1. National: On the tenth anniversary of Operation Streamline, Free Speech Radio News reporter Shannon Young interviews Grassroots Leadership’s Bethany Carson. The policy “significantly increased the caseloads in criminal courts along the southern U.S. border by criminalizing what used to be a civil offense: illegal re-entry into the United States.” Carson says “this is also a policy that has funneled people into for-profit federal prisons, that are segregated prisons specifically for immigrants, with worse conditions, the rationale being that they don’t want to spend money on people who are not going to be coming back into American society and will be deported afterwards. This has also dramatically increased the proportion of Latinos in the federal prison system.”
2. National: A new report by the Center for American Progress says “a key factor underlying the explosion in the number of immigrants in custody is the expanded role of for-profit prison companies in the U.S. immigration detention system. (…) The millions of dollars that for-profit prison companies poured into lobbying have paid off in a big way, resulting in an increase in the guaranteed minimum number of immigration detention beds, both nationally and within individual facility contracts.”
3. National: The National Journal’s J. Weston Phippen reports on how privatized probation systems victimize and trap the poor and lead to a loss of public control. “In the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood, a for-profit company promised city leaders it could take over its cash-strapped probation system without any expense to taxpayers. Not only that, but the company said it could actually turn a profit for itself, and the city, by collecting fines. Just eight months later, nearly 10 percent of the town’s 15,000 population was on probation for minor offenses like traffic violations and owing fees to the company.”
4. National: Third party IT outsourcing is on the wane due to technological change. “Outsourcing isn’t what it used to be.”
5. National: Chandra Bozelko, who blogs about prisons, says “prison’s the perfect place for Martin Shkreli to get a taste of his own for-profit medicine.” Bozelko writes, “in six-plus years of incarceration, I encountered barriers to medical care several times. (…) Like Shkreli, Corizon will not allow ethical duty to whittle away at profit margins. But the ways in which prison health care gets doled out are unethical with regard to more than the patient. The public health implications of substandard correctional care affect everyone.”
6. National: American Water Works, a leading company in the privatization of public water resources, holds an investor day and produces a 68-slide promotional presentation. It focuses on aging water infrastructure and utility privatization on army bases. The company reports it has 12 military privatization deals in its portfolio, is currently pursuing 8 more, and sees an opportunity in 33 more (slide 52).
7. National: Senate food service workers win a raise from the private contractor that employs them. “Many of them have been living on the edge of poverty, and the story of Charles Gladden, who was homeless and living outside a downtown Metro stop while working as a Senate custodian, pushed their plight into the national spotlight. The new contract, however, falls short of the demands made by labor activists, who called for a $15 minimum wage and the automatic recognition of a union organizing petition.”
8. Arizona: Corrections Corporation of America is awarded a new 10-year management contract with the state to house up to an additional 1,000 medium-security inmates at CCA’s Red Rock Correctional Center. The one-bid contract was the subject of a “public” hearing at which “there was not one member of the public at the meeting.” “It was not a public hearing, it was a CCA staff meeting,” said Caroline Isaacs, program director of the American Friends Service Committee—Arizona. “Half the people in the room were in uniform.”
9. Arizona: Tucson stands up against an unjust immigration detention system buttressed by the for-profit prison industry. “Asked to describe a case that gave her the most satisfaction, Launius singles out that of her friend Alma Hernandez, a community leader and activist in Corazón de Tucson. ‘She wasn’t (an activist) when she first started working with us, but she was stopped and arrested and held in a CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) prison in Louisiana for months. That turned her into an activist. She was one of our first clients and has volunteered with us ever since.’”
10. California: Anaheim Union High School District board members call for a state moratorium on approval of charter schools until tighter standards are developed. “The fact that the Orange County school board has the authority to grant charters without the consent of local school boards undermines the concept of local control and makes a mockery of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), said AUHSD Board President Annemarie Randle-Trejo.”
11. California: The University of California system pulls $30 million of investment from private prison companies after meeting with students of the Afrikan Black Coalition. ABC says “The University of California is clear that investments in these corporations are financially unsustainable and now stands as the first public education institution to denounce the private prison industry. In addition, Black students have declared private prisons to be morally rotten and ethically compromising to the mission of any educational institution. Our position on private prisons has been clear from the very beginning; we want them outlawed and out of business.”
12. California: A 13-hour session on Saturday failed to choose a new superintendent for the L.A. Unified School District. The quest will resume in the New Year, on January 5. “The board had divided sharply over the type of leader needed for this watershed moment, especially over whether to choose an insider or an outsider.”
13. Colorado: Denver partners with Bloomberg Philanthropies on its ‘What Works Cities’ program, bringing new tools for data analysis and implementation to city government. (…) Th
e program’s purpose is to help cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million make better use of data to improve city services and inform policymaking decisions.”
14. Florida: Palm Beach County school district bus driver is called a hero after evacuating kids. “This bus driver was more than a bus driver, (she’s) really a guardian of our children. I can’t put enough emphasis on what an amazing job she did,” said Fire Rescue District Chief Anthony Tozzi. “She has two grown children of her own, but said the many students over the years are like family too. ‘I have over 100 kids and I treat them all like my own,’ she said.”
