Trump adviser supports raising gas tax to pay for infrastructure

Source: Melanie Zanona, The Hill, May 31, 2017

One of President Trump’s advisers says he supports hiking the federal gasoline tax to help pay for new roads and bridges — a politically fraught issue that Congress has avoided for years.  Richard LeFrak, a real estate developer leading a new White House council to vet infrastructure projects, told CNBC on Wednesday that he is “in favor” of increasing the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in over 20 years.  … A number of states have begun to raise gasoline taxes on their own, as long-term funding solutions for transportation upgrades have eluded Washington.  The White House appears to be running into familiar hurdles. The administration has yet to reveal how it plans to pay for Trump’s massive rebuilding plan, which was outlined for the first time in the president’s budget proposal last week.

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TRUMP’S “AMERICA FIRST“ INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: LET SAUDI ARABIA AND BLACKSTONE TAKE CARE OF IT
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, May 27, 2017

But the third, which was rolled out much more quietly, is no less stunning: The Saudi kingdom joined forces with a top outside adviser to Trump to build a $40 billion war chest to privatize U.S. infrastructure.  The vehicle would employ the same kind of public-private partnerships, known as P3s, the Trump administration has endorsed for its trillion dollar infrastructure plan. The deal hands over control of projects to rebuild American roads and bridges to the private sector and a foreign country.  The Saudi Public Investment Fund announced its $20 billion investment with Blackstone, the private equity giant whose CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, chairs the Strategic and Policy Forum, a key group of private-sector advisers to President Trump.

Trump Administration To Cities And States: “The Bigger The Thing You Privatize, The More Money We’ll Give You.”
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, May 26, 2017

Trump’s long-promised $1 trillion investment in America’s infrastructure turned out to be stealth privatization after all. His budget proposal, released on Tuesday, would cut existing infrastructure programs, privatize the nation’s air traffic control system—a very bad idea—and incentivize public-private partnerships.  But it actually goes further. The administration says it’s considering paying state and local governments to sell off public infrastructure.  In a process called “asset recycling,” cities, counties, and states would sell or lease assets like roads and water systems to private equity investors in exchange for cash to build new infrastructure. The federal government would pay a bonus to local governments that make the deal.  Gary Cohn, director of Trump’s National Economic Council and former president of Goldman Sachs, said, “The bigger the thing you privatize, the more money we’ll give you.”

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House approves Senate bill to expand foster care privatization

Source: Julie Chang, Austin American-Statesman, May 17, 2017

Scrambling to find a solution to the problems that plague the state’s child welfare system, the Legislature is one step closer to stripping the state of its responsibilities to provide major foster care services in certain parts of the state. The Texas House on Thursday tentatively approved Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality. …

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Battle may be looming over how quickly foster care bill outsources CPS workers’ duties
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2017
 
The Texas House sponsor of the big foster care bill signaled Monday he’s going to fight for his version of “community-based foster care,” including a slightly slower outsourcing of Child Protective Services workers’ duties. Wichita Falls GOP Rep. James Frank said in an interview that he made some concessions to the Senate by importing elements of the senators’ main foster-care bill on prevention and foster children’s medical care. … The outsourcing, long sought by foster-care providers, would not happen until the lead contractor showed it successfully has taken over placing all new or existing foster kids in a region. Under a Senate-passed bill by Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who runs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the state would simultaneously shift responsibility for both placements and case management to the contractor. …

Lawmakers Take Up Bill to Outsource CPS to Non-profits
Source: RGV Proud, April 4, 2017
 
Lawmakers took up a bill Monday that would pass a large part of the state’s responsibility to watch over Texas’ most vulnerable population over to non-profit organizations.  House Bill 6 looks to privatize much of the state’s embattled Child Protective Services to implement what’s known as “community-based care.”  Authored by State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the latest version of HB 6 went before the House Committee on Health Services Monday morning. … The bill would essentially outsource the responsibilities of CPS caseworkers to social workers at non-profit organizations across the state. … No action was taken after public testimony Monday, HB 6 was left pending in the House Committee on Health Services.

