Audio, about 20 minutes].
4) National: “Many Americans think of education and transportation as public goods, but they’re actually heavily privatized. Here’s why that’s a problem,” says Paul Constant. “Paul Constant is a writer at Civic Ventures and the cohost of the ‘Pitchfork Economics’ podcast. Recently, he spoke with Donald Cohen of public works policy center In the Public Interest. Cohen said the privatization of public goods like education won’t benefit the majority of Americans.” [Audio, about a half hour].
5) National: Ruling in the public interest, a federal judge has invalidated leases to drill for oil and gas in a broad swath of the Gulf of Mexico, telling the Biden administration to weigh climate impacts before allowing development. “That sale came after a federal judge in Louisiana sided with the state and Republican attorneys general from 12 other states and ordered the lease sales to move forward. But the lease sales were based on a botched environmental analysis, Contreras ruled. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, an agency within Interior that conducts lease sales for offshore energy development, failed to consider the leases’ effect on foreign oil consumption, the judge wrote.”
6) National: If you don’t already you should check out Outsource Fail Weekly and get on their mailing list. Three stories from this week: Is the pandemic providing cover for privatization of health care? From the Toronto Star; County Kills Rickenbacker Causeway Privatization. From the Key Biscayne Independent; and The Dark History of Medicare Privatization, in The American Prospect.
7) California: What does the higher-wage movement have to do with privatization? A lot. Some history from Martin Bennett, a research and policy associate for UNITE HERE Local 2850: “The California higher-wages movement began in 1997 when the Los Angeles City Council approved the state’s first Living Wage law. It required the city, large city contractors, and firms receiving economic development assistance to pay more than the state minimum wage. Proponents argued that contracting out city services to private employers had created poverty-wage jobs that forced workers to rely on government assistance. One hundred and twenty cities and counties soon followed suit nationwide and in California. In these campaigns, coalitions of labor, faith, immigrant rights, and environmental organizations educated the public about what it costs to make ends meet and what local governments can do to address inequality. In 2003, San Francisco went a step farther, becoming the first California city to approve a citywide minimum wage higher than the state’s—which, unlike Living Wage laws, covered virtually all local workers.”
8) National/Kansas: State lawmakers have formally combined their assaults on teaching the history of racism and on public education. “In an interview last week with Americans for Prosperity, Williams outlined goals for her committee. They include installing a parental bill of rights, to make sure parents know what their children are being taught in school, and providing ‘school choice,’ a reference to using taxpayers’ dollars for private schools.” Americans for Prosperity is a right-wing political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, the owners of Koch Industries.
9) National/Think Tanks: Governing has a summary on Education and Labor—What to Watch in 2022. “In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to weigh in on a religious education case with major implications. In December, the court heard a challenge against Maine’s policy of banning state funding for parochial schools that engage in religious instruction and activities. The state argues it is not penalizing such schools, merely refusing to subsidize them.” In addition, the school privatization battles will continue. “‘Count me as just a little skeptical that school choice is going to be one of the most prominent political issues in the 2022 election cycle,’ says Patrick Wolf, an education policy professor at the University of Arkansas. ‘But Republicans have pretty much embraced it and they’ve committed to it, while Democrats have to figure out what their response is going to be—and will have to develop a response that’s more family-friendly.’”
10) Alabama: The number of charter schools has increased but still accounts for a small percentage of students. “Alabama now has eight charter schools, as well as a conversion school, which enroll about 3,000 of the state’s 725,000 students. Five more charter schools – Ivy Classical Academy in Prattville, Empower Community School and Alabama Aerospace and Aviation High School in Bessemer, and two conversion schools in Montgomery—are set to open in the fall, and more are in the pipeline. Not all potential charters are approved, though, and sometimes charters that are approved don’t meet requirements to open. Two charters, Capstone Charter School in Tuscaloosa and Woodland Preparatory in Washington County planned to open their doors last fall, but closed due to financial constraints and a lack of community support.”
