- New NLRB ruling opens re-door to more union organizing
- Will Biden commission open the flood gates for water privatization?
- Your Own Private California
We’re back! After a brief late-summer hiatus, the Privatization Report is back, chock-full of news and information from all over.
First, the Good News
1) National: In the Public Interest’s executive director, Donald Cohen, joined Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs to discuss privatization. “Cohen shows us that when we privatize, we are turning our own assets over to someone else who will sell them back to us and pocket our money. He explains why privatization is a bad deal and why public goods and services should remain in public hands. There is a right-wing effort to stigmatize public services as Big Government (calling public schools ‘government schools’ for instance), and Cohen makes the case for why we need a pro-public culture that unashamedly demand that what belongs to the people stays in the hands of the people.”
2) National/New York: Every year around Labor Day, ILR Outreach publishes a report on research, policies and tools related to New York state wages, job creation and employment. This year’s report includes a chapter on the impact of austerity and privatization on the public mental health care sector. “This report found that trends toward privatization and state government austerity in the New York state mental health workforce are costing New Yorkers good-paying union jobs, and the good jobs being lost have been disproportionately held by women and workers of color. The findings recommend reinvestment into—and meaningful job re-creation within—the state government mental health workforce, in order to reverse trends and move toward greater racial, gender and economic inequality in New York.”
3) National: Last week the National Labor Relations Board, which was liberated from Trump’s anti-labor control when the Biden administration was elected, issued what Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect calls its most important ruling in many decades. “In a party-line decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, the Board ruled that when a majority of a company’s employees file union affiliation cards, the employer can either voluntarily recognize their union or, if not, ask the Board to run a union recognition election. If, in the run-up to or during that election, the employer commits an unfair labor practice, such as illegally firing pro-union workers (which has become routine in nearly every such election over the past 40 years, as the penalties have been negligible), the Board will order the employer to recognize the union and enter forthwith into bargaining.
“The Cemex decision was preceded by another, one day earlier, in which the Board, also along party lines, set out rules for representation elections which required them to be held promptly after the Board had been asked to conduct them, curtailing employers’ ability to delay them, often indefinitely. Taken together, this one-two punch effectively makes union organizing possible again, after decades in which unpunished employer illegality was the most decisive factor in reducing the nation’s rate of private-sector unionization from roughly 35 percent to the bare 6 percent at which it stands today.” [Read the NLRB’s 121-page ruling]. Now comes the hard part.
4) National/New Mexico: “We all depend on the post office,” says the Carlsbad Current. “Privatizing postal services is one of the rare issues in Congress with strong bipartisan agreement: Don’t do it. Each time a privatization proposal surfaces, every member of Congress starts hearing from their constituents, especially those in rural areas. The USPO has a distinct mission, including ‘to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people.’ In New Mexico’s villages and towns, it does just that—binds communities together. In the smallest places, where farmers, ranchers and rural dwellers pick up mail at a P.O. Box, folks know ‘when the mail comes in.’ The post office becomes a gathering place. In more urban areas neighbors greet one another as they wait. Many of us are on first-name basis with our neighborhood postman/woman.” [Sub required]
5) National: With local media under heavy financial pressure and with many vital outlets for local news closing down, cutting back coverage, or being swallowed up by union busting private equity, let’s take a moment to celebrate States Newsroom, which is doing its best to fill the void. Thank goodness for States Newsroom and their dedicated local staff for reporting from ground level on privatization and for producing stories like this. Jim Hightower has more good news on this front.
6) National: Lauren Jacobs, executive director of PowerSwitch Action, reports in the August Newsletter that “last month news broke that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is readying a landmark antitrust lawsuit against Amazon. This could be huge news—here’s why. This lawsuit comes at a moment of intense scrutiny for Amazon. Across the country, workers have been sharing stories about dangerous working conditions, filing complaints with oversight agencies like OSHA, and even prompting investigations into Amazon’s injury-inducing work quotas and its practice of sending injured employees back into the workplace. And that’s just within their logistics branch. (…) Workers, organizers, and communities have been raising the alarm for years and have gotten us to the moment we’re in now. From New York to Missouri to Southern California, local groups (including several of our own affiliates) have been taking the fight directly to Amazon and demanding safe working conditions, better pay, climate action, and more.”