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Interviews for Resistance: On the Commodification of Education

Source: Sarah Jaffe, In These Times, May 18, 2017
 
What has been happening in education over the last 20-30 years—people talk a lot about the prison-industrial complex and about the pharmaceutical-industrial complex, but folks don’t talk enough about the educational-industrial complex. Education is where all these things come together and that is what we have been having for the last 20-something years is an educational-industrial complex where you have all these businesses come in trying to provide a service and really privatize education, which is our last public good. …

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This is the new Betsy DeVos speech everyone should read
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
The Michigan billionaire appeared at the 2017 annual technology and innovation conference in Salt Lake City sponsored by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley, delivering a speech and answering questions from Jeanne Allen of the nonprofit Center for Education Reform, who, as Liz Willen, editor of the Hechinger Report, said in this column, “threw one softball after another, such as: “What would you say to people about technology?” … What she talked mostly about, though, is what she always talks about — school choice — and she renewed previous attacks she has made on the value of government and public schools. If anybody thought that having the responsibility of running the entire Education Department would broaden her scope, this speech should disabuse them of that.

The Privatization Prophets
Source: Jennifer Berkshire, Jacobin, May 2017

… But if the nation’s schools are the equivalent of a kitchen-wall rotary phone or the cab that never comes, DeVos was eager to let the audience know that a quick fix is at hand: school choice. … Beneath the folksy tech talk, though, lurks a radical vision, one that is taking root in state after state. The ultimate aim of the project of which DeVos is now the most visible face is to remove education from the public system. Those “buildings” of which she speaks so disdainfully, the disparaging “status quo” never far behind, represent the entire architecture of public education, and more importantly, its democratic control. Diminishing this is key to reaching the promised land of privatization. … Unfettering the markets is only part of the vision. Control over the process of socializing children, the near-monopoly domain of a system that is both secular and, as the libertarian right deridingly characterizes it, collectivist, is another prize. And if there is some money to be made along the way, well, there’s nothing wrong with that. DeVos’s efforts to take public education private are uniting seekers of profits and prophets. Let’s take a look at some of the key battles over those efforts. …

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For some cities, promises of privatization fall short

Source: Mark Niesse and Arielle Kas, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 18, 2017

In the beginning, the gospel of privatization was as if etched in stone. It was handed down from Sandy Springs, the first new city, to generations of descendants: Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Brookhaven and Tucker. … Sandy Springs is still an adherent of the outsourcing theory. But privatization has gradually given way to more traditional government in many of the nine cities that followed. … While Brookhaven, founded in 2012, started in the Sandy Springs mold, the city brought once-outsourced programs in-house, including community planning, human resources and government technology systems. It still contracts for road paving, park maintenance, permitting and code enforcement. Even those that have backed away from blind faith in privatization still see it as the best way to start a new city. … In Sandy Springs, faith in the model remains unshaken, though it has evolved. … Jason Lary, the mayor of the new city of Stonecrest … [plans] to learn from other municipalities that outsource, and is contracting out city administration, planning and zoning, attorneys and building permitting. The Stonecrest City Council voted Monday to hire CH2M as its primary service provider. … South Fulton is taking the opposite tack. Leaders there want to assume control of the services currently under the county’s umbrella and the employees who provide them. They are negotiating agreements with the county to transfer those departments to South Fulton. …

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Is the ‘Sandy Springs model’ of government changing?
Source: John Ruch, Reporter Newspapers, July 8, 2016

Since its founding in 2005, Sandy Springs has drawn national notice for outsourcing most city government operations to competitively bidding private contractors. But last month, the city approved three-year, no-bid contract extensions due to fears of government disruption during a planning and development boom. The City Council approved the no-bid extensions only after voicing caution about not shifting to an “in-house,” public-sector government. But new local cities inspired by Sandy Springs, like Brookhaven and Dunwoody, already have brought more jobs and departments in-house. … But the model has changed. In 2011, the city dumped CH2M’s single deal to bid out multiple contracts, saying that saved $7 million. …

