Category Archives: Infrastructure

Privatization Is Changing America’s Relationship With Its Physical Stuff

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, July 12, 2017
 
… As vague as Trump’s pronouncements have been on the matter, it is clear that the general thrust behind the promised building-and-repair push involves using federal dollars as up-front investment to entice private enterprises to provide most of the financing. While Democrats announced their opposition, the general idea of increased privatization of infrastructure has had a bipartisan cast. President Obama supported a plan to create an “infrastructure bank” that would help finance so-called public-private partnerships (known, for their alliteration, as P3s), but that idea fizzled under the glare of Republican opposition. He also floated the idea of selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

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Selling Back To The Public What It Already Owned: ‘Public-Private Partnership’ Shark Bait
Source: Mercedes Schneider, Huffington Post, June 12, 2017
 
Today, I read two articles centered on this idea, both of which concerned Vice President Mike Pence – and one that concerned Pence’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  One article also included a sprinkling of US secretary of [privatized] education, Betsy DeVos.  A major goal of corporate education reform is to deliver public education to private entities (corporations, or even nonprofits, but don’t think that an entity termed “nonprofit” cannot be a handsome money dispenser for those running the nonprofit and doling out contracts). However, the extreme-right-Republican aim does not end with public education but with delivering the operation of the entire American infrastructure to private entities.  In the end, what this entails is having private corporations front money to state and local governments in order to lease back to the public what the public already owns.

How President Trump Might Carry The Torch Of Privatization
Source: Here & Now, WBUR, May 8, 2017

… Now President Trump is poised to continue privatization and private contracting in all kinds of industries, from education to incarceration. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson looks at the history and politics of privatization with Donald Cohen and Shahrzad Habibi of the group In The Public Interest. …

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Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Isn’t Much of a Plan

Source: Michael Granof and Martin Luby, Fortune, July 12, 2017

President Donald Trump hasn’t fully outlined his prescription for making American infrastructure great again, but he has called for a major dose of public-private partnerships—also known as P3s. These P3s, he promises, provide “better procurement methods, market discipline and a long-term focus on maintaining assets .” That’s true enough in some cases, but P3s are no cure-all for every public project. Despite the hype, the public-private approach does not provide new funding sources to communities, nor does it work for many types of public projects. …

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World Offers Cautionary Tale for Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Source:Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, June 16, 2017
 
The rest of the planet bears a warning for President Trump’s plan to lean heavily on private business in conjuring a trillion dollars’ worth  of American infrastructure: Handing profit-making companies responsibility for public works can produce trouble.  In India, politically connected firms have captured contracts on the strength of relationships with officialdom, yielding defective engineering at bloated prices. When Britain handed control to private companies to upgrade London’s subway system more than a decade ago, the result was substandard, budget-busting work, prompting the government to step back in. Canada has suffered a string of excessive costs on public projects funneled through the private sector, like a landmark bridge in Vancouver and hospitals in Ontario. …

Editorial: Public Works, Private Benefit
Source: New York Times, June 9, 2017
 
President Trump’s infrastructure plan is turning out to be a mirage. He had talked about a $1 trillion, 10-year effort. But the White House now proposes allocating only $200 billion, which would come from cutting aid to states and localities and giving it to Wall Street investors as tax credits, which it hopes will attract $800 billion in investment for big projects that would turn a profit through tolls and user fees. … But most of the nation’s unmet infrastructure needs involve smaller projects to operate, maintain and upgrade — not only highways, but also water, sewer and other systems that are of no interest to private investors.

Donald Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Faces an Urban-Rural Divide in Congress
Source: Ted Mann, Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s plan to tap the private sector to rebuild $1 trillion worth of roads, bridges and rails has encountered an early problem: geography.  The administration says it will rely on private investors to supply the vast majority of cash to support a decadelong infrastructure rebuilding effort. But members of Congress from rural areas are wary.  That is because private investors are looking for infrastructure projects that throw off steady streams of revenue, from which they derive their profits, and those tend to be found near population centers. … Support from Republicans, many who represent rural areas, will be crucial in getting a large infrastructure package through the GOP-led Congress, since many Democrats have said they would oppose efforts to rely on tolls, rather than federal aid, to pay for building projects.

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America’s public housing crisis may worsen with Trump budget

Source: Lawrence Vale, Associated Press, July 12, 2017
 
… As someone who has spent 25 years researching and writing about the travails of public housing in the U.S., I had this immediate thought: Could the same thing happen here?  Various commentators have pointed out that American regulations require sprinklers and do not permit the use of cladding materials with combustible plastic cores in high-rise structures.  Yet while the facades of American public housing may be less flammable, the system suffers from a toxic convergence of long-deferred maintenance, squeezed budgets and cost-cutting measures. Privatization policies, deeply rooted suspicions about the character of public housing residents and long-term inattention all threaten the capacity of stigmatized low-income families to remain in their homes. …

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Ben Carson reckons with proposed HUD budget cuts
Source: Jonathan Easley, The Hill, June 30, 2017

