In-house data centers: Living on borrowed time?

Source: LESLIE BROOKS SUZUKAMO, St Paul Pioneer Press, Sun, Dec. 18, 2005

The city of Minneapolis doesn’t own a single computer. …… The machines themselves didn’t disappear, of course. Hundreds of PCs still sit on top of desks in City Hall. But in the Twin Cities and around the country, a few businesses are beginning to do away with the data centers they spent most of the past two decades building up. They are moving to another model of computing called “utility” or “on-demand” computing, in which they buy their computing as a service and let someone else worry about fiddling with the machines. Minneapolis outsourced its entire IT infrastructure to Unisys Corp. nearly three years ago, from the desktop machines to its underground data center that sprawled in the basement level between City Hall and the Hennepin County Government Center. Many of the Minneapolis IT workers moved to Unisys’ payroll. Outsourcing isn’t new, of course, but farming out the city’s data center — the real muscle behind any business’s IT work — is considered radical by most of the IT establishment.

Sanitation contract approved despite looming layoffs

Source: JENNIFER A. WELLS, Marion Chronicle Tribune (IN), Dec 20, 205

Although they’re days away from a layoff and their jobs have been eliminated, the city’s trash workers are still a part of a contract with various city workers that was approved Monday by the city Board of Public Works and Safety. Contract negotiations began before discussions surrounding trash privatization started, which meant that the city’s eight Sanitation Department workers were included in the package, along with street, traffic and fleet maintenance personnel. ….. The contract between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3063 was approved by a 4-0 vote Monday, with board member Jim Swan absent…… According to Spitzer, the inclusion of the sanitation department in the contract will not prohibit Marion Services Inc. from beginning trash collection next month. The Board of Works voted to privatize services in September. “It is not in any way going to impede (the city’s decision to privatize),” he said. “We are following the contract in terms of sending notifications to employees.” ….. John Francis, president of Marion Services’ parent company, Capital Waste Inc., promised the board and the city that he would hire all displaced workers.

Congress Clamps a Lid on Outsourcing of Government Work

Source: Stephen Barr, Washington Post, Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Congress, in an effort to protect federal jobs, has placed restrictions on the Bush administration’s program that uses cost-comparison studies to determine whether “commercial” activities performed by the government should be turned over to contractors. One of the more significant curbs was contained in the fiscal 2006 spending bill for the departments of Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development. The provision applies across the government — except for the Defense Department and the Transportation Security Administration’s airport screener operation — and became law Nov. 30. The fiscal 2006 defense spending bill, approved by the House yesterday and sent to the Senate, would place a similar limit on the Defense Department’s conversion of federal jobs to contractor jobs.

New trash contract establishes fines

Source: William Wichert, Register News (NJ), 12/15/2005

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — The Township Committee has awarded a new contract to the town’s trash hauler, but this one allows fines to be levied on the company if service problems, like those that occurred last year, arise again. While the three-year contract with low-bidder Central Jersey Waste and Recycling Inc. of Trenton would not change trash collection routes and schedules, the new agreement revises the billing method and establishes fines for not abiding by the terms of the contract. The $282,000 contract was approved at Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting.

No jail privatization, says sheriff / Thompson slams abrupt decision by Luttrell, says it smells of politics

Source: By Michael Erskine, Commercial Appeal (TN), December 16, 2005

Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell and Mayor A C Wharton said Thursday they will not support any proposal to privately manage the county’s jail and prison populations. Their announcement delivered a possibly fatal blow to two proposals by private firms hoping to land a lucrative contract with county government to privatize the Shelby County Jail and Correction Center. “As far as I’m concerned, this is over,” said Luttrell, who runs the jail.

Jail Privatization Issue Draws Continued Debate

Source: ANDY MEEK, The Memphis Daily News(TN), Dec 19, 2005

He’s a corrections officer who has worked at the Shelby County Penal Farm for 16 years, a career that, until recently, has been mostly spent out of the limelight and away from the public eye. But in the last three years, Jeff Woodard – who has become one of Shelby County government’s most outspoken, persistent critics – figures he’s missed only five public meetings of the full County Commission. Protesting privatization. With most appearances, Woodard protests the notion that a private company could ever smoothly manage the county’s jail and prison facilities, something county leaders have been studying with particular interest over the past year. ……. But Woodard’s nonappearance wasn’t the most significant absence from the meeting that day. Also missing were the new jail proposals themselves, which are tweaked versions of packages submitted to the county earlier this year by two leading companies in the private prison industry. Only a few people in county government have actually seen the proposals that Corrections Corp. of America and The GEO Group redelivered to county leaders about one month ago.

Security for Sale: The Department of Homeland Security has a section on its Web site labeled “Open for Business.” It certainly is

Source: Sarah Posner. American Prospect, 01.18.06

…… Some of the country’s largest government contractors, already fat on Pentagon pork, have retained well-connected lobbyists to win their slice of the DHS budget. Lobbyists who double as Bush Rangers and Pioneers, raising hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars, now represent some of the biggest DHS contractors. These lobbyists and their clients — through both individual donations and those of their political action committees — have poured still more hundreds of thousands into the campaigns and PACs of powerful Republican members of Congress who control DHS appropriations and oversight. In the age of terror and natural catastrophe, knowing the right people is still the right way to get rich. ……. Another eager client signed up by former Ridge staffers at Blank Rome was the Homeland Security Corporation (HSC), a company started in 2001 by a Tennessee businessman named Doctor R. Crants. The politically connected Crants had once headed the country’s largest privatized prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which he established in 1983 with a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party and modeled on the Frist family’s Hospital Corporation of America, creating an industry based on incarceration-for-profit. ….. Today CCA, HSC, and CCA’s closest competitor in the private prison industry, Wackenhut — brandishing lobbyists, political connections, and lavish contributions — have all won DHS contracts to train and supply security guards and screeners and to build, manage, and maintain detention facilities.

Hospital contract draws union suit / Group seeks to block privatization of Fort Wayne site.

Source: MARTIN DeAGOSTINO, South BendTribune (IN), December 13. 2005 6:59AM

A government-employees union has asked a judge to block the state from turning over management and operations of a troubled Fort Wayne health care facility to private operators. The lawsuit, filed in Allen Superior Court, says the state failed to solicit proposals before signing the contract with Liberty of Indiana Corp., a division of Pennsylvania-based Liberty Healthcare Corp. “The law is clear,” said David Warrick, executive director of Council 62 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “The state has to bid this work before it can award millions of taxpayer dollars to a private company. The reason for this law is to ensure that the state is promoting competition and working to get the best deal it can for taxpayers.”

Ex-state workers file complaint over firing

Source: MIKE DENNISON, Helena Independent Record (MT), 12/14/05

A half-dozen computer experts who lost their jobs on a state Justice Department project are taking legal action, saying the state deceived them about the length and nature of the job. …… They lost their jobs in May after the Justice Department shifted gears on its $22.5 million project to computerize motor-vehicle records, deciding to hand it over to a private company in what became a $15.9 million contract. “They gave the work they promised to us to the contractor, BearingPoint, without any explanation other than it was a business decision,” said Katherin Clemmence, the lead plaintiff in the case. …… The six workers said they left good-paying jobs, some in other states, to move to Helena and work on the Justice Department project, which is one of the largest computer projects in state government.