Georgia city shows pros, cons of going private
Source: Stanley Dunlap, barrowcountynews.com, April 27, 2014

While Barrow County leaders mull privatization, one Georgia city provides an example of both sides of the equation. Milton is one of three Fulton County cities that have undergone privatization in the last decade. The majority of operations in Milton, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek were contracted out when they incorporated in 2006, however two of them have since scaled back privatization in an effort to save money. ….. The majority of operations in Milton, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek were contracted out when they incorporated in 2006, however two of them have since scaled back privatization in an effort to save money. In 2008 the economy led to Milton officials renegotiating their contracts in order to save money. The city now has 144 employees and only contracts out a few departments. “What they figured out was that by ending the contract with CH2M Hill, and going with a more traditional model for most departments, Milton saved $1.2 million in 2010 and another $1 million in 2011,” said Milton Communications Manager Jason Wright. …. If Barrow officials decide to privatize on a large scale, then it would become the first county in Georgia to do so….

Trump Labor secretary tells G-20: More apprenticeships in US

Source: Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, May 18, 2017
 
U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is making public-private apprenticeships his debut issue as President Donald Trump’s point man on matching American workers with specific jobs. … The declaration, and a new campaign of tweets on the subject, represent the first indication since Acosta’s swearing-in three weeks ago that apprenticeships are at the core of the Trump administration’s plans to train a new generation of workers.  The discussion of apprenticeships is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from China, Mexico and more. But it’s not new to policymakers of either party or the private sector, whose leaders have for years run apprenticeship programs. … There’s also evidence of rare bipartisan agreement, at least on the value of apprenticeships, which generally combine state and federal government money with support from universities and companies looking to train people for specific jobs. In some cases, students split their time between school and work, and the companies pay some portion of wages and tuition. The budget compromise funding the federal government through September passed this month with $95 million for apprenticeship grants, an increase of $5 million — in part to increase the number of women apprentices. …

Maryland Judiciary fails to monitor contracts, audit finds

Source: Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun, May 10, 2017

Maryland’s court system has failed for years to properly monitor how it spent tens of millions of dollars in contracts and lacked adequate oversight to prove it was getting the most cost-effective deals for taxpayers, a state audit released Friday has found. The Maryland Judiciary lacked “sufficient documentation” to support four contract awards totaling $26 million between July 1, 2012, and Dec. 20, 2015, the audit reported. … Auditors said the judiciary did not provide adequate cost-benefit analyses to support the award of two contracts to existing vendors: a five-year, $21 million contract for Internet services, and a four-year, $2.1 million contract for a digital recording system. In the latter contract, there was a competing bid for almost two-thirds less, $736,000, according to the audit. Additionally, the judiciary didn’t save information about the losing bidders’ proposals for three contracts totaling about $5 million. … The audit also raised concerns about the number of staff allowed to access the purchasing and payment system; the security of its financial management system and database; the processing of traffic citations; and the controls over its equipment and warehouses. … The findings come as the Maryland Judiciary is beginning to prepare a report requested by the Department of Legislative Services to explain “the apparent pattern of overbudgeting” for the state’s Clerks of the Circuit Court offices, according to budget analysis documents. Between 2012 and 2016 the clerks offices were allocated up to 9 percent more than they spent, a surplus that funded other efforts “without the opportunity for the General Assembly to vet those purposes,” according to the legislative services analysis. …

Lexserv to Temporarily Shut Down While City Takes Over Service

Source: WTVQ, May 8, 2017

A temporary shutdown of the LEXserv online and phone bill payment system has been scheduled as Lexington’s Division of Revenue takes over the service from Greater Cincinnati Water Works. Beginning May 15, the city will manage all LEXserv customer service and billing services, eliminating the need for outsourcing. Officials say some of the many benefits include:

  • City will save taxpayer dollars by moving system in-house;
  • Customer service will be handled by LFUCG staff in Lexington, creating jobs;
  • Payments will be mailed to a Lexington address for processing;
  • New web portal for customers to make payments, review billing. …

North Miami Beach Gives Public Water Utility Serving 180,000 People to Private Firm

