Tag Archives: Michigan

Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto says PWSA at financial crossroads

Source: Bob Bauder, TribLive, September 4, 2018

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has two choices: squeeze more than $2 billion needed for replacing outdated and failing infrastructure from 80,000 ratepayers, or partner with a private company to defray some of those costs, Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday. Peduto is adamant about maintaining PWSA as a publicly owned system, but he’s open to suggestions from private enterprise on a partnership that would generate additional revenue. The mayor said he’s received more than a dozen offers from companies interested in providing the city with water, including Peoples Gas and Pennsylvania American Water. Peduto said Pennsylvania American, which provides water to the city’s South Hills residents, has offered to purchase the authority outright, but the company said it has not offered an official proposal. …

Related:

From Pittsburgh to Flint, the Dire Consequences of Giving Private Companies Responsibility for Ailing Public Water Systems
Source: Sharon Lerner and Leana Hosea, The Intercept, May 20, 2018
 
The lead crises in Flint and Pittsburgh have many unfortunate parallels. Residents of both cities unknowingly drank water with high levels of the potent neurotoxin, which has long-term health consequences. The rise in lead levels was preceded in both cases by a miscalculation related to chemicals used to control corrosion in water pipes. And in both places, officials have faced criticism for their inaction and failure to alert the public. The two lead crises have another important thing in common: a private water company named Veolia. The world’s largest supplier of water services, Veolia had contracts with both Flint and Pittsburgh around the time that lead levels rose in their drinking water. And in both places, Veolia wound up in legal disputes over its role in the crises. …

Pittsburgh’s Water System Is Why We Shouldn’t Run America Like a Business
Source: Jordana Rosenfeld, The Nation, November 30, 2017

Pittsburgh, in an attempt to deal with entrenched infrastructure problems, turned to the private sector in 2012 when it partnered with the French management firm Veolia North America, the same water-management company that would fail to disclose Flint’s lead-contamination problem in 2015. … The organization lauded Veolia for identifying $2.3 million in new PWSA revenue and $3 million more in operating savings, a move incentivized by their contract that stipulated the company could keep 40 percent of every dollar it saved the city. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a glowing account of PWSA’s partnership with Veolia, despite reports that it laid off 23 employees, many of whom were longtime employees with critical institutional knowledge. … But this August, a consulting group hired to assess the organization’s current state announced in a public meeting that PWSA was “a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure” with “an aging system in demonstrably worse condition than any water utility of its size in the country.” Not only that, water tests showed that since the partnership began, Pittsburgh’s water had been tainted with dangerously high levels of lead. …

Continue reading

Michigan’s Failed Effort to Privatize Prison Kitchens and the Future of Institutional Food

Source: Tom Perkins, Civil Eats, August 20, 2018
 
The stated purpose of Michigan’s privatization plan was to save the state money on operating costs—replacing union workers earning $15-$25 per hour with low-wage Aramark workers earning $11-$13. But critics point out that disabling the union positions in prison kitchens served as an added benefit. In 2013, the MDOC signed a three-year, $145 million contract with Aramark despite the fact that a union—the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 25—offered to match that price. The union-busting point was driven home in 2015, when the department dumped Aramark and switched to Tampa-based Trinity Food Services, with which it signed a three-year, $158 million contract—a more expensive contract than what AFSCME had offered. …

Related:

Despite problems, Michigan is hiring Trinity employees to work in its prison kitchens
Source: Tom Perkins, Detroit Metro Times, June 19, 2018

For several years, private food service employees in Michigan’s prison kitchens have been a consistent problem. … Despite that, the Michigan Department of Corrections is now hiring some of Trinity’s employees, and they will be unionized state workers within the next several months. … The employees will be a part of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union. Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director for AFSCME Council 25, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. …

Michigan’s $56.8B budget tackles prisons, potholes and pot
Source: Emily Lawler, MLive, June 12, 2018

