Leading medical journal blames U.S. failure to address pandemic on privatization

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Highlights

  • The Lancet, the UK’s leading medical journal, has denounced privatization, saying that Trump built his shambolic response to the pandemic on privatized foundation.
  • As legislative resegretation of schools gains steam, a proposal has caused an uproar in the Indiana statehouse.
  • Why privatization would doom Biden’s infrastructure plan.

1) NationalPrivatization would doom Biden’s infrastructure plan, says In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler. “The running of America’s water systems, highways, school buildings, transit, broadband and other public works is tightly linked to the issue of racial justice. And for Biden to deliver, he must pursue massive, direct federal investment in infrastructure. If the administration instead proposes using a relatively small amount of federal funds and tax incentives to merely ​’leverage’ private investment from Wall Street banks and multinational corporations—something former President Donald Trump attempted to do—the country will yet again fail to dismantle a critical structure of systemic racism.” 

2) National: The legislation for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief program has been unveiled. “Besides the additional funding for medical supplies, major components of the massive aid plan focus on stimulating the country’s economy, which has struggled over the past year under job layoffs and shuttered businesses resulting from a pandemic that has killed nearly 500,000 Americans. The plan would offer direct payments to households, extended federal unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, and other steps.” House Democrats hope to pass the bill by the end of this week. [Read the nearly 600-page bill

Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, spoke with Esquire about the plan. “Summers is the worst, and now again, he’s saying $1.9 trillion is too big. ‘The economy is going to overheat.’ I mean, let’s wait and see. I don’t think there’s too much danger. The 2% inflation rate is supposed to be an average. It’s not supposed to be a ceiling, and we’ve been under it so long that if it goes up a little bit beyond that, that’s really not a problem. Real overheating happens when we can have cost-push inflation, when workers can say, “Well, prices are rising, my wages have to go up too.” There are workers on their backs in this economy. They’ve been knocked out, the unions are so weak in the private sector that the idea that we’re going to have cost-push inflation—it’s laughable.” 

3) National/Texas: The massive crisis in Texas and beyond created by a record-setting blast of extremely cold air, which collapsed much of the state’s energy and water infrastructure and lead to the deaths of many people in their bedrooms, vehicles and backyards, has jolted most Americans into a realization that a major public response at all levels of government is needed to confront the new world of climate change. The Texas energy system was designed to use the supposed wonders of market efficiency and private competition—based on price incentives, not the public interest—to ensure the reliability of power in the state. That failed spectacularly. 

So going forward, how should we be thinking about the foreseeable and avoidable risks of market failure in vital infrastructure systems? What does this tell us about so-called public-private partnerships, for example in electricity? A good place to start is by looking at what happened in Texas through the lens of market failure. James K. Galbraith provides a good start in Cold Truth: The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market. Katherine Blunt and Russell Gold of the Wall Street Journal also break down some of the issues. [Sub required]. 

But public regulation is not off the hook either, as last summer’s rolling energy blackouts in California showed. As we reassess the public side, however, let’s not forget that massive pushback—intimidation might be a more appropriate word—against regulators by private interests is a continuing part of the story.

Yet, as The Economist puts it, “there are grounds for hope. Although the Republican Party is against almost all action, voters are increasingly alarmed by climate change. Two-thirds of them think the federal government is doing too little about it, and that share includes plenty of younger Republicans. Although the fossil-fuel lobby remains powerful, many Republican business donors want more action—partly because asset managers are urging firms to align their strategies with the net-zero world Mr. Biden envisions.” [Sub required]

4) NationalAmerica’s racist housing rules really can be fixed, writes Vox Politics and Policy Fellow Jerusalem Demsas. “If Biden’s DOJ gets serious about taking up lawsuits, it can set a precedent and deter other localities against exclusionary zoning practices and encourage them to work with HUD to develop a plan that fits their localities’ needs. These types of lawsuits are extremely expensive for localities to defend against, not to mention the bad press that comes with being sued for discrimination. Being serious about eliminating exclusionary zoning means doing everything, all at once. It’s convincing whoever can be convinced. It’s throwing financial incentives at localities. And it’s taking punitive action against those places immune to all other methods of persuasion.”

