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- Jackson Mayor Mr. Chokwe Antar Lumumba rejects Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ assertion that he is not cooperating to keep the city’s water flowing. What he’s doing is pushing back against Reeves’ scheme to privatize the utility.
- The federal government is helping to boost clean water access across rural America.
- As traditional debates continue across the normal political spectrum about the proper role of government, some on the extreme right are moving away from their traditional anti-government stance to something far more dangerous.
First, the good news…
1) National: The federal government is helping to boost clean water access across rural America, reports In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler. “When it comes to water infrastructure, some truly great things are happening, especially in places you might not expect:
- After 20 years of demanding a public water system, residents of rural Ivanhoe, North Carolina, are finally getting one after the local county government received $13,283,000 in ARPA funding.
- Flint, Michigan, where a lead crisis made global headlines in 2016, is using $8.6 million in ARPA funds to distribute $300 in water credits to every residential household with active meters.
- Arkansas has committed $280 million in ARPA money for infrastructure projects that will upgrade the state’s outdated and failing water systems.
- Oktibbeha County in Mississippi is using $5 million in ARPA funds to build public sewer infrastructure to replace residential septic tanks, many of which do not function well.
The solution to this country’s infrastructure crisis—especially in rural areas—is a public one: massive funding from the federal government.”
2) National: Federal officials are pumping millions more dollars into an effort to expand the United States’ network of community mental health centers. “These crisis centers are available around the clock to help anyone with mental health or substance abuse problems, regardless of their ability to pay. The $15 million in additional planning funds is in addition to nearly $300 million awarded in September for new and existing CCBHCs, the agency said. ‘Today we’re talking about providing to Americans 24/7 support for crisis care,’ HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a media briefing. ‘That’s something that’s only been available to some. Depending on your income and your ZIP code, you could be totally out of luck. That’s going to start to change.’”
3) California: Labor unions are pushing hard for a $25 minimum wage at private medical facilities. “In Southern California, one labor union is trying to help by pushing for a $25 minimum wage at private hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and dialysis clinics. The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, which represents roughly 100,000 health care workers in California, says a raise would help the providers retain workers who could land comparable positions at Amazon or fast-food restaurants amid labor shortages. It would also allow Ramirez to give up one of the three jobs he works just to make rent.”
4) Connecticut: The state’s contracting watchdog is finally getting some teeth. “The board, which wants to delve deeper into all state agency contracting procedures—particularly those involving the Connecticut Port Authority and an offshore wind farm near New London—expects to ramp up activities this winter,” says West Hartford Democrat Lawrence Fox, the board’s chairman.
5) Maryland: The state is going to pump $50 million in funding into its nursing homes and hospitals “to ease workforce challenges and other Covid-related obstacles.” Gov. Hogan (R) is also pumping $30 million into the Medicare Advantage system, which critics contend is gradually privatizing Medicare.
6) Mississippi/National: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “has opened an investigation into whether Mississippi state agencies discriminated against the majority-Black population in Jackson in their funding of water infrastructure and treatment programs,” Axios reports. “The state—and Gov. Tate Reeves (R)—have faced increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, with leaders of two congressional committees announcing a joint investigation into the crisis and how federal dollars were spent. (…) ‘NAACP and its partners will continue to press the Biden Administration and Congress to hold state officials accountable and ensure that Jackson officials and residents are active participants in the decision-making that will be required to fix the unacceptable problems with Jackson’s water,’ Johnson said in a statement. ‘For far too long, residents of Jackson, like Black communities across this country, have had water access weaponized against them,’ added NAACP environmental and climate justice director Abre’ Conner. ‘Today’s decision by the EPA is a significant first step in holding the state accountable for its role in exacerbating the Jackson water crisis.’”
The Republican-controlled state, where more than 130,000 Black citizens are banned from voting because of an extreme felony disenfranchisement law, is trying to privatize Jackson’s water system. (See below).
