First, the Good News

1) National: Want to fight the power? You might want to map it first. From ITPI Communications Director Jeff Hagan: “The Public Accountability Initiative is a nonprofit public interest research organization focused on corporate and government accountability. You might also know them by the name LittleSis (more on that later). Beginning later this month, Little Sis is offering a series of trainings on research tools for organizers, which seems like a good moment to learn more about the work of LittleSis and explore the training it offers. We asked Robert Galbraith, senior research analyst at Public Accountability Initiative/LittleSis.org, to fill us in.” Read the interview.

Go to school on corporate power and the public interest:

LittleSis 2024 Research Tools for Organizers Training Series

Session 1, April 18, 7:00pm ET: Intro to Power Research

Session 2, May 16, 7pm ET: The Corporation

Session 3, June 20, 7pm ET: Nonprofits

Session 4, July 18, 7pm ET: Billionaires and Other Powerful People

Session 5, September 19, 7pm ET: Money in Politics

Session 6, October 17, 7pm ET: Researching Politicians

2) National: Capping a years-long battle that stretched from science laboratories to courtrooms to government agencies to nonprofit advocacy vs. the chemicals industry, the federal government has finally issued a rule that “forever chemicals” must be removed from tap water. “In a 2020 peer-reviewed study, scientists at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization, estimated that more than 200 million Americans had PFAS in their drinking water. Public health advocates and scientists said the new regulation was overdue.

“A growing body of scientific research shows that PFAS chemicals are more harmful to human health than previously thought, and at extremely low levels,” said Anna Reade, director of PFAS advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.”

Among the many front line heroes who have waged this battle for decades are Emily Donovan, Maricel Maffini and attorney Tom Neltner. Kudos to all of them.

3) National/Alabama/Tennessee: This is a key week in southern labor organizing. United Auto Workers say, “On April 17, 18 and 19, we have an opportunity to win a real voice with more power to improve our jobs at Volkswagen and our quality of life in the Chattanooga area. (…) Volkswagen workers are forming our union to win a better job, a better life and a better future. And now we have our election dates!  Volkswagen workers get to vote in a National Labor Relations Board election on April 17-19.” [FAQs]

Writing in the Black Commentator, Luis Feliz Leon of Labor Notes says, “Mercedes-Benz workers in Vance, Alabama have filed for an election to vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers. Auto workers are gearing up to smash through anti-union bulwarks in Alabama and Tennessee. (…) Since the last union efforts, the workforce has become majority Black. When the company used one of its Black managers to spew union-busting talking points, workers saw through it and laughed off the company’s ‘pathetic’ attempt to pander.”

4) National: Congrats to Suzanne Gordon and Steve Early for getting out there again with a privatization warning about the Veterans Administration contained in a report officials are apparently trying to bury. “Rarely has a group of inside-the-Beltway experts gotten to the point so quickly or sounded the alarm so clearly. In the report, obtained by the Prospectbefore its public release, the group unanimously concluded: ‘The increasing number of Veterans referred to community providers … threaten to materially erode the VA’s direct care system.’ Without a course correction, they said, mass closures of VA clinics or certain services could ensue, ‘eliminating choice for the millions of Veterans who prefer to use the VHA direct care system for all or part of their healthcare needs.’ This call for immediate action is noteworthy because of the stature of the team’s members. Red Team chair Kenneth W. Kizer is a Navy veteran and nationally known leader in health care quality and hospital management, who led the transformation of the modern VHA under Bill Clinton. (Kizer declined the Prospect’s request for comment on the report until it was publicly released.)”