7) National/Massachusetts: Mandatory privatized housing inspections will begin this month at Hanscom Air Force Base. Now how about inspections at all other privatized public housing?
8) Indiana: the Indianapolis Public School Board of Commissioners has approved a resolution supporting the district’s decision to sue the state over the “$1 charter law.” The law allows unused school buildings to be sold to charter schools for $1. “Board president Venita Moore reiterated before Thursday’s vote that the district is not trying to start conflicts but is only trying to find clarity on the $1 law. ‘There have been many interpretations by various attorneys from various places,’ Moore said. ‘We believe by receiving a judicial response, the board of commissioners will be able to move forward appropriately as placed.’ The lawsuit and the complaint filed by the charter school network are just the latest incidents in a string of disagreements between IPS and charter school leaders over the division of tax dollars and the interpretation of the $1 law seen since last year.”
9) New Jersey: Edison County has tabled plans to hire private crossing guards for schools. “The resolution was to award $900,000 to Crossing Guard Services LLC for employing private crossing guards. Councilman Richard Brescher argued that certain functions should be the responsibility of local government and this includes employing crossing guards.” Brescher says “I believe there are certain functions of government that government should do. I believe sewer and water and crossing guards should be in-house. That we can’t get people is an unacceptable answer to outsource.” (…) He suggested splitting $200,000 for police among the 53 crossing guard posts, which he believes would lead to more people signing up to become crossing guards.” [Sub required]]
10) Oklahoma: The state is moving closer to eliminating private prisons. “Change is coming to a southeast Oklahoma private prison plagued with violence and staffing shortages, but advocates for corrections staff and prisoners say further efforts are needed to improve conditions. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections will take control of the Davis Correctional Facility, a medium-to-maximum security prison in Holdenville, on Oct. 1. CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based private corrections company, has owned and operated the prison since it opened in 1996. The state pays CoreCivic $55 per day for medium-security prisoners and $68 per day for prisoners in maximum-security and behavior-modification units. Corrections officers, medical personnel and other Davis staff will retain their salaries and start receiving state benefits, corrections department spokesperson Kay Thompson said.”
11) Wisconsin: The new progressive state Supreme Court majority is flexing its muscles. “The four liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justices voted Friday to slash the power of the court’s conservative chief justice, impose new filing deadlines and reopen administrative meetings. The changes will make the court ‘more inclusive, timely, and responsive’ and be a ‘first step in making our court more accessible and more accountable to the people of Wisconsin,’ liberal Justice Rebecca Dallet said. The moves drew immediate ire from conservatives, especially the chief justice, whose powers now appear to be largely diminished.”
“For the first time in more than 15 years, the court will have a clearly defined and unapologetic pro-democracy majority,” writes John Nichols in The Nation. “That majority is positioned to address the damage done to Wisconsin democracy by the conservatives who controlled the bench during Walker’s governorship and in its aftermath. And change could come quickly; on Wednesday morning, a long-anticipated lawsuit was filed challenging the state’s gerrymandered legislative district maps. The era of hyper-partisanship that uses the courts to implement a partisan policy agenda is finished. The era of justice for all, and the renewal of Wisconsin democracy, has begun.”
12) National: Since the early years of the Reagan administration over 40 years ago, the right wing Heritage Foundation has produced massive volumes of suggested policy changes to uproot New Deal and Great Society legislation and change the face of American society. Privatization of public services and education was high up on their agenda. Now, as the Trump campaign indulges in fantasies of gutting the federal government by massive firings of civil service staff and other public employees, Heritage is out with a new Mandate that would, among many other things, end Title IX on gender equality in public education and weaken regulation of charter schools. Politico has reported that Heritage has emerged as one of the most influential forces behind Donald Trump’s transition team.
