Largest Public-Housing System in the U.S. Is Crumbling

Source: Mara Gay and Laura Kusisto, Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2018
 
New York City’s public housing is literally falling apart. The sprawling network of 176,000 apartment units across the five boroughs needs an estimated $25 billion of repairs, up from $6 billion in 2005. Yet annual federal funding for the nation’s largest public-housing program hasn’t kept pace. Residents of decaying brick towers battle leaking roofs and moldy walls, broken elevators and aging infrastructure. This winter, the housing authority’s ancient boilers gave out, leaving more than 320,000 people without heat or hot water. … Mayor Bill de Blasio has blamed public-housing problems on decadeslong funding declines from Washington. The New York City Housing Authority is overseen by HUD. Housing authorities in other major cities, such as San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta, now manage a vanishingly small share of their units. In some cases, cities have continued to own the land or buildings and they are run largely by private real-estate companies, while in other cases the original buildings are demolished completely. Tenants typically are given Section 8 rental-subsidy vouchers. Critics say New York was too slow to adopt this model. … Bringing in private partners to rehabilitate and manage public housing could generate millions of dollars of new investment but raises fears of privatization in the eyes of many tenants and advocates. Mayor de Blasio was initially resistant to that approach, embracing it only after appeals from Obama administration housing officials and NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye, according to people familiar with the matter. … So far, the city has transferred one traditional public-housing complex with some 1,400 units over to private management and has plans to complete the same process for 15,000 units over the next decade. …

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Federal Cuts Could Force N.Y.’s Creative Hand
Source: Paul Burton, Bond Buyer, March 24, 2017

The specter of massive cuts in federal domestic aid could force New York City officials to think outside the box about how to salvage programs now financed by the feds. … The New York City Housing Authority alone could lose up to $150 million in operating funds and up to $220 million in capital funding. … “The biggest issue for New York City is the housing program,” said Howard Cure, director of municipal bond research for Evercore Wealth Management. One creative option, according to Cure, is to convert some properties to the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, program, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development operates. It allows public housing agencies to fully own their public housing units and to renovate or redevelop the housing using private financing sources. The renovated or new housing receives rental support for the residents through a project-based Section 8 subsidy. … While Trump has called for more public-private partnerships, New York and other Empire State cities still need approval from state lawmakers to execute P3s. …

Republican congressmen defend $1 a day wage for immigrant detainees who work in private prisons

Source: Tracy Jan, Washington Post, March 16, 2018
 
A group of 18 Republican congressmen is urging the Trump administration to defend private prisons against lawsuits alleging immigrant detainees are forced to work for a wage of $1 a day.  The members say that Congress in 1978 had explicitly set the daily reimbursement rate for voluntary work by detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, and that the same rate should apply in government-contracted private prisons. … In the March 7 letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, the congressmen argue that the detainees are not employees of private prisons, so they should not be able to file lawsuits seeking to be paid for their work. … At least five lawsuits have been filed against private prisons, including GEO and CoreCivic, over detainee pay and other issues. The lawsuits allege that the private prison giants use voluntary work programs to violate state minimum wage laws, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, unjust enrichment and other labor statutes. The state of Washington sued GEO last year for violating its minimum wage of $11 an hour and sought to force the company to give up profits made through detainee labor. … Inmates in Colorado and California have also sued the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, alleging that they were forced to work for $1 per day to pay for necessities like food, water and hygiene products. …

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Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor
Source: Ian Urbina, New York Times, May 24, 2014

… As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities. … The federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force. … Officials at private prison companies declined to speak about their use of immigrant detainees, except to say that it was legal. Federal officials said the work helped with morale and discipline and cut expenses in a detention system that costs more than $2 billion a year. … The compensation rules at detention facilities are remnants of a bygone era. A 1950 law created the federal Voluntary Work Program and set the pay rate at a time when $1 went much further. (The equivalent would be about $9.80 today.) Congress last reviewed the rate in 1979 and opted not to raise it. It was later challenged in a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets workplace rules, but in 1990 an appellate court upheld the rate, saying that “alien detainees are not government ‘employees.’ ”…

Napolitano addresses higher education access, student support at LA event

Source: Anirudh Keni, Daily Bruin, March 19, 2018
 
University of California President Janet Napolitano said at an event Monday the University is working to expand access to higher education by accepting more transfer students and improving academic advisory and student support programs. Napolitano spoke to UC regents and local high school students at City Club in Los Angeles about the different ways the University is helping more people attend the UC. Napolitano was briefly interrupted by members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, protesting UCLA’s decision in August to end its contract with ABM Industries, a facility management company that employed valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The protesters, who chanted “UCLA, hire the valets,” claimed UCLA’s decision has led to workers losing their jobs or being transferred to other locations that do not offer the same wages or benefits UCLA provides. …

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LACMA’s Art + Film Gala honors Mark Bradford and George Lucas
Source: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2017

Earlier in the evening, UCLA service and hospital workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union tried to steer some of the focus to the Westside by protesting the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contract valet workers. They chanted,“David Geffen make it right, support valet workers’ rights,” referring to the philanthropist who recently pledged $150 million toward the construction of a new Peter Zumthor-designed building for LACMA. “More than 40 immigrant service workers have lost their jobs,” union organizer Paul Waters-Smith said. “David Geffen is the most prominent backer to UCLA Health. He can, with a phone call, make it right.”

