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This Week’s Outsourcing Scan 9-12-2016

1) NationalMunicipal park privatizations are stirring public outrage and growing resistance around the country, The Wall Street Journal reports. “But some residents reacted with outrage when the [Colorado Springs] city council approved [a land] exchange, saying Strawberry Hill is part of a city park residents in 1885 voted to preserve. ‘You’re going to have the wealthy elite having lavish parties in the center, with the plebes looking in from the perimeter,’ said Dana Duggan, a media consultant who helped organize opposition to the deal. Among other concerns by the residents is that much of the property being traded by the resort is far less accessible than Strawberry Hill. ‘The bottom line is we get a bunch of junk and we trade a valuable piece of property,’ said Michael Chaussee, a local resident and real-estate investor.” [Sub required]

2) NationalThe decision by the federal government to end the use of private prisons by the Bureau of Prisons is hammering prison bonds. Bonds for three private prisons in Texas have suffered downgrades to well below junk-bond status (Garza, Reeves, and Willacy Counties). “Nine of 21 Texas counties that created conduit issuers for about $1.3 billion in municipal bonds for private detention centers have defaulted on their debt in Texas over the past decade, according to disclosure notices and news reports. More immediately, federal Bureau of Prisons decision raises questions about whether private prisons with those contracts can make annual debt service payments, S&P’s Boatright wrote.”

3) National: Years of advocacy, policy support, and determination by the Partnership for Working Families and their ALIGN affiliate pays off as New York City follows other cities in adopting a zoned private trash collection system. Politico reports the new system “will dramatically reduce vehicle emissions while also giving the city much greater regulatory authority over an industry critics have likened to the wild west.” Marking the adoption of the new system, Partnership for Working Families Executive Director Nikki Fortunato Bas says “implementing this system will mean better wages and safer jobs for those who collect our waste, healthier air for our residents, far less waste contributing to climate change and less traffic in our neighborhoods. The momentum to fix our broken waste management system is spreading across the country and our most innovative cities are leading that charge.”

4) NationalSome federal immigration agents are pushing behind the scenes to maintain ICE’s use of for-profit detention centers. The practice is currently under review by an advisory board, which is due to report in November. “Overcrowding and impaired border security could result from closures, said recent internal memos seen by Reuters, written by agents at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), both DHS agencies. Debate within the DHS over the matter comes amid criticism of privately run prisons and migrant detention centers for being less safe than government-run facilities. Citing such concerns, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Aug. 18 it would phase out its use of private prisons.” [Detention facility locator]

But the Baltimore Sun reports that Alonzo Pena, who was deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2008 to 2010, “said he has long been concerned that for-profit prison companies have been hiring former immigration officials to help them secure favorable contract terms. ‘They are not better run, they are not better managed, they are not providing better service,’ he said.” [Baltimore Sun, September 11, 2016]

5) National: Ed Eiler, the former superintendent of Lafayette School Corp., says school privatization is eroding the common good. “Michael Sandell concludes that ultimately this is ‘… not an economic question. The question is how do we want to live together? Do we want a society where everything is up for sale or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?’ That is why all of this matters, why we should oppose privatizing our schools and why we should elect people who support our public schools. I may be powerless to prevent it, but the privatization of education is an injustice, and I must protest.”

6) National: A federal judge has hauled in federal prosecutors to grill them about what use they may have made of surreptitious recordings of prisoners meeting with their attorneys in a Corrections Corporation of America facility. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson also “said that Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Tomasic had attempted to access Robinson’s chambers, where the evidence was being held, while the judge was away from her office,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

7) National: In a letter to the editor of The New York Times about privatization of the military drones program, Judy Jensvold raises issues of transparency and accountability: “Will the privatization of drone operations mean less information disclosed to the public on who was killed, and why, where and when? Is this a hidden ‘benefit’ of privatization? Parts of the federal government have realized that private prisons produce worse outcomes. The same needs to be realized about all privatized military operations.”

8) National: The AFT produces an analysis of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s education proposals. Education historian Diane Ravitch says the centerpiece is “a block grant to the states of $20 billion. This is not new spending. This is a redirection of existing federal funding. As you might expect, it is a sham meant to privatize public schools, with no controls or accountability.”