Here’s what they say [Heritage Mandate p. 363]. “Charter School Grant Programs Congress first authorized the Charter School Program (CSP) in 1994 [Title X, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 8061 et seq. (1994)]. It most recently reauthorized the program in 2015 as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act.13 On March 14, 2022, the department published a notice concerning proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and grant selection criteria relating to the award of federal grants to applicants in CSP. This proposal increases the federal footprint in the charter school sector by ignoring statute and adding to the list of requirements imposed on charter schools. The new Administration must take immediate steps to rescind the new requirements and lessen the federal restrictions on charter schools.”
Heritage wants to “privatize as much as possible.” Privatization is mentioned 15 times in the new report. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a top priority. They want to privatize it and “until it is privatized, TSA should be treated as a national security provider, and its workforce should be deunionized immediately.” Privatizing FEMA and the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program. Privatizing all educational lending programs, “including subsidized, unsubsidized, and PLUS loans (both Grad and Parent).” Re The Energy Information Administration: “There are some who think that EIA should be privatized. The cost savings to taxpayers should be considered. On the other hand, EIA has generally demonstrated neutral data presentation that is helpful to policymakers and the private sector.” Examining “each individual component” of the Commerce Department for privatization. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), they say, “should be dismantled and many of its functions eliminated, sent to other agencies, privatized, or placed under the control of states and territories.” They want to privatize the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps small and medium manufacturing companies. Privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Common Securitization Platform.
While there isn’t space to go into it here, the Heritage blueprint also has a lot to say about contracting and regulation. It basically declares that federal offices responsible for implementing responsible contracting and rules-based acquisitions should be completely politized under direct presidential micromanagement. [See pp. 48-50 and passim].
13) National: A school closure cliff is coming. Black and Hispanic students are likely to bear the brunt, says Hechinger’s. “When schools have more students of color, they’re more likely to close—and some shutter even when they’re high performing. In Louisiana’s largest school district, advocates say the move exacerbates a racist history, too.” [Sub required]
14) National: Jennifer Berkshire had an interesting show on the limits of artificial intelligence in school. [Audio, about 45 minutes].
15) National: PragerU, the right wing video propaganda mill, now has a toehold in schools, Education Week reports. “It’s virtually impossible to know at what scale the nation’s more than 3 million teachers are using PragerU—or any other curriculum materials, for that matter. There are no national gauges of curriculum use, and even most states don’t collect this information. But there are some documented instances of schools using PragerU. In 2021, The American Prospectreported that high school students in California and Idaho had seen the videos in their classrooms, played by their teachers. In 2020, an Ohio school assigned PragerU videos for extra credit. Conversely, at least one local news outlet has reported that some Florida districts won’t allow the resources to be used in classrooms.” [Sub required]. Meanwhile, Media Matters for America is reporting that Meta is allowing PragerU Kids to flout its advertising policies and promote its propaganda-filled school curriculum without necessary labels.
16) Florida: “Stop allowing zealots to waste Florida school districts’ time and money,” says the Tampa Bay Times. “The report also shows that the vast majority of parents aren’t using book challenges to perpetuate DeSantis’ floundering culture wars. This isn’t a mass movement. Parents aren’t showing up in big numbers to censor books. But his administration’s pretense that they are only empowering parents—when the vast majority are indicating they neither want nor need this power—is still having a chilling effect on teachers and school districts, who are wary of crossing a vindictive state government. In Jefferson County, for example, all school media are closed until the district can inventory its entire catalog. Santa Rosa County quarantined every book that received a complaint.”
17) Idaho: Education Week has a horrifying story about how politics drove a teacher of the year out of the classroom. “I feel that as educators, we are obligated to teach in the best ways that we know are best for kids,” writes Karen Lauritzen. “And I also feel that as educators, we really need to advocate for ourselves to have our expertise be respected and honored. Teachers go through a lot of education, a lot of content-knowledge tests, and we do a lot to show our professionalism. I feel that professionalism—like any other career that is a profession—needs to be respected and honored. And I feel that we need to have a reckoning as a nation and as a society—if we’re going to retain teachers that are high quality and are going to be the best for our kids, we need to really look deeply at how we honor teachers’ expertise.” [Sub required]
18) New York/Think Tanks: A new study by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies reveals an upsurge in unionization and strikes in higher education, but weakening numbers in New York. “As Figure 1a shows, the overall level of unionization in both the City and State has been roughly double the national rate over the past two decades. But recently, union density has fallen more in New York City and New York State than in the United States as a whole. In the mid-2010s, both the City and State rates steadily hovered around 24 percent, but they began to fall after 2017. By 2022–23, only 17.7 percent of all wage and salary workers residing in the five boroughs of New York City, and 20.2 percent of those in the state, were union members.”