5) CaliforniaSenators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) have announced a new bill to ban fracking in California. “S.B. 467 also takes up an unfinished argument from last year, calling for a 2500-foot buffer between existing, active oil wells and homes, schools, and health care facilities. The bill also takes a stab at finding ways to provide good-paying union jobs to help workers during the inevitable transition away from the oil industry. ‘It’s time to have this conversation,’ said Senator Limón.” |

6) Illinois: NBC5 Chicago’s Mary Ann Ahern says multiple sources say @GovPritzker “will sign the huge IL Crime Reform Bill” today. “The 700+page bill does away with cash bail, also allows for anonymous complaints against police and much more.” The ACLU is applauding

Education

7) National: Writing in the University of Alabama newspaper, The Crimson White, Britney Bailey explains How a Utah Charter School Showed Us What’s Wrong with America. “But the real kicker here is that according to data from the Utah State Board of Education, only five of the 322 students at the academy are in fact, Black, and 70% are white. In a nation where schools are still deeply segregated, this entire situation raises the question of whether people actually understand what civil rights really are. If we’ve learned anything from the past couple of years, it’s that using the ‘exercising civil rights’ argument is often just a way to justify ignorance, and sometimes outright racism. It’s what state leaders and pundits said when COVID-19 took over and people refused to wear masks, for example. And it’s how administrators and free-speech advocates have excused a number of incidents on campus.”

But, Bailey writes, “unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance that has sparked controversy concerning Black History Month celebrations. At a time when African American studies is finally being acknowledged on top college examinations, a group of teachers in Madison, Wisconsin are on leave after giving sixth-grade students an assignment that asked them how they would “punish” a slave. The school issued an apology, stating that the assignment was not ‘racially conscious.’”

8) Arizona: The co-founders of a charter school in Goodyear have been indicted on fraud and theft charges. “The Arizona Attorney General’s Office announced Feb. 17 that Incito Schools co-founders April Black and Amanda Jelleson are accused of a nearly $568,000 fraud scheme that allegedly occurred between November 2016 and November 2017. Black and Jelleson were arraigned in court on the charges Wednesday. It’s unclear if either woman has a lawyer yet. The defendants are alleged to have provided falsified information including pay stubs to the Maricopa County Superintendent’s Office in order to obtain grant funding that wasn’t provided to the appropriate teachers.”

9) California: The Escondido Union School District board has unanimously rejected a five-year renewal for Epiphany Prep Charter School, “concluding that the school failed to meet performance criteria required to stay in operation. (…) Under state law, the charter can be denied if its schoolwide academic performance levels are the same or lower than the state average, and a majority of underperforming student subgroups fall below the state average. In 2018, Epiphany Prep students fell 86 points below state math standards, and 63 points below English language arts standards, compared to students statewide who scored 37 points below math standards and 6 points below English standards, Escondido Union officials stated in a presentation to the board. In 2019, Epiphany Prep students scored 75 points below state standards for math and 46 points below standards for English, while students throughout California fell 34 points short of math standards and 2.5 points below English standards. In those years, English learners, Hispanic and socio-economically disadvantaged students all fell further below state standards than their counterparts in other schools throughout California.

10) California: The O’Farrell Charter School in San Diego remains embroiled in a legal fight over unpaid severance after quietly firing its top administrator eight months ago. “Board members haven’t publicly explained their unanimous vote to fire Dean, but records inewsource obtained revealed the school was investigating him for misconduct allegationsinvolving a female staffer. An email to staff announced his departure but made no mention of his firing or the investigation. It said only that Dean was ‘leaving our school.’”

11) California: Will a new Fresno charter school manage to avoid the failure of one of its predecessors? “The new TK-8 charter school was founded by Robert Golden, a product of Edison High School who played six seasons in the NFL. Golden serves as the school’s president and chief executive officer. Fresno Unified Trustee Keshia Thomas—who is also Golden’s mother-in-law—is also on Golden Charter Academy’s board of directors as well as serving as the school’s vice president. That overlap between boards was one of the main issues that plagued New Millennium.” 