15. Iowa: After protests by lawmakers, beneficiaries, and providers, federal officials have delayed Gov. Branstad’s attempt to privatize Medicaid services. They said the state wouldn’t be ready to make the move on January 1 so have pushed the target date to at least March 1. “The decision ultimately came down to provider networks, with CMS pointing out several gaps: 1) Managed care provider networks are not fully developed and ‘lack key providers’; 2) ‘Significant areas’ of the state did not have many provider types within a reasonable distance; 3) Overreliance on out-of-network providers.” Health providers warn of hidden costs of the system is privatized.
16. Iowa: One day after federal officials delay Gov. Branstad’s scheme to privatize Medicaid services, the state drops WellCare of Iowa from its list of private providers over “allegations it didn’t properly disclose information about fraud or mismanagement during its bid for a contract.”
17. Minnesota: More than 350 Elk River teachers, custodians, cooks, paraprofessionals, and clerical workers rally against outsourcing and to support the contract demands of five bargaining groups, including custodians. “Service Employees International Union Local 284 represents the 76 custodial and maintenance employees in the district whose jobs could be outsourced. The union also bargains for the district’s cooks and clerical workers. AFSCME Council 5 represents district paraprofessionals, and the Elk River Education Association represents teachers. Monday was the first-ever joint rally of the five groups.”
18. Nevada: A new law, which is being challenged in the courts, would send millions of public education dollars to private schools. “It doesn’t promote better schooling for low-income [kids],’ said Martin Carnoy, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. ‘It’s going to benefit new private-school providers and current private-school providers…It’s welfare for the rich.’”
19. New Jersey: The Asbury Park Press takes a detailed look at the funding crisis of New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure, including a war of the white papers between the Reason Foundation and University of Utah economics professor Peter Phillips, who wrote a report sponsored by the Operating Engineers Local 825 union. “‘We’re talking about very complicated capital projects that have a lot of moving parts,’ said [Gordon MacInnes, executive director of the New Jersey Policy Perspective think tank]. ‘With funding running out, how does DOT or NJ Transit make plans down the road? It’s December, almost January, and there’s no money.’”
20. New Jersey: The Newark Star-Ledger comes out in favor of custodians receiving $15 an hour. “The largest property services union in the country, 32BJ has helped folks rise out of poverty since it began with just 500 members in 2001. It has negotiated health care, paid sick leave, tenure-based vacation, education programs, and pension benefits. But the wages are impossible to live on: Most cleaners make $13.30 to $13.60 an hour, but in all the facilities south of Rt. 195, SEIU members make $10 an hour. Imagine living on $10 an hour here, doing what can be backbreaking work. It a real-life snapshot from the new American Values Survey, which found that 64 percent no longer believe hard work guarantees success.” The contract expires December 31.
21. North Carolina: Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch calls attention to “the latest school privatization scheme that continues to draw far too little attention from the media and even many education advocates.” Fitzsimon says “two online charter schools opened in the state this fall, operated by two different for-profit companies, one of which, K12 Inc., has a scandal-plagued record in other states,” and that “last week brought maybe the most compelling evidence of all that the General Assembly made a terrible decision in ordering the state board to approve the schools. The former education commissioner of Tennessee, Kevin Huffman, described his experience of the last four years overseeing the virtual charter in his state, also operated by K12, on the education blog The Seventy Four.”
22. Pennsylvania: Scranton Sewer Authority workers express concern over what will happen if the system is privatized to Pennsylvania American Water. “Employee Bill McKenna asked what will become of the Teamsters Union Local 229, which represents about 72 workers, when the collective bargaining agreement expires in April 2017. (…) Mr. McKenna found the information available right now to still be vague and said he may not have a feel for exactly what it means for authority workers until the union and the operation’s new owner meet at the bargaining table. Employee David Verrastro asked for the staff to get some periodic updates on the transaction.”
23. Tennessee: A consultant says the Hamilton County Jail should be shut and a new processing center built at the Corrections Corporation of America-operated Silverdale facility. “A price tag was not mentioned Wednesday, but Coppinger said other ways are available to fund a new jail besides spending tax dollars. He said he anticipates ‘extremely competitive’ interest from companies wanting to build and operate the jail, as CCA’s contract with the county is set to expire in April.”
24. New Mexico: The Las Cruces Sun-News warns that forcing student to live on campus for their first year is being driven by the state university president’s desire to push dormitory privatization, rather than by students’ interests. “It is a worthy goal to build new dormitories and have more students living on campus. But regents should be cautious about passing on new financial challenges to students simply to meet the demands of the university’s private business partners.”
25. New York: New York City’s open records law represents a step forward, but is hampered by agencies not releasing data. “Getting agencies to release new data sets, and to update that data as they are supposed to, is still a problem. Part of the reason for that is the law has no teeth. When the bill was passed, advocates fought hard for some sort of compliance mechanism so there would be a way to put pressure on delinquent agencies to release data. The advocates lost and that provision never made it into the bill. Without some sort of enforcement, the law is only as strong as the commitment of the administration.”