5) National/International: The Economist has torn a strip off the bloated and inefficient global consultancy industry, which takes in billions of dollars in government contracts. “You used to be in the advice business, but you have lost your focus and your strategic alignment is out of kilter. Bain, BCG and McKinsey, the best-of-breed strategy advisers, increasingly string out a contract for guidance into months or years of work helping clients to implement their brainy ideas—an incentive to make their advice even harder to understand. The ‘big four’ accounting giants, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, are taking this a step further by running activities from supply-chain management to cybersecurity on clients’ behalf. They call this ‘managed services’; to me it seems like outsourcing on steroids, and about as good for you.” [Sub required]

The Financial Times is on the same track, saying you might think that all the fines KPMG has racked up over the years “would have been a wake up call for the firm.” But, alas, “not so, it seems. The [Public Company Accounting Oversight Board] on Wednesday found that as late as the end of 2022, KPMG staff in the Netherlands were sharing questions and answers on the panoply of exams required to make sure they’re current on accounting standards, conflict of interest rules and—ahem — professional ethics. KPMG is hardly alone. EY paid a whopping $100mn in 2022 to settle charges of exam cheating by its US staff and an allegation that it hid the scandal from the regulator. PwC and Deloitte have been dinged, too. What gives? The FT’s Stephen Foley, who covered the latest KPMG settlement, asked PCAOB chair Erica Williams why so many accountants cannot be trusted to do these training exercises without cheating.” [Sub required]

So, is anyone at the state and local level in the U.S. paying attention to this story as they shell out millions of taxpayer dollars for “managed services” contracts (e.g. for AI), or are they just on autopilot?

6) National: Let’s hear it for the care community. “President Joe Biden joined AFT President Randi Weingarten and other leaders from labor and the care community on April 9 to celebrate our nation’s caregivers, including early childhood educators, child care providers and home healthcare workers―the heart of our economy and society. Along with a host of care workers and activists, Weingarten celebrated the progress made for care workers while also calling for legislative action. The ‘Care Can’t Wait’ event at Union Station in Washington, D.C., coincided with two milestones: the second annual White House proclamation of April as Care Workers Recognition Month and the one-year anniversary of Biden’s executive order to strengthen families’ access to care, such as child care and home healthcare, while supporting care workers with higher wages and better benefits like paid leave. Taken together, the dozens of activities under his order add up to the most comprehensive federal action on care work in history.” [Video, about a half hour; starts at 8 minutes in].

7) Florida: Three cheers for Hallandale Beach, the first city in South Florida with a fully electric fleet. And that’s not all. You can ride it for free. “The Cloud buses offers a zero emissions ride with WiFi and more seating and standing room than the City’s last buses,” the Miami Herald reports. “The new buses don’t only cut the wait time in half from an hour, but expand the routes. Transportation ranks among the biggest challenges growing city governments face when trying to reduce their carbon footprints. A starting point for many has been replacing municipal fleet—gas-guzzling cars and, in particular, smoke-belching buses—with cleaner, green alternatives. (…) The buses and charging infrastructure were purchased with a $3.4 million Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) grant and an additional $2.5 million contribution from the City of Hallandale Beach. The nine buses replaced the City’s five 16-seat, gas-fueled shuttle buses.”

8) Idaho: Good job by the county prosecutor in Idaho Falls. “The blue and orange leaflets that arrived in Idaho Falls mailboxes ahead of the school bond election in November 2022 looked like the usual fare that voters across the country get. Sent out by the school district, the mailers encouraged people in the eastern Idaho city to register to vote and listed bullet points highlighting what the bond would pay for. But the mailers, along with other materials the district distributed, would lead the county prosecutor’s office to fine the superintendent and the district’s spokesperson, accusing them of violating election law by using taxpayer money to advocate for the bond measure. (…) The county prosecutor said these mailers that used the word “overcrowded” violated an election law that had been pushed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.”

9) Maryland: The Maryland General Assembly has passed legislation “to continue to study the future governance of Baltimore’s water and wastewater system. After advocacy from the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, the newly created Baltimore Regional Water Governance Model Workgroup will be barred from recommending any privately operated structure.