UCLA student groups advocate for medical center valet workers 
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 24, 2017

UCLA labor- and immigration-justice groups held a town hall meeting Monday night to urge UCLA to create more insourced positions for contract valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.  … Victoria Salgado, a union organizer at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union, said many workers are concerned for their job security because they received unclear notifications in July and September about their employment dates. … Owen Li, a senior researcher for AFSCME Local 3299, said the UC has been increasing executive pay while cutting benefits for workers.  “The University of California literally wastes billions of dollars on hedge funds, management bloats and on these crazy executive perks,” he said.  The UC has 67 percent more overall staff than in 1993, and the number of senior managers has increased by 327 percent since 1993, Li added.  Li said most of the jobs UCLA is offering to current valet workers are part-time jobs, which he he thinks do not offer enough pay to live on. …

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Editorial: The Student Loan Industry Finds Friends in Washington

Source: Editorial Board, New York Times, March 18, 2018
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made clear even before taking office last year that she was more interested in protecting the companies that are paid by the government to collect federal student loan payments than in helping borrowers who have been driven into financial ruin by those same companies. Ms. DeVos’ eagerness to shill for those corporate interests is apparent in a craven new policy statement from the Education Department. The document claims that the federal government can pre-empt state laws that rein in student loan servicing companies if such a law “undermines uniform administration of’’ the student loan program. …

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Banks Look to Break Government’s Hold on Student-Loan Market
Source: Josh Mitchell and AnnaMaria Andriotis, Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2018
 
Private lenders are pushing to break up the government’s near monopoly in the $100 billion-a-year student-loan market. The banking industry’s main lobbying group, the Consumer Bankers Association, is pressing for the government to instate caps on how much individual graduate students and parents of undergraduates can borrow from the government to cover tuition. That would force many families to turn to private lenders to cover portions of their bills. While that could mean lower interest rates for some, it could constrain funding to households with blemished credit histories. A group of investors also is lobbying for legislation to provide a clearer legal framework for “income-share agreements,” under which private investors provide money upfront to cover tuition in exchange for a portion of a student’s income after school. …

DeVos drops plan to overhaul student loan servicing
Source: Michael Stratford, Politico, August 1, 2017
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday abandoned her plan to overhaul how the federal government collects payments from the nation’s more than 42 million student loan borrowers after it faced growing resistance from congressional Republicans and Democrats.  The Trump administration announced that it was scrapping plans to award a massive contract to a single company to manage the monthly payments of all student loan borrowers, and said it would come up with a new proposal aimed at improving customer service for student loan payments. …

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South Py. holds first public talk on police dept.

Source: Quinn Schwartz, The Herald, March 16, 2018
 
Township supervisors remained mostly silent at the first public hearing to discuss the future of their community’s law enforcement. Supervisors approved a motion in February to advertise for proposals to outsource the municipality’s police services. … Aside from outsourcing police services, other options regarding the future of the township’s police department are to disband the department altogether and rely solely on state police coverage, negotiate a new contract with AFSCME, which represents the township police, or extend the existing contract, which expires at the end of 2018. Acker said that he has been contacted by AFSCME, and that the parties hope to schedule a meeting for later in the week to discuss contract negotiations. He added that if the township does decide on a contract with an outside entity, or to continue without local police, a public meeting will be held before a final decision is made. …

Texas city drops its bus service in favor of ridesharing vans

Source: Jon Fingas, Engadget, March 12, 2018

Ridesharing companies often dream of changing the face of public transportation, but one of them is going a step further — it’s becoming the only option for public transportation in one community. Arlington, Texas is replacing its bus service with Via’s ridesharing platform. Pay $3 per trip ($10 for a weekly pass) and you can hop in a Mercedes van that will take you where you need to go, whether your hail it through a smartphone app or a phone call. … The low fares are possible thanks to subsidies from the city, which is providing about a third of the overall project’s cost (about $322,500). The Federal Transit Administration is supplying the rest. Whether or not it lasts for a while depends on the initial experience. … This is arguably one of the larger experiments of its kind, however, and it hints at the potential future of ridesharing: it could become the go-to option for public transportation in cities that can’t afford or justify extensive bus or subway routes. …

