First, the Good News

1) California/National: The struggle to keep Huntington Beach Public Library public is gaining momentum. After a strong turnout of library supporters on Friday night, calls have gone out for all hands to attend a city council meeting tomorrow at 6 pm to demand a public vote on privatization.

“At Tuesday’s meeting of the council, a proposal by Councilmembers Rhonda Bolton, Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser will be considered. What they’re asking for is to place on the Nov. 5 general election ballot a proposed charter amendment to require a majority vote of the city council and a majority vote of those citizens voting “to approve any proposal that would change the wholesale management of the library and/or any proposal to operate the library with a private contractor that would employ library staff to achieve cost savings” as well as an advisory vote of voters on whether to “hire a third-party contractor to operate the HBPL; replacement of the current management structure.” Also, they are asking the city manager to “cease any further work” on requests for proposals to operate the library system.”

2) National: PowerSwitch Action and NELP’s new report on how app companies are “threatening democracy” is making waves. StreetsBlogNYC says, “People in the delivery industry in New York City readily confirm their experiences with some of the ‘buy, bully and bamboozle’ elements of the PowerSwitch Action report. New York’s minimum pay standard law for delivery workers was passed in 2023, but advocates are seeing retaliation tactics play out to sow confusion and division among workers. For instance, advocates say that the companies deliberately confused the situation during public hearings over the proposed minimum wage, claiming it would result in lower pay for workers. In the end, it did—but because of company tactics: ‘The companies made sure their threats came through,’ the report argued. Workers saw it on the street: ‘DoorDash and Uber removed the tipping option from the beginning of the app ordering process after minimum pay was put into effect,’ said Gabriel Montero of the Worker’s Justice Project.’”

3) National/Idaho: How do we build momentum for supporting public education against the forces of privatization and censorship in rural communities in conservative states? Jennifer Berkshire looks at the Idaho experience on her Have You Heard Podcast. “Private school vouchers flamed out in Idaho this legislative session. So how did Idahoans succeed in saying ‘no thanks’ to a controversial and expensive policy program that is now on the books in one state after another? We’re joined by activists and advocates who say that convincing lawmakers that vouchers aren’t conservative was key. And unlike most states, Idaho has an influential business group that is staunchly anti-voucher. Add in lots of organizing and a refusal to let lawmakers enact a sweeping new program behind closed doors and you get the ‘Idaho exception.’”

4) National: Ready for the most interesting boring report you’ll likely read for the near future? The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), is the only federal agency with economic development as its sole mission. Its programs include public works, university centers, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) apprenticeships, local technical assistance, planning, and much else. That is, lots of things that are targets of the privatization industry. The interesting report, produced by CRS, is an overview of its activities. Download it here.

5) Hawai’i: The governor, Josh Green (D), has signed six good governance bills into law, “furthering the state’s commitment to accountability and transparency in government actions. These bills, part of ongoing efforts to promote public trust and citizen participation, aim to enhance openness in decision-making processes across Hawaiʻi. Among the bills signed, House Bills 1598, 1599, and 1600 focus on bolstering Hawaiʻi’s open meetings law. They seek to facilitate greater public input by ensuring timely distribution of written testimony to board members (HB 1598), allowing audio and video participation in remote meetings (HB 1599), and setting clear time standards between board meetings (HB 1600), enabling adequate review and compliance with open meetings law requirements.”

6) New Jersey: Two lawmakers are blowing the whistle on the enormous salaries being paid to charter school executives at College Achieve Public Schools, known as CAPS. “State Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, and State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, said the charter network … should be required to answer questions about how its revenue, which originates through taxpayer dollars, is being spent, among other inquiries. ‘I’m calling upon the state Department of Education to call in the leadership of this school district and have them open their books to see what the public money is being used for, and then make a recommendation to the legislature,’ Sarlo said. ‘Clearly the overhead and salaries are outrageous.’ ‘When you’re dealing with a public institution, public funds should be spent with the child’s desk at the classroom,’ Ruiz added. ‘The numbers appear to be extraordinarily high in light of what some of our greatest administrators make here in the state.’”

“CAPS founder and CEO Michael Piscal earned a base salary of $444,714 and $252,814 in deferred compensation and retirement benefits, according to tax forms filed by the organization in 2023. Meanwhile, Gemar Mills, the executive director of College Achieve Paterson, earned $433,734 in total compensation, and Jodi McInerney, the executive director of College Achieve Asbury Park, earned $323,245 in total compensation, according to tax forms. Three other CAPS officials earned more than $209,000 in total compensation, tax forms show.”