Thomas responded to public concerns with “an angry, eight-minute diatribe,” gvwire.com reports. “In The Public Interest had raised questions about Golden’s lack of experience running a charter as well as the school’s enrollment goals. It also cited errors and irregularities in budget documents, potentially illegal ‘self-dealing,’ and inappropriate terms in a lease agreement for a former parochial school that will serve as the charter’s first home.”

12) Connecticut: Ever hear of a former charter school being converted back to a public school? “The city will spend $2.4 million to bring the 12,000-square-foot North Street building up to code and get it ready for occupancy in the fall. A full interior renovation, which would be a much more expensive project, could come later down the road.”

13) Indiana: Legislative resegregation seems to be catching on among some right wing state-level politicians. Several weeks ago Iowa’s governor proposed allowing students to transfer out of schools that have a voluntary or court-ordered diversity plan, as our Jeremy Mohler reported. Similar efforts have been reported in Louisiana and Alabama. Now here comes Indiana, where a similar proposal caused an uproar on Thursday in the statehouse and turned into a walkout and confrontation. “‘It was an ugly scene,’ [Rep. Greg Porter (D-District 96)] said. He was concerned as some of the lawmakers are known to carry guns. ‘There’s half a dozen or so guns in that chamber. We don’t know what could have happened.’ Porter saw trouble coming. He said it is not the first time Black legislators have been heckled and booed by white lawmakers. ‘I told the speaker a month or so ago that things were going to or could get out of hand. I sensed it and saw the arrogance of some of my colleagues,’ Porter said.” 

14) New MexicoCommunity public schools are stepping up with food delivery, free clothes, IT support and much else. In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler has a conversation with Paula Oxoby-Hayett, a community school coordinator at Enos Garcia Elementary in Taos, New Mexico. “This is not a top to bottom strategy,” says  Oxoby-Hayett. “We actively listen to what our community, teachers, students, staff, and parents have to say. To avoid duplication and inefficient use of resources, we look within our own community first to find the resources we need. The community school strategy has four pillars: that family and community engagement, plus integrated student supports, extended learning time and opportunities, and collaborative leadership. Sometimes this way of “doing business” seems slower than a handful of people making all the decisions. However, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have community buy-in.”

15) Oregon: An Oregon lawmaker who objects to a voluntary math program consisting of “an optional third-party course called ‘A Pathway to Math Equity Micro-Course,’ intended to help teachers improve outcomes for Black, Latinx, and multilingual students,” has introduced three bills which, if passed, “would increase the percentage of kids who can enroll in virtual charter schools from 3 percent to 5 percent; would establish an education savings account program giving low-income families to ability to choose a private school without tax penalties; and allow Oregon children to attend any school in the state without school board approval.”

16) Oregon: The Oregon Trail Academy’s graduation rate has dropped to 78.26%, a substantial decline.  “Aside from the obstacles the pandemic brought in the spring of 2020, OTA was faced with another new challenge when it took on responsibility for the full-time online students who were formerly assigned to various schools around the district. These students, Norfleet explained, were not part of the International Baccalaureate program, which aims to provide a higher level of education focused on developing students’ intellectual, emotional, personal and social skills. Many of those fully online opted for the virtual format because of social, emotional or home-life situations that make in-person schooling less advantageous, or in some cases, impossible.”

17) Pennsylvania: Damaris Rau, the superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, and Edith Gallagher, president of the school board, weigh in to support Gov. Wolf’s charter school reform legislation. “Our district is facing a deficit of about $13 million for the 2021-2022 school year, and we project this deficit to continue to grow in the coming years. Our charter school payments are up $2.5 million this year alone, driven by a 65% increase in students attending cybercharter schools. (…) The problem is, many of these charter schools are badly underperforming. Charter schools represent 6% of all public schools statewide but account for roughly 25% of the lowest performing schools in the state. Additionally, charter schools have engaged in questionable operational practices, including spending millions on advertising and lobbying, with far less fiscal oversight or transparency than we have. (…) LEARN PA, an advocacy group of superintendents, projects that within the next year $1 in every $5 paid in local property taxes will go to charter school costs.”

