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- Bad Bunny weighs in against privatization.
- There is no federal agency better positioned to offer post-Roe abortion services than the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jasper Craven reports.
- Illinois residents are fighting against a $100 million rate increase by Illinois American Water.
First, the good news…
1) National: The U.S. jobs report showed a gain of 528,000 in July, restoring nationwide employment to its prepandemic level. “‘I’ve never seen a disjunction between the data and the general vibe quite as large as I saw,’ said Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist, noting that employment growth is an economic North Star. ‘It is worth emphasizing that when you try to take the pulse of the overall economy, these data are much more reliable than GDP.’” However, government employment is 597,000 lower than its prepandemic level.
2) National: Bloomberg reports that if signed into law as written, “the climate bill, a surprise agreementbetween Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, would restore a 30% tax credit for residential solar systems—making it applicable to panels installed in 2022—and extend the program to Jan. 1, 2034. Leased or purchased battery storage systems would likewise qualify for a 30% credit, which can also be taken in 2023 for homeowners who buy batteries.
‘There’s no question in my mind that all these incentives will make the difference for consumers on the fence about solar, accelerating access to the technology for Americans across the country,’ said Suzanne Leta, senior director and head of policy and strategy at residential solar company SunPower Corp. ‘Especially those that are low to moderate income.’” [Sub required]
3) National: There is no federal agency better positioned to offer post-Roe abortion services than the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jasper Craven reports in Battle Borne. “This would require the drafting and promulgation of new directives that reverse the current rules on the books. Under normal circumstances, this could take a year or more. Yet there are creative ways to speed up this process. The Trump administration, for instance, often managed to move rules through the regulatory process in a matter of months. Some believe McDonough could issue an interim rule tomorrow. (…) Still, the fact that the VA doesn’t appear to be meaningfully exploring these options is strange and troubling. In response to a series of detailed questions, Hayes deviated little from his boss’ previous pronouncements.”
4) National: Worth Rises has just released “a game-changing tool that centralizes real-time rate data for prison and jail calls.For the first time, advocates, journalists, and decision-makers have access to important rate data that can help advance policies—and even aid in negotiating contracts with vendors—that connect and create relief for families. With a dozen states now considering making all prison and jail calls free, this data tool comes at a critical moment.”
5) California: SEIU 721 reports We Stopped Privatization in its Tracks! 2-1-1 LA Remains Union. “We absolutely crushed it! In a remarkable showing of union power, we stopped LA County from outsourcing 2-1-1 LA’s critical services to multi-national consulting firm Deloitte. The motion to award a multi-year $67.2M contract to Deloitte and replace our 2-1-1 LA members with an automated service failed miserably at [Tuesday’s] LA County Board of Supervisors meeting.”
6) Colorado: Colorado progressives celebrated some of their victories at the Local Progress national meet-up in Denver. “Progressive victories in Denver and the state: earmarking significant city dollars for affordable housing, enacting a minimum wage in Denver and across Colorado, and giving undocumented immigrants the right to access unemployment benefits.”
7) Puerto Rico/National: Bad Bunny weighs in against privatization. “There was a special, once-in-a-lifetime quality to these performances. ‘It was just us and him,’ said concert attendee Alysa M. Alejandro Soto. ‘I feel like that’s something he wanted to achieve: a special, intimate moment with PR.’ During all three shows, Bad Bunny spoke about the privatization of the electricity grid, the gender violence women experience, and the pollution of the beaches. Because Bad Bunny’s music already lends itself to issues on the island—‘El Apagón,’ ‘Andrea,’ and ‘Yo Perreo Sola’ are all great examples—it was expected he’d have something to say about the collective experiences Puerto Ricans face. ‘We have a government over us that messes up our lives day in and day out,’ he saidbefore telling the private electricity company and the governor to go ‘pal el carajo.’ He also spoke of a better PR.”
8) Think Tanks: Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt have written a terrific report on Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and how they are soaking nursing homes and hospitals. “Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are considered ‘passive’ investors and are exempt from corporate tax. But in reality, they play a very active role in reshaping whole industries, like healthcare.”