Source: Jerry Ianelli, Miami New Times, May 17, 2017
 
None of those facts stopped the North Miami Beach City Commission last night from voting 4 to 2 to outsource its public water utility to global engineering firm CH2M Hill. From here on out, the company will control virtually every operational facet of a water plant that serves more than 180,000 people in North Miami Beach, Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, and Miami Gardens. … On April 3, the city held a special meeting to begin formal negotiations with CH2M. In the leadup to that meeting, the city’s municipal worker’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, spoke out against the privatization plan as an attempt at union-busting. The ASFCME warned that privatization deals tend to lead to job or benefits cuts to workers.  Though the final contract guarantees that all city workers who pass a drug test and physical must be rehired by CH2M, the contract does not say what will happen to those workers in the following years. (During that April 3 meeting, multiple city workers accused the government of willfully underfunding the plant to create an excuse to privatize it.) …

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North Miami Beach to Vote on Privatizing Its Water System Tomorrow Despite FBI Probe
Source: Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times, May 15, 2017
 
On April 3, the City of North Miami Beach started negotiating with a global engineering firm to take over the city’s water utility, which services close to 200,000 people in north Dade. Clean-water activists vehemently opposed the move, citing research that water utilities run by private companies tend to get much more expensive over time, and typically provide services at “cheaper” rates by cutting staff or services. … But those facts have not mattered at all to North Miami Beach’s elected officials. Tomorrow, the city commission will vote on whether to hand the utility’s operations over to CH2M Hill Engineering for an annual fee of $18.8 million per year. (The city would retain ownership of the utility, but CH2M would handle the plant’s day-to-day operations. The city will also pay CH2M $19.3 million in the first year to cover startup costs.) …

North Miami Beach Moves Forward With Water-Privatization Deal Despite FBI Probe
Source: Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times, April 4, 2017

At the beginning of North Miami Beach’s meeting last night about a plan to privatize its water system, City Manager Ana Garcia asked residents to trust the city based on the commission’s track record. That was an odd appeal, considering Mayor George Vallejo is the subject of an ongoing Miami-Dade County criminal probe and the FBI and Miami-Dade County Public Corruption unit have launched investigations into the water negotiations. Despite all of those red flags, commissioners voted 4-2 last night to move forward with the plan after a testy meeting that lasted close to three hours. … The city also did not disclose that an affiliate of the leading company bidding for the project, global engineering firm CH2M Hill, has held a temporary contract to operate portions of the plant since October 17, 2016. The contract raises additional questions as to whether the city’s bidding process has been fair. … The vote authorizes the city to begin negotiating a contract with CH2M, which is angling to take over the full operation of the city’s water plant.

… Per the terms of the city’s request for quotation, the private company is expected to take over full plant operations and take over the contracts of every employee at the utility. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union that represents the utility workers, says roughly 80 employees could be affected. The union warned last week that privatization deals tend to lead to benefit cutbacks and employee layoffs as the new company tries to cut costs. AFSCME does not have an active contract with the city, and union representatives warned last week that, without a contract, a private company could cut benefits and salaries from day one. …

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Union: Look to Circulator and D.C. Streetcar for evidence of why Metro shouldn’t be privatized

Source: Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
Reliability problems with the D.C. Circulator and planning and construction shortfalls of the city’s streetcar system are examples of why the District and Metro should be wary of privatizing more services, the transit agency’s union said Tuesday.  Although the District Department of Transportation owns the Circulator buses and oversees the D.C. streetcar, Amalgamated Transit Union International says there’s an implicit warning for Metro.  “Fix the service you have; take responsibility for the quality of service you have,” said Michael McCall-Delgado, a strategic researcher at ATU International and author of a new report, “Fool D.C. Twice.” … The union report holds the District partially responsible for the decline of the region’s transit system, saying that instead of investing in Metro, local leaders pushed seemingly “hip” and “premium ridership” projects to attract millennials to the city. …