18) Rhode Island: Unionized school bus drivers, including some who work for the private, for profit company First Student, are claiming that Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has been unresponsive to their demands for vaccination. “Joe Cole, who is the Vice President of the union, says he believes RIPTA drivers ‘don’t get respect.’ ‘Maybe we should start wearing red ties—like Rodney Dangerfield said, we get no respect,’ said Cole. ‘We are essential workers. We are in the mix, day in, day out.’” 

19) West Virginia: The House of Delegates has passed bills to establish a school voucher program and expand the current charter school program. “Despite opposition from Democratic leaders, both bills passed easily through the chamber, which now has a Republican supermajority. They now move to the Senate, which also has a Republican supermajority. (…)Republicans also approved a floor amendment to expand the original language in Ellington’s legislation. Under the original text, only about 5,000 students would have been eligible, but under the amended version, about 22,000 could be eligible. In the original language, this could have amounted to about $23 million annually, but under the new language, it could amount to about $101 million annually starting 2027. (…) House Bill 2012, sponsored by Del. Doug Smith, R-Mercer, would expand the number of charter schools that could be approved by the state. Under the current law, the state can only approve three charter schools every three years, but under the proposed legislation, it could approve 10 charter schools every three years.”

20) Think Tanks: Susan DeJarnatt of the Temple University Beasley School of Law has published an article in the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly (January 2021) on Virtual Reality: Cyber Charter Schools and the Need for Reform. “Pennsylvania needs to reform its system for funding cyber charter schools. The fourteen cyber charters draw students and tuition dollars from nearly every public school district across the state, but those districts have no say in authorizing or overseeing cyber charters. Though the cybers are a financial drain on the districts, they are money makers for their operators due to weaknesses in the Charter School Law. First, the Charter School Law (CSL) directs the districts to remit the exact same per pupil funding to a cyber charter as they do to a bricks and mortar charter, even though the costs of running a cyber are much lower. Second, the per pupil payment a district must provide to the charter is based on the per pupil spending of that sending district, not on the charter’s cost to educate the student. Finally, cybers, like all charters, receive much higher payments for students with special education needs, but cybers, like all charters, have no obligation to spend that extra money on special education. The CLS should be revised to account for the true costs of operating cyber charter schools and to provide for a voice for districts in the oversight and accountability of these programs.”

Infrastructure

21) National: The Texas blackouts and enormous human suffering illustrate the massive infrastructure challenge America faces. The New York Times reports on other infrastructure crises waiting to happen. “The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country’s economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways. Much of this infrastructure was built decades ago, under the expectation that the environment around it would remain stable, or at least fluctuate within predictable bounds. Now climate change is upending that assumption.” 

22) National: The new transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, again emphasizes that climate change and race equity will be two pillars of the Biden administration’s infrastructure policy as it evaluates projects. Bloomberg reports that “this is the first time the grants will consider climate and racial justice issues as criteria, according to the department. The Obama administration evaluated whether projects mitigated “harm to communities and the environment,” but the new grant framework elevates the importance of those factors. The grants are considered discretionary funding, which gives the department more say in how the money is spent than it has for mandatory programs set by Congress.” 

23) National: The Kinder Institute of Urban Research at Rice University in Texas has conducted a survey of local and regional officials about their priorities on infrastructure investment. “If you want to allocate infrastructure to the things that will have the most impact on America’s future economy, then it’s logical to listen to what people who know their communities best say they need,” former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros told Infrastructure Investor. “Transportation was the most-cited sector in need of capital, making up 37 percent of the more than 1,800 projects that officials say they need. But in addition to sprawling highway developments, many of the projects being sought relate to mass transit, according to the report. Restoring public facilities, particularly hospitals and emergency services, is the second-highest sector in need at 33 percent, followed by water and wastewater treatment (15 percent), energy and renewables (10 percent) and communications (5 percent).” [Sub required] 

In an article titled “What The Next Infrastructure Bill Would Look Like If Cities Were In Charge,” Streetsblog reports that “as part of a survey spanning 100 metropolitan areas and 139 cities across the country (later translated to into a nifty interactive map), researchers at The Kinder Institute for Urban Research asked local and regional leaders to identify their top-five infrastructure priorities, and to flag those that gained urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

24) National/MichiganNestlé is selling its bottled water brands in North America for $4.3 billion to a pair of private-equity firms. “Nestlé has expanded its withdrawal of underground water in a part of Michigan, which local groups have been fighting. Now environmentalists will have to fight equity firms instead of a global water firm. An administrative law judge upheld a state permit that lets Nestlé Waters North America pump 400 gallons a minute from a well near Evart in Osceola County, a 60% increase.”