9) California: Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, begins a four-part series of posts in the Washington Post on the problems created by an outdated and inadequate California charter school law, focusing on the well-heeled organizations resisting tighter oversight. “Both CCSA and CCSA Advocates work together to thwart legislative efforts that would increase charter oversight, such as AB 709 that would make charter board meetings public, allow the public to inspect charter school records, and prohibit charter school officials from having a financial interest in contracts that they enter into in their official capacity. All of the above are expected of public schools. AB 709 is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting action.”

10) ColoradoTim Markham, the executive director of Colorado WINS, calls for the state to end its use of for-profit prisons. “Colorado should follow DOJ’s lead and shutter the remaining four facilities in our state,” says Markham. “There is no rational reason for keeping them open at a time of declining prison populations and a decline in the public appetite for tolerating their operation. (…) Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers—only to shareholders. As taxpayers, we should be wary of the for-profit prison industry’s instinct to shave costs and find savings anywhere they can, which in turn puts the public, workers and inmates at risk. For-profit prisons do not provide stable, community-building jobs—these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.”

11) Florida: After a months-long review of options to salvage primary healthcare for 26,000 low-income residents from cutbacks ordered by Gov. Scott, Sarasota County leaders have come up with a solution. “The transition to a locally-controlled nonprofit is a victory for local leaders who worked to keep control of the primary care services and who feared that an outside group would take over the clinics and run them from another part of the state or the country. Officials said they preferred this outcome to the push by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to get all county health departments out of the business of primary care and privatize the services.”

12) Georgia: Sandy Springs, held up as a model of contractor government by radical privatization activists, is to rebid most of its street and park maintenance contracts for fiscal year 2018. “The decision, approved by consensus at the Sept. 6 City Council work session, follows caution and debate over the city giving no-bid extensions to its general service contractors and a tennis center.”

13) GeorgiaAthens Banner-Herald columnist Myra Blackmon comes out against a statewide ballot initiative to create a statewide Opportunity School Board. “The language both on the ballot and in the enabling legislation sounds like a plan for everyone to hold hands and happily work to improve education. But that’s a lie. These self-styled rescuers of poor children want to turn education over to their buddies in the privatization movement. They want accountability for everyone but themselves. Rescue, my eye. Keep our opportunities local.”

14) HawaiiGov. Ige and the United Public Workers sign a contract agreeing on the terms for privatization of three Maui health system hospitals. “The terms included UPW employees working under Kaiser’s supervision and direction and still being covered by UPW collective-bargaining agreements until those agreements expire on June 30, 2017; Kaiser offering to hire UPW workers for six months, starting July 1, 2017; delaying transfer of the hospitals to Kaiser to no earlier than Nov. 6; and the Maui Region hospitals being operated and managed exclusively by Kaiser.”

15) LouisianaTense talks are continuing over the future of the state’s privatized hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport. “Morris, and other Louisiana lawmakers, say despite the back and forth about BRF’s future, University Health hospitals will stay open. They sat down with Governor Edwards to find out more about a contract, given to BRF which would change some terms of their agreement. ‘[They] wouldn’t tell us what was in it, so we don’t know what the offer is going to be. Quite honestly, they didn’t ask for our input, and didn’t want our input on what the offer should be. It was just a meeting to let us know,’ Morris said.”

16) MaineControversial Republican Gov. Paul LePage wants to privatize the state’s welfare system “to a New York City-based nonprofit that’s faced a dozen state and federal lawsuits since 2013. Fedcap Rehabilitation Services acknowledges its recent litigation in its bid proposal to Maine officials while also describing its accomplishments. Since 2013, it’s paid out at least $403,000 in five settlements, the organization says. Court documents show the lawsuits include allegations of workplace discrimination and wage, disability and personal injury disputes.”

17) Massachusetts: Members of the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 will hold a rally and informational picket today outside a critical meeting of the MBTA fiscal and management control board meeting today. “In a report released this month, the board overseeing the MBTA said management is considering privatizing drivers and maintenance worker jobs—which could be the largest privatization effort at the MBTA by Baker’s administration to date. The report cited bus operations and maintenance as a potential target of privatization, which could affect hundreds of jobs: The MBTA has 450 bus maintenance workers and 1,700 full- and part-time bus drivers.”

18) Michigan: Columnist Jack Lessenberry weighs the pros and cons of privatizing mental healthcare in the state. “‘The most vulnerable population in our country should never be turned over to for-profit HMOs,’ said Bill Winkler, a recently retired development officer for Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, and the grandfather of an intellectually and developmentally disabled 14-year-old. The governor has long been a fan of privatizing services, even after the fiasco with the prison food system, and their fears mushroomed after an early draft of the governor’s fiscal 2017 budget called, an analyst for Crain’s Detroit Business, said for ‘privatizing the $2.4 billion public mental health system by turning over state funding to Medicaid HMOs.’”