The House and Senate on Tuesday voted to approve a $56.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019, putting more money toward things like roads and regulating medical marijuana facilities while saving $19.2 million by closing a prison. … In his budget proposal earlier this year, Snyder moved to get rid of the contractor altogether and go back to state workers. The legislature followed suit, putting an extra $13.2 million into food services and authorized 352 new full-time equivalent employee positions.    Overall the Department of Corrections gets $2 billion in the budget. …

Continue reading

Ann Arbor council shuts down talks of privatizing trash pickup

Source: Ryan Stanton, MLive, May 24, 2018
 
Talks in city hall about possibly privatizing more of Ann Arbor’s solid waste services such as trash pickup have concerned the city’s unionized workforce and left the City Council divided. The council voted 7-4 this week to shut down those talks, directing the city’s administration to cease all actions that further any plan to privatize solid waste services now performed by city staff. The council also directed the city’s administration to end the practice of using temporary employees on a long-term basis to forestall the hiring of permanent full-time union employees. … The city already contracts with private entities such as Waste Management, Recycle Ann Arbor and WeCare Denali for some solid waste services, but the city also has in-house staff that performs certain collection functions. The council’s approved resolution proclaims opposition to privatization of solid waste services not already performed by an outside contractor, though it doesn’t preclude the creation of a regional public partnership to consolidate services, something the city has talked about. The council intends to make its position against privatization clear to the consultant now helping the city evaluate how to better deliver solid waste services, including trash, recycling and composting. …

Proos and MDOC spar over prison budget

Source: Cheyna Roth, WNMU, April 30, 2018
 
A Republican Senator is sparring with the Michigan Department of Corrections over privatizing prison services. The department is already trying to end one type of privatization – and they don’t want a new one.  This year, the DOC asked the Legislature to give it enough money to stop outsourcing food services to a private contractor. The Legislature appears to be on board, but now Senator John Proos wants to have a private contractor put in charge of employing the prisons’ nurses. … The Department of Corrections says it’s already having a hard time filling open nurse positions. Paying them less and without state benefits – which they say would happen with a private contractor – would make filing positions even more difficult. …

Cobo Center to save $200,000 annually by bringing janitorial services in-house

Source: Kurt Nagl, Crain’s Detroit Business, April 13, 2018

Cobo Center is on track to save around $200,000 annually on housekeeping by bringing those services in-house. The Detroit venue parted ways with The Professional Group, a janitorial services provider based in Detroit, last October and is pleased with the savings and performance of the restructured team, said Claude Molinari, general manager of Cobo. The venue’s budget for housekeeping this year is $1.75 million a year, which would mean a savings of 10 percent compared to the cost last year, Molinari said. Cobo, which is operated by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and managed by SMG, had contracted with Detroit-based ABM Janitorial Services for several years prior to The Professional Group winning the bid in 2016. The Professional Group terminated the contract after one year. … Molinari said that under the new management structure the average wage of a full-time cleaner is $13.50 plus benefits — up from an average of $11.10 plus benefits before the new arrangement. …

Detroit Medical Center service workers seek new contract, decry “penny-pinching”

Source: Sarah Cwiek, Michigan Radio, January 21, 2018
 
The Detroit Medical Center is still trying to reach a new contract with some unionized workers at its five Detroit hospitals, after service and maintenance workers overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract agreement earlier this month.  Those workers, who range from janitorial staff to equipment technicians, say the first deal offered by the DMC’s for-profit owner, Tenet Health Care, was simply “inadequate.”  “They want to give us about a 30-cent wage increase, and yet they’re increasing our insurance premiums anywhere from 24-39%. And so basically, we’re just falling backward,” said Donna Stern, a Children’s Hospital of Michigan employee and a unit chair with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 140. …

Related:

DMC Surgery Hospital remains closed; housekeeping outsourcing nearly settled
Source: Jay Greene, Crain’s Detroit Business, January 22, 2015

Detroit Medical Center’s Surgery Hospital in Madison Heights is still closed more than six months after a torrential rain flooded it along with much of Southeast Michigan. DMC officials still haven’t decided what to do with the shuttered hospital in which all the employees have either been laid off or transferred within the eight-hospital system. …. On DMC’s plan to outsource its environmental services department to Sodexo USA, Conrad Mallett Jr., DMC’s chief administrative officer, told Crain’s that negotiations are moving steadily and a final resolution is expected by Feb. 1. …. In October, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled that DMC needed to engage in arbitration with the housekeepers union – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 – before it signed a contract with Sodexo.