25) National/New York: Long suffering metro area commuters in New York and New Jersey have something to look forward to. President Biden has resurrected the long overdue and vital Gateway project by saying it will adhere to the government’s original financing rules. “The critical switcheroo came in the form of a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter quietly posted on the FTA website on Tuesday. The letter doesn’t say much except that ‘effective immediately, the Federal Transit Administration is rescinding the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter on the Capital Investment Grants program issued by the FTA Acting Administrator on June 29, 2018,’ and that the Biden-era FTA will ‘rely on the statutory framework to ensure proposed projects have met the requirements of federal public transportation law, the regulation (the Major Capital Investment Projects Final Rule), and the CIG Final Interim Policy Guidance published in June, 2016.’” 

26) National: A rather heated battle is shaping up in the usually low-key world of government infrastructure accounting rules. On one side is urban planner Joe Minicozzi, who is trying with others to raise an army to battle for new rules: “Don’t let this get you down,” he says. “We have a big opportunity. The great GASB gods are opening the standards for evaluation and public comment this year. This is a link to their drafts and calendar of deadlines. The non-profit Truth In Accounting has published more details here. We are pulling together a study group for anyone interested in knowing more details, with the goal of creating some comment talking points. We’re helping co-host a Strong Towns webinar with Chuck Marohn, Scott Bernstein, and Sheila Weinberg (CEO of  Truth In Accounting) on February 25th 1 p.m. EST (click here to sign up). Now is the time for communities to put their money where their pipes and roads are.”

On the other side (see the comments below Minicozzi’s article) is Brian Kennedy, CFO of the Portland, Oregon-area Metro: “I think it’s a mistake to assume that the Truth in Accounting folks are good faith players in this space. They advance a far-right agenda that, in my view, is primarily focused on delegitimizing government. The information they claim governments are hiding is actually available in those same government financial statements! That’s how they know it exists!”

27) National/Think Tanks: What is Peter DeFazio’s broad approach to infrastructure development? Check out an op-ed he wrote on the subject a couple of years ago.

28) Maryland/VirginiaCommunity groups are “extremely disappointed” with Maryland’s decision to expand private toll lanes on I-495/I-270 even though the final environmental impact statement is far from finished. This summer hundreds of people testified against Gov. Larry Hogan’s so-called public-private partnership to build toll lanes in a series of five public input meetings. Nearly 83 percent of responders voiced disapproval. “We are extremely disappointed in the state’s ‘preferred alternative’ for adding lanes to these highways while offering nothing to reduce the need for more cars,” said Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Chairman Elizabeth M. Hewlett. “As stewards of the environment and important community assets, we are experienced in crafting sound land use and transportation policies for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. It’s just indefensible that the state’s proposal ignores our recommendations to use part of the toll revenue to fund transit as part of a strategy to minimize the amount of land—including parkland—that will be paved.”

Nevertheless, despite the probability of litigation and bitter experience of the Purple Line light rail P3, whose project agreement collapsed costing taxpayers millions, politicians are plowing ahead. This week Maryland officials selected Australian toll road operator Transurban to develop the toll lanes. This corporate octopus is steadily wrapping its arms around major parts of the DMV. “If Transurban and its partner, Australian investment bank Macquarie Capital, ultimately reach a 50-year deal with the state to build and operate the lanes,” the Washington Post reports, “Transurban eventually would control 102 miles of express toll lanes around the nation’s capital—37 in Maryland and 65 in Northern Virginia. Connecting high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the two states would mark the beginnings of a regional network of express lanes in one of the most traffic-clogged areas of the country.”