11) Georgia: Lawmakers are pushing legislation to pump more public money into private schools. Private schools in Georgia were closely tied to efforts to maintain segregation after the 1954 Brown v. Board decision. “School-choice critics often slam voucher programs for redirecting public funding for private schools. Some critics also argue private religious schools condone discriminatory rhetoric or promote segregation. HB 999 requires schools in the voucher program to follow anti-discrimination laws.”
12) Illinois: Chicago charter schools are pushing the board of education for longer contract terms. “Chicago Public Schools officials noted a lack of data when evaluating the schools’ performance because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They did find issues with each of the schools up for renewal, such as their approach to student discipline or the lack of services offered to diverse learners. ‘I think that the shorter renewals allow for support to be provided, which I think is essential to this process, to those schools that are struggling through one or more issues,’ board member Luisiana Meléndez said.”
13) North Carolina: Greg Childress of NC Policy Watch reports that new revelations point to additional violations at troubled charter schools. “State officials say student records were wrongfully altered at Wake and Bertie County schools by the daughter of the couple who ran them. The management of Three Rivers Academy and Torchlight Academy was a family affair when state monitors found “altered documents” in the schools’ exceptional children programs. Shawntrice Andrews, the daughter of charter operators Don and Cynthia McQueen, was director of exceptional children (EC) programs at both Three Rivers in Bertie County and Torchlight Academy in Raleigh last June when monitors found changed dates and grades in the state’s electronic data management system. The McQueens manage both schools through Torchlight Academy Schools, LLC, a for-profit charter management company (EMO).”
14) South Carolina: Republican lawmakers are getting heavy pushback on their plan to channel public money into private schools through vouchers. “Until we fully fund the public school system, it doesn’t make any sense to create a competing school system,” said Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto from Orangeburg. “Teacher groups and other education organizations said taking money out of public schools makes it harder to improve South Carolina public schools that were not fully funded for years. They question how the state can determine if the program is helping education and wonder if private schools, many with tuition rates more expensive than the voucher amounts, will refuse to take certain students. ‘All schools are not equal because all schools don’t get the same types of students,’ said Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Democrat from Hopkins.”
15) Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is running for reelection with the endorsement of Trump, has launched a new attack on public education by moving toward supporting statewide voucher or private school tax credit programs. “Then Abbott outlined what he did want in his parents’ bill of rights: Give parents access to school curricula online. Provide parents with a venue for protesting curriculum or books. Require school districts to provide parents with information about charter and magnet school options for their children.”
Reform Austin says “the co-mingling of school choice issue with taxes leads many public education advocates to be concerned that Abbott may be making overtures to reform property taxes on the backs of Texas’ 5.4 million public school children. This comes at a time when the Texas Legislature just passed a massive public education funding bill in 2019 infusing $6.5 billion into the state’s public school system. Texas public school funding—a huge part of the state’s budget, is heavily reliant on property taxes—making up the lion’s share of a homeowners property tax bill each year. Public school advocates are worried that Abbott may plan to redirect that funding stream away from traditional public school districts toward other options, including private school vouchers and charter schools.”
16) Tennessee: The Greeneville City School Board has approved a formal resolution to be sent to state legislators urging them to oppose school vouchers, which allow tax funding to go to private school students. [Sub required].
17) Virginia: Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is moving fast on his school privatization agenda. “Youngkin’s proclamation mentions a campaign promise to initially open 20 charter schools in Virginia. The governor said he will seek $150 million in funding to start at least 20 charter schools. There are currently seven public charter schools in Virginia, including two in Loudoun County. Neighboring Maryland has over 50 charter schools, the District of Columbia has over 100 charter schools, and North Carolina has approximately 200. (…) A bill filed in the Virginia General Assembly calls for the state Board of Education to create regional charter school divisions made up of two to three local school divisions. The divisions each would be overseen by eight state board-appointed school board members and a member appointed by the localities. That school board would review and decide on public charter school applications. The legislation would require Standards of Quality per pupil funding from the student’s home district be transferred to the school. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the bill would need support in the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate.”
Delegate Delores McQuinn, a Democrat from Richmond, is concerned that charter schools would exacerbate inequities in education. “When you establish your charter schools, you’re going to have to find additional funds and so some become losers and some become winners.”