9) National: If more students become pregnant post-Roe, are we prepared to support them? asks The Hechinger Report’s Kavitha Cardoza. “Schools often discriminate against parenting students, and services for them have dwindled. New abortion restrictions could force more young people to drop out, (…) ‘Young parents are one of the most hardworking groups of people I know, because they know that not just their lives, but their children’s lives, depend on their next few moves,’ she said. ‘And I tell people all the time, the worst pain that a parent can experience is knowing that you are unable to give your child a great life. That is the most heart-wrenching pain.’”
10) California: Plans to open a charter school in downtown Bakersfield meet a hostile response. “Ashley De La Rosa from the Dolores Huerta Foundation said, ‘We just want to know what is going on with this and how would this really benefit our students.’ The main concern is that it will take money and resources away from the high need communities in Bakersfield. Ashley says, ‘The things they were proposing are things that BCSD is already doing in like the M.L.K. school. We have STEAM and STEM programs being designed after the magnet program in different school districts.””
11) Maryland: The Washington Post is unhappy that Montgomery County School Board has rejected a charter school. “Board member Rebecca Smondrowski said she had many concerns about the transportation aspect. While M.E.C.C.A. did not go into specifics at Tuesday’s meeting, the group previously shared plans for school bus transportationto be provided to students. (…) Additionally, the board questioned whether there was a need for a business-focused school since MCPS already offers a few business and finance-specific programs at the high school level.” The WashPost says “the group plans to appeal the rejection to the state board. We wish them success.”
12) Missouri: Public education advocates are raising questions about two newly appointed members of the St. Louis school board. “Supporters of SLPS raised questions about both of the new board members’ connections to charter schools, which are publicly funded but operate independently of SLPS and compete for a dwindling number of students in the city. (…) ‘We’re glad the board of education will have its full complement of members and welcome Hogan and Wright Sr.,’ said Ben Conover of advocacy group Solidarity with SLPS. ‘Unfortunately, this process was not transparent or efficient as the mayor promised … we hope that the soon-to-be full board can continue to operate in the best interest of the children of St. Louis, the public schools, and will stand against the forces of privatization trying to undermine our city.’”
13) New Hampshire: House Democratic Leader David E. Cote, writing in The Manchester Union Leader, reports that “Republicans don’t want you to know this, but the school voucher program they enacted last year is a ticking time bomb that, unless fixed, will only be defused with massive tax hikes on Granite Staters. Led by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, those pushing the voucher program claim that it actually saves the state money. Because New Hampshire spends about $20,000 per student in public school, they explain, when a voucher is elected instead, $5,000 ‘follows the student’ to private education, and the remaining $15,000 not spent on public education is taxpayer savings.” [Sub required]
14) North Carolina: Charter schools keep expanding in the state, Axios Charlotte reports. “I feel like a lot of the craftier proponents of charters have no problem kind of holding out Black and brown families and low income families as the mascot for supporting charters legislatively, while also doing everything in their power not to support those families in areas outside of education,” James Ford, executive director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED) and state board of education representative, told Axios.
15) North Carolina: A charter school which lost a case in federal court recently over its mandatory rule that girls wear skirts is going to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Baker Mitchell, the owner of the school, “said the ruling could change the landscape of charter schools. He said in the newsletter he believes it undermines the foundation charter schools were created on, taking away parental right to choose the education their children receive. Mitchell said he believes the ruling is creating a slippery slope, and in the future courts could allow states to govern what is taught in charter schools and how.” But “experts say dress codes can and do discriminate based on sex, and this ruling proves that. Wendy Murphy, an attorney and adjunct professor at New England Law Boston, said even though parents can choose whether to send students to charter schools, that’s not the point of the ruling: regardless, if a school receives federal funding, it cannot discriminate based on sex. ‘The statute itself is very simple,’ Murphy said. ‘You cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, period.’”