10) Michigan: Conservation officers have won a hard-fought pay raise. “The victory will help recruit and retain conservation officers, according to Michigan State Employees Association(MSEA) Director of Public Safety Richard Cardenas, a conservation officer who works in Barry County, Michigan. He added that it also reflects the broadening role that conservation officers play in their communities. (…) A job that once upon a time might have focused solely on enforcing fish and game and outdoor recreation laws has taken on many other dimensions. And with it, so has the training and skills of the state’s conservation officers.”

11) Missouri: Jackson County voters stood up and resoundingly defeated a stadium sales tax. “”Voters rejected the measure by a margin of roughly 58% against to 42% in favor. ‘We were excited to see the 34% turnout,’ Jackson County election commissioner Sara Zorich told The Star Wednesday morning. ‘I think that the question really brought people out.’”

12) Texas: Bye bye P3s.  “Texas, where the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) by the state transportation department has been stymied, is now looking to end a 52-year agreement for a toll lane project that was partially financed with private-activity bonds. The Texas Transportation Commission voted March 28 to terminate a 2016 comprehensive development agreement (CDA) with Blueridge Transportation Group, LLC, for the project on the 61-mile State Highway 288, which runs from Houston to the Gulf of Mexico. The termination would cost TxDOT $1.7 billion.” The Reason Foundation’s privatization guru, Robert Poole, is gnashing his teeth, the Bond Buyer reports. “The termination of the State Highway 288 comprehensive development agreement for Harris County toll lanes raises the specter that Texas could terminate other deals early, which could have long-term consequences for transportation infrastructure in the state,” Poole told them. [Sub required]


13) National: The U.S. Department of Education says “school librarians are community builders, innovators, collaborators, and so much more—including one of the best resources a student can have as they navigate the school year.”

School librarians:

  • Love to collaborate with others.
  • Support all students in all their curricular goals.
  • Focus on equitable and inclusive instruction, because they see and serve every student in the school.
  • Save classroom teachers time by evaluating and assembling print & digital resources
  • Receive training in inquiry-based (research) instruction.
  • Are experts in reader’s advisory.
  • Use innovative methods to spark a life-long love of reading
  • Build community. Everyone can find a place in their school library.
  • Are technology partners.
  • Provide individual and group professional learning.
  • can be your top copyright consultant.
  • are your skilled research assistant..

14) National: Writing in Education Week, Larry Ferlazzo points to the top policy issues facing schools right now. These include legislative attacks, academic freedom, fostering critical thinking and humility, upholding the ideals of democracy and global humanity, and promoting STEM access. [Sub required].

15) National: Besides the bond market ($14.6 million), guess who’s pumping big money into a new “AI-based learning platform”? Why it’s the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave Kyron Learning $850,000 to “further build out its K-12 math curriculum and to study the efficacy of interactive video as a mechanism in learning environments—all in support of both organizations’ goals of bringing quality educational opportunities to underserved learner populations.”

16) Colorado/National: Coloradans rallied at the state capitol last week for charter school accountability and transparency (watch the short video), but the bill was killed in committee after Democratic Governor Jared Polis “sides with far-right groups in opposing charter school accountability.” The Colorado Times Recorder says “Polis’ opposition echoes the sentiments of charter school board leaders who labeled the bill an ‘assault on charters’ in The Federalist, “a publication funded by Dick Uihlein, a packing supply magnate and Trump donor who has a history of supporting hard-right political candidates.” Polis is also siding with American Federation for Children (AFC) senior fellow Shaka Mitchell, who told Fox news that ‘30 years of charter school work could be undone’ if the bill passes. The AFC is ‘funded by the billionaire DeVos Family, and functions as a dark money group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues.’”