18) Think Tanks: The Republican Party is ramping up its bad faith attack on what it erroneously refers to as Critical Race Theory across the country. Sasha Abramsky has the story in The Nation. “Most of the school districts in which the local anti-CRT campaigns have picked up steam have two traits in common: They are racially diverse communities that have, over the past two decades, seen large drop-offs in the percentage of white students as demographic patterns shift; and they are in politically competitive districts where Republicans and Democrats both have a realistic chance at capturing the majority of votes.
“These findings are in a just-released report out of California, titled The Conflict Campaign, by two University of California education professors—John Rogers, director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access; and UCSD’s Mica Pollock.”
19) National: Donald Cohen of ITPI has some advice on how to make sure corporations don’t plunder federal infrastructure money from your city and state. “We need to make sure they spend that money on what our communities actually need rather than giving it to corporations and the ultra-wealthy. There have been a few worrying developments. (…) As we wrote when it was signed, the bill includes incentives for state and local governments to sign public-private partnerships. These so-called “partnerships” are essentially expensive loans that hand some level of control over roads, water systems, school buildings, and other public infrastructure to corporations and private investors. Despite the warm and fuzzy name, they’re definitely a form of privatization. Also, states have begun to establish infrastructure coordinatorsto make recommendations on how to best spend the new federal money.”
20) National/Pennsylvania: The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the dramatic Fern Hollow bridge collapse. No doubt we will be hearing “Shock Doctrine”-type opportunistic propaganda from the road lobby and its PR outlets promoting privatization over the next weeks and months. The Wall Street Journal has even come up with the loopy suggestion that the bridge collapse shows we need to loot the Energy Department’s green energy venture-capital fund to build and repair bridges.
Leia observes that “PA Senator Pat Toomey didn’t think it was worth investing in our nation’s infrastructure. 29 other Senate Republicans agreed and voted against the infrastructure bill. We need more Senate Democrats so we can get things done.” The New York Times reports that “nationally, according to the latest infrastructure report card prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers, 42 percent of bridges are more than a half century old, and nearly 8 percent of them—more than 45,000 bridges—are considered ‘structurally deficient.’ Pennsylvania’s bridges are even older than the national average, and the state has more than double the average of bridges rated in poor condition, which is one grade above failing.”
21) California: Guess who’s cashing in on affordable housing P3s.
22) District of Columbia: Ever see a contract for a so-called public-private partnership? Here’s one for DC’s new proposed streetlights P3. [Draft For Public Review & Comment: DC Street Lighting Technical Provisions]
23) Florida: The Jacksonville JEA privatization scandal marches on with yet another bizarre development: “The Florida Commission on Ethics found a former JEA board member and vocal privatization advocate didn’t violate the law when—during his board term—he discussed becoming a paid consultant to help the utility get acquired by a private company.”
24) Florida: In a unanimous vote, the Miami-Dade County Commission has killed what could have been a $500 million privatization of the iconic Rickenbacker Causeway. “Commissioners instead voted to prioritize a scaled-back project, a replacement of the Bear Cut Bridge, one of three spans on the Causeway and the one engineers worry might not withstand strong hurricanes. Moments after the Causeway vote, Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey exchanged a fist bump with the village attorney, Chad Friedman. The Village had formally opposed the project, saying it didn’t address the needs of the 15,000 residents for whom the causeway is the only path on and off the island. He later said the Village looks forward to working with County leaders on a new project.”
25) Maryland: State officials have approved a $3.4 billion contract to finish the troubled Purple Line light rail P3. “State officials say the 16-mile line will begin carrying passengers between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in fall 2026, more than four years behind schedule. The Purple Line was previously estimated to cost $1.97 billion to build and was initially scheduled to begin carrying passengers in March. (…) The board—composed of Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, Franchot and Treasurer Dereck E. Davis, a Democrat—also approved an additional $3.444 billion for a longer-term financial agreement with the private consortium managing the project over four decades. That amount includes the higher construction and financing costs.”