DMC workers protest hospital’s plan to outsource job
Source: Holly Fournier, The Detroit News, October 27, 2014

About 70 employees of the Detroit Medical Center’s environmental services department rallied Monday to protest the hospital’s plan to outsource housekeeping jobs to a company called Sodexo. Their protest came moments before a 3-hour hearing Monday in Detroit’s federal court to address the hospital’s plan. The hearing continues with oral arguments Wednesday morning.

Continue reading

Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

Source: Mark Binelli, New York Times, September 5, 2017

… A major victim of the city’s borderline insolvency was its public-school system, which had been under state control since 2012. (Six different state-appointed emergency managers have run the district since then.) Plummeting enrollment, legacy costs and financial mismanagement had left the school system with a projected deficit of $10 million. The state’s solution that year was to “charterize” the entire district: void the teacher’s union contract, fire all employees and turn over control of the schools to a private, for-profit charter operator. But enrollment at Highland Park High continued to decline, so the state closed the school in 2015. Highland Park now has no high school, either public or charter. Families send their children to high schools in Detroit or the suburbs, where they have no electoral influence over local officials or school boards.

… Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. … The story of Carver is the story of Michigan’s grand educational experiment writ small. It spans more than two decades, three governors and, now, the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose relentless advocacy for unchecked “school choice” in her home state might soon, her critics fear, be going national. But it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions. …

Related:

Michigan Emergency Managers Outsource Education
Source: Dylan Scott, Governing, August 2, 2012

Can contracting out education services save a school district money and improve student performance? Highland Park Public Schools in Michigan are about to find out. It’s an innovative idea, one enabled by Michigan’s emergency manager law, which gives one public official almost autonomous authority to oversee a city or school district’s finances and operations, as Governing detailed in its June issue. Last week, Highland Park Public Schools Emergency Manager Joyce Parker announced that she planned to hire The Leona Group, a charter school operator, to take over the school’s curriculum and instruction. Parker and her office will continue to oversee financial matters. …

Highland Park district seeks to charter all of its schools
Source: Jennifer Chambers, Detroit News, June 18, 2012

The emergency manager of Highland Park Schools says turning the entire district over to a charter operator is the only way to make it financially viable for students to return this fall…. The Muskegon Heights school district also has sought proposals to place all of its schools under a charter operator. Parker, who has the sole authority to hire a charter operator in Highland Park, said she expects an operator to be selected by mid-July.

Ex Wayne Co. CFO’s ties to developers warrant probe, commissioners say

Source: Ross Jones, WXYZ, August 11, 2017

The sale of a Wayne County building to developers with ties to the county’s former CFO has prompted calls for an investigation by Wayne County’s prosecutor.  County Executive Warren Evans insists the CFO, Tony Saunders, played no role in the sale that and no rules were broken. … Also this week, Denis Martin, the president of AFSCME Local 1862, sent a letter to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, asking that her office of Fraud and Corruption Investigation Unit dig into the deal.  While the deal was being vetted by the county commission, analysts noted several red flags even before they were aware of Saunders’ connection to the buyers. …

Daily understaffing persists at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, August 10, 2017

Understaffing at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans continues to be a problem, according to an follow-up audit released by the state. That’s after the home entered into a new staffing contract in fall 2016. … However, most other major problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans identified in a blistering state audit in February 2016 have largely been resolved, the report found. …

Related:

Blame for poor care at Grand Rapids veterans home sits at the top, Dems say
Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, July 27, 2017
 
