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- The headline is a joke. But, “Tread on us, please. Florida needs a new socialism-friendly slogan after Hurricane Ian.”
- The pushback against right-wing attempts to kill off responsible investing is getting louder.
- Concerns are growing that profiteers will take over the community schools movement.
First, the good news…
1) National/Florida: Will Hurricane Ian dislodge the anti-government attitudes that have been spread by the conservative movement over the past few decades? “Tread on us, please. Florida needs a new socialism-friendly slogan after Hurricane Ian,” says Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino. “As for those ‘Don’t Tread on Florida’ T-shirts, ball caps and flags, we’re not in a go-it-alone mood anymore. (…) You see, Hurricane Ian has temporarily washed away our bootstraps with the storm surge. And now we can’t pull them up on our own. So, what we really need right now is to rejoin the United States of America so we can rely on the all-for-one ethos of this country, an ethos we’ve suddenly become fond of. We’re through posturing ourselves as a breakaway state operating in defiance of the federal government. Sure, we’ve acted that way a lot recently, refusing to participate in national health care expansions, and being the only state to refuse submitting a plan for using federal relief dollars for schools, and pre-ordering COVID-19 vaccinations for children. Freedom, shmeedom. We’ve suddenly outgrown that pablum for the feeble-minded. Please send FEMA.”
One thing has become clear. The “market” can’t solve this one, especially as the climate crisis grows more acute. Especially the broken flood insurance market. “If people can’t pay to rebuild their homes after disasters, the financial toll of climate change for households and communities could become ruinous.” But if the public sector is to step in more deeply, it must do so in a way that people can afford. Due to its high prices, “the low take-up rates for federal flood insurance in the areas hit by Hurricane Ian mean it will take longer for those communities to rebuild, imperiling their economies and prolonging the suffering, experts said.” While we’re considering what can be done about this, let’s not forget the pushback from Congress months ago when people first demanded reasonable rates for flood insurance. Not to mention the Republican crusade against successful efforts to defeat proposed rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission designed to give investors, government officials, and the general public much more information and details about the dangers of climate change.
2) National: The good news is that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has taken a seat on the Supreme Court. Although she will be part of a three vote minority on a reactionary nine member court, her presence will enable her to write many compelling opinions that can inspire and motivate a new generation of young law students and future jurists and activists who can one day reclaim the high court for democracy. Elie Mystal lays out some of the challenges Justice Brown Jackson will face.
Matt Stoller also has some good news. “Over the years, I’ve made a lot out of bad judging on antitrust, because judges, whether Democratic or Republicans, have for the last forty years warped the laws designed to constrain corporate power. There’s a bit of tentative good news on this front. Judge Florence Pan, who oversaw the Simon & Schuster-Penguin merger, was just elevated to the important Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.”
3) National: In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler reports that the federal government is helping small-town America take on internet companies. “I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. It’s not just Comcast. It’s Verizon, AT&T, Cox, and the whole multi-billion-dollar internet provider industry. But at least we have the government. At least we have a chance at being protected from corporations steamrolling us for more and more profit. The Biden administration helped squash an attempt by Comcast last year to appeal an antitrust lawsuit brought against it. Can you imagine Comcast even bigger with even more power? The federal government was also able to compel internet providers to lower the cost of high-speed internet for low-income Americans. But there’s something even more exciting going on. With help from funding in the American Rescue Plan—which Congress passed last March—state and local governments are taking steps to building their own, public high-speed internet infrastructure.”
4) National: Writing in the new issue of PowerSwitch Action’s Newsletter, Executive Director Lauren Jacobs points to solidarity as the key ingredient for sustaining successful “direct actions, from nurses striking in Minnesota to Amazon workers walking out in San Bernardino to railroad workers organizing across the country. (…) [Such] actions allow us to create connections, deep relationships, and community. We need all of these things in order to truly act in solidarity with one another and build our collective power.
