In surprise move, West Virginia Republican sides against private water industry

Here’s our weekly analysis of privatization in the news and in communities nationwide. Not a subscriber? Sign up.

This week’s highlights

  • A Republican state delegate candidate in West Virginia wants to stop the private water industry from gouging state residents.
  • The story of a Maximus employee who can’t afford needed healthcare.
  • Arkansas school cafeteria workers are fighting back against losing their jobs to outsourcing.

 

1) National: In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler deconstructs the word “choice” used by education privatizers and digs into where some of the funding comes from for their so-called “National School Choice Week.” Mohler writes, “So, the ‘choice’ in National School Choice Week clearly means certain educational options, namely private school vouchers and charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. But it goes further than that. By recklessly pushing vouchers and charter schools at all costs, the privatizers funding the school choice movement actually aim to eliminate choices for parents, students, and teachers. Shouldn’t parents have the choice to send their child to a well-funded neighborhood public school? Yet, private school vouchers siphon precious funding from public school districts, many of them already struggling to raise revenue.” 

2) NationalDiane Ravitch joined Jesse Hagopian to discuss her new book, Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools. “Ravitch identifies corporate interests, political voices, and economic disruptors who believe America’s schools should be run like businesses, modeling the structure of our schools on a gig economy in which students are treated like customers or products and teachers are incentivized with threats and bonuses. Join Ravitch to learn about the nationwide story of brave individuals who, spurred on by the power of ideas and passion, are fighting back to successfully keep their public schools alive.” [Video, about an hour]

3) National: Time runs an excerpt from Diane Ravitch’s new book on failing school “reform” initiatives and on the successes of the grassroots movements to defend public education and expose the untruths and influence of the privatizers. “Children and schools need stability, not disruption. They need experienced teachers and well-maintained schools. All children need schools that have a nurse, counselors, and a library with a librarian. Children need time to play every day. They need nutrition and regular medical check-ups. All of this is common sense. These are reforms that work.” 

4) ArkansasSchool cafeteria workers in Alma showed up at a board meeting to raise concerns about losing their jobs to outsourcing. “‘For those of us who didn’t go to school and get a degree and we worked here for so many years knowing that we would have a retirement later on down the road, that could be jerked from us,’ Reinwater said. The school board discussion was not a direct plan to begin transitioning to new management, the board says it was a way to understand their options. After reading through the proposal and listening to testimony, the board decided to temporarily suspend the process of moving forward. ‘Tonight we decided that there were too many unknowns and we have some really long time cafeteria workers, some that were here when I was a student and none of them wanted it so it’s just something that at this point that we decided to table,’ said Carrie Jernigan, Alma School Board President.” 

5) California: Eugene Stovall has traced the history of efforts to privatize Oakland’s schools, and in particular the role of billionaire Eli Broad.

6) Florida: Diane Ravitch reports on how former tennis star Andre Agassi scored “$60.5 million selling charter real estate in Florida.” Ravitch writes, “Andre Agassi entered the charter school industry in Las Vegas, where he opened his own charter school. After many setbacks and high staff turnover, his school landed on the state’s list of low-performing schools and was turned over to another charter operator. Agassi decided he was in the wrong end of the business. Agassi joined a partnership with an investor to build charter schools, and they struck gold.

7) Indiana/National: In his latest case study of how the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Educational Governance and Policy is undermining public education, Tom Ultican looks at the Indianapolis school system and the “portfolio model” of the charter school industry. “There is a deep corruption infesting elite institutions in America. For Harvard University to publish biased articles by people with well known agendas exemplifies this metastasizing affliction.” 

8) Indiana: The Indianapolis school board approved a contract with First Student Thursday night which will lead to some bus drivers losing their jobs. On Saturday, AFSCME Council 962 held a closed door meeting to discuss the situation. “The public was not allowed in the meeting, but RTV6 learned the purpose of the meeting was to figure out how to get answers to the questions employees have about the future of their jobs. ‘It caught us off-guard. There’s no doubt about the anxiety of the employees is absolutely real and justified,’ Dave Robertson, the union’s executive director, said. (…) ‘What happens to their folks that have been employed with IPS transportation for a year?’ Robertson said. Robertson also said drivers want to know about the money IPS claims it will be saving. ‘Where is that $7 million going at this point?’ he asked. There are plans for drivers to show up in numbers at Tuesday’s school board meeting in hopes of getting clarification on the changes being made.”