Democratic State Representatives Winnie Brinks and Tim Greimel say Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette hasn’t gone far enough to hold officials with the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the state accountable for the poor conditions at the facility.  “Why did it take so long to get some action? For years, our veterans were literally calling for help, pressing the help button beside their bed, and hearing silence,” Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said at a Thursday, July 27, press conference in front of the home.  This week Schuette announced felony charges for falsifying medical records against 11 former nursing assistants who worked for the former contractor, J2S Group Healthforce. His investigation found there wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges over the five worst complaints about member treatment, in some of which veterans died. …

Did a 2011 lawsuit against Grand Rapids Home for Veterans predict the future?
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, July 25, 2017
 
The lawsuit was filed by veteran Anthony Spallone intending to stop the on-going privatization at the time.  Gov. Rick Snyder recommended taking state-employed care aides out the home and replace them with nurse aides hired by local contractor J2s.  It was a contentious environment at the time as state aides lost their jobs and were replaced by people they considered to be less-skilled, less-experienced and cheaper.  Union leaders did everything they could to stop the job losses including filing Spallone’s lawsuit.  It alleged the privatization would lead to substandard care and contended J2S had a quote “dangerous track record of care”.   Spallone’s attorney at the time was adamant veterans could be put in terrible situations with the privatization. …

Continue reading

Michigan begins to design 4 pilot projects to test mental health integration

Source: Jay Greene, Crain’s Detroit Business, August 4, 2017

What is going on at the Michigan health department about designing four pilot programs to test a controversial plan to combine physical and behavioral Medicaid services among mental health agencies, providers and HMOs? So far, nothing, at least on the selection and design of the pilots. … Section 298 is a controversial budget section that, under Snyder’s original plan put forth in early 2016, would have allowed some of the state’s health plans to manage the $2.6 billion Medicaid behavioral health system. The Medicaid HMOs already manage a nearly $9 billion physical health system. Over the past two years, Michigan’s 11 Medicaid health plans have lobbied legislators and the public to try a semi-privatized approach under Snyder’s plan, which was finally approved in June. … Republicans in Michigan want to test the concept in four pilot projects that everyone believes will be Kent County, an urban area like metro Detroit, a northern Michigan rural area and in western Michigan, which could include Kalamazoo County, sources tell me. Lori said the state has not received any formal suggestions for where the four pilots would be located. …

Related:

Plan to privatize Mich. mental health aid advances
Source: Karen Bouffard, Detroit News, June 20, 2017
 
The first step in a plan to turn control of Michigan’s $2.6 billion mental health budget over to privately owned insurance companies is poised for inclusion in next year’s state budget, despite a wall of opposition from mental health providers, patients and families across Michigan.  The contentious plan is embedded in two provisions of the state budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, part of the Omnibus Budget bill approved by the state House on Tuesday expected to be approved by the state Senate on Thursday. …

Lobbying ramp-up precedes mental health funding proposal
Source: Justin A. Hinkley, Lansing State Journal, April 27, 2017

Physical health insurers ramped up lobbying operations and far out-spent their behavioral health counterparts in the months before lawmakers pulled an about-face on who should manage billions of Medicaid dollars for mental health services. Community mental health groups and allied advocacy groups spent about $52,400 on lobbying in 2016, nearly $8,700 more than their average from the previous three years, state records show. That happened as they fought to maintain management of Medicaid money for behavioral health. However, lobbyists for the private insurers who currently manage Medicaid dollars for physical health spent a combined nearly $838,000 last year, about $21,000 more than their previous three years’ average as they seek to take over the mental health dollars. … That ramp-up happened as lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration changed positions on the Medicaid issue — to the benefit of the physical health insurers. In February 2016, Snyder called for the private health management organizations who oversee physical health spending to also take over mental health money by Oct. 1, 2016. Lawmakers denied that proposal and instead asked the administration to study the issue and make recommendations by spring 2017. The administration did that last month, changing its position from 2016 and calling for the two funds to remain under separate management. Last week, however, lawmakers in the Senate advanced a budget proposal that would give the mental health money to HMOs by 2020. …

Continue reading