17) Florida: Dozens of Duval County public schools are threatened with closure as charter school operators vacuum up 17% of a half-penny sales tax. “Atlantic Beach Elementary is one of the schools a consultant group hired by the board suggests closing to cut overhead costs. While the district said it’s still early on in discussions, Atlantic Beach leaders and neighbors are already pushing back. ‘It’s a community center. It’s the epicenter of Atlantic Beach,’ Atlantic Beach resident Mike Kulik said. ‘To take it out when it’s highly performing and A-rated would just be a travesty that cannot be undone,’ Atlantic Beach Mayor Curtis Ford said. (…) ‘Why would we divert those dollars away from our public schools. The schools we are required under the constitution to fund,’ the [Florida Education Association’s] president said.”

18) Indiana: Jennifer McCormick, who is running for governor, says the “Indiana GOP’s school privatization efforts have diverted 1.6B of tax dollars away from public schools, and the majority of communities do not have families and/or private schools participating. As governor, I will champion for Indiana to pause funding school privatization.”

19) Michigan: The state board of education wants more charter school transparency. “The resolution, introduced by Democratic Board Member Mitchell Robinson during Tuesday’s meeting, asks the legislature to pass bills that would make the Michigan Department of Education oversee approval of new and expanding charters, only allow nonprofit organizations to manage charters, and mandate that charters comply with the same transparency laws that traditional public schools do. ‘While the original notion of charter schools as laboratories of innovation came from teachers unions, that purpose has now largely been lost to predatory for-profit charter organizations … and politically motivated special interest groups,” said Robinson during the meeting. The board voted along party lines 6-1 in favor of the resolution.”

20) Nebraska: The Nebraska Examiner reports that “after an emotional, four-hour debate that extended into Tuesday night, Nebraska lawmakers gave initial approval to a new plan to deliver state-funded scholarships to attend private schools. The vote was 31-12 to advance Legislative Bill 1402 from first-round debate, which came after the bare minimum, 33 senators, voted to halt a filibuster against the bill.” Opponents of the bill called it unconstitutional and a way to block a public vote on school choice. “The head of the Nebraska State Education Association called Tuesday’s vote “a slap in the face” to those who signed the petition so that voters would have the final say on school choice. ‘It is deeply troubling that Sen. Lou Ann Linehan and her out-of-state billionaires continue to try to deny Nebraskans’ right to vote on this issue,’ said Jenni Benson, president of the NSEA and a leader in Support Our Schools, which organized the referendum.”


21) National: What happens when a highway dies? Bloomberg has run a very interesting piece on the politics, economics and urban planning issues involved in trying to reconfigure communities which suffered historic damage when highways were plowed through them in the last century. It focuses on the Rochester’s Inner Loop Project.

“A map of the proposed Inner Loop from 1951, the year construction began. The circular freeway was supposed to relieve downtown traffic congestion. Today, the footprint of the highway removal project known as Inner Loop East looks like a checklist of 2010s US urban design priorities: Bulb-outs, protected bike lanes, apartment buildings with varied brick facades, first-floor retail and landscaped sidewalks hug the downtown side of Union Street. Planning is underway for the next phase of the project—a 1.5-mile-long stretch of still-operating highway referred to as Inner Loop North. Shovels are scheduled to be in the ground in three years. Several U.S. cities are eager to follow in Rochester’s footsteps, using federal dollars from the US Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program to remove or build caps over urban highways. In cities like New Orleans and Baltimore, these efforts are positioned as a means of undoing the damage that automotive infrastructure did to poor and working-class Black neighborhoods. Elsewhere in upstate New York, Buffalo and Syracuse are both advancing plans to remove or partially cover especially scarring examples.”