9) Indiana: Gary Mayor Jerome Prince says he will veto a Common Council-approved resolution supporting the transfer back to local control of the cash-strapped Gary Community School Corp. “Former Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th, introduced the measure she previously said originated from a group of parents in the West Side Leadership Academy Parent-Teacher-Student-Association. Since 2017, the district has been operated by MGT Consulting, a private firm hired by the state after it declared the district a distressed unit. State legislation mandated that Gary remain a distressed district until it has a balanced budget for two years.” 

10) IowaLawmakers are pushing back against the University of Iowa’s utility “public-private partnership.” Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, is concerned about “the financial risk involved with the partnership if the stock markets shift in the future. He asked whether the UI would spend the additional funding conservatively. (…) ‘… How much more money would the Legislature have to allocate on a yearly basis to the point where you wouldn’t have to go out and leverage assets of the university to cover the costs of higher education?’ Forbes asked. (…) Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, asked Harreld about potential risks the partnership posed and how state funding impacted the agreement’s trajectory. ‘What if the state doesn’t fulfill our commitment in terms of funding to the regents or to the University of Iowa?’ Mascher asked. ‘How does that impact this whole plan?’” 

11) New York: In “The Cancelling of a Charter School Leader,” The New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante reports on a racially charged controversy over the dismissal of Brooklyn Ascend charter school’s chief executive, Steven Wilson. “Entirely absent from the debates about Mr. Wilson’s weaknesses and merits were the voices of the families who were sending their children to Ascend. Whatever problems existed in the system were in some part the result of ever more layers of corporate stratification and remove from what was happening within the actual community. Private schools, for all of their faults and inequities, are typically beholden to boards made up in some part of parents and alumni who have deep investments in major decisions and outcomes. What would have happened if parents of Ascend students had been given that kind of power?”

12) Ohio: Writing in Daily Kos, David Akadjian looks reports on students in Cincinnati who are exposing how privatization corrupts public universities. “Recently, a coalition of university students launched a project that looks at the ways in which the University of Cincinnati is being run like a private university. Called ‘Boldly Bankrupt’ (a play on UC’s Boldly Bearcat marketing campaign), the coalition shows who’s benefiting (management, administrators, athletics programs) and who is being hurt most by these practices (students and faculty). Noemi Leibman, one of the authors behind Boldly Bankrupt and a second-year political science/English double major, told me: ‘While Boldly Bankrupt was meant to expose these problems at UC, it is also important to realize that these issues exist at a majority of universities.’” 

13) Pennsylvania: Action News AM Anchor Matt O’Donnell interviewed Philadelphia City Council candidate Kendra Brooks on a wide variety of issues, including why she has called for a moratorium on charter schools. [Video, at 33:50]. Brooks has been endorsed by NPE Action, which is building support for public education supporting candidates across the country

14) Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) proposed $36.1 billion general-fund budget for fiscal 2021 “includes a call to expand a bond-backed program to clean up toxic school buildings and overhaul the commonwealth’s charter school system.” The Bond Buyer reports that “Wolf wants the legislature to expand a redevelopment grant program by $1 billion to tackle lead and asbestos in schools, while streamlining the process to enable school districts to apply for the funding. ‘Instead of chipping away at this problem bit by bit, let’s make 2020 the year we act decisively to repair our school infrastructure,’ Wolf told members of the General Assembly at the state capitol in Harrisburg. Asbestos has forced the closings of some schools in Philadelphia and Scranton.” 

Wolf also wants to change how charter schools calculate tuition rates and special education payments, “which he said would save school districts a combined $280 million in charter school transfers. ‘Some charter schools are little more than fronts for private management companies, and the only innovations they’re coming up with involve finding new ways to take money out of the pockets of property taxpayers—like setting up sham online schools or exploiting a loophole in special education funding.’”

15) TennesseeMetro Nashville and Shelby County will be suing the state over its voucher program. The Shelby school system released a statement saying, “We support the challenges to the state’s education savings act. Vouchers are an unfortunate roadblock on the path toward serving students in our state’s two larges cities. Shelby County Schools will persist in our mission to serve children and families and provide our students with excellent options for their education.’ A joint release last spring from the state’s two largest districts, which could lose up to 5,000 students this year to the voucher program and 15,000 students after five years, claimed the education-savings account law violates the Tennessee Constitution because it is ‘arbitrarily limited to only a portion of the state when the Constitution requires any act of the General Assembly to apply statewide unless approved by a local legislative body or through a local referendum.’” 