16) Wyoming: State officials are getting pushback over their rush to create charter schools.Holly Thompson of Casper lists some issues that need to be addressed first and reported back to the public.
1. An analysis of the broader effects that charters will have on schooling systems as a whole in the state of Wyoming.
2. The lack of regulation charters will have when local control has been removed.
3. The level of political influence (“Powerful Political Players”) charters will attain when the state’s elected officials are the decision-makers regarding these schools.
4. What academic, financial, and facilities impacts a potential charter would have on existing schools and districts within our rural state.
5. The legality of religious prayer at public meetings regarding the establishment of a charter school within the state and its Constitution.
6. The depth and quality of oversight; evaluation of teachers and facilities; and assessment of equity among all students when decision-making is put in the hands of centralized elected officials.
17) National/Pennsylvania: “PennDOT’s unpopular bridge tolling plan [is] headed for the junkyard,” says Pennlive.com’s Jan Murphy. “A PennDOT spokeswoman said this week the department accepts the court ruling in light of Act 84 that rendered the court cases moot. Residents, businesses, trucking associations and others raised vociferous objections to the plan that they saw pushing traffic onto local roads, which in turn could exacerbate rush-hour congestion, slow response times for emergency vehicles, hurt local businesses and create new traffic safety problems. (…) [Cumberland County’s planning director Kirk Stoner] said the county wants to work in partnership with PennDOT and others in the region to find alternate funding sources to pay for the bridge’s repair or replacement. In fact, on Wednesday, the county commissioners approved a letter of support regarding PennDOT’s application to the federal bridge improvement programfor the I-83/South bridge improvements. ‘It’s another example that there are other funding sources out there that could be used for this project … without putting an overly heavy tax burden on our residents and then forcing them to deal with cut-through traffic,’ he said.”
All this has the P3 industry wringing its hands, wondering what will become of its lucrative private financing model if access to public toll fees goes away and it has to rely on elected officials to fund and/or finance infrastructure. On top of the repeated delays, failures, environmental shortcutting, and irregularities of so-called public-private partnerships elsewhere—such as in Maryland with the Purple Line and I-270 toll roads project—it must surely be raising questions in the banking and construction industries about whether P3s are worth the candle. The best course of action is to drop big bundled P3s and just do public works the way they have traditionally been financed—with public bond issues and, if appropriate, with design-build models. Certainly, the many politicians who have had their fingers burned must be thinking about this. Perhaps they might want to consider getting stronger legislative approval and proper project vetting to avoid falling into the P3 trap. The 30 day limit for this in the Pennsylvania P3 law was certainly inadequate.
Public Works Financing, the flagship journal of the P3 industry, is crestfallen about the Major Bridges Project’s failure as a P3. “The change will also obviously make it harder for Pennsylvania to raise additional transportation funding, which is one of the main goals of its PennDoT Pathways program,” they say. But the industry doesn’t quite seem ready to adapt to the new and better law that replaced the old P3 law, which involved a make-it-up-as-you-go-along project model (which the industry spins as “progressive P3s”). [Public Works Financing, July 2022; sub required]. It raises the question about whether financing can be obtained without P3s. One wonders where they have been for the last century and a half when traditional bond financing, capital appropriations, democratically approved tolling, and proper vetting built our infrastructure.
18) California: Leticia Vasquez, a member of the Central Basin Municipal Water District, recounts a successful battle against water privatizers in the City of Commerce determined to shut critics up. “This preposterous lawsuit is supported by the water privatizers on the Central Basin Board of Directors who are bought and paid for by private water interest. Their only goal is to privatize and profit from our community water systems. We saw this in Compton several years ago with the Sativa Water District. (…) Mr. Baker admitted in court that he had no evidence and that the purpose for the lawsuit was to silence me. He further admitted that the purpose for the lawsuit was to stop my free speech. I have initiated a Civil Rights Act lawsuit to stop this harassment and retaliation. Fortunately, last week’s ruling was the third time a court rejected efforts to silence us about these very serious issues regarding our local water supply. Water is life and we must continue to beat back these efforts against our human right to water.”