5) National: The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved a plan to expand EV charging stations across the country. “The Biden administration’s goal is to eventually build a nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers. (…) The new plans allow all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico to access more than $1.5 billion in funding to build EV chargers that will eventually cover about 75,000 total miles of highway, according to the DOT. The funding is part of the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Law, which passed last year and will make $5 billion available over five years.”
6) National: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is touting clean energy tax incentives contained in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed into law. “These investments will accelerate the transition to our green energy future and lower energy costs for American households and businesses,” Yellen said at the Cypress Creek Renewables plant in Durham. “They will secure our energy supply against global price shocks. And they will provide good-paying, high-quality jobs across America—particularly in non-coastal communities that have suffered from disinvestment.”
7) National: The pushback against right-wing attempts to kill off responsible investing is getting louder. Writing in The Bond Buyer, Kevin Bain, debt manager for the City of Detroit and a partner in Better World Finance LLC, says “What else would right-wing extremists try to outlaw under this inaccurate, irrational argument? Would they attack companies with diverse hiring practices that give opportunity to racial minorities? Would they backlash against businesses that support LGBTQ+ employees? Over 90% of Fortune 500 firms protect LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination. But Pence and DeSantis don’t care about the majority. The argument against ESG has no grounding in free market ideology. They only care about imposing their own political beliefs on others at whatever cost. And that cost would be enormous.” [Sub required]
8) National: Multiple states are supporting “buy local” programs for school lunches. “In addition to Michigan, states that passed legislation this year or in 2021 to expand farm-to-school programs include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming, according to the National Farm to School Network. The nonprofit advocates for local food and nutrition education for children and for strengthening family farms and communities.”
9) National: Food & Water Watch’s Wenonah Hauter says the defeat of Manchin’s energy permitting deal is a repudiation of filthy fossil fuels. “Tonight’s turnaround represents a remarkable, against-all-odds victory by a determined grassroots climate movement against the overwhelming financial and political might of the fossil fuel industry and its Senate enablers. While the campaign against polluting oil and gas is far from over, this repudiation of Senator Manchin’s so-called permitting reform bill marks a huge victory against dirty energy—and also against dirty backroom Washington dealmaking. This victory would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet.”
10) California: Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan says Governor Newsom “has signed #AB1287! This legislation ends the ‘pink tax’—the sexist practice of charging women more for goods than their male counterparts. With this signing, CA takes a step closer to gender equity. Thank you @CCSWG and @CAWomensCaucus for partnering!” [Text of the bill]. Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Jackie Spier (D-CA) [HR 3853].
11) California: The United Farm Workers on Gov. Newsom’s signing of AB 2183, on agricultural labor relations elections: “Sí, se puede.” @UFWupdates: “Farm workers across the state organized and sacrificed to make their voices heard and to pass #AB2183. California—and many parts of the country—heard their voices. Farm workers felt the deep and historic solidarity from all parts of CA and all across the nation.” President Biden expressed support for the bill.
12) California: Victory for human rights advocates, prisoners and their families. “On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that makes phone calls from California’s prisons free of charge. The new law places the cost of calls not on incarcerated people—or the people receiving calls from them—but on the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California is the second state after Connecticut and the biggest state by far to institute such a law, which is a direct shot at the $1.4 billion prison telecom industry. For years prison telecom companies have maintained rates that ‘can be unjustly and unreasonably high, thereby impeding the ability of inmates and their loved ones to maintain vital connections,’ the FCC said in 2020.”
Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, a prison reform organization, which was a key player in advocating for the bill, said advocates are hopeful that California’s law will set an example for other state governments. “California has a much bigger system, and what it does matters to the rest of the corrections community. It will be a huge trendsetter for everyone else.”
13) Montana: Help is on the way to assist communities to resist school privatization in Montana. “A Montana organization received one of 27 grants offered through the American Federation of Teachers to strengthen relationships with parents, students, teachers and their communities as a whole. Through the Powerful Partnerships Institute Grant Program, the Montanans Organized for Education will use its $75,000 grant to recruit and train those in the education community across the state to increase participation in school board meetings and other public settings to ‘push back against school privatization efforts.’”