16) International: Ontario Premier Doug Ford is hiring private companies to test the math skills of teachers. Experts say the tests are a waste of both time and money. “Bella Lewkowicz, VP of the Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council and a second year teacher candidate, told PressProgress the roll out of the test has been ‘ludicrous’ and said the logistical problems with Ford’s math test could needlessly complicate the certification process for new teachers in Ontario. ‘The math proficiency test is supposed to be written “in the spring,”’ Lewkowicz said, but noted there has been ‘no actual information regarding dates, times or locations’ nor any ‘study materials available.’ Lewkowicz said her organization has met with lawyers to launch a legal challenge against Ford’s Math Proficiency Test.”

Infrastructure

17) National: Action has started in the House on putting together legislation to fund and finance infrastructure. On January 29, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing. Among those testifying were D.J. Gribbin, Trump’s former infrastructure adviser and a top industry promoter of “public-private partnerships,” and Joung Lee, director of policy and government relations at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers reported that “during the course of the hearing several proposals for increasing revenues for infrastructure were floated including fuel tax increases, bonding, public-private partnerships, and vehicle miles traveled taxes. While there was little consensus on the precise manner in which to fund infrastructure projects, there was a broad appetite to come to a bipartisan agreement.” 

18) National: In the third installment of their “deep dive” into “public-private partnerships,” Infrastructure Investor weighs in to urge the private sector “to help the model transition to a more developer-owned or managed scheme.” They say “public-private partnerships in North America are not viewed in the way they used to be. In fact, the framework is being questioned today as one that can reliably deliver trillions of dollars of development needs.” Apart from erasing the ample arguments of longstanding critics of the economic and project viability of PPPs, they are now doubling down on their political viability. 

The PPP industry’s defeat in St. Louis has refocused them on politics. “A recent example comes from St Louis, Missouri. In December, Mayor Lyda Krewson halted plans for the Lambert International Airport PPP. In a letter to a working group exploring the proposed partnership, the mayor said stakeholders had raised ‘concerns and apprehension’ about leasing away the airport and ‘the possibility that a private entity might operate our airport.’” To adjust to this reality, Peter Taylor, co-head of The Carlyle Group, is now proposing a ‘living contract’ for PPPs “that would enable the PPPs to evolve over the length of their concessions, which can last for decades. In that sense, he believes the traditional PPP model is ‘not well-suited for the continually evolving demands’ of the macro-economy.” [Sub required]. Opponents of road privatization have been making this argument literally for decades.

19) Colorado: After a costly failed “public-private partnership” collapsed in acrimony last August, work is scheduled to begin again next month on Denver International Airport’s main terminal under tighter public control and with a new contractor. “The project’s full completion now looks more likely in 2024, airport officials have said. DIA officials told the committee early in their presentation Wednesday that they expected to release a new project schedule and a refined scope—with potential cost-saving reductions, including for Hensel Phelps’ contract—this summer.” 

20) FloridaThe investigation of Jacksonville’s utility privatization fiasco is getting under way. Starting today, “a special City Council investigative committee will determine what went wrong during JEA’s pursuit of privatizing the utility and recommend legislation that would prevent a repeat in the future.” See council president Wilson’s Charge Memorandum. City Council member Garrett Dennis convened a meeting last Tuesday “when he said he wants to change how the JEA board is appointed so three of its members get selected by the mayor, three are chosen by City Council, and the seventh is picked by unions representing JEA workers, according to Times-Union news partner First Coast News.” 

21) Maryland: Debate on water privatization is continuing in Baltimore despite privatization’s defeat in a public referendum. Last Wednesday the Baltimore Sun opened its pages for an op-ed by the head of the private water industry association, the National Association of Water Companies. Robert F. Powelson said that “unfortunately for Baltimoreans, their city has chosen politics, blind ideology and a failing status quo over proven, pragmatic solutions.” 

But responding to the op-ed, Justin J. Falciano of Riverdale says that it is wise for the people of Baltimore to be cautious of privatizing the city’s water system. “Originally constructed after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, the city’s water system has been long overdue for a makeover. However, repairing this dated and neglected water system would prove to be an astronomically costly undertaking for any private firm that seeks to do so. (…) These enormous upfront costs, along with the pressure to repay investors, could encourage a private water company to heighten water usage rates on Baltimore’s residents well beyond current rates.” 