19) Oklahoma: Can a charter school get a variance to build a 15,000 square foot library with 78 parking spaces on the playing fields of the former high school the charter school now occupies? The City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment says yes. A group of citizens is suing, alleging conflict of interest.
20) Pennsylvania: School vouchers are back up for debate in Pennsylvania, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Teachers’ unions were quick Wednesday to criticize the Senate GOP for forcing the voucher issue again. ‘Republican leadership is actively working to dismantle public education,’ said Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. ‘The notion that they continue to pursue an education privatization agenda that further siphons money from public education and instead invests in a system of education that is proven ineffective is simply outrageous.’”
21) National: How public is your favorite public park? asks Kevin Loughran, assistant professor of sociology at Temple University and the author of Parks for Profit: Selling Nature in the City. “That might seem like a strange question. Many people assume that ‘we’—the public, the people—do. But from New York’s High Line to Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park, parks in U.S. cities are increasingly managed, financed, and policed by private groups that have little accountability to the public. Just as many other services once seen as public goods—such as healthcare, schools, and water utilities—have increasingly become the property of corporations and wealthy financiers, public space, too, has been privatized.”
22) National: We need the public pools that segregation helped take away, writes Nedra Rhone in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A few years ago, while looking for a place for her children to learn to swim, East Point resident Hannah Palmer began researching the history of lost public pools in metro Atlanta. She found a long-buried history, similar to the history that played out in communities nationwide: Public pools often closed rather than integrate or fell into disrepair and neglect as white residents turned to private clubs and backyard pools. ‘Ghost Pools’ is Palmer’s summer-long public art project that memorializes the locations of the pools serving the city of East Point from 1953 until they closed. Palmer used aerial photos to determine the outline of the pools, then recreated them with blue paint, diving boards, pennants, LED lights and signage. The spaces, even in abandonment, revealed the disparities that existed when they were in full bloom.”
23) National/Texas: Is the Biden administration’s water infrastructure plan a giveaway to banks and the private water and construction industries? Privatization critics say it is. “An under-the-radar report by U.S. President Joe Biden’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council should not go unnoticed, said the national watchdog Food & Water Watch on Thursday, as buried in the document is a call for the privatization of U.S. water systems, which progressive lawmakers and civil society groups have long opposed. On page 15 of the 38-page report, the advisory council said the federal government should ‘remove barriers to privatization, concessions, and other nontraditional models of funding community water systems in conjunction with each state’s development of best practice.’ Food & Water Watch (FWW) suggested that the recommendation goes hand in hand with the panel chairmanship of Adebayo Ogunlesi, who is the chairman and CEO of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).”
Meanwhile, Houston residents are up in arms over the city’s plan to possibly privatize its drinking water plant, and protested at the city council meeting last Tuesday. “The group said they aimed to keep the issue in the public eye, as there hasn’t been action on the issue since two finalists were named in the city’s search for contracts in March. The contract in question would privatize operations at the Southeast Water Purification Plant, one of the city’s three main facilities for treating drinking water. The plant is responsible for treating 200 million gallons of water a day, providing potable water for 1 million people, about a quarter of the city’s customer base.”
The city council protest and speak out, organized in part with West Street Recovery, a nonprofit dedicated to disaster recovery, and Corporate Accountability USA, was somewhat unusual since often privatization agreements are sprung on the public with little notice or opportunity to intervene. The fact that a request for proposal went out some six months ago does not preclude that possibility, and the Houston group is on its toes.