So the broader agreement “will grow from its original $5.6 billion to $9.3 billion—a total of $3.7 billion—because it also includes a $250 million legal settlement the state previously paid to the consortium after its original contractor quit.”
26) New York: Easy Hampton Airport is being privatized. “After March 4, the airport will be subject to local control under what the F.A.A. calls a prior-permission-required framework. Under this framework, advance clearance is required before an aircraft may use the airport. It will initially mirror that of a public-use airport, but the board, in a statement issued after the vote, promised that “substantive restrictions will be implemented” prior to the summer season in conjunction with a data collection period pursuant to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. (…) The move was quickly denounced by aviation interests.”
27) Revolving Door News: Former Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers has joined Blackstone’s infrastructure group as head of public private partnerships “to advance the firm’s local infrastructure work,” The Bond Buyer reports. “In his new role, Summers will look for investment strategies in partnership with local governments, civic and labor organizations, and other stakeholders to “help advance local infrastructure priorities,” the firm said in a release. He will have a “keen focus” on advancing Blackstone’s environmental, social and governance efforts.” [Sub required].
28) International: On February 23 and 24 there will be a strike to block the privatization of the Visakhapatnam Steel plant in Andhra Pradesh, India. “Political parties and public representatives must work together to protect public sector institutions. It will be the year the Steel plant movement takes off. The Steel plant must be preserved for the future of the country. The state government should cooperate with the bandh and strikes. Trying to sell all public sector companies. Modi should quit such thinking. Privatization makes the survival of the country’s economy questionable.”
29) International: Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, has reaffirmed the importance of human rights in infrastructure development. “Partnerships are critically important. We know that the dominant paradigm for infrastructure financing and investment carries risks for both human rights and the environment. We can and should work together to address these risks through human rights impact assessments and due diligence, including in public-private partnerships and the privatization of essential services”
Criminal Justice and Immigration
30) National: The GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit prison and migrant detention companies in the U.S., has been hit with its third debt downgrade in a year. “The private prison operator is likely to carry out a distressed debt exchange before April of 2023 when its next significant debt payment is due, S&P said in a note Wednesday in which it lowered its rating of GEO by one notch to CCC, or eight levels below investment-grade. It was S&P’s third downgrade of GEO since March last year.” S&P categorizes a CCC or triple hook rating as follows: “An obligation rated ‘CCC’ is currently vulnerable to nonpayment, and is dependent upon favorable business, financial, and economic conditions for the obligor to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.”
For background see In the Public Interest’s report, An Examination of Private Financing for Correctional and Immigration Detention Facilities, June 2018.
31) National: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has examined U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s expanding book of so-called public-private partnerships. Get your alphabet soup glossaries out. “Since fiscal year 2013, GAO says in its new report, CBP has selected 263 RSPs, with 27 new partnerships added since the beginning of 2021 and two applications denied for not being operationally feasible. In that time period CBP has entered into 43 DAP partnerships, with four added last year. ‘As of October 2021, CBP and its partners had executed 165 MOUs from partnerships that they entered into since fiscal year 2013,’ the report notes. ‘Of those 165 MOUs, 11 cover agreements at land POEs, 49 cover agreements at sea POEs, and 105 cover agreements at air POEs. The majority of MOUs executed since 2013 were at air POEs and focused on freight, cargo, and traveler processing.’” [RSP = Reimbursable Services Program; DAP = Donations Acceptance Program].
32) National/California: Immigrants detained at the Mesa Verde ICE detention center in Bakersfield and the Yuba County Jail “have reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the GEO Group… Under the terms of the settlement, ICE will be forced to preserve safety measures to protect detainees from COVID-19, and its authority to rearrest people released during the course of the lawsuit will be limited, according to a news release issued by the ACLU of Northern California. It also provides three years of health and safety protections for those still in custody.” The settlement also limits the authority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to re-detain hundreds of immigrants who were released as a result of the lawsuit.
“When we filed this lawsuit, ICE had put our clients and communities at risk by detaining as many people as possible in filthy, crowded dorms and cells, creating a tinderbox for COVID-19,” Bree Bernwanger, of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, said in a statement.