29) Montana: The latest draft of Missoula’s long range transportation plan “leans heavy on bike lanes, paths and complete streets, but shies away from investing in new connections, such as an interchange at Russell Street and Interstate 90, or widening Mullan Road. (…) The projects proposed in the city’s new transportation plan could enhance a number of city goals and guide growth for several decades. Missoula’s population has grown roughly 6% over the last decade, and the city is pushing to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips well below its current level.

Jennifer Wieland, a national transportation consultant with Nelson-Nygaard, said the current draft considered two growth scenarios, including “business as usual” and a strategic focus on inward development. The two growth scenarios were then reviewed against the city’s three transportation scenarios, including new connections, enhancing existing connections, and focusing on regional equity. 

30) North Carolina: A coalition of more than 20 groups and organizations is pushing for more equitable transportation options and a better connection amongst Charlotte’s many neighborhoods. “Meg Fencil, program director at Sustain Charlotte, says the coalition is a byproduct of their work at Sustain Charlotte, eventually turning into its own program under Sustain Charlotte after an exploratory steering committee. While visiting the light rail at Scaleybark Station for the first time in months, Fencil says she’s already noticing changes, which she says prove an important point. “This construction behind us really shows that there’s a very strong demand for people to be able to live close to public transportation. To be able to live somewhere where they don’t necessarily need a car to get to work, to get to the grocery store, to get to dining,” Fencil says, gesturing to a large multi-unit housing project being built across the street. Fencil says Sustain Charlotte is helping coordinate and facilitate the coalition.” 

Criminal Justice and Immigration

31) National: The GEO Group released its long awaited Annual Report (10-K) on Tuesday, and it contains some very interesting material. Front and center was the question of how President Biden’s January 26 executive order to terminate federal use of private prisons would affect the company, which has extensive business with the federal government.

GEO’s first order of business was to remind its investors of when its government contracts expire. This information will also be of interest to researchers and activists who will be monitoring how the executive order is being enforced. 

Two sections of the 10-K are of most interest in this regard. The first are the opening paragraphs on the expirations. The second is a section titled “Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Public-Private Partnerships.” Here is a link to these sections.

32) National: “If the government is no longer arresting and deporting, are your services still needed?” asked Stifel Analyst Nick Jarmoszuk of GEO Group CEO George Zoley in their earnings call. “Well, I — I don’t think they’ll completely stop arresting and deporting,” Zoley replied. 

33) National: There was a case of now-you-see-it-now you don’t last week on the board of directors of the private prison company CoreCivic, which announced the appointment of Glenda Baskin Glover, the Tennessee State University president and International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha [Kamala Harris’ sorority—ed.] to its board—from which she promptly disappeared. The Tennessean reported that “after a furious backlash, TSU president backs off CoreCivic board post paying more than $200K.” Community leaders, the news site reported, “immediately denounced Glover’s addition to the CoreCivic board, saying she was joining the leadership of a company that profited off of mass incarceration. City leaders severed ties with CoreCivic last year, and President Joe Biden’s administration is phasing out private prisons in the name of racial justice.” Here’s CoreCivic’s current board.

Public Services

34) National: In a striking development, The Lancet, the UK’s leading medical journal, has issued a report denouncing a generation of privatization in public services and healthcare, and saying that Trump built his shambolic response to the Covid-19 crisis on these foundations. “Trump’s election was enabled by the failures of his predecessors,” The Lancet says. “A four-decade long drift toward neoliberal policies bolstered corporate prerogatives, privatized government services, reinforced racism, and imposed public austerity. The rich got much richer while their taxes were halved. Workers’ earnings stagnated, welfare programs shrank, prison populations greatly increased, and millions were priced out of health care even as government payments enriched medical investors. GDP grew but longevity lagged, a sign of profound social dysfunction.” [Read the full report (free registration)]

35) Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh Port Authority will host a series of public meetings in the coming weeks to discuss NEXTransit, the service’s plan for improving Allegheny County transit over the next 25 years. There will be four meetings in total: at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Feb. 25, and at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on March 2. “The meetings are an opportunity for community members to help prioritize transit investments. The project team will ask for input on how to finance the ideas in the plan in late spring.”