7) Pennsylvania: State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D) announces that the Pennsylvania House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus issued following statement opposing the use of conversion therapy on minors. The state boards of Nursing, the Medicine, Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors, Psychology and Osteopathic Medicine are adopting statements of policy against the practice.  “‘The LGBTQ+ community often faces a troubling disparity, where accessing appropriate health care can be tainted by discrimination, misunderstanding and systemic barriers. This new policy, adopted throughout the state, validates what advocates have been saying for decades about the dangers of conversion therapy, and sends a clear message that we will not let hatred masquerade as medical treatment here in Pennsylvania.’ The new policies notify licensees that all five boards consider the use of conversion therapy to be unprofessional, harmful conduct that may subject any licensee engaging in it to administrative discipline.”

8) Upcoming Meeting: In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen will be a panelist at a session of the upcoming virtual, four-part series taking a deep dive into drug war profiteering. Session 3, on May 29, will be on Privatization and Profit in the War on Drugs. Donald will be joined on the panel by Michael Fenne of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Chelsea Higgs Wise of Marijuana Justice Virginia. More details and registration here.

9) Think Tanks/California: What does a purple county look like demographically and politically? The good folks at the School of Social Ecology at the University of California Irvine have produced an excellent slide deck looking at Orange County.


10) National: According to new National Education Association (NEA) reports, 38 percent of school support staff working in K–12 schools earn less than $25,000, and 12.5 percent earn less than $15,000. “School support staff, who make up more than one-third of all public school employees, are essential members of the education workforce. Instead of being rewarded or their dedication, NEA President Becky Pringle said, ‘they have persevered despite low pay, and staffing and supply shortages that have made it increasingly difficult for them to provide the necessary supports our students need and deserve.”

11) National: President Biden has announced that the White House would forgive more than $6.1 billion on student loan debt for 317,000 borrowers “who attended The Art Institutes, a private art school system in the U.S. that shuttered last year. ‘This institution falsified data, knowingly misled students, and cheated borrowers into taking on mountains of debt without leading to promising career prospects at the end of their studies,’ said Biden in a statement. ‘We will never stop fighting to deliver relief to borrowers, hold bad actors accountable, and bring the promise of college to more Americans,’ the President added.”

12) National/Oklahoma: Bruno Manno, an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation, a major supporter of charter schools and a board member of the Charter School Leadership Council, has weighed in on the question of religious charter schools. “School choice supporters are of two opposing positions on this issue. For example, Professor Garnett argues that charter schools are not state actors for federal constitutional purposes. However, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools disagrees and argues that ‘Charter schools are public schools and are state actors for the purposes of protecting students’ federal constitutional rights.’ In the recent April arguments before the state Supreme Court, USA Today reports Drummond argued that ‘This case is not about the exclusion of a religious entity from government aid, which implicates the Free Exercise of Religion, Rather, it is about the state creation of a religious school which unequivocally establishes religion.’”

13) Louisiana: Will the Pelican state remove special education fairness requirements for charter schools? The Louisiana Illuminator reports that “Some charter schools have selective admissions and have resisted providing special education services, although they’re required at public schools under state and federal law. (…) Opponents of the bill reminded the committee that since Claitor’s law was enacted in 2015, the number of charter schools in compliance with the enrollment quotas has increased but is still not adequate. According to a Louisiana Legislative Auditor report in 2022, 10.3% of charter schools required to serve a specific number of economically disadvantaged students did not meet the requirements. The rate is an improvement from the 2016-17 school year, when 21.3% charters did not reach their quota. The report also says multiple schools repeatedly failed to meet the economically disadvantaged requirement.”

14) Maryland: The Frederick County Board of Education may lower how much money charter schools can receive out of the total per-pupil allocated funds they’re eligible for, the Frederick News-Pilot reports. “If the board implements a new formula giving charter schools 75% of their per pupil allocated (PPA) funds, those schools’ funds will mirror the percentage that other non-charters get from their own PPA funds. Each charter school would see about a 10% drop from its standard funding if the new formula were used, according to a presentation the board heard during its meeting on Wednesday. Charter schools leaders said the loss of funds using the new formula would put their schools in dire financial situations within the next few years. (…) The current PPA formula would result in a combined total of about $15.8 million distributed among the county’s four charter schools — which would increase Frederick County Public Schools’ fiscal year 2025 budget by about $1.3 million. The other formula, which would give the schools 75% of their PPA funds, would result in about $14.3 million across the charter schools. This formula would decrease the FCPS budget by about $153,000.”