22) National: Groundhog Day? Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sidestepped questions about how privatized barracks oversight will work. “Appearing at a wide-ranging Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Austin was asked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., about how proposals to privatize barracks will avoid the same issues that family housing has faced. Austin did not directly answer the question about oversight plans for future privatization efforts, but rather touted the Pentagon’s fiscal 2025 budget request. (…) Government watchdog reports and news stories over the last year have documented decrepit living conditions for the military’s junior service members. The barracks they are required to live in have been beset by mold, pest infestations and overflowing sewage, among other disgusting conditions. Amid heightened public and lawmaker scrutiny of the barracks, military officials have promised to invest more into troops’ living conditions. (…) But the military’s privatized family housing has dealt with its own scandalously dilapidated conditions in recent years. Military families in privatized housing have also frequently reported issues with mold, rodent infestations, crumbling plumbing and shoddy wiring. One of the biggest companies in military privatized housing, Balfour Beatty Communities, also pleaded guilty to fraud in 2021 on

23) Maryland/National: In an interview on The Valley Labor Report, Alabama’s only weekly union talk show, hosts Jacob Morrison and Adam Keller spoke with Maximillian Alvarez of The Real News Network about his reporting on the Baltimore bridge collapse. [Video, about 50 minutes]. Alvarez: “The whole point is that this did not happen overnight. The chickens are coming home to roost after 40 plus years of corporate dominance, deregulation, disinvestment, the devaluation of labor and life itself. That stuff starts to add up. And all of it plays a role to the point where we don’t care enough about the workers on that bridge to even ask, ​“Do they have a direct line to emergency dispatch?” We don’t care enough about the workers in that port to ask, ​“Are you guys getting enough time to do your job properly?” We don’t care enough about the workers on those ships to ask, ​“Are you guys getting enough time and are you getting paid enough? Are you getting what you need to ensure that you are navigating these vessels as safely as you need to be when they are passing in our own backyard?””

24) Pennsylvania: Bills limiting conditions for privatizing water and sewer systems have advanced in the state House. “The hikes are the result of unintended consequences of a 2016 law designed to encourage for-profit utility companies to acquire and invest in struggling municipal water and sewer utilities. The law allows municipal water and sewer utilities to negotiate with for-profit utilities for the fair market value rather than the actual value of the system. The higher purchase prices, in turn, give new owners a basis to seek approval to charge higher rates, which they usually receive, consumer advocates testified in a December hearing on the legislation.”

25) International/Nigeria: President Tinubu is being urged to reverse power sector privatization. Business leader Mogaji Wole Arisekola “urged the Federal Government to reverse the privatization of the nation’s power sector, describing the new owners of the privatized companies as selfish individuals who have contributed poorly to the sector in the eleven years of their existence within the energy space.” Arisekola “accused the current DisCo owners of deceiving the Federal Government in their policy implementations and strategies, insisting that they have continued to impoverish Nigerians.

26) International: Assets under management at BlackRock have hit “a record $10.5 trillion in the first quarter and the firm posted a 36% jump in profit. (…) BlackRock announced in January the acquisition of Global Infrastructure Partners for $12.5 billion, as the asset manager aims to expand into private markets and alternative assets through infrastructure investments around the globe. The acquisition is still on track to close in the third quarter, BlackRock Chief Financial Officer Martin Small said.” Want to hear them chirping about their winnings in their own words? Check out their investor call on Friday.

27) International/United Kingdom: Forget all those lectures from corporate leaders about taking responsibility for your actions and making good on your mistakes. And combine that with the old (some say British) saying “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” The most recent version comes courtesy of The Economist, which says in connection with Britain’s water privatization disaster, “the right ending to the Thames Water saga would involve pain for current shareholders and for future bill payers.” Future bill payers? You mean the ones who had nothing to do with the privatized water company’s disastrous mismanagement and alleged fudging of its reported assets? You mean the ones who, had they any control of the company, could have invested in maintenance as the private management didn’t? That is about as clear a picture of Thatcherite privatization of profits and socialization of costs as you can get. 

Public Services

28) National: U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) marked National Library Week “by introducing a resolution to recognize the importance of libraries and library staff in the U.S. The resolution commends the work of library staff across the country and recognizes the essential services that libraries and their staff provide to our communities. (…) ‘Libraries are essential to our communities—providing access to books, digital resources, local information, and other materials. I’m proud to introduce this resolution commemorating National Library Week, in recognition of libraries across the country and their dedicated staff. As conservative groups work to ban books from our schools and libraries and silence the voices of underrepresented communities, this resolution also reaffirms the right of all Americans to free and unfettered access to books and information without obstruction.’”