… ATU, which represents more than 9,000 Metro employees through its Local 689 chapter, has rejected Wiedefeld’s shift toward privatization, including a proposal that would use private contractors to fill station manager or track inspection jobs on the second phase of the Silver Line. Contractors could also be used to operate such facilities as new bus garages. Separately, Metro has nearly doubled its spending on private contractors over the past two years. In its report, however, the union takes D.C. officials to task for failing to hold contractors accountable for construction, planning and service failures. The report highlights how the Circulator, operated by Cincinnati-based First Transit, has been beset by maintenance problems for years “while avoiding government oversight,” according to the union. Circulator buses have a notoriously poor reliability record, with the 2016 audit finding an average of 22 defects per bus. Many of the defects — nearly three per bus — were tied to safety equipment and should have been caught during routine inspections, the audit said. And the problems have persisted: A report this week from WAMU said reliability issues have left the Circulator up to 10 buses short of its quota when buses depart its lots each day. …

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Privatize Metro? Wiedefeld’s Outsourcing Plan Provokes Union Wrath And May Not Save Money
Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, May 1, 2017
 
In his long-term financial proposal to get Metro back on track and back on budget released April 19, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld included a few vague sentences that could open the door to a partial privatization of the system.  The sentences, while far from a proposal for a large-scale privatization, have raised alarm among members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents 9,200 frontline employees. “They’re attacking us anyway they can,” Union president Jackie Jeter said to reporters, just moments after the transit workers turned their backs on WMATA’s leaders and staged a walkout during a board meeting last week. …

Transit Union Turns Back on Metro Leadership, Stages Walkout Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, April 27, 2017

Dozens of members of the D.C. region’s largest transit union turned their backs on Metro’s leaders during a tense board meeting on Thursday, then raised their fists to the air and marched out of WMATA headquarters in downtown Washington, defiantly chanting “We move this city.”  The labor action was to protest Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld’s new proposals to reduce costs at the nation’s second-busiest mass transit system, and the union’s president took the unusual step of divulging confidential details of ongoing contract negotiations. …

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A.C. trash collectors angry service privatized despite council

Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 17, 2017
 
Angry workers and residents criticized the state’s move to privatize trash collection Wednesday night during a long public-comment portion of a City Council meeting.  The meeting came two days after officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed the council to approve a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental of New Jersey, a company in Gloucester County. … City officials say the deal will save the financially-troubled city $1.1 million this year and won’t require layoffs. Sanitation workers will fill vacant positions in the Public Works Department, city and state officials said.  The council tabled a vote to outsource the service three weeks ago after some council members said they never received a cost-savings analysis. …

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State privatizes Atlantic City trash collection without City Council
Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 16, 2017
 
Officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed City Council on Monday to privatize the city’s trash collection.  The state authorized the city administration to award a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental, a private company that will handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The decision came nearly three weeks after the council pulled a vote to outsource the service.  State Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham informed Council President Marty Small of the decision in a letter dated Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Press of Atlantic City. … The move marks the first time the state has used such power over the council. The state took over the city’s finances in November through the Municipal Stabilization & Recovery Act, which gave state officials authority to pass or repeal any council resolution. Cunningham’s letter specifically cited the state’s power to “procure services” on behalf of the city.

… City administration officials said the contract to Gold Medal will save the city $1.1 million per year without requiring layoffs. The council considered the contract to Gold Medal on April 26, but balked at outsourcing the service after some councilmen said they didn’t have enough information. Those council members, including Councilman Frank Gilliam, had said they never received an analysis comparing the contract to the cost of doing the service in-house. Gilliam said Monday that he had since received a report from city Public Works Director Paul Jerkins, but said the cost analysis didn’t have “legitimate numbers” that justify the savings claimed by the city and state. …

Atlantic City Council to consider privatizing trash collection
Source:Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, April 25, 2017

City Council will consider privatizing trash collection, awarding a contract for a bike loop and amending rules regarding rolling chairs Wednesday evening. The council is scheduled to vote on awarding Gold Environmental of New Jersey a three-year, $7.2 million contract to handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The measure is intended to cut costs in the cash-strapped city. The city’s 2017 introduced budget listed a $393,313 savings from its Public Works Department this year. …