14) National: The U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general’s office has released a stinging 49-page audit of the federal government’s charter school program. Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post shares a useful analytical summary of the report and its requirements for action by Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education, which has been documenting these problems for years. “The OIG, an independent watchdog of the U.S. Department of Education (the Department), found that for grants issued between 2013 and 2016, only 51 percent of the schools promised by Charter School Programs (CSP) recipients opened or expanded. The OIG audit also exposed the sloppy record keeping and weak oversight that characterize CSP operations. Since 2006, the department has paid a private corporation, WestEd, millions of dollars to compile, check and update CSP records. WestEd’s present CSP contract exceeds $12 million. In total, WestEd has active contracts with the U.S. Department of Education worth more than $27.6 million. Yet an alarming number of grant records could not be found when requested by the OIG auditors. And while the Biden administration is attempting to clean up and reform the CSP, according to the independent OIG, more work needs to be done.”
15) National: Public school teachers are exhausted, overwhelmed, and thinking about quitting. Los Angeles Magazine says “the report, “Burned Out, Priced Out,” surveyed more than 13,000 teachers in the city and combines the results of last spring’s UTLA Educator Survey with analysis and data from state and national teacher shortage studies. ‘I am leaving—this is my last year,’ one teacher said. ‘I cannot take the stress and burnout of this job anymore. Over the last 8 years, teachers have been expected to shoulder more and more of the burden without adequate respect, compensation or resources. I can’t do it anymore.’ City teachers who are currently eyeing the exit list a combination of factors, chiefly bad pay, massive student loan debt, unaffordable housing, the expectation that teachers must buy classroom supplies from their own meager salaries—the average UTLA member spends $935 a year—and the rising cost of living.”
16) National: Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, “will issue a $100 million bond on behalf of Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF). LIIF plans to use the bond proceeds to fund charter schools, rental housing, daycare centers, and other eligible uses.”
17) National: Tom Ultican is concerned that profiteers will take over the community schools movement. “In the same paper from Brookings quoted above, there is a call to scale the ‘Next Generation Community Schools’ nationally. They advocate engaging charter school networks and expanding AmeriCorps. Brookings also counsels us, ‘Within the Department of Education, use Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) guidance and regulations to advance a next generation of community schools.’ Brookings was not through promoting a clearly neoliberal agenda for community schools. (…) Steve Ballmer was Bill Gates financial guy at Microsoft and is the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. His Ballmer Group recently gifted $25,000,000 to the City Fund to advance privatization of public education in America. This is the group that funded the supposedly ‘unbiased’ report from Brookings.”
18) Arizona: By spending millions of dollars to convince people not to sign ballot petitions that would have sent a massive voucher program to voters for approval, antidemocratic forces, including the Goldwater Institute and the Betsy DeVos-funded American Federation for Children have managed to block a massive school vouchers program from going to the voters, who overwhelmingly a similar initiative just four years ago. E.J. Montini, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, says “the Big Lie about universal school vouchers was exposed, so the right-wing elite in Arizona did everything they could to make sure voters don’t have a chance to reject it. Just as voters rejected voucher expansion in 2018. This time, however, it doesn’t look like voters will get the chance.”
Jennifer Berkshire says “I keep thinking about something @joshcowenMSU said in the latest @HaveYouHeardPod—that it’s a mistake to view school privatization & the efforts to roll back rights & undermine democracy as separate causes. In AZ & MI & […] they’re all the same.”
19) Kentucky: Commissioner of Education Jason Glass won’t defend the state’s charter school law. “Glass rattled off a list of what he believes are “significant constitutional issues” with the law, which would require school districts to transfer money to charter schools created within their boundaries.”
20) Mississippi: The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board has rejected nine out of ten charter school applications. The Star-Herald said of the decision, “it must be remembered, however, that the whole rationale for charter schools is that they will exceed the low expectations that have plagued the state’s substandard school districts. If the charter schools aren’t able to do that, what is the point? In fact, a charter public school that cannot produce higher than normal academic results could arguably be doing more harm than good, since it takes tax dollars away from traditional schools without providing a model for improvement that traditional schools might emulate.”
