Category Archives: Victories

Silicon Valley billionaire loses bid to prevent access to public beach

Source: Sam Levin, The Guardian, August 10, 2017

A California court has ordered a Silicon Valley billionaire to restore access to a beloved beach that he closed off for his private use, a major victory for public lands advocates who have been fighting the venture capitalist for years. An appeals court ruled on Thursday that Vinod Khosla, who runs the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and co-founded the tech company Sun Microsystems, must unlock the gates to Martins Beach in northern California by his property.
The decision is a major blow to Khosla and other wealthy landowners who have increasingly tried to buy up the internationally celebrated beaches along the California coast and turn public lands into private property. …

Harris County Nixes Private Prisons

Source: Allison Lee, Houston Public Media, August 1, 2017

Private prisons usually get a bad wrap from advocates, for a lack of oversight. But, that wasn’t main reason behind Sheriff Ed Gonzalez shifting the department away from private prisons. … “Within three months, we were able to move everybody back in house,” Gonzalez said. … According to the Harris County Sheriff’s office, the department spent $4.5 million on outsourced inmates last fiscal year. This fiscal year, they’re projecting to spend just under $300,000 (for what’s been spent before the transition). … He says there are also other benefits to bringing inmates back in-house. “We have more control of what we’re doing. You know, the medical records, things like that,” Gonzalez said. Another benefit? Loved ones can visit inmates, without having to travel to other municipalities or cities.

Is Privatization on Its Way Out?

Source: Donald Cohen, HuffPost, July 27, 2017

According to a new report by the Transnational Institute, cities across Europe are increasingly deciding to reclaim public goods like water, energy, and health care from corporations and private investors. For example, fourteen cities in the Catalonia region of Spain have brought their water under public control in the past two years alone. … As always, the movement is starting at the bottom.  There’s Milford, Connecticut, a small city pushing to purchase its water system after learning that the corporation that owns it plans to raise rates by nearly 30 percent.  There’s New York, which just brought back state workers to provide IT help desk services after concerns about rising costs in a contract with IBM.  There’s Atlantic City, New Jersey, which earlier this month passed an ordinance to ensure residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  There’s Baltimore, Maryland, where teachers just recruited hundreds of new public school students after weeks of knocking on doors. And Miami, Florida, where parents and teachers rallied over the weekend to demand more funding for public education and regulation of charter schools.

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State workers to return to help desk jobs that had been outsourced

Source: Rick Karlin, Times Union, July 21, 2017
 
Less than a year after it started, the state Office for Information Technology Services is backing away from the outsourcing of its help desk, and will be once again have state workers assume many of those responsibilities. Soon after it began last fall, representatives of numerous state agencies complained they couldn’t get through to the newly privatized help desks, which were based in Buffalo but were backed up in Boulder, Colo. There had also been worries about the cost of the outsourcing. …  The agency said it will continue to work with its main outsourcing contractor, IBM, but state employees will provide on-site assistance at the various state agencies. The process will begin this month in the Capital Region. …

School board rejects plan to privatize food services

Source: Christina Daly, Long Beach Herald, July 13, 2017

The Long Beach Board of Education voted 3-2 to reject a plan to privatize the school district’s lunch program that administrators said would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. At a contentious July 6 meeting, the board rejected a bid by Chartwells, a food- service company, to take over the district’s food operations and help fill a budget gap. School officials said the district lost about $400,000 in food services in each of the past two years due to a lack of student participation in the federally funded National School Lunch Program, which partially reimburses the district for lunches that the agency considers healthy. …

Teamsters, city of Pekin agree on yard crew contract

Source: Sharon Woods Harris, Peoria Journal Star, April 28, 2017

An agreement between Teamsters Local 627 and the city of Pekin to bring yard work back in-house has been reached, which could mean a possible savings of more than $100,000 for the city. Pekin City Manager Tony Carson said the agreement only applies to yard workers, not all of the Teamsters in four bargaining units in the city. The yard workers’ contract will become a part of the Teamsters contract that is yet to be reached with all of the bargaining units. He said he cannot discuss the terms of the agreement until then. Pekin Mayor John McCabe said the return of an in-house yard crew is good news. “We talked about this last year and there’s been a lot of concern about the mowing and other work that’s been done over the last couple of years,” McCabe said. “A lot of people thought we should bring it back in-house because we seem to get better results.” … The city hired Golf Green in May 2013 and discontinued the in-house service.

School board votes down outsourcing custodial services

Source: Chris Ford, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, May 5, 2017

More than two hours into Wednesday evening’s Mat-Su Borough School District’s regular board meeting, the crowd erupted into applause following a vote not to award a more than $4.8 million, three-year contract to NANA Management Services for custodial services. The board heard from about a dozen individuals on potential budget cuts under consideration as the district continues to wrangle with unknown funding sources as its June 30 deadline to approve a balanced budget nears. Privatizing the service was expected to provide of the largest savings in the at least $11 million deficit. But when the question came, the issue failed on a 4-3 vote. …

Petition circling to stop Mat-Su school district from outsourcing custodial, cafeteria positions
Source: Sierra Starks, KTVA Alaska, March 27, 2017

Faced with a $10 million budget deficit, cuts sometimes have to be made beyond the classroom, says Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District (MSBSD) assistant superintendent Luke Fulp. As a “viable option to help reduce ongoing expenses and financial obligations,” the district is looking to outsource its custodian and nutrition service workers. In February, the MSBSD voted 4 to 3 to move forward with a request for proposal (RFP), calling for companies interested in providing contracted employees. It’s a move Fulp says could save the district up to $4.3 million. And with a $10 million budget deficit, he says the district is “exploring all options, and making sure everything is on the table, especially when it comes to support services, where we could limit the disruption to students.” … But those cuts come at the cost of connections made over the years, says Karen Salisbury, president of the Mat-Su Classified Employees Association, which oversees the borough’s custodians and nutrition workers. … Potential for a flood of new faces in the district’s schools doesn’t sit well with Salisbury, so she’s spearheading an online petition to get the school board to say no to outsourcing when the measure is up for a vote in April. … Meanwhile, the district is moving forward with the process to outsource. An intent-to-award letter was issued to Nana Management Services on Friday, Fulp says. …