29) National: Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, says if we want affordable housing, we need rent control. “The consensus is this: The rent is too damn high, with half of all U.S. renters now paying more than 30 percent of their income on monthly rent. Housing demand is greater than supply, with one exception: There is a surplus of luxury housing. If a household can afford rent totaling $10,000 a month or more, there is no shortage of options. Building more housing would help lower costs, but not all housing is equal. There is very little housing being built for very low-income individuals and their families. More expensive apartments do not magically trickle down to the poorest among us. If they did, perhaps there wouldn’t be more and more people living on the streets in cities like Los Angeles.”

30) National: Should private contractors be able to hire employees for government work regardless of degree requirements? “Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that while he would ultimately vote to advance the bill, he hoped to work to amend the bill before its floor debate to find carve-outs for some types of positions where a college degree still is needed, such as in engineering and other technical fields. ‘Committee Democrats are supportive of efforts to eliminate minimum educational experience requirements for jobs that don’t actually require the associated skills for successful performance,’ Raskin said. ‘[However], the ACCESS Act would create a blanket reporting requirement that could be unnecessarily burdensome for federal agencies in the many instances in which minimum educational experience requirements are commonly understood to be necessary.”

31) New York: Writing in the Columbia Spectator, City News Staff Writer Aiyana St. Hilaire says that the transition from public to privatized housing is spooking tenants. “Within NYCHA housing, residents have expressed hesitation to sign new leases. (…) many Manhattanville tenants are hesitant to sign the lease converting to privatized housing due to concerns about higher utility prices and increased surveillance. Some have reported unidentified people knocking on their doors asking them to sign the adapted lease, prompting concern of intimidation. Residents are unsure if these representatives are from NYCHA or private companies. Many residents also don’t know who their new landlords will be—they only know their new property managers. ‘There’s a whole list of people at the bottom of the page, [including] GilBane [Group], and I’m not sure exactly who the actual private landlords are going to be,’ Paul Ortiz, a Manhattanville resident and United Front Against Displacement member said.”

32) International/United Kingdom: The fight against privatization of the National Health Service is heating up. John List, a journalist and leading campaigner against privatization, says “opposing use of [the] private sector for NHS treatment is not [an] ideological but practical argument. Every £ taken from NHS to private medicine is a £ that could have been invested in expanding & improving NHS. Diverting it builds permanent NHS dependence on [the] private sector.” Keep Our NHS Public, a campaigning group, says “the decision to withdraw mental health support for hospital workers because of cutbacks is a very bad one. NHS staff are suffering the effects of an NHS crisis, this will only mean that even more of them leave. Where’s the humanity, and where’s the logic??” Listen to an interview with their co-chair, Dr. John Puntis.

33) International/Canada: What happens if the public sector gets hold of your medical records then the agency is privatized? Nova Scotians are worrying about this now.

All the Rest

34) National: What do bankers think about people across the political spectrum who want to see tighter public regulation of financial institutions? They call it “populism.” If we are to believe American Banker, the leading publication of the banking industry, it falls somewhere between we’re too dumb to understand the complexities involved, and we do not to “have to think about any of this anymore.” You can dig into their podcast series on all this here, here, and here.[Sub required]

35) International/Italy: Writing in Meer, journalist Danilo D’Angelo warns that privatization of water is a threat to humanity’s survival. “Regarding water, with the referendum of June 2011, 26 million citizens sanctioned the public nature of a common good such as water. But despite the result of the referendum in Italy, law 142/1990 for the reform of local authorities is still in force, and as a result, the obligation for municipalities and provinces to build and manage the use of drinking water has ceased. Therefore, with the current legislation, water remains public, but the management service has been opened to private individuals and is provided by public, mixed, or private companies.”

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