The Houston Chronicle reports that “Alice Liu, a member of West Street Recovery, said the group didn’t choose that day to protest for any particular reason. It was a result of working with Corporate Accountability USA and scheduling, not related to any meeting agenda, she said. Liu wanted questions answered about the progress of the contracts and said the group felt an ‘offensive’ approach would be appropriate. Other speakers said they didn’t want the council to forget there was opposition to the plan. Mayor Sylvester Turner said in the meeting that he was ‘trying to figure out where this came from,’ since the request for proposals they were discussing had been open since 2021 and no final decision had been made. ‘Nothing has been decided upon as in what the outcome will be,’ the mayor confirmed Tuesday. But this was one reasons speakers came to city council in the first place. ‘We don’t even know the process of when we would see this again if it did come up again,’ Bridgett Jensen said. ‘If we could just put it to bed and say we’re not going to privatize, that would kind of end the whole conversation.’” [Sub required]
In the Public Interest has been following the issue of water privatization for years and will continue to do so. Our next weekly newsletter, due later this week, will have something to say about the Advisory Council’s report—sign up here.
24) National: Investors bought nearly a billion dollars’ worth of land near a California air force base, and people have been wondering for months who exactly they were, the Wall Street Journal has reported. “‘We don’t know who Flannery is, and their extensive purchases do not make sense to anybody in the area,’ said Rep. John Garamendi, (D., Calif.) the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel. ‘The fact that they’re buying land purposefully right up to the fence at Travis raises significant questions.’” Well the investors have finally been revealed, and the question now is not whether the land near the base was being gobbled up by foreign interests interested in keeping an eye on the military facility, but whether the actual investors are planning to build a new private city.
One obvious question is whether the intention is to build a privatized city, and that all the secrecy reflects an awareness of how controversial that would be. The New York Times has done an exposé on the role corporate billionaires are playing in the Flannery scheme. “The company’s investors, whose identities have not been previously reported, are a who’s who of Silicon Valley, according to three people who were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans. They include Mr. Moritz; Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder, venture capitalist and Democratic donor; Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, investors at the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm; Patrick and John Collison, the sibling co-founders of the payments company Stripe; Laurene Powell Jobs, founder of the Emerson Collective; and Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, entrepreneurs turned investors. Andreessen Horowitz is also a backer. It was unclear how much each had invested.”
Acknowledging the shroud of secrecy surrounding the plans has rankled some California residents and leaders, the parent company of Flannery, called California Forever, in recent days made public a website outlining some of its plans. “To date, our company has been quiet about our activities. This has, understandably, created interest, concern, and speculation. Now that we’re no longer limited by confidentiality, we are eager to begin a conversation about the future of Solano County a conversation with all of you.”
The right wing is gung-ho for private cities, and Forbes has reported that the “priority of management is profit, not the needs of citizens.” The objective is to eliminate public ownership and control of very lucrative core infrastructure, ditch zoning codes, and favor private over public transportation. The Independent Institute, headquartered in nearby Oakland, gets to the point: “Replacing these top-down systems with privatized ones might seem radical to people because it’s uncommon—cities worldwide are still overwhelmingly public entities with public services. The private sector can only function, the thinking goes, because large government entities provide infrastructure for it. Some cutting-edge thinkers are challenging this idea, offering private or quasi-private models meant to ensure economic and personal freedom better than city governments do.”
25) Hawaii: The deadly fire has intensified Maui’s fight over water rights, The Washington Post reports. “Hōkūao Pellegrino, a farmer in Waikapu, said the fire and what he sees as the resulting blame game are being used to ‘undo all of the work that our communities have fought so hard and advocated so hard to do.’ The result, he added, could undermine Native Hawaiian efforts ‘to ensure that our landscape is no longer that barren, dry, arid, fire prone region that it has become.’” This struggle contains a history lesson on privatization, which has been around long before Ronald Reagan. “Struggles over water management heightened with land privatization in the 19th century. Ancient waterways and irrigation systems established by Hawaiians were diverted for the sugar cane plantations that took over large swaths of land in West Maui. Sugar cane, which gave way to tourism in the 20th century, dried out the landscape.”