33) National/Connecticut: Two U.S. senators were denied access to parts of a federal prison in Connecticut while trying to examine conditions there in response to correctional officers’ complaints about a staffing shortage and lack of coronavirus precautions, The Washington Post reports. “The senators basically were kept away from any areas where inmates were, said Shaun Boylan, a Danbury prison staffer and executive vice president of the local prison staff union, Local 1661 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He said prison officials had no objections to the original tour itinerary until Wednesday morning.” Three weeks ago Michael Carvajal resigned as head of the Bureau of Prisons, after a scandal-plagued tenure during pandemic. BOP reports to the Justice Department.
34) National: The GEO Group has reportedly lost $125 million in DOJ contracts. “However, the company has found a loophole—immigrants. Besides prisons, the GEO Group also operates several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. ICE contracts were the GEO Group’s single largest source of income in 2019, reports the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The company is also the largest ICE facility operator in the U.S. As of March 2019, the company had 14 ICE detention facilities with a capacity of 14,966, according to AFSC reports. ICE contracts weren’t affected by Biden’s order because the Department of Homeland Security oversees ICE, not the Justice Department. That appears to be good news for the GEO Group.”
35) California: In an L.A. jail, health workers say “lawless” sheriff’s deputies discourage vaccinations and deface COVID-19 signs. “In this weekend edition: L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies working at the Twin Towers jail are flouting COVID-19 regulations and discouraging some people held there from getting vaccinated. That’s according to several health care staffers who work at Twin Towers and agreed to speak with criminal justice reporter Emily Elena Dugdale. She talked with KPCC’s Nick Roman this week about what she learned. Read the entire report at LAist.com This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.”
LAist reports that “mental health personnel in the jail, including social workers and other staff, detailed a lawless environment in which unmasked deputies—many of whom said they were unvaccinated—have gone so far as to try to convince incarcerated people with severe mental and physical health issues not to get vaccinated. Five people who work in Twin Towers spoke to us on the condition they not be named because of fear of retaliation. Some said they were concerned deputies would fail to provide them security if they found out they had spoken with us. (…) The health care worker also witnessed deputies telling those held in the jail that the vaccines have ‘dead babies’ in them.”
“According to four Twin Towers staffers, deputies defaced signs posted next to elevators on multiple floors that encouraged “social distancing” so that they read “social dancing,” and put numerous homemade signs on printer paper throughout hallways that said, “#fakenews,” “Let’s Go Brandon,” and other anti-Biden slogans. Jail staff said the altered signs are posted on nearly every floor of the jail.”
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is facing a tough election fight in the June 7 primary.
36) North Carolina: Political and community leaders are calling for action on “North Carolina’s deadliest jail.” District 1 Commissioner Al Whitesides of Asheville pointed to the state privatization of its mental health care system, which started with the passage of the 2001 Mental Health System Reform law. “Let’s face it, this goes back several years ago to when the state just walked away, so to speak, from mental health, and even closed some of the hospitals.”
37) Colorado: The Department of Corrections has submitted a supplemental budget, which has stirred up debate about privatization. Part of the money is supposed to go to private prisons, which are experiencing a staff crisis. “In 2021, DOC and CoreCivic data show a correctional officer turnover rate of 107% at the Bent County prison and 126% at the Crowley County prison, according to a Friday memo for state lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee, prepared by committee staff. ‘This means that the number of separated correctional officers exceeds the average number of officers at those facilities; more people are starting and quitting than are employed there,’ the memo states.” The Department of Corrections, which pays its correctional officers a starting wage of $22 per hour reported a much lower turnover rate of 22.9% in November 2021.
Colorado Politics reports that “Democrats, led by Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, have had those prisons on the radar for several years. Herod has tried but so far failed to convince lawmakers to get Colorado out of the private prison business. She has argued that people of color are disproportionately incarcerated. In Colorado, as of 2017, while 5% of the general population was African-American, in prisons they made up 18% of the incarcerated population. (…) As to her key issue, Herod said, ‘my clear bias is that for-profit prisons should not be in our system and they are not cost-savers for the state of Colorado.’