7) New York: A Suffolk Count judge has issued an order banning the privatization of East Hampton airport, ruling that a plan to privatize the municipal airport to reduce air traffic was improper. “In his Oct. 19 ruling, Justice Baisley went further, forbidding the switch to occur at all. The town’s plan was impermissible for several reasons, the justice wrote; among them, it ran afoul of federal law by restricting flights without first going through a required federal process. In addition, the town had justified its decision to close the public airport based on a plan to conduct a comprehensive environmental review— after it was closed. In his ruling, Justice Baisley said such a retrospective look defeated the point of an environmental assessment. In proposing it, the town ‘acted both beyond its legal abilities and in an arbitrary and capricious manner.’”
8) National: Problems with online learning may harm the life chances of students for years, an Associated Press investigation finds. “Regardless of what it’s called, the casualties of Zoom school are real.
The scale of the problem and the challenges in addressing it were apparent in Associated Press interviews with nearly 50 school leaders, teachers, parents and health officials, who struggled to agree on a way forward. Some warned against second-guessing school closures for a virus that killed over a million people in the U.S. More than 200,000 children lost at least one parent. ‘It is very easy with hindsight to say, “Oh, learning loss, we should have opened.” People forget how many people died,’ said Austin Beutner, former superintendent in Los Angeles, where students were online from March 2020 until the start of hybrid instruction in April 2021. (…) But there’s another reason for asking what lessons were learned: the kids who have fallen behind. Some third graders struggle to sound out words. Some ninth graders have given up on school because they feel so behind they can’t catch up. The future of American children hangs in the balance.”
9) California: KABC reports on community protest over a “co-habiting” charter school. “Staff, parents and community members voiced growing concerns about the co-habitation of Baldwin Hills Elementary School with the New LA Elementary charter school. They said it’s a drain on resources and are demanding the charter school be relocated. ‘This isn’t a new charter school, but you want to go the easy route. “Oh, we’ll just come over here,” because they think we’re just a neighborhood school. Our kids deserve the same rights as any other school and we should have that,’ said Rita Richard, a parent and alum of Baldwin Hills Elementary.”
10) Delaware: Writing on Delaware Public Media, Larry Nagengast takes a closer look at why Great Oaks Charter School is under formal review. “In its first three years, Great Oaks made steady progress, but problems began to develop when its first students entered ninth grade, Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, told Delaware Public Media last year. Great Oaks experienced turnover in its original leadership team and top management at the Great Oaks Foundation in Manhattan was too far away to react to problems that required quick responses, Massett said. In addition, Mazarakis said, there was a desire for the school to strengthen its Delaware ties and the management fees charged by the Great Oaks Foundation were becoming burdensome. ‘We didn’t think paying the foundation fees was the best way to use our limited funds,’ he said.”
11) Florida: The Tampa Bay Times takes a somewhat gauzy look at charter schools in Hillsborough, but does note that “school district reports from 2020-21 show that 60% of students at the regular schools were economically disadvantaged. Among charter schools, that number was 42%. On average, charter school students come from families with more wealth and privilege.”
12) Hawaii: Charter school oversight is a contentious issue in Hawaii. “The most recent evaluation, released by the BOE in January, deemed the [charter school] commission ‘in need of improvement’ in 11 of the 22 criteria used for the evaluation. (…) The report said the commission failed to clearly define school autonomy in its strategic plan, and that the current charter contract does not provide clarity on the commission’s authority over educational programming, staffing and school budgets. Commission Chair Cathy Ikeda said that the level of autonomy granted to charter schools needs to be clarified between all involved parties—the BOE, the Department of Education, the commission, charter schools, and education department attorneys general.”
13) Illinois: A stealthy political PAC has been promoting charter schools. “Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), who has been one of the SAFE-T Act’s most vocal proponents since the massive pushback against the criminal justice reform law began, issued a statement last week about the INCS mailer. ‘It’s disappointing to see this from the charter school industry especially since their own website says they serve 92% of students of color,’ Peters’ statement read. ‘They should support the elimination of cash bail given 87% students are on free and reduced price lunch and are profoundly impacted by the issue. I hope they reconsider their position especially for the families their schools serve.’”
14) Louisiana: A prominent Louisiana pastor has pleaded guilty to stealing money—$900,000—from a charter school, his church and its rental properties. “Mr. Southall, 64, who has been the executive pastor at First Emanuel Baptist for more than three decades, agreed to repay $687,000 to First Emanuel, $85,000 to Spirit of Excellence, the charter school, and about $110,000 to others who were victimized, the Justice Department said. He will face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced by Judge Jay Zainey on Jan. 17.”
15) Maryland: A virtual event to discuss and share the experiences of veterans of community schools in Baltimore will be taking place on Tuesday, November 8 from 12:30 – 2:00pm EST. “A live webinar will feature a panel conversation to learn what a strong community school strategy looks like, what evidence exists about the strategy’s efficacy, and to hear about what community school leaders wrestle with and how researchers and practitioners can collaborate. Our panelists include both community school researchers and practitioners.” [Registration]
16) Michigan: Michigan Advance takes a look at where gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Tudor Dixon (R) stand on public education, vouchers and school safety. “Dixon, who will be facing off against Whitmer on Nov. 8, has spent recent weeks focused on education, but mostly around right-wing cultural issues like critical race theory in school curricula, which isn’t being taught in the vast majority of Michigan’s K-12 schools, a ‘Don’t Say Gay’-style law and book banning. Whitmer, on the other hand, has been touting her accomplishments in public education over the past four years, including signing the largest education budget in Michigan history for Fiscal Year 2023 that includes more funding for mental health.”
17) New Mexico: Rick Meyer, an Albuquerque resident, says “there are not enough community schools, a powerful model that provides extensive services to the communities they serve.” Meyer is part “of the 69% of voters that will cast a ballot for Constitutional Amendment 1 to change the distribution of the Land Grant Permanent Fund.”
18) New York: New York State United Teachers (NSUT) is making a big push to expand community schools. “NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said the statewide union hosted the Community Schools Summit to bring together teams of educators, administrators, school board members and parents who want to start or expand community schools in their districts. ‘This is such a great mix of urban, suburban and rural districts,’ Pallotta said. ‘It sends a powerful message that this model works for everyone—and that we need more funding.’”
19) Tennessee: The state charter school commission has rejected the appeals of two Memphis charter schools. “In her recommendations for the two Memphis charter schools last week, Stovall outlined myriad concerns with both school’s applications. Stovall said in her recommendation that while Binghampton had a strong academic plan and the neighborhood would have been a great location for the school, its academic, facility, and staffing plans all appeared to depend on the unique skills of the head of school who resigned in July due to “extenuating personal circumstances,” according to the school’s application. Stovall also said cost assumptions for the school did not appear reasonable, and leaders lacked sufficient funding to begin operations.”
20) West Virginia: Charter schools in West Virginia are trying to slip out of racial diversity rules. The state charter school board is joining a lawsuit against the U.S. Education Department over rules that may limit how much federal grant money the state’s nascent charter schools can receive. “In a 4-0 vote Tuesday, the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board joined an ongoing case to eliminate these new grant awarding criteria. These new criteria that the department may consider include, among other things, whether public schools near the charters are overcrowded, whether the charters collaborate with public school systems and how these charters plan to maintain ‘racially and socioeconomically diverse’ student bodies. Such criteria could hinder West Virginia charters from earning these grants.” Lawyers for the right wing Pacific Legal Foundation, which has been leading the legal assault on diversity for decades, wrote the filing.
21) National: The municipal bond market, where public structures go to finance infrastructure and services, is taking a beating, making borrowing for cities and states more expensive. “Municipals sold off Friday with losses of up to 18 basis points, with the damage felt across the curve, and the 30-year triple-A yield closed just shy of 4%. (…) While municipals outperformed UST [U.S. Treasuries—ed.], Friday saw munis catch up and yields rose. Before Friday, over the course of the last week, generic 10- and 30-year AAA spots traded in a narrow three to five basis point band—as compared to USTs with a 20-30 basis point. Hawkish Fedspeak has continued to put pressure on UST yields. Higher UST yields also put pressure on munis, noted Barclays PLC in a weekly market report. UST yields moved “more decisively to new higher ranges this week, reflecting sticky high inflation and market capitulation to the strong Fed policy stance.” BofA strategists say issuance in 2022 “is greatly distorted by a very difficult environment with an ever-elevating Fed hawkishness, rapidly rising interest rates and large outflows from mutual funds. If the current market environment continues for another month, ‘2022’s issuance is likely to come in even lower than our twice-revised $420 billion target.’” [Sub required]
22) National: Some desperate, cash-strapped cities are moving to privatize their infrastructure, Marketplace reports. “Catharine Smith, an editor at KUOW and a reporting fellow for The Pulitzer Center, writes, ‘America’s water industry is a tangled mess of mostly small municipal authorities that operate crumbling pipes … Communities across the nation are now weighing their options, as deferred costs pile up, and local authorities scramble to find modern solutions to their aging infrastructure without raising taxes.’ Smith spoke to Marketplace host Amy Scott about aging infrastructure in low-income communities and how private companies are entering the picture.”
23) National: The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board will meet virtually from October 25-26. Among the agenda items is to review updates on the implementation of SFFAS 49, Public-Private Partnerships. Here is the P3 agenda. Login information for the Board meeting can be found on the last page of the full agenda.
24) District of Columbia: One in four public housing units are sitting vacant during D.C.’s affordability crisis. “Nationwide, public housing occupancy rates average 95 percent. DCHA’s is the lowest it has ever experienced, even as the District’s long-running affordable housing crisis intensifies and more people find themselves priced out of decent homes. The occupancy decline underscores entrenched troubles at the agency tasked with housing some of the District’s poorest residents. The city’s largest landlord, the authority serves about 30,000 households through housing vouchers and mixed-finance and traditional public housing properties. The vacancies cost more than $10 million annually in forgone rent and federal subsidies, according to a federal housing department estimate, and they drag down communities the authority is supposed to serve.”
25) Mississippi: Jackson Mayor Mr. Chokwe Antar Lumumba rejects Gov. Tate Reeves’ assertion that he is not cooperating with the “Unified Command Structure” working to keep the city’s water flowing. What he’s doing is pushing back against Reeves’ scheme to privatize the utility. “‘In fact, we continue to work closely with the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi State Department of Health,’ Lumumba said. The present conflict seems to come from the state’s Friday announcement that it is seeking a private contractor to provide staffing for the city’s water system, including at the troubled O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. On Friday, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency began seeking requests for qualifications for staffing. The city had been seeking its own maintenance agreement contract for months, and Lumumba said the city should be involved in the discussions over who should be hired to work at the water plants it owns. ‘What the city will not do, is agree to a Request for Qualifications, without the entire Unified Command Structure, which includes the City, having had an opportunity to first contribute, revise or approve the language. The funds that will be used to hire any firm working at the water treatment facilities will come from the City and its citizens,’ Lumumba said.”
The EPA has opened an investigation of state agencies for racist practices toward Jackson’s Black residents (see above).
26) Puerto Rico: As Puerto Rico’s privatized power grid collapses, its owner is eyeing a bigger payday, HuffPost’s Alexander C. Kaufman reports. “Private companies contracted to carry out government services typically come at a high price, at least on the federal level. Contractors were paid 1.8 times more than government employees for the same work and more than two times the total compensation in the private sector for comparable services, according to a 2011 analysis of federal contracts by the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group. Federal contracts to rebuild the grid are ‘where the big money is,’ said Ruth Santiago, a prominent lawyer and public health activist who lives near Puerto Rico’s biggest coal plant. ‘The LUMA contract is only for operation and maintenance. It’s not where the big money is,” Santiago said. ‘Quanta told its investors that it was looking forward to bidding on projects that its newly created joint venture LUMA Energy would be putting out for federal funds. Almost admitting a conflict of interest there.’”
27) Texas: Locking yourself into a long-term public-private contract may not be such a good idea, as the Chicago parking meters privatization deal showed. The operator of an Austin airport terminal is seeking damages for breach of its 40-year P3 contract with the city. The lawsuit is “related to plans to demolish the facility to make way for a partly bond-financed expansion project,” The Bond Buyer reports. “The city and Lonestar entered into a 40-year lease and concession agreement in March 2016 for the terminal currently used by low-cost carriers Frontier and Allegiant. In its lawsuit, Lonestar said it invested ‘tens of millions of dollars’ to renovate the terminal, which now serves more than 57,000 passengers a month. The airport said in a statement, ‘the city continues to move forward with acquiring the leasehold through condemnation and will continue to fulfill its contractual obligations and exercise its rights under the South Terminal lease.’” [Sub required]
28) Utah: A Republican state senator is trying to move legislation that would end the common practice of subsidizing water projects through property taxes. But he is getting major pushback from residents of the drought-stricken state and “little feedback or support from Utah’s water-development community,” The Salt Lake Tribune reports. “As presently drafted, the bill would force a big increase in water rates and undermine conservation investments, according to Mark Stratford, general counsel for the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. ‘This is not the way to go, to just say let’s eliminate property taxes and put everything on [water] rates, partially because projects aren’t always paid for by the people who are going to use them,’ Stratford told the panel, speaking for Prep 60, a consortium of Utah districts pushing for $32 billion in new water development. ‘Many projects are constructed in anticipation of growth and the property tax helps to support payment for those projects for the people who will eventually be using it, as opposed to the people who are currently customers.’”
29) National: American City and County reports that public sector employees are facing financial hardship due to inflation and housing costs. “Those who expressed anxiety around financial security were much more likely to be female and come from a household with an annual income of less than $100,000. And amid these financial difficulties, 58 percent said retirement benefits and 62 percent said other benefits like healthcare, insurance and time off were keeping them in their job. ‘The top three actions workers say their employers could take to bolster retirement readiness are higher wages/salary (86 percent), better retirement benefits (54 percent), and better healthcare benefits in retirement (48 percent),’ the statement says.”
30) National/New Hampshire: Social Security is on the ballot a week from Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Republican nominee Karoline Leavitt traded shots over the retirement security program in their debate on Thursday. “Pappas said Leavitt’s support for privatizing Social Security for young people as they enter the workforce would threaten the future of the retirement benefits program for seniors. ‘She said she would write a bill to privatize Social Security and gamble it on the stock market,’ Pappas said.”
31) California: The Press-Democrat reports that the state agency responsible for battling wage theft is too short-staffed to do its job properly. “The study found that state investigators across agencies are paid less than those in police forces and often require more training and education. The state’s hiring process for such jobs can take up to a year, the report found, making hiring frustrating for all parties. ‘We’re just not a competitive employer,’ said Krystal Beckham, a project manager with the commission who led the study. ‘You can see that when it comes to enforcement in the underground economy.’”
32) California: The state has enacted hefty fines for government union-busting. “In what its union backers hope will become a model for other states, California has a new law imposing hefty fines on local governments that try union-busting against their workers. SB931, by State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, mandates that when faced with an organizing drive, state and local agencies cannot ‘repeatedly and illegally send anti-union communications to their workers,’ says Teamsters Joint Council 7, one of four leaders in the wide union drive to enact the measure. If they do, and the state Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) convicts them of law-breaking, the agencies face fines of up to $1,000 per affected worker per day, up to a maximum of $100,000, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.”
33) Maryland: Is the Walters Art Museum part of Baltimore’s city government? No, say its trustees in court filings. “On the surface, the issue that a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge is being asked to decide might seem dry as dust: Is the museum in the Mount Vernon neighborhood part of city government—as its employees claim—and therefore, subject to the Maryland Open Records Act? Or is the museum a private entity as trustees argue, and therefore exempt from having to share certain documents with its employees?
A judge is expected to rule on a motion for summary judgment following a Nov. 30 court hearing. The judge will either conclude that the Walters is a city agency and its staffers city employees, or will order that a trial be held to determine the museum’s status.”
34) Massachusetts: Trash pickup has become another privatization disaster in several towns in the state. “The stinky situation in Lawrence is playing out in other communities around Greater Boston, after the Arizona-based Fortune 500 company recently acquired their local waste contractor and threw trash collection schedules into chaos. Now, after weeks of missed pickups outside houses and public buildings alike, inaccurate or unhelpful information from Republic, and fury among residents, town officials are threatening to cancel their contracts and levy six-figure fines on Republic. ‘We have given Republic enough time to address the issue, but the situation persists. This is unacceptable and inexcusable,’ Lawrence Mayor Brian A. DePeña said in a press release announcing the city’s intention to sanction the company. The city pays Republic about $4 million a year for trash, recycling, and yard waste pickup.” This follows closely on Carlsbad, California’s problems with Republic Services this April, and the settlement of a bitter three week strike at the beginning of this year in California.