26) Maryland/National: Here comes another privatized utility at a military facility. “American States Water Company announced today that its contracted services subsidiary, American States Utility Services, Inc., has been awarded a 50-year contract by the U.S. government to operate, maintain and provide construction management services for the water distribution and wastewater collection facilities at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, a United States Navy air station located in Maryland. The initial value of the contract is estimated at approximately $349 million over a 50-year period and is subject to annual economic price adjustment.”
27) Pennsylvania: The Towamencin Township sewer privatization battle has just kicked into a higher gear. “Activists in Towamencin Township employed a novel legal strategy to try to stop the sale — by asking voters to prohibit such a deal through a change to the municipality’s governing structure. That effort appeared to score a big win in May, when voters narrowly approved new governance, known as a home rule charter, that says it specifically prohibits such a sale. But that wasn’t the end of the story. The township’s five-member Board of Supervisors is moving ahead with the proposal, albeit to a new buyer, saying that canceling the contract would violate state law and the state constitution. That prompted a lawsuit last week from two residents who want a court order compelling the supervisors to terminate the contract.”
28) International: Premium Times, a prominent Nigerian newspaper, reports that the “poor privatization” of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited has hampered the development of telecommunications services, including wireless. “The poor privatisation process, according to the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, has not allowed the government to integrate the $82 million project into the transmission line 13 years after the completion of the project. While the privatisation has been ongoing for years, the infrastructure of the state’s own telecom has become moribund.”
29) International: A major privatization push is underway in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
30) National/Pennsylvania: Right wing extremists don’t just assault American democracy at the national level, they also assault local activists who organize on things like privatizing social services. “They demanded that he tell me to stop writing about their racist activities and posting members’ names on Twitter. Then they plastered a sticker with their logo onto my front door. They placed more around the neighborhood for good measure. When we got home, I called the cops. These guys had been threatening me for months, furious. Now they’d shown up to frighten me in person, vandalizing my home. Surely that was actionable?” [Sub required]
31) National: Where did our public toilets go? Katrina vanden Heuvel has the lowdown. “The controversy over Starbucks belies a more fundamental issue: we shouldn’t expect private companies to provide this public service. This is a job for local governments. And despite threats to stall, some cities have major developments coming up the pipeline. The New York City Council has proposed a four-year plan to quadruple the number of public restrooms in the city. This would provide one restroom for every 2,000 New Yorkers—a significant improvement from the current rate of one for every 7,700. And in San Francisco, the Pit Stop program has successfully piloted 24/7 public restrooms equipped with paid staff in areas with high rates of homelessness. Since then, reports of public feces in San Francisco have declined.”
32) National/Think Tanks: KFF has a somewhat useful summary of what you need to know as millions lose their Medicaid coverage. But “American private equity-owned, for-profit medicine is a disgrace,” writes Eve Ottenberg, who spells out the looming crisis. “How badly has decaying capitalism destroyed our health? According to the KFF Health System Tracker, ‘The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy among large, wealthy countries, while it far outspends its peers on health care.’ Life expectancy in the U.S. lags behind that in Germany, the U.K., Austria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Japan and Switzerland. To say nothing of U.S. life expectancy dipping behind China, Lebanon, the Czech Republic and Cuba. In infant mortality, the U.S. does even worse.”
33) National: KPFA’s Against the Grain takes on the issue of “unfree” labor in immigration detention, most of which is run by private, for profit companies GEO Group and CoreCivic. “In many immigration holding facilities, detainees can choose to work for wages. But is the language of choice in this context misleading? Katie Bales deploys the concept of unfree labor to explain what’s going on within what she calls the immigration industrial complex. She emphasizes the historical and geopolitical factors that compel many detainees to agree to work for often miniscule wages.”
32) Florida: It seems reality may be breaking through for Ron DeSantis. Faced with a decline in American life expectancy, privatization has dropped out of his picture. “DeSantis position on senior citizen entitlements has been a moving target in recent months, as he has been walking back previous calls for market forces and privatization to replace the current programs,” Florida Politics reports.
33) Montana: Homelessness and its challenges are reaching every community large and small, despite frequent media coverage implying it’s an urban phenomenon. From the Missoulian: “Disparate opinions on homelessness ran rampant at Monday night’s Missoula City Council meeting. Public comments ranged from exhortations to ship homeless people out of town to pleas to put a moratorium on law enforcement actions targeting the unhoused in Missoula. Ultimately, council members passed two measures aimed at the houseless issue: reopening the Johnson Street Community Center and postponing a vote on a permanent urban camping ordinance. On a 7-2 vote, council opted to wait for a decision that could permanently enshrine urban camping rules in Missoula. The final consideration of the ordinance was moved to Nov. 13 in order for the city to come up with better guidance for unhoused individuals and law enforcement. The current rules, which went into place following an emergency declaration this summer, expire in early September.”
34) New Jersey: Cape May County is looking to privatize its nursing home. “As the number of elder care facilities has risen in Cape May County that take Medicaid, the need for a county-operated facility has diminished, Lindsay said. The willingness of private facilities to accept residents under Medicaid has encouraged the county to make the transition.”
35) International: Another privatization failure has led to the public insourcing of a vital service. “The Alberta government announced today that medical laboratory services provided by DynaLIFE will be transferred back to Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL), a subsidiary of publicly owned Alberta Health Services (AHS). DynaLIFE’s message to all staff stated, ‘This transition to AHS will allow resources to be more effectively deployed across the province, enhancing patient care.’ (…) ‘This is a victory for public health care and a serious indictment of experiments in privatizing our public services,’ said CUPE Alberta Division President Rory Gill. ‘When politicians turn our health care system into a profit-making venture for corporations, they spend as little as possible on front-line services to ensure their shareholders make money. The result is that patient care suffers. Lab services are returning to where they belong—under the umbrella of public health care.’”
All the Rest
36) National: Lots of praise has rolled in for Ronan Farrow’s account in the New Yorker of the rise of Elon Musk. “In the past twenty years,” writes Farrow, “against a backdrop of crumbling infrastructure and declining trust in institutions, Musk has sought out business opportunities in crucial areas where, after decades of privatization, the state has receded. The government is now reliant on him, but struggles to respond to his risk-taking, brinkmanship, and caprice.”
Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect has grasped the nettle by making the case for radical public options. Take it back. “In many respects, public options are as American as apple pie; it’s extreme privatization that’s new. In other cases, we need to take systems that are partially public, such as Medicare and the VA, and make them comprehensive for the entire citizenry. Why not boot Musk and take back NASA control of rocket launches, not to mention battlefield signal technology? Most of our great achievements, from land grant colleges to Social Security to public power, have been more socialistic than many liberals like to admit. It’s when these public systems get captured by capitalists that they fail.”
Paris Marx brings in the media element of privatization boosterism as it relates to Musk. “That’s not to mention all the government support that SpaceX and Tesla received that helped them become what they are today. The U.S. government essentially saved Tesla from death in 2009, while its battery-swapping deception ensured it got additional credits from California’s carbon credit scheme without delivering the environmental benefits. For years, Tesla’s profits came from the sale of those credits, not selling electric cars. It was similar for SpaceX, where the government made an explicit policy choice beginning under President George W. Bush to privatize the space program and later gave contracts to SpaceX to get it through its most difficult moments. Through that whole period, the media wasn’t just along for the ride, but actively working to build up Musk’s profile.”
37) Maryland/National: Controversy is mounting over a proposal to create a $330 million joint training facility for Baltimore’s police and fire departments on the Coppin State University campus. Many are comparing it to Atlanta’s “cop city.”
38) Think Tanks: What impact does the privatization of artificial intelligence research have on society? There’s a paper on that. “The Privatization of AI Research(-ers): Causes and Potential Consequences—From university-industry interaction to public research brain-drain?” by Roman Jurowetzki et al. “We find that, researchers working within the field of deep learning as well as those with higher average impact tend to transition into industry. These findings highlight the importance of strengthening academic research in public organizations within AI to balance a potential dominance of private companies and to maintain public supervision of the development and application of this technology.”
Image: Rendering of new community proposed by the private investors of California Forever