22) Michigan/InternationalJulian Vigo looks at the wider context for a state court of appeals decision “that Nestlé’s commercial water-bottling operation is ‘not an essential public service’ nor is theirs a public water supply. This is a huge victory for Osceola Township, a small Michigan town that blocked Nestlé from building a pumping station that doesn’t comply with its zoning laws.” Privatizing water “is not a new story,” Vigo says, as he recounts similar battles from around the world. “Hiring private water suppliers instead of investing in long-term solutions will not hold. The water crisis around the world is not being addressed because to do so would involve criticizing the many multi-nationals making a killing through pulling and depleting public water supplies in the name of profits.” 

23) West Virginia: Charleston Republican Chris Walters, who is running for the House of Delegates in the 36th district, has taken aim at the cozy system of regulation that allows the private water industry to gouge West Virginia residents. “The Public Service Commission, an unelected body appointed by the governor, saw fit to increase these rates by an additional 14 percent in 2019. It is worth noting that Mike Albert, one of the prominent members of the PSC from 2007 to 2019, was an attorney for West Virginia American Water prior to his appointment to the PSC. The policy adviser to the PSC, Mike Miller, was also a former employee for American Water for 35 years as a vice president, treasurer and director of rates. We have had the foxes guarding the hen house and have watched our rates skyrocket. Where is the outrage? Other than our local county commissioners, no member of the West Virginia Legislature representing the Kanawha Valley has done anything. American Water, a German company, showed a $240 million profit in 2019. Six of the top 10 highest water rates in the United States are on systems owned by American Water, per the 2017 study. We are watching money literally go down our drains and into the pockets of American Water as our elected officials continue to do nothing.” 

24) International: In their final “deep dive” into the woes of “public-private partnerships,” Infrastructure Investor writes a post-mortem on the failed Private Finance Initiative (PFI), the U.K.’s recently abandoned PPP program. “This was, as Cohen says, a joint failure by the public and private sectors, and a problem in practically all PPP markets: ‘There are examples where the private sector was overly exuberant and too aggressive in terms of pricing risk and the public sector was too often driven by seeking the lowest cost.’ (…) Hodge is less equivocal. ‘There were never the appropriate skills on the client side to outsmart these companies,’ she says.” 

Criminal Justice and Immigration

25) National: NPR has obtained video of GEO Group guards forcibly breaking up a protest by immigrant detainees protesting conditions at the Adelanto ICE processing Center. “The video shows the detainees trying to remain seated with their arms linked. But detention officers would later claim they were inciting a ‘rebellion’ and ‘assaulting’ staff. Detention officers then sprayed pepper spray at the men at least three times and forcibly removed them from the tables. As they visibly recoiled from the spray, some of the detainees were pushed into walls, pulled to the ground or dragged on the floor by guards. Afterward, though not seen on camera, five of the detainees were placed in hot showers. Hot water, however, can worsen the painful burning effect from pepper spray, something an internal oversight office at the Department of Homeland Security noted in a review of the incident.”

26) National/Washington: Scott Hardy, president of Top Class Actions, discusses the lawsuit brought by immigrant detainees against the GEO Group for violating the Washington Minimum Wage Act with Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins. [Video, about 7 minutes]

27) National: PR Watch reports that GEO Group has contributed to 1820 PAC, a single-candidate super PAC formed in March 2019 to help Maine Sen. Susan Collins’s re-election bid.

28) National/MississippiThe U.S. Justice Department is investigating horrific conditions at four jails, including the privately-run Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, operated by Management & Training Corp. “In June, the Marshall Project reported on a December 2018 internal audit at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, in which then-Warden Jody Bradley allegedly told gang leaders to ‘control their men’ and if they failed to do so, he would place the entire unit on lockdown, confining all the inmates in the unit to their cells.”

29) National: Eight Central American asylum-seekers who say they were pepper-sprayed by guards and held in a segregation unit in retaliation for engaging in a hunger strike at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center “have settled for an undisclosed amount of money with the GEO Group, the company that owns and operates the private detention center in Southern California’s Mojave desert.” Los Angeles-based attorney Rachel Steinback, who was lead counsel for the asylum-seekers, “called the settlement a ‘huge victory’ against GEO. Her clients reached the agreement with GEO on Jan. 30, days before the case was set to go to trial. ‘I think they saw the writing on the wall and that’s what brought them to settle on the eve of trial,’ Steinback said. ‘What they are doing at Adelanto to innocent asylum-seekers is terrible and should be exposed.’” 

30) National: The two largest for-profit prison and immigration detention corporations are to report their financial results and upcoming plans on conference calls this week, GEO Group on Wednesday, and CoreCivic on Thursday. Management & Training Corp. is privately held and does not hold public shareholder calls. 