“Herod added that her bias, however, does not extend to the level of service by the staff, or ensuring the staff are paid a living wage to do their jobs and stay in their professions. Herod also has ongoing concerns about the services offered through the contract to inmates and staff in the private prisons, compared to the services available in the state prisons. She said it’s been hard to find out whether the services delineated in the contracts with CoreCivic are being provided, what’s been cut as a result of COVID and whether other contract terms are being met.”
38) Illinois: Law360 reports that two counties are trying to overturn a ban on immigration detention facilities on federal preemption grounds. “Two Illinois counties urged a Seventh Circuit panel Tuesday to reverse a lower court’s order dismissing their lawsuit challenging a new Illinois law that phases out immigrant detention contracts, arguing that the statute is preempted and should be invalidated because it conflicts with the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate immigration.”
39) National: Barbara Caress has a terrific piece, The Dark History of Medicare Privatization, in The American Prospect. “Direct contracting would privatize the remainder of traditional Medicare. Drawing on the MA experience, Direct Contracting Entities (DCEs) would serve as intermediaries between traditional Medicare beneficiaries and their medical-care providers. The DCE would receive an MA-like monthly payment for a specific population. It would make deals with networks of providers, “manage” beneficiary care and costs, and pay the bills, while keeping the difference. Medicare’s only role would be as banker.”
Her conclusion is clear: “History shows that the federal government’s attempt to harness the perceived benefits of managed care to Medicare by attempting to separate for-profit entities from profit-maximizing behavior has failed. Instead of throwing more money at MA to reform it, trying to cut MA payments, or regulating, perhaps the solution is starving the beast. With reduced cost-sharing and service expansion, people would have less incentive to enroll in MA. The fewer beneficiaries, the less money paid out, the less power. A campaign to improve Medicare might be the only political avenue open to those who want to save it.”
Barbara Caress has worked for many years in nonprofit, union, and public-agency health care and administration. She teaches health policy at Baruch College.
40) National/California: The strike against Republic Services has ended, but the company has been targeted by a federal class action lawsuit. “Two San Diego lawyers hope to resolve that question through a lawsuit they filed this week in U.S. District Court on behalf of a man who paid for services that were not delivered. ‘Defendants intentionally charged plaintiff’s and other class members debit and credit cards in the full amount of recurring fees despite the interruption of services that occurred between December 2021 and January 2022,’ states the complaint filed Tuesday. Plaintiff and the class did not consent to defendants charging of their debit and credit cards for services that were not provided,” it adds.”
Meanwhile, “Carlsbad residents continue to express concerns over the city’s contract with the embattled waste disposal company. The Carlsbad City Council heard an update from Republic during its Jan. 25 meeting where residents brought their feelings of consternation to the forefront, including questions over the city’s impending transition to the new waste hauling service and Republic’s handling of a public labor dispute that left trash piling up at homes and businesses across the city of Chula Vista and San Diego neighborhoods for weeks.”
41) Minnesota: Hennepin County social service workers represented by AFSCME Local 34 are gearing up for a strike: “Here’s Where we are at: We are in our 10-day cooling-off period before we can begin a legal Strike on 2/2/22.”
The AFSCME members “have been in contract negotiations since spring of 2021 and are now working without a contract. They have been fighting for decent pay increases to keep up with swiftly rising costs, stipends for workers who need equipment and services to work from home in the COVID-19 pandemic, and essential pay for workers who have had to put their lives at risk working in person. At the same time as the county has been refusing to move on the workers’ demands, it has also chosen this already difficult time to attack the union by proposing a takeaway in the form of a two-tier system for PTO, and a union-busting proposal to make the union pay for all the costs associated with arbitration. The county is currently sitting on record reserves as a result of federal and state money it received during the pandemic, and which has not been used for services or to help the workers.”