21) Tennessee: The good news is that a group affiliated with the controversial Hillsdale College has withdrawn its charter school applications. The bad news is that this “does not end the potential political landmines awaiting the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. Later this month, the commission will consider applications from Founders Classical Academy—a group formerly affiliated with Hillsdale—to open taxpayer-funded charter schools in Sumner and Williamson counties over the objections of the local school boards, with powerful Republican lawmakers weighing in against the applications.”
Writing in The Tennessean, Melissa Brown reports that “Olivia Abernathy, a Madison County commissioner and director of Early Education Initiatives at United Way of West Tennessee, was one of two speakers who opposed ACA’s contract at the Jackson-Madison County appeal hearing. ‘It was clear from the public hearings that the application did not meet the standards and, from public written comment, that the majority of Madison County residents did not support it,’ Abernathy said. ‘Our local school system has great momentum in improving student outcomes, and we don’t need a State Commission or outside entity slowing that down.”
22) National: Writing for Demos, Daniella Zessoules says privatization is no solution for any water crisis. “Private companies have a terrible track record of solving public problems. In the case of water, privately owned utility services tend to be more expensive, costing approximately 59% more than publicly owned water. The same is true for sewer service, whose cost rises almost 53% after privatization. Private companies have a fiduciary obligation to make money for shareholders, in other words, an incentive to lower costs and increase profits whenever possible. Many cash-strapped cities and towns turn to privatization of their water and sewer systems with the hope of addressing the mounting costs of repairs. Yet politicians continue to overlook exactly how these companies lower their costs to make water systems more affordable to the cities they service. The societal cost of cutting corners to increase profits – whether through staff cuts or using cheaper anti-corrosion materials – has been disastrous. As we’ve previously documented, Pittsburgh is a prime example. When a private company took over their water system during a similar crisis, water bills went up and contamination levels did not significantly improve.”
23) National: Municipal bond issuance has plummeted, down 43% in September. [Sub required].
24) National: The U.S. Supreme Court could shift more control over wetlands to the states and leave federal regulators with less authority. “The justices will hear arguments in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, the latest case in a decades-long saga over the reach of the federal Clean Water Act. The law prohibits people from polluting bodies of water without a permit. It also requires people to get approvals before they add fill material to swampy lands. (…) ‘Obviously, this case is going to be really important in terms of what the Biden administration can basically get away with in terms of a regulation,’ said Mark Squillace, a University of Colorado natural resources law professor. Squillace said the court’s efforts over the last quarter century to limit the scope of the Clean Water Act run counter to the intent of Congress. ‘It’s just outrageous that we are where we are, and this is one situation where the Supreme Court, more than any other institution, has really messed up the law—and messed it up in ways that are just entirely confusing,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day, this needs to be fixed by Congress.’” [Background and amici courtesy of Scotusblog]
25) National: America’s highways are nationalized. Why not its rail? Austin Wu reports in the Iowa Gazette. “This is because in the vast majority of the United States outside of the northeast, Amtrak does not have jurisdiction the rail upon which its trains run—instead, the track is privately owned, with those private freight rail firms ‘hosting’ Amtrak trains on their track. For years now, this arrangement has been a frequent cause of delays for American passenger trains as freight railroads have illegally prioritized their own operations rather than make way for passenger trains, as is federal law, but recent events have also shown another level of precarity for the United States’ passenger rail infrastructure, as the ultimate cause for the labor dispute – management refusing to step away from abusive scheduling policies which prevented workers from taking time off for family and health – also threatened to bring a key component of the country’s transportation network to a standstill.”
26) Florida/National: Hurricane Ian has devastated Florida’s physical and social infrastructure, including ports, airports, bridges and roads, the electric grid, schools and water/wastewater systems, and will require billions of dollars of investment to set right.