19) New Mexico: Republican governor Susana Martinez is facing a campaign ad blitz charging that she privatized the state’s streams to the benefit of a campaign donor, Dan Perry, a Santa Fe oil and gas attorney. “The ‘Traditions’ ad shows a sign at Perry’s ranch alerting anglers of a $2,000, 10-day pass required to access some streams there. The sign notes that meals and equipment are not included in the fly-fishing fee.”

20) PennsylvaniaTeachers at the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School in King of Prussia approve a union. Last month the NLRB ruled that charter schools are private companies, giving it jurisdiction over elections. Teachers voted 57-15 in favor of being represented by the PA Virtual Education Association, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

21) Pennsylvania: Four boroughs outside Middletown decide not to outsource their police departments. Kathy Horwatt, a 34-year Langhorne council member, “said she was on council for much of the time when Middletown police covered Langhorne from 1975 to 1990. She said the price had gotten so high that borough officials decided to re-establish their own police department. By that time, borough officials and residents also yearned for the more personal touch provided by their own police, Horwatt added.”|

22) UtahThe governor’s race is focusing in on charter schools, with Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, strongly favoring them and Mike Weinholtz, the Democratic candidate, opposing them. “My personal belief is if we improve K-12 education we don’t need charter schools,” Weinholtz told The Salt Lake Tribune‘s editorial board recently. “To me charter schools are a reflection of our current Legislature’s and governor’s belief that they would like to privatize everything and they just generally don’t believe in public education.”

23) InternationalChile continues to grapple with the impact of its dysfunctional privatized social security system, which has long been lauded by free market ideologues in the U.S. Private fund managers stand accused of enriching themselves at the expense of Chile’s poor. “Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Santiago, the capital, and other cities to protest the privatized pension system. More than 1.3 million people, according to organizers, turned up in August, the largest since Chile’s return to civilian rule in 1990. (…) Today six [pension fund administrators]—half of them owned by foreign companies—manage $171 billion in pension funds, equivalent to about 71 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product, according to the office of the supervisor of the pension funds. But the pioneering privatized system has failed to provide livable pensions for most retirees.”

24) Think Tanks: The Pew Charitable Trusts reports on the major expansion of the use of electronic offender-tracking devices in the past decade. “Establishing the exact number of offenders under electronic supervision is difficult, given the decentralized nature of the criminal justice system. (…) To provide a more up-to-date and comprehensive picture, Pew developed a survey of the 11 companies known to manufacture, sell, or operate GPS and RF devices in the United States, including U.S. territories. Seven of the largest companies responded, representing an estimated 96 percent of the market.” 

25) Think Tanks: Pro-charter school advocates Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute, Bruno Manno of the Walton Foundation and Fordham Institute, and Brandon Wright of the Fordham Institute write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal pushing the idea that charter schools are “reinventing” local control of education. Charters have been widely criticized for eroding local control and siphoning off funds from regular public schools. [Sub required] 

Legislative Issues

1) NationalStudents and elected leaders are scrambling to respond to the sudden closure of ITT Tech, which had its federal grant eligibility pulled. U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del) “has called on Congress to take action to increase protections for veterans that enroll at for-profit schools and hold bad actors accountable.” The ITT Tech closure left nearly 7,000 veterans “without recourse to reclaim limited GI Bill benefits.” Employees of ITT Tech have filed a federal labor lawsuit.

2) National: At a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, The Commission on Care doubles down on its proposal to privatize the Veterans Administration, “including a controversial push to let veterans choose their own primary care doctors from new, integrated networks of VA and private-sector physicians.” But the committee’s outgoing chair, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), “joined with the Obama administration and most veteran service organizations. He opposes the commission’s call to establish a new layer of VHA oversight—a board of directors made up of health industry experts who would have authority to direct VHA transformation, set long-term health care strategy and ensure both are carried out by a VA undersecretary of health who would be appointed for five-year terms. ‘Outsourcing the crucial role of a cabinet secretary to an independent board—neither elected nor accountable to the American people—would be irresponsible and inappropriate, not to mention unconstitutional,’ Miller said.”


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