42) New York: A major new report by Human Rights Watch says turning public housing maintenance over to private contractors can make matters worse. “When private managers take over New York City’s public-housing developments, they promise low-income residents that they’ll fix up their apartments and buildings. But a new study shows that the switch can leave tenants more vulnerable to building neglect and evictions, often with public funds footing much of the bill. New York City Housing Authority housing ‘has gone from being of equal or better quality than comparable private sector housing to being plagued by severe issues such as mold, peeling lead paint, and failing heat.’” [The Tenant Never Wins: Private Takeover of Public Housing Puts Rights at Risk in New York City]
43) Pennsylvania: Rep. Dan Deasy, the senior Democrat on the House Liquor Control Committee, calls a proposed amendment to privatize liquor sales “reckless” because it does not spell out what replaces the wine and spirits stores. “Under Mihalek’s bill, the legislature would have 18 months if the amendment passes to design a new system. “The voters should know exactly what they’re voting on, and how do we fill in the hole in the budget?” asks Deasy. ‘The LCB (Liquor Control Board) transfers $185 million a year to the General Fund. That provides a lot of programs, a lot of services, even to the police budget,’ says Deasy.”
44) South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is getting pushback against his idea of privatizing mental health counseling services. “Forgive me for being skeptical but as a South Carolina public school educator, I can’t help but feel this is an inadequate response from our government. I agree that the state of mental health for South Carolina youth should be of the highest priority, but is privatizing these services really the best course of action? Wouldn’t a shift toward the private sector make services more costly for the individual and make it virtually impossible for low-income individuals to access the resources they desperately need?”
45) Texas: The city of Nederland says it’s privatizing pool staffing because “we do not have time” to do it.
46) Vermont: Writing in the Brattleboro Reformer, Nick Santoro says “with the deathly mess American government and the privatized medical industry have made with its COVID slapdash strategy, it seems a wee bit timely to design a universal healthcare system for those who need it (most of us), in conjunction with existing privatized healthcare for those who want it. About 150,000,000 Americans have healthcare tied to their jobs.”
47) International: The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) says it is ready to help solve the EMS crisis, and that privatization not the answer. “‘HSAA/NUPGE has been asked to come to the table to come up with solutions. As the experts in the delivery of emergency medical services we are more than willing to get to work. However, to be clear, HSAA/NUPGE will not be recommending or supportive of any privatization efforts,’ continued [Mike Parker, HSAA President]. ‘My focus throughout this process will be the health of Albertans and ensuring care is there when they need it. Every dollar needs to be spent on patient care—not profits for private contractors,’ said Parker.”
48) National: Who dominates urban politics around the U.S. and why? Here’s a hint. Blackstone’s earnings have nearly doubled as the private equity firm has enjoyed a record cash haul, reports the Wall Street Journal. Its real estate business has helped power its $1.4 billion profit. “Blackstone reported $154.8 billion of inflows during the fourth quarter, raking in more cash than in any other period in its history. (…) Blackstone’s giant real-estate business helped power the results. Its so-called opportunistic real-estate investments appreciated by 12%, outpacing the 11% gain for the S&P 500. BREIT, the firm’s nontraded real-estate investment trust aimed at individual investors , was also a major contributor, delivering a net return of about 30% for the year. The value of Blackstone’s corporate private-equity investments, by contrast, climbed by just 4.8% during the fourth quarter.” [Sub required]
This provides some context for a story this past summer, and for the story mentioned above in number 21 on the roaring “affordable housing” market in LA.
The Financial Times looked at why Blackstone made a $5 billion bet on housing low-income Americans. “It is one of at least half a dozen fights between charities and powerful investment groups over affordable apartments funded by federal tax credits—a trend that activists say could displace families whose homes were built with billions of dollars of government subsidies. Those homes are now coveted by private equity firms. Last month RiseBoro learnt that AIG’s disputed stake in its building in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn would be sold to Blackstone, part of a pending $5bn deal that represents the investment group’s most politically charged incursion into the US housing market in the years after the mortgage crisis of 2008.” [Sub required]
49) International: How does privatization affect work-life balance? An example from Montreal. “This week, the union [CUPE 301] learned that the City’s consideration to privatize the maintenance of four buildings was a stumbling block. Any letter of agreement that would set out the scheduling flexibility in detail would make explicit reference to some positions, this could prevent any attempt to privatize environmental services work.”
Photo by Eric Brown.