31) National/Texas: The Huntsville chapter of AFSCME Texas Correctional Employees has come out in opposition to private, for-profit prisons. Lance Lowry, president of the chapter, “argued in a blog post yesterday that closing private prisons is necessary with the state prison system facing $250 million in budget cuts. (…) Lowry, who represents 1,500 guards, said the state should shift low-level, nonviolent inmates to parole, probation, or electronic monitoring where they live at home. ‘We’re not running our criminal justice system efficiently,’ he told me in a phone interview. ‘A lot of inmates could be better managed under community supervision.”

32) Colorado: An intense fight has broken out in the Colorado House over whether CoreCivic should be allowed to reopen its Kit Carson Correctional facility in Burlington, which closed in 2016, to house inmates from Idaho. “The Idaho deal with CoreCivic, which is still being negotiated, came up during the Jan. 29 hearing. HB 1019 sponsor Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said she’d nix that deal if she could. So she added an amendment to the bill that would change how those deals are approved. Current law allows that decision to be made by the DOC executive director but that permission cannot be “unreasonably withheld.” DOC hasn’t in the past denied permission for out-of-state inmates to be moved into Colorado private prisons, including in 2012, when Idaho sent 250 inmates to Kit Carson.” Herod’s bill passed on a party line vote on Thursday.

House Republicans had lined up to oppose the bill, saying it would hurt rural economies. Crowley and Bent counties, where prisons owned CoreCivic are located, hired a lobbyist to work on House Bill 1019. “This is going to devastate, devastate our county,” said Rep. Terri Carver, a Republican from Colorado Springs, restating a comment she heard from Rep. Richard Holtorf, who represents Bent and Crowley counties. “Our economy. Our schools. Our basic infrastructure. Our housing market. Everything. Our future.”

Meanwhile, officials in Idaho are nervously following events in Colorado, since their contract to hold Idaho prisoners in GEO Group’s Eagle Pass Correctional Facility in Texas expires in September.

33) ColoradoDenver has had to extend the time it will take to cut its ties with private, for-profit prison companies operating halfway houses. “CoreCivic would receive a one-year, $5.5 million extension on its contract to run four halfway houses for people transitioning out of jail and others sentenced to live there by courts. The deal’s final approval will depend on a vote of the full city council later this month.” 

34) Ohio: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will stop using a private prison in Youngstown to house immigrant detainees. “ICE officials said in an emailed statement Friday night that its contract with CoreCivic, the Nashville-based owner of the 2,016-bed Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, ends Feb. 29 and that the prison ‘was never meant to be a permanent ICE detention location.’ The statement did not give additional details about why ICE would cease using the prison, which has housed immigrant detainees for several years. ICE’s use of the prison has been met with opposition from advocates who not only protest the aggressive enforcement of immigration laws by President Donald Trump’s administration, but also the administration’s use of private facilities that they say have substandard and inhumane conditions.”

35) Pennsylvania: The Delaware County Council has taken the first step toward returning all of the operations of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility back under the direct auspices of the county. “‘The idea of a private, for-profit prison is a broken model,’ County Councilman and Job Oversight Board Chair Kevin Madden said. ‘Across the country, people are realizing that. Across Pennsylvania, people are realizing that. We continue to have the ignominious status as having the only private, for-profit prison in the state of Pennsylvania.’ (…) Council unanimously approved directing Chief Administrative Officer Marianne Grace, in conjunction with the County Jail Oversight Board and Acting Superintendent Donna Mellon, to prepare a request for proposals for a consultant to develop a plan to deprivatize the prison, which has been operated by a for-profit, private firm for more than two decades.”

Public Services

36) National: Writing in New York magazine, Sarah Jones tells the story of a Maximus employee who can’t afford needed healthcare. “Flemmings did not have $1,800. Though she has a full-time job in a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, call center, her employer-provided plan has such a high deductible that it is almost useless. She thus finds herself trapped by a distinctly American irony. Health insurance isn’t just a product Flemmings needs, but something she sells: She works for Maximus, which holds a lucrative federal contract to sell Affordable Care Act plans. But while Flemmings connects low-income people with health-care coverage, often for the first time, she struggles to pay her own medical bills. A cancer survivor with diabetes, she says she once stopped taking her insulin because she could not afford the cost.”