… Now, as HUD secretary, Carson controls the $46 billion government agency that oversees housing for the poor. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut HUD spending by $6 billion. “We will use whatever resources we have very efficiently,” Carson said. “The other thing to keep in mind is that the traditional view of HUD and government is we ride in on a white horse with a bucket of money … and go off to the next thing,” he continued. “That particular model has led us to the point where we have three to four times as many people in need of affordable housing and it’s getting worse.” Carson, who had no experience in government before becoming HUD secretary, is grappling with decisions about which programs to keep, which to shutter, and how to improve the ones that remain. …

Carson: HUD will focus on public, private sectors partnerships
Source: Mallory Shelbourne, The Hill, April 26, 2017

Ben Carson, President Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), said in a new interview that his forthcoming agenda will promote partnerships between the public and private sectors.   “The biggest tools are the partnerships — public, private, nonprofit and faith community partnerships — which allow us to leverage those federal dollars …” Carson told The Associated Press in an interview published Wednesday. …  

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Authorization To Fix The Crumbling BQE Faster Stalls In Albany

Source: Emma Whitford, Gothamist, July 12, 2017
 
Legislation that the Department of Transportation predicted could shave years and millions of dollars off of critical Brooklyn Queens Expressway repairs floundered in Albany this session, to the frustration of local politicians, policy groups, labor unions, pro-business groups, and residents who live alongside the decaying BQE triple cantilever in Brooklyn Heights. … There is a basic resistance in Albany, and upstate generally, to what is considered privatization of the state contracting process,” she added. “The main opposition comes from public service unions that are concerned about their jobs somehow disappearing or being diminished.” (“We wanted to ensure that men and women in the state workforce, who are perfectly trained and qualified to do the work, didn’t lose their jobs because of design build outsourcing,” stated Emily Cote, director of communications for the Civil Service Employees Association.) …

For Sale: Puerto Rico

Source: Heather Gillers, Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2017 

Puerto Rico has no cash and can’t borrow money anymore. So it is looking to sell itself off in parts. The troubled U.S. territory is preparing to seek bids in coming months from private companies willing to operate or improve seaports, regional airports, water meters, student housing, traffic-fine collections, parking spaces and a passenger ferry, according to a government presentation reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

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The Bankers Behind Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis
Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, June 8, 2017
 
Puerto Rico’s economic crisis has now washed the burden of its colonial legacy onto Washington’s doorstep. Congress has been trying to contain the island’s ballooning debt under the hardline austerity program of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). But since the program is governed by a control board run by the same financiers responsible for driving the debt crisis in the first place, the island continues to sink into poverty while its creditors feast on the spoils.  To underscore how Puerto Rico’s revolving door of big finance and politics is underwriting the debt crisis, a report by the AFL-CIO and the community-labor coalition Committee for Better Banks (CBB) traces the career of the head of PROMESA, Carlos M. García, from his role as a head banker of Santander to his current political post overseeing the privatization and pillage of Puerto Rico’s anemic public assets.

Puerto Rico strikes second restructuring deal with bondholders
Source: Hazel Bradford, Pensions & Investments, May 15, 2017
 
Puerto Rico reached a restructuring agreement with bondholders invested in the commonwealth’s Government Development Bank, officials announced Monday in San Juan. … Puerto Rico’s Federal Affairs Administration said in that statement that GDB creditors “have agreed to substantial discounts to the principal,” but did not provide further details on the agreement, which calls for bondholders to exchange claims for one of three tranches of bonds issued by a new municipal entity. The new bonds will have varying principal amounts, interest rates, collateral priority, and other payment terms.  It is the second agreement reached with bondholders and Gov. Ricardo Rosello, following one announced April 6 with holders of bonds issued by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The PREPA agreement restructures $9 billion in debt by offering them 85 cents on the dollar, and giving PREPA more time to begin making payments. …

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New opposition to P3s may put Texas in a traffic jam

Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, May 15, 2017 (Subscription Required)
 
Once a champion of public-private partnerships, Texas has turned against the most common form – tolled highways – amid increasingly organized resistance. With the defeat of House Bill 2861 on May 5, Texas lawmakers slammed the door on 18 major toll projects valued in the billions of dollars. The bill was designed to speed funding for redevelopment of major thoroughfares in the state’s largest metro areas by tapping private investment. Proponents promised to deliver projects in a decade rather than decades.  Conservative politicians in the early 2000s led by former Gov. Rick Perry promoted toll roads as a palatable alternative to raising fuel taxes for funding new highways and lanes and as a way to accelerate the state’s economy. …

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Trump’s Public-Private Infrastructure Vision Rejected in Texas
Source: Mark Niquette, Bloomberg, May 9, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with the help of public-private partnerships has hit a speed bump in Texas. Wary of public opposition to new highway tolls, the Texas House voted on May 5 to reject a bill that would have allowed the partnerships, known as P3s, to participate in 18 highway projects costing as much as $30 billion. The defeat leaves the second most-populous U.S. state unable to tap into the partnerships to finance the infrastructure improvements, even as Trump is proposing to expand their use. …