SAVED: School Committee votes to keep nutrition services in-house

Source: Bryan McGonigle, Wicked Local Georgetown, May 4, 2017
 
In a striking twist of irony, Georgetown’s school cafeteria workers spent School Nutrition Employee Week – meant to honor and highlight their value to the community – fighting for their jobs.   … After three hours of discussion and debate, the School Committee unanimously voted to keep the district’s current program and not outsource food services to Whitsons Culinary Group – a national school lunch and catering corporation. … Under the Whitsons proposal, most employees would be invited to stay and work for that company at the same hourly rate. But benefits would only be offered after a 90-day probationary period – meaning employees would have to wait 90 days to get something they currently have.   And benefits would only be offered to full-time employees, with 30 hours a week being the full-time benchmark. Only a couple of employees currently work 30 hours or more, however, so most would not even qualify.  “The jobs they hold now will be gone, and they will be replaced, only with an offer to do the same job for less,” Jim Durkin, representative from the AFSCME Council 93, said to the committee. “Less money, less paid time off, a reduction in retirement benefits through the loss of pension eligibility, and a loss of eligibility for health insurance for them and their kids.” … If improvements aren’t seen and participation doesn’t rise, the committee will likely send out another RFP for outsourcing the program next year.

Should the Federal Bureau of Prisons Phase Out Contracted Prisons?

Source: Austill Stuart, Reason Foundation, March 2017

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently pushed the debate over private prisons back into the spotlight with a February 21, 2017 memorandum rescinding a Department of Justice memorandum that had been issued in August 2016 calling for the eventual end of
using private prisons within the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The August 2016 memo, which followed a report that had been released by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (OIG) on improving the monitoring of private prisons, included significant space dedicated to comparing various safety and security metrics between BOP operated prisons and their private prison counterparts within the BOP system. … Given Attorney General Sessions’ memo and the renewed debate over private prisons that will likely follow, it is important to get beyond conflicting memos and take a closer look at what the August 2016 Inspector General report did, and did not, conclude about private prisons. …

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Obama’s DOJ Says It One More Time: Private Prisons Aren’t Working
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, December 21, 2016

In what may be the Obama administration’s parting shot on private prisons, the Justice Department inspector general found in an audit released yesterday that yet another privately run facility is in crisis, suffering from inadequate medical care, persistent understaffing, and weak federal oversight. The audit comes after Obama’s DOJ ordered the Bureau of Prisons to begin closing all of its privately run facilities this summer, and after President-elect Donald Trump has insisted, against mounds of evidence to the contrary, that private prisons “work a lot better.”

The US government is already quietly backing out of its promise to phase out private prisons
Source: Hannah Kozlowska, Quartz, November 27, 2016

Critics have long denounced private prisons in the US as unsafe, inefficient and at times, inhumane. Those critics, who include inmates and activists, seemed to find a powerful ally earlier this year when the Department of Justice announced it would phase out its use of private prisons for federal prisoners. This wouldn’t mean the end of privately-run incarceration facilities (they’re also used by immigration authorities and states), but it was seen as a step forward. Except, that when the first contracts came up for re-negotiation this fall, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) quietly decided to renew them anyway. That decision, along with the election of Donald Trump, mean that the US is unlikely to see the use of private prison operators diminish any time soon. Last week, CoreCivic (CCA), one of the country’s two largest prison operators, announced that the BOP had renewed its contract for two years to run the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. According to the company, the new agreement was barely changed, with only an 8% reduction in inmate beds. This despite an August memo from the deputy attorney general Sally Yates that stated that the Department of Justice, which oversees BOP, would either nix the contracts, or “substantially” reduce them when they came up for renewal. … She pointed out that the BOP extended its contract with GEO Group, the other leading prison company in the US in September for the D. Ray James Correctional Facility, also in Georgia. As with the McRae facility, the company presents the reduction of the contract as small, and the BOP presented the cut as larger in an email to Quartz, using different numbers from the agreement. … Separately, the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has activists worried that the steps taken by the Obama administration to reduce the population of inmates in private prisons will be quickly rolled back. Trump has said outright that he supports prison privatization, and his plans for cracking down on illegal immigration would be a boon for prison operators: the stock prices of CoreCivic and the GEO Group soared following his election. Meanwhile, his nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions—a harsh critic of criminal justice reform efforts—to serve as attorney general certainly won’t help. In October, Geo Group hired two former aides to Sessions to lobby in favor of outsourcing federal corrections to the private prison industry. …

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School district to retain IT department

Source: Joe Cannon, The Sentinel, March 24, 2017

Information technology services will remain in house in the Mifflin County School District following action taken Thursday by the district’s board of directors. Several members of the IT department were present at Thursday’s meeting to urge the board not to outsource IT services to a company that proposed to do so during the board’s February meeting. IT Director Kevin Cunningham and several of his colleagues gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the advantages of keeping the department within the district. … Cunningham noted the company proposing to do the service, Questeq, a Coraopolis firm that provides outsourced education technology management services to school districts, alluded to the fact that the in-house department doesn’t have the resources to reach out properly. … Cunningham said outsourcing would allow the district to lose ownership in equipment, personnel decisions and hours worked. …