26. Tennessee: Gov. Haslam’s plan to privatize hospitality operations at 11 state parks falls flat as no bidders show up. “Brock Hill, a deputy commissioner of the Environment and Conservation Department, told reporters after budget hearings earlier this month that vendors who toured the parks were ‘shocked, to some degree, that they were in as bad shape as they were. They hadn’t been reinvested in to the degree they should have been over the last few decades,’ he said.”
27. Texas: In November, State District Judge Karin Crump of Travis County ruled that there was no “emergency” that requires fast-tracking the licensing of two privately-run immigration detention centers as state residential centers. The ruling followed Federal Judge Dolly Gee’s August order that conditions be improved to meet federal standards or the detainees must be released. But the Texas Tribune reports “it’s unclear when a final decision on the licenses will be made.” Virginia Raymond, an Austin-based immigration attorney, says “it’s an insult to child-care workers, and it’s an insult to the common sense of the people of Texas, to call detention centers child care.”
28. Texas: The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority declares CH2M Hill in default of its contract to add toll lanes to North MoPac Boulevard due to CH2M Hill’s slow work. Privatization advocates often argue that private companies do better than the public sector in managing the construction phase of infrastructure projects and do it more cheaply. But “if the mobility authority has to find another contractor, that could take months—with no work taking place on the project.”
29. Vermont: The Burlington Free Press demands that the state government force contractors to reveal information about how taxpayer dollars are being spent. “If there’s any ambiguity in the law or in the state contracts, Montpelier should make clear that vendors that agree to do work in place of government should expect to be held to the same standards of transparency as any state department or agency.” A case is now in the courts “on who owns data generated by a private nonprofit under contract to perform the work of state government.”
30. Virginia: The Department of Transportation’s CFO says the idea of buying the Dulles Greenway private toll road in order to lower tolls is a loser. “‘When you come to look at the purchase price, we can’t just pay off the outstanding debt,’ he says. The $1 billion of debt would actually cost the state around $1.9 billion, because many bondholders are not due to be paid for decades. (…) [DOT chief Aubrey] Layne emphasizes that the state is bound by contracts with the road’s operators that were agreed to as part of the original public-private concession agreement. But he argues that, despite the road’s owners’ claims that they have not made a profit, money has been paid to investors.”
31. Think Tanks: The Center for Media and Democracy looks at why the Koch brothers are backing limited criminal justice reform measures. “But, as the Kochs ride the wave of momentum toward criminal justice reform, it is becoming increasingly clear that part of their agenda would actually make it harder to prosecute corporate violations of environmental and financial laws that protect the public from corporate wrongdoing.”
32. Think Tanks: The One Wisconsin Institute issues an updated report on the Bradley Foundation’s efforts to privatize education. “Wisconsin families and public schools are left paying the price as billions of dollars that could have been used for public education are siphoned off for the Bradley Foundation’s ideologically driven experiment. Until a majority of policy makers are willing to stand up to the Bradley Foundation’s millions, Wisconsin’s tradition of great public schools will remain under assault.” [P is for Payoff, 2005-2014]
33. Plan Ahead: National Sunshine Week is March 13-19, 2016.
1. National: Congress passes, and President Obama signs, a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that will keep the government open. Included in the bill is a renewal of the ‘public private partnership’ program to improve staffing levels and infrastructure at land borders.
2. National: The House passes legislation to cut off the tax benefit that comes from spinning off corporate real estate into separate publicly traded real estate trusts (REITs). GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the for-profit prison companies, converted themselves into REITs in 2013 and reaped hefty tax benefits. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. However, other provisions in the bill will make it easier for foreign investors to invest in REITs.
3. Kansas: Republican lawmaker says the privatization of foster care services is a failure. “In an interview, Kiegerl, who has been a critic of the foster care system for years, said he believes either the privatized system should end or experience a radical overhaul. Kiegerl’s report was among more than a hundred pages of documents provided to the Legislature’s Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy. The committee met for one day last month but lawmakers intend to seek permission from legislative leaders for more meetings.”
4. New Mexico: Lobbyists press for public money for charter schools. “Even charter schools are looking for capital outlay money. ‘We do go after capital outlay for them, such as getting capital outlay for a down payment on a facility,’ said Sue Griffith, who said she represe
nts 13 charter schools. ‘We also get capital outlay for their technology, we obtain activity buses for them, we’ve gotten a lot of smart labs for the schools.’ Robert F. Kennedy Charter School in Albuquerque responded on Dec. 14 to repeated emails and phone calls asking for copies of lobbyists contract. The school spent $12,000 on two lobbyists, including Griffith, in 2015. That spending appears to be paying off. The school received $285,000 in 2013 for two projects and $235,000 in 2014 for four projects. The money helped pay for information technology, a media center, an auto body and paint shop and more. This year, the school received $130,000 for equipment.”
5. Pennsylvania: State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R) says he will introduce a bill to privatize the Philadelphia Parking Authority. “A portion of PPA profits already are sent to the school district, but Corman said he believed those profits could increase under new management. He did not offer specifics in his email.” The Philadelphia Parking Authority is also involved in a dispute with taxi and Uber’s black car service drivers over regulations.
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