… The bill’s failure underscores the difficulty Trump faces in his bid to use private investment to reach $1 trillion in funding to rebuild roads, bridges, airports, veterans’ hospitals and other facilities. While P3 deals take different forms, they generally involve private investors accepting risk and responsibility for design, construction and operation of a project in return for a revenue stream made up of tolls, user fees or regular tax outlays known as “availability payments.” … Texas previously had broad authority for such partnerships, and some state entities can still use them for such work as building dormitories at universities. But in 2007, the state Legislature voted to restrict P3’s use for transportation-related projects and require that each new proposal for one be authorized. …

Lawmakers Tour Penn Station as Christie, Cuomo Call for Privatization

Source: Lucy Yang, WABC, May 12, 2017
 
New Jersey state lawmakers toured Penn Station Friday to get a first-hand look at infrastructure in desperate need of repair after an ongoing wave of delays have left commuters frustrated and angry. And it comes as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are pushing to privatize the transit hub. … The legislators got an eye-opening glimpse at the scope of work that Amtrak will undertake this summer, including the spaghetti junction of tracks and switches that needed to be replaced after a train derailment last month paralyzed service on New Jersey Transit, LIRR and Amtrak lines for a week. … On Thursday, Christie and Cuomo issued a joint letter declaring they have lost all faith in Amtrak. … If Amtrak agrees to contract out the running of Penn Station, the governors also want the right to approve any future, private contractor. …

Missouri lawmakers send ban on project labor agreements to Greitens

Source: Celeste Bott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 27, 2017

Missouri’s cities and counties could lose state funding if they force nonunion contractors to pay workers union wages for public projects, under a measure now headed to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk.  Current law allows both union and nonunion contractors to bid on public construction projects. But under a project labor agreement, local governments can require nonunion contractors to pay union wages, something Missouri Republicans call an unfair practice that discourages competition.  The legislation also would ban local governments from giving preferential treatment to union contractors. Governments that violate those provisions would lose state funding and tax credits for two years.  Greitens, a Republican, has listed the elimination of the agreements, or PLAs, among his labor reform priorities, which he says will persuade more businesses to set up shop in Missouri. …

California bill would blacklist contractors involved in U.S.-Mexico border wall project

Source: Katy Murphy, San Jose Mercury News, April 25, 2017

Contractors would have to choose between building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and doing business with California under a legislative proposal that advanced in the Senate Tuesday.  As California continues to fight the Trump administration’s agenda, Senate Bill 30 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would blacklist companies who help to build the controversial border wall that President Donald Trump has promised to build — a project estimated to cost more than $20 billion, funding the president has yet to secure. …

Trump’s Davis-Bacon Quote Turns Construction Industry Heads

Source: Elliot T Dube, Bloomberg BNA, April 14, 2017
 
Construction industry stakeholders got a jolt when President Donald Trump recently approached what a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official called a “third rail issue” for building trades unions: changes to the Davis-Bacon Act. Trump said in a New York Times interview published April 5 that he was “going to make an announcement in two weeks” regarding Davis-Bacon. The law requires contractors on federally funded construction projects to pay prevailing wages for a given area. …

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Trump’s promised announcement on labor law unnerves unions
Source: Lindsay Wise, McClatchy, April 10, 2017
 
President Donald Trump shocked organized labor by saying he would soon have an announcement to make about a law that guarantees wage levels for workers on most federally funded construction projects. And since then, the White House has declined to reveal his position publicly.  But behind closed doors, the Trump team appears to be scrambling in recent days to calm nerves among the very unions whose workers helped power the president’s Election Day victory. After a meeting with White House staff on Monday, Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, said he was confident the president was misquoted or misspoke when he told The New York Times he would make an announcement about the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. … Signed by President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, the Davis-Bacon Act requires contractors hired by the federal government for public works and building projects to pay certain classes of laborers and mechanics at prevailing wage rates. The Department of Labor calculates the rates by county, based on data it collects on similar projects in the area. Conservatives in Trump’s own Republican Party would be delighted if the president announced plans to repeal or replace the law. They say it artificially drives up costs for taxpayers and gives a competitive advantage to unions. Unions are anxious to protect Davis-Bacon, and ensure its wage protections are enshrined in Trump’s promised trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Any move by the president that threatens the law could jeopardize their support for a Trump infrastructure bill, and thwart its prospects for winning votes from congressional Democrats, the unions’ traditional allies. …

Trump Says He May Use His $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan as a Political Incentive
Source: Reuters, April 5, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was considering packaging a $1 trillion infrastructure plan with either health care or tax reform legislation as an incentive to get support from lawmakers, especially Democrats. Trump also said in an interview with the New York Times he may move up the unveiling of a plan to rebuild the country’s deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels, which had been expected later this year. … Some of the infrastructure projects may be built through public-private partnerships, Trump said, declining to say how the total spending would split between public and private sources. But he also said that with interest rates low, the government may be better off financing the projects itself. … Trump said he would make an announcement in two weeks about whether he would seek changes to a wage law for federal projects blamed by conservative groups for inflating costs, though he declined to say what the announcement would be. Conservative groups have pressured the White House on the law, known as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors on federal projects to pay local prevailing wages – a measure backed by labor unions and Democrats. …

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