19) Illinois: Advocates are fighting against a $100 million rate increase by Illinois American Water. “Under a state law the company supported, Illinois American can actually charge customers higher rates to cover 100 percent of the cost of its municipal acquisitions–and, thus, spare shareholders that burden. Illinois and Aqua customers have now paid more than $260 million in higher rates to cover dozens of those purchases. Learn more about water privatization at CUB’s special website CUBWaterTracker.com. The massive size of Illinois American’s proposed rate hike is tied to the company’s municipal system shopping spree in recent years.”
CUB reports, “the massive size of Illinois American’s proposed rate hike is tied to the company’s municipal system shopping spree in recent years. In fact, in the current rate case, Illinois American is trying to downplay the price tag of its wastewater purchases by shifting $11.8 million of those excess costs onto water customers. (There are more water customers to absorb such costs.) But CUB argues that allowing this would enable even more excessive system acquisition costs and unfairly saddle water customers with expenses from unrelated wastewater services. An ICC evidentiary hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 10.”
20) Pennsylvania: Some Pennsylvania lawmakers and their corporate allies are trying to pass legislation that, through a requirement to produce “asset management plans,” could force the privatization of utilities across the state.
“Municipal leaders and environmental groups are lining up against the bill, arguing it’s a solution in search of a problem. They said it would create ratepayer-funded market research for private businesses searching for their next deal under the guise of consumer protection. ‘Legislators in Harrisburg come up with many, many different types of proposed regulations on our industry,’ said Anthony Bellitto Jr., executive director of the North Penn Water Authority, which serves about 70,000 people in Montgomery County. ‘And unfortunately, most of those legislators have no idea what they’re talking about.’ The bill passed the state Senate 27-23 in June and is now awaiting further action in the state House.
“It’s unclear whether the bill will advance in the state House, as influential environmental groups have come out strongly against it. ‘We are taking a much closer look across the board at bills that deal with privatization and corporate regulations because they create loopholes for companies to ignore environmental quality,’ said Katie Blume, political and legislative director for the Conservation Voters of PA, an environmental advocacy.”
21) National: A couple of items from the GEO Group’s and CoreCivic’s conference calls to report their financial results: GEO Executive Chairman George Zoley reported that immigrant detainee levels are “below historical levels,” but pointed to a growth in the company’s electronic monitoring business, citing “continued increases in the Department of Homeland Security’s Alternatives to Detention program called the Intensive Supervision and Appearance Program, or ISAP. Our BI subsidiary provides a full suite of monitoring and technology services under the ISAP contract to ensure compliance for individuals undergoing the Immigration Review process. As the publicly available data shows, the number of individuals enrolled in ISAP continues to increase and the program currently has approximately 300,000 participants.” But the outlook is grim. “Following the deactivation of our North Lake correctional facility, we will have 6 idled Secure Services facilities that were previously under contract with the BOP.”
As for CoreCivic, President and CEO Damon Hininger reported that the company hopes to conclude a sale of its 1,978 bed McRae Correctional Facility to the state of Georgia in November for the price of $66,000 per bed, or $130 million. He also reported that desire President Biden’s order to cut out private prisons from the federal prison program, CoreCivic did recently renew an indirect contract with United States Marshals Service at our 2,672 bed Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility. The contract was set to expire on June 30, but the local government authority responsible for the contract exercised a two-year renewal option on the contract.”
22) Arizona: It looks as if the courts are going to finally get tough with the state of Arizona over its prison healthcare system. “U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver ruled in June that Arizona’s prison health care system, and its use of restrictive housing, was unconstitutional, she asked attorneys representing incarcerated people, and those defending the state, to propose experts to help her remedy the situation. The ruling came after Silver rescinded a long-standing settlement agreement and held a weeks-long trial in the Jensen v. Shinn prison health care lawsuit between prisoners and the state of Arizona. After reviewing proposals from both sides, Silver said in an order filed Monday that she was ‘inclined to appoint’ Dr. Marc Stern.”