15) North Carolina: The Republican-controlled state Senate is pumping another half a billion dollars into private school scholarships. “Democrats, including Governor Roy Cooper, have opposed any expansion of private school vouchers. Cooper says the additional funding takes money away from public schools. ‘Of all the important issues in North Carolina, the top priority for Republicans is funneling taxpayer money into private school vouchers for the wealthy instead of giving teachers a decent pay raise,’ said Cooper. ‘This is catastrophic for the hardworking educators who deserve higher pay and the families with children in public schools whose education is threatened by this reckless desire to give a government handout to millionaires.’ (…) Other critics Thursday said private schools who receive these scholarships lack the same academic accountability as public schools and can screen out some students based on religion, for example.” The South has a long history of using private schools to resist racial integration.

16) Texas: As Gov. Abbott focuses on other things, such as privatizing the public health system, Republican lawmakers have failed to disburse $4 billion of already-appropriated funding to the public schools, causing untold misery for school boards, teachers, students, parent, and community members. “Texas lawmakers during the regular and special legislative sessions ultimately defeated the effort to distribute the $4 billion, because the funds were tied to the passage of Gov. Greg Abbott’s school voucher program.”


17) National: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally taken on abandoned coal ash ponds—but Grist’s Gautama Mehta says it might be too late. “But whether or not the new coal ash regulation brings relief to communities grappling with groundwater contamination may well depend on political will and the agency’s appetite for enforcing its own rules—especially when it means overriding the authority of states that have their own ideas about how strict the rules actually are. Environmental advocates say that the enforcement of the earlier coal ash rule established a concerning precedent: Rather than implementing the 2015 rule, some states and utilities are effectively waiting out the clock on the Biden administration in the hopes that a potential Trump administration will be friendlier to the power industry.”

18) National: The trade press is warning that the Biden administration’s tightening of rules regulating “forever chemicals” in drinking water will drive the privatization of water systems. “The Biden administration has cast its strict new drinking water rules for toxic forever chemicals as a win for public health. But they could also spur more sales of public water systems to private companies, a controversial move that often raises costs and takes control of a vital service out of the community’s hands.”

19) California: Private equity is in the process of gobbling up a PG&E power unit, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The California utility company said it is seeking regulatory approval to transfer its sprawling hydroelectric system, as well as a smaller fleet of natural gas, solar and battery facilities, into a new subsidiary called Pacific Generation, 49.9% of which it intends to sell to KKR, one of the world’s biggest infrastructure investors. (…) PG&E filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2019, citing an estimated $30 billion in liability costs stemming from a series of major wildfires that killed more than 100 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. It emerged in 2020 with more debt than it had at the start of the process and without an investment-grade credit rating.” [Sub required]

20) National/Virginia: Big data hubs are slowing our supposed shift to a sustainable energy system. “The cutting edge of technology is driving the power grid back to the 19th century,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “An explosion of so-called hyperscale data centers in places such as Northern Virginia has upended plans by electric utilities to cut the use of fossil fuels. In some areas, that means burning coal for longer than planned. These giant data centers will provide computing power needed for artificial intelligence. They are setting off a four-way battle among electric utilities trying to keep the lights on; tech companies that like to tout their climate credentials; consumers angry at rising electricity prices; and regulators overseeing investments in the grid and trying to turn it green. Ground zero for the fight is Northern Virginia’s ‘Data Center Alley.’” [Sub required]

21) Louisiana: Shreveport voters have approved a new general obligation bond issuance for infrastructure. “The voters approved $125 million for a streets and drainage bond, $82 million for a water and sewer bond, and $49 million for a police and fire infrastructure bond. The first two bonds passed with 80% in favor and 20% against. The last passed with 78% in favor and 22% against. The city anticipates the bonds will have 20- to 30-year maturities. Moody’s Ratings rates the city’s GO bonds Baa1.” [Sub required]

22) Minnesota: The Mille Lacs Messenger reports that the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is on a mission to upgrade its infrastructure. The MDVA “is entrusted to maintain nearly six dozen buildings totaling more than 1.4 million square feet, spread over eight State Veterans Homes and four State Veterans Cemeteries. These campuses range in age from just a few months to more than 130 years old and include myriad buildings.”

23) International/Canada: Blackstone, the private equity Death Star, has gobbled up the $8 billion publicly-traded Tricon real estate company. “The Common Shares are expected to be de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange on or about the opening of trading on May 2, 2024 and from the Toronto Stock Exchange on or about the closing of trading on May 2, 2024. It is anticipated that Tricon will apply to cease to be a reporting issuer under applicable Canadian securities laws and will deregister the Common Shares under the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.” Poof go the reporting requirements, and much else.