27) Mississippi: The Clarion-Ledger reports that Jackson’s people are fighting back against schemes to privatize its water system, and are coming behind their mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, to build resistance to the idea. “William Barber, a pastor and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, spoke on a stage set up on the street outside the governor’s mansion, voicing his support for Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and his opposition to privatizing the city’s water system, which the Gov. Tate Reeves has said is a possibility. (…) ‘Right now there are closed-door conversations that are going on with the guy that lives in this house right here, with a bunch of people with a vested interest outside of the city, who are looking to privatize our system, to take over our system, to deprive our city of the revenues of the future of the water system of Jackson, Mississippi,’ Ellis said. ‘Now I don’t know about you, I don’t think Jackson can afford to lose those revenues. I don’t want Jackson to lose those revenues, and it’s not right for somebody to come in and steal those revenues.’”
28) Puerto Rico: Alex Standen, writing in Jacobin, says Puerto Rico needs public power, not more disastrous privatization. But “the workers and protesters challenging privatization are building on a long history of class struggle over Puerto Rico’s energy systems. PREPA, the public system, was itself forged in the streets, born out of a wave of pressure from workers and consumers. (…) At a time when ordinary people’s well-being depends on an energy transition — and indeed a broader transformation in the way we distribute power — this lesson is especially critical.”
Greg Schwartz, writing in Counterpunch, says “Puerto Rico remains an object lesson in how climate change, combined with disaster capitalism, continues to render poor and exploited nations and territories vulnerable to flooding, homelessness, and poverty. Change will require a combination of grassroots organizing—like that undertaken by David Southgate and Un Nuevo Amanecer—political pressure from progressives in Washington, and the global movement for environmental justice.”
29) Virginia: Well surprise, surprise. The Midtown and Downtown tunnels in Hampton Roads, built using a tolled so-called public-private partnership, are proving to be a special burden on low income people who must rely on the roads. What they said then—I told you so: “However, plenty of people knew what would result and made no secret of it. Local officials, urban planners, advocates for the poor — all said the arrangement would be a bad deal for people who had to make the crossing regularly. ‘You’re going to create an island here in Portsmouth,’ Kenny Wright, then the city’s mayor, told a Virginian-Pilot columnist in 2011. The deal was inked in 2012 and time has proven Wright correct. A 2018 study by former Old Dominion University President and economics professor emeritus James V. Koch found that Portsmouth shoulders a far greater cost burden than any of its sister cities—six times greater than Virginia Beach residents—and that the tolls cost the city $8.8 million in annual revenue because fewer people come to areas such as Olde Towne to eat, drink, shop and spend.
“But in 2017, Virginian-Pilot reporting found some commuters were facing thousands in tolling bills because they did not have E-ZPass transponders, were paying higher rates to use the tunnels and a failure to pay promptly led to additional penalties and the snowballing of debt. One woman racked up $15,000 in tolling debt commuting to a job that paid $11,000 annually. McAuliffe used the bully pulpit of his office to pressure Elizabeth River Crossings, which operated the tolls, into settling those enormous bills, improving customer service and contributing to the toll relief fund.” [Sub required] Now a toll relief program is supposed to provide some help. But how much?
30) Wisconsin: Will privatization of the Milwaukee Metropolitan sewerage district be revisited? The forces are lining up.
31) National/Texas: Prison staff shortages are taking a toll on guards and incarcerated people, Pew reports. “In February, 8,043 of the 24,020 jobs inside the Texas correctional system were vacant, an all-time high. A recent pay raise has helped lower that number to just under 7,000. But Bryan Collier, executive director of the agency, said staffing remains the ‘most significant operational issue.’ Texas isn’t alone. Amid a nationwide worker shortage in various industries, prison systems across the country are desperate to reverse an exodus of corrections officers that administrators and prison experts describe as the worst ever.”