Stern had previously produced a report saying that prison health care was severely underfunded in Arizona, and that “privatization of correctional health care costs the state more than self-operation.” But Stern’s recommendations “did not prompt the state to come into compliance with court-mandated performance benchmarks established in the Jensen v. Shinn lawsuit. Now Judge Silver said she is leaning toward selecting Stern ‘to assist in crafting an injunction regarding medical care.’ (…) Attorneys for the prisoners are pushing for Judge Silver to appoint a receiver to assume oversight of the prison health care system,” but “it is unclear how the appointment of a receiver, or other forms of the forthcoming injunction, could impact a new contract the state recently awarded to NaphCare.”
23) Georgia: The Henry Herald reports that “a group of immigrant rights organizations has filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of the Ombudsman for Immigrant Detention, opening an investigation into ‘excessive and retaliatory use of force.’ Calls for ‘inhuman treatment and violations of the law’ against people arrested at the Folkston ICE Processing Center by guards employed by GEO Group, the for-profit prison company hired by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to run the facility. The complaint, signed by Innovation Law Lab, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the Georgia Chapter of the Malaya Movement USA, Project South and the Southern Poverty Law Center, comes amid investigations into sexual assaults on immigrant women in detention by one of government-contracted nurse at Stewart Detention Center, another state immigration detention center.”
24) National: In the Public Interest’s Executive Director Donald Cohen says to actually support the troops, stop privatizing veterans’ health care. “Congress’s passage this week of an expansion of health care benefits for millions of veteranswho have been exposed to toxic burn pits is an important step toward ending our country’s disrespectful and inadequate treatment of veterans. But there’s much more work to do. Another big step would be to reverse the slow privatization of veterans health care. A recent survey of thousands of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees—one-third of which were veterans—found that nearly a quarter have shifted their work to monitoring private sector care. Employees are also saying that the shift to increasingly sending veterans to private providers rather than VA facilities is making it harder to coordinate care and negatively impacting veterans’ health.”
25) National: “Republicans are coming after Social Security. Democrats, take note,” says Helaine Olen in The Washington Post. “It’s almost as though these Republicans can’t stop themselves from acting on the hope that when it comes to Social Security, the majority of voters won’t take them seriously, even as the GOP base laps their message up. But, in an age when increasing numbers of Americans are going to need a Social Security check to get by in retirement, that seems like a risky bet.”
26) National: The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute surveyed approximately 2,300 VA employees and veterans and, in an email, reported some troubling feedback:
- Sixty percent of survey respondents reported losing key resources needed to serve veterans, especially staff, over the last four years.
- Fifty percent of survey respondents reported that beds, units, and programs have been closed due to staffing and budget shortages, even when there is a patient demand for such services.
- More than 20 percent of respondents who work at the VA say they have partially shifted their work away from direct veteran care towards monitoring and coordinating more expensive private sector care.
27) National: Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress to ensure oversight and accountability on safe housing conditions for service members and military families. “For too long, many of our service members and military families have lived in unsafe privatized military housing with black mold, collapsed roofs, or exposed electrical wires because DoD is falling behind in proper oversight and providing safe housing to these service members,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “The bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act will create a Council with a strong mandate to conduct oversight of military housing, collect public complaints, and report its work to Congress—ensuring that military families receive the safe housing conditions they deserve.”
28) Kansas: Despite its successes, Kansas City’s no-fare bus transit system hasn’t solved all the problems, reports the Kansas City Beacon. “A city of Kansas City’s size needs more route options. Only 12.8% of low-income households are near a transit system, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s AllTransit database, which measures transit connectivity across the U.S. The city has six transit routes per half mile.”