37) NationalThe House has passed the USPS Fairness Act, which would “repeal the retiree health pre-funding mandate that a Republican-led Congress imposed on the Postal Service in 2006. The mandate, which no other federal agency or private company must abide by, required the postal service to pre-fund decades of future retiree benefits while still paying for current retiree benefits—costing the USPS an annual average of $5.4 billion over the past dozen years.” The National Newspaper Association applauded the action. The bill moves to the U.S. Senate where a companion bill, S 2965, has been filed by Sens. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

38) National: The Federal Housing Finance Agency has hired the L.A.-based investment bank Houlihan Lokey for $45 million to advise it on the privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “How policy makers and the companies balance the competing demands of protecting taxpayers, delivering a return to shareholders and ensuring access to home loans will help determine who gets mortgages in the U.S., and on what terms. The companies back about half of the $11 trillion mortgage market and are central to the widespread availability of the popular 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.” [Sub required] 

39) International: CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen says that the plan to privatize the operations of the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital’s power plant raises safety concerns. McFadgen said “we know that outsourcing maintenance work leads to corners being cut so that private companies can make a profit. We’ve seen it in P3 hospital builds across Canada; there are serious consequences.” 

40) Think Tanks: Urban Affairs Review has published Gradus Raymond and Budding Tjerk’s paper on remunicipalization of Dutch waste management.  “Political and Institutional Explanations for Increasing Re-municipalization” (2018). Useful bibliography.

Everything Else

41) NationalTrump’s final plan to open treasured public lands in Utah is being called a “sellout” to big oil. “In a joint statement Thursday, critics charged that the U.S. Interior Department should not have finalized the plans while President Donald Trump’s December 2017 decision to severely shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments is still being challenged in federal court. ‘It’s the height of arrogance for Trump to rush through final decisions on what’s left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante while we’re fighting his illegal evisceration of these national monuments in court,’ said Randi Spivak at the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘Trump is eroding vital protections for these spectacular landscapes.’” 

42) District of Columbia/New BookBrandi Thompson Summers has written Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City. “While Washington, D.C., is still often referred to as ‘Chocolate City,’ it has undergone significant demographic, political, and economic change in the last decade. In D.C., no place represents this shift better than the H Street corridor. In this book, Brandi Thompson Summers documents D.C.’s shift to a “post-chocolate” cosmopolitan metropolis by charting H Street’s economic and racial developments. In doing so, she offers a theoretical framework for understanding how blackness is aestheticized and deployed to organize landscapes and raise capital. Summers focuses on the continuing significance of blackness in a place like the nation’s capital, how blackness contributes to our understanding of contemporary urbanization, and how it laid an important foundation for how Black people have been thought to exist in cities. Summers also analyzes how blackness—as a representation of diversity—is marketed to sell a progressive, ‘cool,’ and authentic experience of being in and moving through an urban center. Using a mix of participant observation, visual and media analysis, interviews, and archival research, Summers shows how blackness has become a prized and lucrative aesthetic that often excludes D.C.’s Black residents.”

43) Florida: Bob Lotane says private beaches for the wealthy, paid for by taxpayers are coming soon. “Beachfront property owners, aided by high-priced lobbyists, have stripped local governments’ power to oversee your ability to enjoy the beach.” @gretchenpeters says “I am the face of customary use.” 

44) Oklahoma: The state’s IT department is outsourcing jobs to a company owned in the Far East.

45) Think Tanks: Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti of Hill.TV squared off against Robby Soave, a senior editor at the Reason Foundation, to debate the role of government and economic populism. [Video, about ten minutes]

46) Upcoming Event: Pew is hosting a meeting and webcast tomorrow on “How to Bridge the Broadband Gap: A Conversation with State Leaders.” Participants will include officials from Virginia, Tennessee, Maine and West Virginia talking about best practices; and officials from Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina and California talking about the “universal truths of broadband.”

Governing for the Common Good

47) Minnesota: The Hechinger Report tells how one Minnesota public university more than doubled its native student graduation rate. “Students and faculty credit this progress in closing the gap for native students to the variety of academic and social supports designed to help them feel welcome on campus. Young people may also be arriving at the university more academically prepared: Since 2005, Twin Cities’ admissions rate has dropped significantly. And these gains notwithstanding, as Golding experienced, the campus has a long way to go.”

48) New York: In a surprise for New York renters, regulators have rolled back broker fees. “New York is one of the few cities in the country with a broker industry that has such financial leverage over how people rent apartments. And the elimination of broker fees, in addition to the laws passed last year, pushes New York further as a national leader in creating rules favorable toward renters. Brokers can still collect a fee, the state said in the revised rules, but it must be paid by the landlord unless a prospective tenant hired them to help find an apartment.”