Public Services

24) National: Government hiring is more or less steady, according to Friday’s jobs report. “Employment in government changed little in April (+8,000). Over the prior 12 months, government had added an average of 55,000 jobs per month. In April, local government employment was unchanged, following an increase of 51,000 in March.”

25) National: The U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission may intervene on DeJoy’s U.S. Post Office “reforms,” Government Executive reports. “PRC’s order is focused on the Postal Service’s consolidation of mail sorting away from individual post offices in favor of centralized centers and the moving processing operations away from hundreds of cities and towns in favor of 60 mega-centers throughout the country. It also relates to USPS’ new ‘optimized collection plan’ that will require mail to sit overnight at post offices instead of being collected each evening for transportation to a processing center. In its order, PRC said the changes could result in mail delays and a “significant loss” in employees. Postal management has failed to provide evidence or supporting analysis that the reforms will not result in slower mail delivery, the regulator said, noting that on-time delivery has declined this year. ‘I think the American public, postal stakeholders and Congress want to understand the impact of the Postal Service’s network transformation plans,’ said PRC Chairman Michael Kubayanda.”

26) Florida: Your debt to society after you pay your debt to society. “The last growth industry in America,” quips Jeffrey St. Clair. “Florida is charging formerly incarcerated people $50 a day even if they’re no longer in prison. The ‘pay to stay’ fee is based on the length of the original sentence, so even when they’re released they must keep paying for a prison bed they’re not using.’” Those bed guarantees keep paying dividends long after the prison costs go away.

27) Oklahoma: “Three Lawton Correctional Facility staff members on duty when a prisoner was brutally murdered and left undetected in a trash can for hours violated several state policies and procedures, an internal Oklahoma Department of Corrections investigation determined,” the Muskogee Phoenix reports. “The delayed response to the attack has raised questions about the state’s future with its last remaining private prison, which is owned and operated by The GEO Group and houses about 2,600 medium- and maximum-security prisoners. The Florida-based private corrections company is also facing litigation that alleges its staff willfully neglected the urgent medical needs of Oklahoma prisoner Justin Barrientos and caused his death in January 2023. The Department of Corrections recently renewed its contract with The GEO Group to house Oklahoma prisoners in Lawton, which was set to expire on July 31, agency spokesperson Kay Thompson said. The agreement allows the state to purchase the facility and take over operations with a minimum of 180 days’ notice.”

28) Pennsylvania: The Carbonale City Council has voted to privatize the town’s fire department. “‘As far as I’m concerned, I’m standing here, now I’m unemployed, and don’t give me the ‘you can apply for a job at Cottage’ that’s not what you were hired for. I got hired to work for the city of Carbondale,’ said Joe Chowanec Jr, a firefighter at Carbondale City Bureau of Fire. Joe Chowanec Jr. was just one of many outraged firefighters at the city of Carbondale Council meeting Thursday night. In a five-to-two vote, the city council advanced an agreement that would allow the Cottage Ambulance Foundation to take over staffing and some personnel matters from the Carbondale City Bureau of Fire to cut costs.”

“‘You impacted the overtime in the last six months because there was nobody to hire. Did you attempt to hire? No. Did you give a test? No. So, the four remaining drivers are working 36-hour shifts,” said Capt. Kevin Colgan with Columbia Hose Company. ‘That directly affects our safety as the people who are going into burning buildings in the city,’ added Michael Mchale, a former firefighter at Carbondale City Bureau of Fire.”

29) Tennessee: Daniel Singh, the executive director of Metro Arts, who is “committed to antiracist practices in the arts,” says the privatization of a Nashville Metro Arts-related program is perpetuating structural racism in the arts. “Patron class organizations host lavish galas, have either restructured from bankruptcy, or have shifted their private Eurocentric interests onto taxpayers. Individual artists also hire other artists, solicit contractors, and have less of a cushion to take cuts. Yet we keep privileging patron class organizations, including the recent proposal to privatize the Metro Arts Thrive program for individual artists. If privatization is such a good idea, why aren’t we suggesting it for organizations with budgets over $500,000 instead? When patron-class organizations use development or grant staff to write their applications, it is perceived as ‘professional.’ Yet, when we provide similar services via grant clinics for individual artists, it is portrayed as an unfair advantage. Thrive has been around since 2015, with many of the same finance/legal directors and staff allowing the initiative to move forward under white executive directors. Why is Thrive suddenly a problem just as it is poised to make a material difference in the lives of artists who have been systematically barred? The Arts Commission got it right in the July 2023 vote that acknowledged Metro Arts’ participation in structural racism.”