32) National: A private equity fund with a few hospitals bolted on? The Providence hospital system “is sitting on $10 billion that it invests, Wall Street-style, alongside top private equity firms. It even runs its own venture capital fund. In 2018, before the Rev-Up program kicked in, Providence spent 1.24 percent of its expenses on charity care, a standard way of measuring how much free care hospitals provide. That was below the average of 2 percent for nonprofit hospitals nationwide, according to an analysis of hospital financial records by Ge Bai, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. By last year, Providence’s spending on charity care had fallen below 1 percent of its expenses.”
33) National: Why we need tampons for all. “We should start treating menstrual products like what they are: a public good,” Cara Brumfeld writes in Common Dreams.
34) National: Muni dealers have set their legislative goals, which include restoring advance refundings (which are used to help local governments smooth the financing of public services, e.g.). They’re aiming to attach several measure to a tax bill at the end of this year. “Following these discussions, we feel confident that no matter the outcomes of the November elections, the tax-exemption has many friends on the Hill. While not a strong possibility, we do feel that House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) plans to make a strong push for a years end tax package, and would like to include key muni priorities that remain outstanding.”
35) Florida: A broken private insurance market threatens Florida and its “star governor,” the Financial Times reports. “As coverage has become scarce and expensive, record numbers of homeowners have flocked to a state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. If its reserves are overwhelmed, taxpayers could face exposure, Jeff Brandes, an outgoing Republican state senator and longtime critic of the insurance system, has warned. In May, Governor DeSantis convened a special legislative session to address the issue. The resulting fix — a $2bn layer of reinsurance to support Citizens — was dismissed by critics, even at the time, as a sticking-plaster solution that would not address the market’s larger problems.” [Sub required]
36) Missouri: Intrepid investigative columnist Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whose exposes helped defeat the corporate machinations behind efforts to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport, is now digging in on the appalling conditions in St. Louis jails. He is meeting the same stonewalling on what are supposed to be public documents. “In July, I asked the city of St. Louis to provide 18 months of jail statistics for the Justice Center. The request followed a tip that administrative segregation—a bureaucratic phrase for solitary confinement — was on the rise at the jail. At the time, there had been five deaths—it has now climbed to six—at the jail, and both detainees and attorneys were raising a stink about conditions there,” he says. “It’s been more than two months since I made my request to St. Louis. (…) That’s why Gross filed a 273-page lawsuit earlier this month alleging dozens of Sunshine Law violations in the city. His request also started by seeking information on the city’s Corrections Department, only to encounter delay after delay. The lawsuit names Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, City Counselor Sheena Hamilton and Sims as defendants.”
In the midst of all this, St. Louis is now considering outsourcing its prison food service despite numerous privatization disasters across the country in recent years.
38) International: Former British Labour Party candidate for Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn talks about water and electricity privatization and makes the case for public ownership.
39) International: The South African government has banned the Bain & Co. consultancy for five years “for engaging in ‘corrupt and fraudulent practices’ related to its contract at the SA Revenue Service (SARS).”
40) National: Is there a legal asteroid heading toward one of the constitutional foundations of federal regulation? In his overview of the upcoming Supreme Court term, which opens today, The Nation’s Elie Mystal suggests there may be—National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. “This case is scary because the conservatives on the Supreme Court might come to the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. They could well side with California against the pork industry, but do so in a way that obliterates or severely weakens the dormant commerce clause. A lot of federal regulation rests on the government’s commerce clause authority, including most civil rights legislation. The reason the federal government can force a motel in Alabama to admit Black citizens flows from the federal commerce power.” Oral argument is on October 11.
41) Alabama: “‘I’m fighting for my life’: Inside Alabama’s prisons during an ongoing labor strike.” The Montgomery Advertiser reports that Michele Deitch, a professor at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and director of the university’s Prison and Jail Innovation Lab, has followed the situation unfolding in Alabama. “The group had nine demands, including changes in sentencing laws and oversight of the state’s parole board, which has granted parole in recent years to so few eligible prisoners that those behind bars say they’ve lost hope for release. Several said that the strike has been a long time coming.”
Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife.