First, the Good News

1) National/Wisconsin: Could a sleeper privatization issue swing the November elections? Writing in Newsweek, George Goehl makes the case. “Wisconsin’s recent election surfaced a sleeper issue that could swing enough votes to determine who takes Wisconsin in November’s election, and quite possibly the presidency. The state has been hammered by a rash of nursing home closures across the state. Since 2020, at least 23 nursing homes in Wisconsin have been shuttered, many in rural communities. Dozens more were closed in the preceding four years. In at least three counties on primary election night on April 2, conservative members of County Boards who led the charge or supported selling their county-owned nursing homes to private companies were caught off guard, given the boot by voters and replaced by candidates who opposed the privatization of these facilities.”

“The Wisconsin election demonstrated what many residents thought, the privatization of publicly owned senior care facilities is a wedge issue that could swing votes this November. Just this month, President Joe Biden stepped out on the issue of care, speaking at a rally organized by Care Can’t Wait, a coalition pursuing a care agenda, committing to big investments in both elder and childcare. (…) When candidates for president come to Wisconsin, there is now plenty of evidence that having a plan to keep nursing homes in small towns publicly owned is not only the right thing to do but appears to be winning politics too.” [For more on George Goehl see item 30 below].

2) National: Former President George H.W. Bush once lost a presidential election in part by failing to come up with what he called “the vision thing.” So what does vision mean today? Political strategist James Mumm weighs in, pointing to In the Public Interest’s Donald Cohen’s recent book, The Privatization of Everything.

“With the specter of a second Trump term on the horizon,” Munn writes, “corporate and conservative forces are fueling an authoritarian and overtly racist movement so they can fully capture the federal government to end progress toward inclusion and lock in their own economic interests. We can, and must, stop them. None of what the far right wants is inevitable, although they want it to feel that way. Indeed, few Americans support the vision of government by and for the wealthy few. Yet if we are to succeed, we must craft a positive vision for American society that Book. That’s what will make us unstoppable, and that’s where two new books—Natalie Foster’s The Guarantee: Inside the Fight for America’s Next Economy (2024), and Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian’s The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back (2023) come in. These two books light the path forward toward an inclusive economy, with terrific stories that will agitate and inspire you to take on corporate power with renewed resolve. These complementary books are meditations on the power of inclusive public goods versus the power of corporations, concentrated wealth, and structural oppression.”

“Privatization is a driver of many of the ills that plague market-driven societies—the upward transfer of wealth, inequality, racial and class segregation—explain Cohen and Mikaelian, but its pervasiveness at the local level makes it acutely susceptible to public pressure. From schools to libraries, to roads and government services, the handles for local campaigns against privatization are everywhere. That’s the good news. Now for the tough stuff. We have to reclaim both our government and the idea of public values.”

3) National: The good news—and the bad news. The Biden-Harris administration has proposed to protect workers from extreme heat. “But the Occupational Health and Safety Administration proposed the nation’s first heat injury and illness protection standards on the heels of Supreme Court decisions that sharply limit the power of federal regulatory agencies. And the worker protection proposal—which Biden had promised during his first months in office—is coming so late in his first term that it is unlikely to be finalized by the end of the year. That means the plan could be stopped in its tracks if former president Donald Trump is elected in November. And even if Biden should gain a second term, the heat rule will be vulnerable to legal challenges by businesses or Republican-led states.”

Going beyond the Supreme Court’s ruling undermining federal public interest regulation, state rules, such as those in California, could be preempted by the federal courts. Even before that, the corporate lobbying has begun. Holland & Knight puts it in a nutshell: “Chevron and Loper will apply only to federal agencies, not state agencies. But there may be downstream effects. For instance, many state court systems previously adopted Chevron-like deference in adjudicating challenges to state agency actions. It remains to be seen whether such states will retain their state Chevron counterparts or reach a Loper-like decision rejecting deference to state agencies. Additionally, as Congress and federal agencies adapt to a post-Chevron paradigm, states may seek to fill the void with increased legislative activity and enforcement actions. Furthermore, this may also put states like California and New York in more of a leadership role on national policy making as federal activity is constrained.”

Construction is bad enough. But what about prisons, which were not covered under the new California rules because it would have been too expensive? “‘It’s like an oven most days. No shade, no air, no ice. Lukewarm water,’ he said about his housing unit. ‘I tell my daughter that I’ve done my time in hell, so I know I’ll go to heaven.’”

4) National: Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced legislation to rein in for-profit charter schools. “For-profit companies are disguising themselves as schools, trading in taxpayer funds for boosted profits at the expense of our children’s learning,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The CHARTER Act would ensure that for-profit education management organizations can no longer jump through loopholes that have given them access to funding that has always been intended for nonprofit entities.” The Network for Public Education is urging you to write to your member of Congress to support the legislation and provides a link.

5) National: President Biden’s new overtime protection regulation took effect last Monday, But, The Hill reports, “it faces an uncertain future due to the looming presidential election as well as legal challenges from employer groups. The rule raises the overtime “salary threshold” — the number below which a salaried worker is automatically entitled to time-and-a-half pay after working more than 40 hours a week. The Labor Department raised the threshold from $35,568 to $43,888 on July 1 and will hike it further to $58,656 next year.”

6) National/Ohio/Louisiana/Tennessee: The Cincinnati Enquirer says, “Imagine hopping on a train at Union Terminal headed to New Orleans for jazz and gumbo, or taking in the sights on a winding route past the Smoky Mountains on your way to Nashville for hot chicken and country music at a honky-tonk. It could happen if the Federal Railroad Administration’s latest plan for Cincinnati comes to fruition. The railroad administration is studying adding two new long-distance lines to Amtrak’s intercity rail service that would run through Cincinnati’s Union Terminal with destinations including Nashville, New Orleans and Dallas.”

7) National: This is the kind of thing that government does to benefit the public that many have rarely heard of. It’s in your fridge. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has imposed sanctions on four produce businesses for failing to meet contractual obligations to the sellers of produce they purchased and failing to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). These sanctions include suspending the businesses’ PACA licenses and barring the principal operators of the businesses from engaging in PACA-licensed business or other activities without approval from USDA. The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry.” See the notice for details.

8) Kentucky: After 40 years of dropped balls and inaction on a Louisville toxic waste dump we get—another study. “The full extent of the bureaucratic bungling was exposed earlier this year by a recent University of Louisville graduate student, Sam Satterly, and reported first by Inside Climate News. Her master’s research revealed previously untold connections between the largely unknown ‘Gully of the Drums’ and the much larger and nationally infamous ‘Valley of the Drums,’ which was located just several hundred feet away before it was cleaned up in the 1980s.”

9) Nebraska: Public education supporters are collection signatures to put school vouchers on the ballot—yet again— this fall. Their last effort was blocked by the Republican-controlled state legislature. “As the national debate around school vouchers plays out across the country, the Cornhusker State is in a heated tug-of-war between school choice supporters and public school advocates over the passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act in 2023. The Act allocates $25 million from state coffers to tax credits for private school scholarship donations. ‘If it gets on the ballot, you can vote whatever way you want. It’s just signing it to give the people a voice that belongs in public schools,’ Nebraska State Educators Association President and Support Our Schools sponsor Jenni Benson said. ‘If you get public funds, you have to be accountable just the same way any other public entity would be if you’re giving them to a private school.’”

10) International/United Kingdom/Think Tanks: Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Director of the University College London Institute for Innovation and Public Policy and Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council, have launched the Mission Critical programme, supported by the Future Governance Forum. “This logic stands in contrast to the orthodox view that economic policy must be restricted to fixing market failures and pursued in isolation from social and environmental policies — and that prioritising the latter comes at the expense of the former. How the government partners with businesses is equally important. Public-private collaboration can be structured with strong conditionalities aimed at maximising public value and at sharing the rewards of innovation as well as the risks.”


11) National/Oklahoma: Will the Supreme Court next overturn Engel v. Vitale, the 1962 Supreme Court ruling that declared public school prayer unconstitutional, thereby imposing private religion on everyone? “The key question,” says Charles J. Russo of the University of Dayton, is not whether a charter would help or harm local education, but whether explicitly religious instruction at charter schools is constitutional, given the First Amendment’s protections against government establishment of religion. Moreover, Oklahoma law requires charter schools to be nonsectarian.”

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump puts it in context. “Notice the shift that began in about the year 2000. That’s also reflected by Gallup. Since the late 1970s, the venerable polling firm has regularly asked Americans how important religion is in their lives. From about 2000 on, the percentage of people saying that religion isn’t important has climbed steadily. This shift is not obviously a function of removing the Ten Commandments from public spaces or the end of prayer in schools. That change followed the Supreme Court’s 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision; conservatives are hoping that the current court might move in the opposite direction”

12) National: Public education advocate and expert Peter Greene takes on “the school choice movement’s top evangelist,” Corey DeAngelis. “In a recent talk at the Heritage Foundation, DeAngelis touched on most of the main arguments for vouchers (many of them false) and revealed a few truths about the pro-voucher strategy. (…) Follow DeAngelis enough and you may think, ‘This guy’s kind of extreme.’ That’s by design. His old University of Arkansas mentor Jay Greene (now at the Heritage Foundation) argued two years ago that voucher fans should stop trying to make leftwing arguments for school choice (they weren’t helping) and instead lean into the culture wars. DeAngelis calls it hyperpartisanship. Don’t try to use facts on red state politicians—use shame. He quotes Milton Friedman, who argued that you don’t get your favored results just by electing the right people, but by creating an atmosphere in which the wrong people find it politically advantageous to do the ‘right’ thing. DeAngelis argues that you get bipartisanship through hyperpartisanship. Be so extreme that your opponents have to work with you.”

13) Arizona: The East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) has been cited by the state auditor general for “failing to realize the full return for the $1.3 million it spent to renovate a building to lease to a charter-school operator. The auditor general said that EVIT risked not recouping about $500,000 of its investment, which may impact the funding available for its programs. ‘Any monies that the district does not recover from the lease agreement are not available to purchase equipment and upgrade facilities for its CTE programs,’ the report stated. The total amount of revenue EVIT will receive from the charter school under the initial seven-year lease is $804,000, according to the report. If the lease was extended, the payments would increase by 5% annually—at which rate EVIT would not recover its total renovation cost until an additional four years later or in Fiscal Year 2034, the report said. It pointed out that EVIT was not guaranteed payment for the full seven years as either party could terminate the lease before then.  The auditor general also faulted EVIT for not taking steps to ensure that the lease would provide other anticipated benefits.”

14) North Carolina: “The Jackson County Board of Education has signed a resolution urging the North Carolina General Assembly to prioritize public education over funding an expansion to the private school voucher system,” The Smoky Mountain News reports. “‘We don’t believe that public school money should go to private sectors,’ said Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dana Ayers. Earlier this year, Gov. Roy Cooper declared 2024 ‘The Year of Public Schools’ in North Carolina as part of a call for more funding for K-12 public education. In 2023 the General Assembly expanded the Opportunity Scholarship program, the K-12 private school voucher program and eliminated the income cap that was previously required to qualify for the scholarship. Though the General Assembly has not passed a budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, lawmakers have recommended funding for the voucher program to increase to over a half-billion dollars. In North Carolina, about 84% of school age children attend public schools.”

15) Ohio: The founder and superintendent of two Columbus charter schools and former Homeland Security advisor has pleaded guilty to a bank fraud charge, using the money to help buy his New Albany home, WCMH-NBC TV reports. “Abdirizak Y. Farah, 59, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud Monday and faces up to 30 years in prison. Farah founded Focus Learning Academy of Northern Columbus (FLANC) in 2007 and Focus Learning Academy of Central Columbus (FLACC) in 2020, according to the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth L. Parker. From August 2010 through September 2022, Farah also served as a senior policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

16) Pennsylvania/National: Pittsburgh’s public schools have adopted a climate change resolution, following a nationwide trend, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. “This spring, as a heat wave hovered over the region, Pittsburgh Public students were forced out of the classroom. Temperatures in the unairconditioned buildings were expected to reach unsafe levels, causing administrators to enact the district’s extreme heat policy. (…) Pittsburgh Public last week became the second district in Allegheny County to adopt a climate change resolution—Woodland Hills was the first in the state to pass a similar resolution in 2019. Now, Pittsburgh Public’s student-led initiative unanimously approved by the school board directs the superintendent to establish a sustainability policy and to develop recommendations for taking action on climate change. The resolution also states the district will explore and pursue the goal of reaching 100% clean, renewable energy in all sectors.”


17) National/Maryland: A $50 million contract has been approved to clean up the wreckage of the Key Bridge. “The authority, ‘based on prior guidance,’ initially believed it was not required to report the contract to the Board of Public Works, according to the documents. But board staff, on advice from the attorney general’s office, told the authority on May 31 that an exemption to such reporting did not apply, the documents say. Marshall Brown, representing the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, raised objections at Wednesday’s meeting. He said there was enough time for competitive bidding and raised concerns the costs could rise above $50 million. ‘We disagree that Skanska was the only feasible contractor with the capability and resources for this job,’ said Brown, whose group is a partnership between Laborers’ International Union of North America and contractors. ‘Our contractors were never contacted by the state, or even to survey their capabilities.’”

18) National: The Minnesota dam that partially failed is one of nearly 200 across the Upper Midwest in similarly “poor’ condition,” reports Inside Climate News. “Of the 13 high-hazard dams in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan listed in poor condition, eight dam owners who responded to questions from Inside Climate News all said their dams posed no immediate danger to the public and were frequently inspected, some weekly. Owners of the other five, all in Michigan—the Portage Plant Dam, Menasha Dam, Manistique Papers Dam, Cornwall Creek Dam and Little Black River Structure B—didn’t respond.”

19) Missouri: St. Louis area residents could face water and electricity rate hikes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The back-to-back moves from Missouri American Water and Ameren come after each utility had rate increases take effect last year, following a roughly yearlong approval process. The requests were filed with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Both companies said in filings that investments in infrastructure were the primary catalysts to seek boosts in revenue. (…) It will be a while before the rate increases sought by either utility are approved or take effect. The requests must be reviewed by Missouri utility regulators, while state and independent watchdogs have chances to review the proposals and raise concerns. The process typically takes about a year before any new rates are finalized.”

20) South Carolina: South Carolina Lede, the Palmetto State’s excellent public radio podcast, had a great episode on infrastructure. “On this episode of the South Carolina Lede for July 2, 2024: host Gavin Jackson’s interview with the new SCDOT secretary, Justin Powell; how the State Legislature’s 2017 gas tax increase has affected state roads and the underfunded DOT; and more!” [Audio, about a half hour]

From the interview. Question: “If you haven’t driven through Malfunction Junction, I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. But if you want to, come see the insanity, because it’s about to be fixed in a couple of years. But I kicked off our interview by asking him just how pivotal this moment is for our state.”

Justin Powell: “I think where we’re headed as a state right now is, you got to think about where we were 10 years ago. So about 10 years ago, we had about a billion dollars’ worth of construction contracts happening at the state at any one point in time. Thanks to the investments from the General Assembly back in 2016, 2017, particularly 2017 roads bill, we’ve seen just a dramatic increase in the amount of work we’re able to do across South Carolina. So right now, we just crossed the line that we have over six billion dollars in construction going on across South Carolina, just on projects like the one you see behind us. So we’re talking about six billion dollars’ worth of construction. That’s huge, obviously. We’re talking about malfunction junction right here.”

21) International/Caribbean: As the Caribbean reels from the impact of Hurricane Beryl, the impact of Hurricane Maria nearly 7 years ago is still being felt and has galvanized resistance to privatization. Will the privatization predators, both in finance and infrastructure, repeat the experience of Puerto Rico?

22) International/United Kingdom: Let’s hear it for the tenacious public interest law warriors. After a landmark Supreme Court ruling, Britain’s beleaguered private water companies are now facing massive lawsuits demanding they pay for sewage spills. The Financial Times reports that “Although the High Court and Court of Appeal have previously ruled in favour of United Utilities, the Environmental Law Foundation, supported by the Good Law Project, had intervened to support the Manchester Ship Canal, which is owned by Peel Ports, to try to overturn the decision. Jennine Walker, interim head of legal at the Good Law Project, said: ‘We hope this landmark ruling empowers people and businesses to use the courts to challenge industrial-scale polluters like United Utilities, who have put profits and the shareholder interest over protecting our environment.’ Environmental campaigner Feargal Sharkey said the ruling was ‘massive.’ Writing on X, he said it opened the way for ‘1,000s of claims by fishing clubs, swimmers, riparian owners’ against water companies.” [Sub required]

Public Services

23) National/Think Tanks: The Pew Research Center has reported on the American public’s view of government. [Read the full 54-page report]. “Here are the questions used for the report and its methodology. While the economy, immigration and abortion have emerged as major issues in the 2024 election, Joe Biden and Donald Trump also have dramatically different ideas about the size and role of government. [Chart shows Deep divides between Biden and Trump supporters on size, scope of government]. These differences reflect decades-old divisions between Democrats and Republicans over the scope of government. Among registered voters, large majorities of Biden supporters – roughly three-quarters or more—favor a bigger, more activist government.

  •     74 percent say they would rather have a bigger government providing more services.
  •     76 percent say government should do more to solve problems.
  •     80 percent say government aid to the poor “does more good than harm.”

Trump supporters, by comparable margins, take the opposing view on all three questions.

24) National: How will the Supreme Court’s anti-regulation rulings change healthcare? Modern Health has an assessment. “On Friday, the high court weakened the executive branch’s authority to interpret laws and enhanced the judiciary’s power to resolve disputes about congressional intent. On Monday, justices ruled that plaintiffs may bring suit against old regulations if they claim new injuries. The decisions invite more lawsuits from parties that disagree with agency actions, and the threat of legal battles may encourage regulators to greater caution. Agencies may rely on nonbinding guidance and enforcement activity more and on rules less. Congress may attempt to write statutes with greater specificity and diminish the flexibility agencies have to adapt laws to new circumstances over time. Courts are now tasked with resolving even the most picayune technical questions. In the healthcare context, this upends regulatory conduct spanning from routine Medicare reimbursement updates to Food and Drug Administration reviews of emerging medical technologies. CMS policies such as nursing home staffing mandates, home health reimbursement cuts and disproportionate share hospital payments are endangered. Companies and other plaintiffs now stand a much better chance of prevailing when they allege the federal government has overstepped its bounds.” [Sub required]

25) National: GEO Group, the private prison behemoth, has maxed out to support Trump, CREW reports. “Trump and Scott are not outliers in GEO Group’s political giving. Since the January 6 insurrection, GEO Group’s PAC has donated to more than 32 members of the Sedition Caucus—the 147 members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election and, later, the 22 new members who won in the 2022 midterms promoting the Big Lie that the election was stolen. In all, the company’s PAC has given more than $266,000 to these members and the two party committees that support them, the NRSC and the NRCC. GEO Group has a long history of disproportionately supporting Trump and other Republican candidates. In the midst of the 2016 presidential election, the Justice Department announced a plan to phase out the use of private prisons. The day after this announcement, GEO Group donated $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump super PAC, through a subsidiary.”

26) California: Oakland city employees united to pressure the City Council to save public services by passing a budget inclusive of the Coliseum sale, says IFPTE Local 21. And they won a victory on Tuesday, SEIU 1021 reports. “The Oakland City Council voted in favor of the Mayor’s budget proposal on Tuesday, July 2 saving SEIU 1021 members from any immediate threat of job cuts. The days leading up to the vote grew contentious as city workers feared any changes that would force them to bear the brunt of a budget deficit. We packed the council chambers leading up to the vote and on the day of the vote to make sure council members understood opposition to that threat and the urgency to rely on the initial plans to supplement any deficit with the sale of the Coliseum. SEIU 1021 would like to thank councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas, Dan Kalb, Carroll Fife, Kevin Jenkins, and Rebecca Kaplan who voted in favor.”

27) Pennsylvania: More legal issues are arising in the wake of the public insourcing of a formerly privately operated prison, Law.com reports. “Employment cases surged in Pennsylvania federal courts on Monday, most of which target George W. Hill Correctional Facility and the Jail Oversight Board of Delaware County. At least 20 federal employment suits were filed, including 14 suits brought on behalf of former correctional officers who were parties to a collective bargaining agreement when the jail was operated under subcontract by The GEO Group. According to the complaints, the CBA contained a ‘just cause’ provision for termination, but after Delaware County reassumed control of the jail from The GEO Group in 2022, the county repudiated the CBA and fired 68 employees without any notice or hearing. Who’s bringing the heat? The suits are backed by the Derek Smith Law Group.”

28) Texas: Writing for the Prison Journalism Project, Khaȧliq Shakur reports on “The Unbearably Inadequate Mental Health Treatment in a Texas Prison.” Shakur says, “Most experts agree that prisons are not adequately prepared to treat people with serious mental illness. But that hasn’t prevented the U.S. prison system from becoming the nation’s largest provider of psychiatric treatment—43% of people in state prisons have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to Prison Policy Initiative. But many people never receive mental health treatment behind bars. Serenity’s journey represents several problems with mental health care inside Texas prisons. Inmates struggling with mental illness are a danger to themselves and others. But from what I have observed, they generally are not segregated from the general population in a safe manner.”

29) Washington: Is the state about to elect an insurance commissioner who intends to privatize the workers compensation system? Well one of the six candidates briefly profiled by the Spokesman-Review says he plans to do so. Another one “believes in a privatized health insurance system and would push against any efforts to fund public health programs.” Heads up.

All the Rest

30) Think Tanks: What are the best practices for community organizing? Have a look at the ideas of veteran community organizer George Goehl in Back to Basics: The Fundamentals of Community Organizing. “When we asked organizers, even lead organizers and organizing directors, about their process for cutting issues—taking a big problem and breaking it down, finding a clear solution, making it a demand and identifying the decision makers you need to move to win—people said they’d never been taught to do this. In our training, we described a model of organizing that started by listening for the most widely and deeply felt issues in the community and organizing around those.” [See also number 1 above]

31) Think Tanks: Robert Caro’s epic biography of Robert Moses is a deep encyclopedia of public and private roles in government planning and popular resistance. In 2019, The New Yorker’s David Remnick sat down with Caro for an interesting interview, which the magazine has just reposted. [Audio, about a half hour]

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