30) Texas: Harker Heights is looking at privatizing its ambulance service. “Stephens asked the council to consider initiating a Request for Proposal process to identify an outside agency to assist in the city’s emergency medical service delivery. Council members generally expressed support for such a move, although no official action was taken Tuesday.”

31) Wisconsin: Residents of the Sauk County Health Care Center are worried what will happen to them if the facility is privatized. “Mary Camp said the stipulations in the resolution do not ease her mind about a possible sale. She is concerned that quality of staff and care could change for the worse and does not believe “anything positive would come of” selling the facility. ‘I want to feel comfortable.’ The current nursing home staff ‘takes care of everything,’ she said, adding that they promptly respond to requests for help along with other services that her son mentioned. ‘Since I’ve heard about this, I have not felt comfortable at all,’ she said. ‘Always wondering when they’re going to sell, if they’re going to sell. I want to feel comfortable where I am, and I usually do, except for when this bombshell came up.’” [“Residents Leery of Nursing Home Sale: Worried Sale Would Hurt Quality of Care,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 5, 2024]

32) International/Canada: UNIFOR Local 4268 members have gone on strike against Waste Management, the private, for-profit waste haulage company (with $20 billion in annual revenue). “The 60 Unifor members at Local 4268 work as WM drivers, mechanics, and technicians, servicing commercial businesses in Stoney Creek, Hamilton, Niagara, Brantford, and surrounding regions. They do not provide residential service. When members have to leave at the end of their scheduled shifts to pick up children from child care or school or to care for aging parents, in some cases, the company has asked to see proof, including child custody agreements, which is a blatant invasion of privacy. The members are also fighting for improved benefits and pensions. Currently, the company pays 50 cents on the dollar and refuses to make any improvements. In the midst of an affordability crisis, these workers deserve to not have to worry about their retirement. ‘WM is a company that feels it needs to exercise the iron fist in order to get the job done at whatever cost necessary,’ she said.”

All the Rest

33) National: “Fans have fought against predatory ticketing reselling platforms, price gouging, and hidden fees for too long. Join the #FixTheTix Coalition in advocating for new legislation to protect fans and support artists,” says the Fan Alliance. Read the letter. “The Fans First Act, introduced by Senators Cornyn, Klobuchar, Blackburn, Welch, Wicker and Lujan, provides us with more tools to combat predatory resellers and the use of illegal bots. The Fans First Act bans fake tickets and deceptive marketing tactics that trick our fans into paying more for tickets that may never get them into a show. And, it requires ticket sellers to show the full itemized price of a ticket from the moment a transaction begins. Even better, it backs all these regulations up with clear penalties and enforcement. We, as artists, as music lovers, and as concert attendees ourselves, urge you to support the Fans First Act to combat predatory resellers’ deceptive ticketing practices and the secondary platforms, which also profit from these practices. Predatory resellers should not be more profitable than the people dedicating their lives to their art.”

So, join the Fan Alliance.

34) National/California: As public libraries across the country are under attack by public and private censors and privatizers, the American Library Association will be holding their annual convention in San Diego starting June 27. “Join us for top-quality education and best practices; featured thought leaders; and special programming for library professionals looking to further develop their libraries, communities, and careers!” Check out the conference schedule.

The conference will include a panel on The Heart of Our Story: A Celebration of Library Workers. “Libraries strengthen communities, expanding access to resources with every door opened, book shelved, WiFi signal, and program planned. Librarians do this good work in big cities and rural communities, in the public eye and just outside it. We circulate materials well beyond books, enable access to the internet and the worlds it opens, advocate for ourselves and our colleagues, and connect people to resources that help all of us thrive. Join ALA President Emily Drabinski and four outstanding library practitioners for a celebration of library workers, the heart of our story.”

35) Oklahoma: The Sooner State continues to lop off investment banks from the list of institutions able to underwrite its municipal bonds and bid for state and local contracts. Barclays is the latest to be targeted because of the bank’s refusal to finance Oklahoma’s fossil fuel industry. “Barclays joins Bank of America, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo, which were placed on the list last year under the state’s 2022 Energy Discrimination Elimination Act and lost their ability to underwrite debt sold by the state, cities, counties and other governmental issuers if contracts for that service totaled $100,000 or more.” This, of course, flies in the face of overwhelming data that governments and investors are “highly vulnerable” to climate risk. [Sub required].

36) International/France: Inheritance taxes, anyone? “The Lagardère succession is a cautionary tale for any entrepreneur seeking to keep their company under family control. KPMG estimates that more than $15tn will be handed on by 2030 in ‘one of the largest ever intergenerational transfers of wealth’—$3.2tn of which is in Europe.” [Sub required]

IMAGE: Screenshot of video from the Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library