35) Nebraska: Prisons in the state are experiencing a serious shortage of medical staff—and behavioral health in particular where more than a third of the positions are unfilled. “A recent survey with behavioral health staff by the Inspector General of Corrections found less than half said they’re happy at their job. ‘To me, it was clear that people were not satisfied with their pay or the working culture at the department. They felt they had little support from their administration,’ said Assistant Inspector General of Corrections Zach Plulacek. The state is currently negotiating with the union that represents many of the behavioral health staff and other state employees. ‘We saw what we did on the protective services side that when we increase salaries we can fill vacant positions,’ said Nebraska Association of Public Employees Executive Director Justin Hubly.”
36) Pennsylvania: The Philadelphia City Council has passed a resolution “demanding that the state fix the crisis at the Juvenile Justice Service Center in West Philadelphia after being told of overcrowding and a melee which caused about two dozen staff and juvenile injuries. David Robinson, president of Local 159 of District Council 33, who represents uniformed correctional officers at the Juvenile Justice Service Center on North 48th Street, said about 20 staff member were injured, along with several residents Oct. 4, during a huge fight at the facility. (…) According to [At-large Councilmember Helen Gym] and other Council members, they have spent hours on the phone with staff at the center seeking to resolve the situation and Gym said she sat on a task force for 18 months that made recommendations for common sense rules to make juvenile justice centers more humane. ‘None of those recommendations have been implemented, even though they were enacted by the governor himself,’ Gym said
37) Nevada: It’s hard to run elections these days. Just ask Nevada’s election officials, reports Five Thirty Eight. “‘We’ve had the death threats,’ Stacie Wilke-McCulloch said. ‘We’ve had the, “We know where you live,” and all that.’ As a trustee on the school board for Carson City, Nevada, for the past 14 years, Wilke-McCulloch is no stranger to harassment, particularly as school boards bore the brunt of criticism over controversial curricula and school closures related to COVID-19. As a result, she’s gained a thick skin that may serve her well in what she hopes will be her next job: Carson City County Clerk-Recorder.
Once occupying a low-profile, largely bureaucratic position, county clerks are increasingly the target of intense public vitriol.”
38) National: Who’s going to pick up the tab for modernizing financial reporting by cities and states? “Congress is weighing a plan that calls for overhauling how state and local government financial data is made public, stirring worries about new costs for software and staff. But supporters of the revamp say it’s long overdue.” The issue, according to Marc Joffe, a former senior director at Moody’s Analytics, “is that governments publish their annual financial reports in PDF documents, making it difficult to use software or spreadsheets to analyze the data.”
39) National: As traditional debates continue across the normal political spectrum about the proper role of government, some on the extreme right are moving away from their traditional anti-government stance to something far more dangerous: “The Federalist: “the wholesale destruction of our traditions and the looming implosion of Western civilization” requires a shift to fascism: “The government will have to become, in the hands of conservatives, an instrument of renewal in American life … a blunt instrument indeed.”” [H/t Sam Hoadley-Brill and Jennifer Berkshire].
40) International/National/Think Tanks: An excellent piece on Britain’s agonies by Gary Younge in The Nation. The crackup of libertarianism. “The coronavirus forced a reckoning with what government is for. Sunak raised taxes, public sector workers were the toast of the nation, most of the rail network was brought back into public ownership, people on furlough were paid not to go to work from the public purse. There is no privatized response to a public health crisis that makes sense—and this wrought havoc with free market orthodoxies. (It also demanded that you cared about people that you didn’t know and took personal responsibility to act in the public good, which was where the Johnson came unstuck with his lockdown parties). Truss offered a return to more comfortable ideological landscape that took no account of these developments and took the party with her. As such she is the last person you can really blame for this mess.”