29) Kentucky: As devastating floods repeatedly hit mountainous eastern Kentucky, under-resourced local governments makes solutions extremely difficult. “Measures such as flood wells, drainage systems or raising homes are expensive for cash-strapped counties. Buyouts or building restrictions are difficult in areas where safer options and new home construction are limited. Many are unable or unwilling to uproot. (…) ‘If we had all the money in the world, and we had the political will and cooperation, we could go a long way towards solving these problems,’ said William Haneberg, director of the Kentucky Geological Survey and a professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky.” NPR reports on Why We Will See More Devastating Floods Like the Ones in Kentucky. [Audio, about 10 minutes].
30) International: A recent report by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) on the effects of commercialization of healthcare in Kenya finds disturbing results. “The state of the public system pushes people towards a network of private providers, mostly too expensive for a vast majority of people, and a poorly regulated web of semi-formal providers.”
31) International: Canada’s NDP has called on the Liberal government to block the pending sell-off of Canada’s blood plasma system and adopt a national ban on for-profit collection. “Canadian Blood Services is set to sign a major contract with foreign pharmaceutical giant Grifols, the world’s largest private plasma producer. This move will put lives at risk and prioritize profits of Big Pharma over the well-being of patients who depend on blood plasma donations.”
32) International: The Dominican Republic’s health minister, Daniel Rivera, says public hospitals will not be privatized. “He clarified that the call made by the president of the Dominican Medical Association, Senén Caba, and the community members of the Colonial Zone ‘was heard by the president (Luis Abinader) and the vice-president (Raquel Peña), it was modified and a community volunteer is going to be put in place.’ ‘There is no privatization of hospitals,’ he reiterated. Rivera pointed out that privatization processes must have the prior approval of the National Congress and that petition does not exist.”
33) National: The poverty rate in Buncombe County, North Carolina is rising, reports the Asheville Citizen-Times. “According to figures from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the current poverty level is a household income of $27,750 for a family of four. Calculations from the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center estimate a family of four would need $72,700 annually in order to meet a living wage standard.”
So how are the 1% doing amidst all this poverty? David Rosen says sometimes you want to scream. “The growth in the number of super-gigantic superyachts symbolizes the new generation of Robber Barons—or what might be better labeled as the Robber Oligarchs. Osnos refers to Thorstein Veblen’s famous notion of ‘conspicuous consumption,’ quoting from his 1898 classic, Theory of the Leisure Class, ‘In order to be reputable, it must be wasteful.’ Osnos also quotes from Alex Finley, a former CIA officer living in Barcelona, who notes: ‘The yachts tell a whole story about a Faustian capitalism—the idea that we’re ready to sell democracy for short-term profits.’”
34) National: Thom Hartmann lays out a scenario for a right wing coup against the Constitution that would, in addition to reversing citizen rights and entrenching private corporate dictatorship, involve the “return of America’s railroad system to private ownership” and “privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
35) National: As critical cases on affirmative action and diversity approach in the Supreme Court this fall, those wishing to bone up on the issues can readily access all the friend of the court briefs courtesy of Education Week. [Sub required]
36) Arkansas: A terrific piece by Olivia Paschal on The Modern-Day Company Towns of Arkansas has been published in The American Prospect. “Walmart and Tyson—two of the world’s largest companies—play an outsized role in this small metropolitan area’s economic and political affairs. In fact, northwest Arkansas could be considered a critical locus of what some refer to as ‘neoliberalism’—the marketization and privatization of governing, championed in part by President Bill Clinton… In recent years, several of the Waltons, their family foundation, the local regional economic development council, and a web of interconnected investment and real estate firms have exerted massive amounts of influence over the northwest Arkansas region, which in addition to Springdale and Bentonville includes the cities of Rogers and Fayetteville, home to the state’s flagship university. ‘Each city is owned by a company. Springdale is Tyson, Bentonville is Walmart,’ said Rumba Yambú, the founder of the organization inTRANSitive, which advocates for the rights of trans immigrants in the state. ‘Because they have such power, it’s been easy for folks to subscribe to or obey the rules that they have unwittingly put out for northwest Arkansas.’”
Photo by JJBers.