Florida Gov. Scott Signs Voucher & College Aid Bills

Source: Gary Fineout, Associated Press, March 11, 2018

Florida will create the nation’s first ever private school voucher program for bullied students under a sweeping education bill signed into law Sunday by Gov. Rick Scott. … Florida already spends nearly $1 billion a year on several private school voucher programs including one directed at low-income families. The bill signed by Scott will allow students who are victims of bullying and other types of violence to move to a different public school or receive a private school voucher under the $41 million a year Hope Scholarship program. The vouchers will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis starting this fall. … Democratic legislators sharply criticized the legislation (HB 7055) as it moved through the process and the bill barely edged out of the Florida Senate as four Republicans voted ‘no.’ They said instead of setting up another private school voucher program that the state should do more to deal with bullies in schools. …

Privatization talks continue for Osawatomie State Hospital

Source: Charity Keitel, Miami County Republic, March 7, 2018
 
The word “privatization” was the elephant in the room during Thursday’s Osawatomie State Hospital (OSH) town hall meeting at Memorial Hall. Residents met with representatives from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, Secretary Tim Keck of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and area legislators hoping to learn more about what a transition from a state-operated facility to a privately-operated facility would entail. And it wasn’t just residents who had questions. Rep. Jene Vickrey questioned Keck a few times, clarifying some of his concerns about the request for proposal (RFP) for privatization as well as his displeasure that KDADS is drafting a bill, regarding the RFP, to be introduced this late into the legislative session. …

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KDADS Secretary makes pitch to privatize Osawatomie
Source: Melissa Brunner, WIBW, August 30, 2017
 
The Kansas Dept. for Aging and Disability services is making the case to privatize the Osawatomie State Hospital.   Secretary Tim Keck presented information Wednesday to state lawmakers and community leaders. Over nearly two hours, Keck detailed the history Osawatomie, the issues it has experienced in recent years and steps the state has taken to address the problems.  Looking to the future, Keck detailed a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions to rebuild and run Osawatomie, which lost federal certification in 2015. Correct Care runs mental health facilities around the country. …

State officials hope to replace, privatize Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal-World, August 30, 2017

State officials in Kansas began laying out their case Wednesday for why they think the state should replace the aging and troubled Osawatomie State Hospital with a new facility and hand over management of the facility to a for-profit, out-of-state corporation. Tim Keck, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which manages the psychiatric hospital, said the hospital has become too challenging for the state to manage, and it is time for the state to make a decision. …

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Despite 34 making six figures, true amounts of JobsOhio salaries still lowballed

Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, March 12, 2018
 
JobsOhio continues to under report the amounts it pays employees — including 34 workers who make at least six-figure annual salaries — in a move that could run contrary to state law. In its 2017 filings with the state, Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development agency again reported employees’ taxable income — which does not include salary diverted to non-taxable retirement contributions and health insurance costs — instead of their gross income. State law requires the nonprofit to report “total compensation.” But its practice of reporting only taxable income serves to understate employee earnings by thousands of dollars each. …

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Justices again rule JobsOhio can’t be challenged
Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, August 31, 2016

The Ohio Supreme Court stood on identical ground Wednesday to reject another attempt to declare JobsOhio unconstitutional. In a 6-1 vote, the court ruled that Victoria Ullmann, a Columbus lawyer, lacked the legal right — or standing — to pursue her action seeking to declare Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development agency as illegal. … The court threw out another challenge to JobsOhio in 2014 on grounds the parties lacked proper standing, leaving some to question then if the legality of the nonprofit could ever be questioned in the courts. Ullmann argued she had standing to sue since she, and other Ohioans, support JobsOhio through their purchase of liquor, the profits from which support the entity under its long-term lease of state’s liquor sales enterprise. … Ullmann sued Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Auditor Dave Yost, asking that the court order the Republicans to take steps to dissolve JobsOhio. A spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, who defended the officeholders, said his office was pleased with the ruling. … JobsOhio reported earlier this year it attracted a record 23,602 new jobs and $6.7 billion in corporate investment in 2015. The agency reported revenue of slightly more than $1 billion last year, largely from the state’s liquor-sales operation, which racked up record sales last year to produce net income of $235.2 million. …

Liberal group’s challenge to JobsOhio rejected by Ohio Supreme Court
Source: Jackie Borchardt, Northeast Ohio Media Group, June 10, 2014

Ohio’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a challenge from a progressive group and two Democrats challenging the constitutionality of JobsOhio, the state’s private, nonprofit economic development agency. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that ProgressOhio.org, state Sen. Michael Skindell of Lakewood and former state Rep. Dennis Murray do not have standing — the legal right to pursue its claim in court — to bring an action against the legislation that created JobsOhio. The court also held that the plaintiffs lack a personal stake in the outcome of the case.

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LePage Administration Outsources Part of Medicaid Program

Source: Associated Press, March 3, 2018
 
Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to outsource part of the state’s Medicaid application process will cost the state more. The Bangor Daily News reports that the LePage administration acknowledges in a publicly posted contract document that there will be a “slight increase in cost.” The Maine Department of Health and Human Services in June will eliminate the positions of 10 state employees and enter into a $5.6 million, 25-month contract with a division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The agency didn’t respond to request for comment. …