Tag Archives: New Jersey

Letter: Privatizing library would be a mistake

Source: Patricia A. Martinelli, The Daily Journal, October 31, 2017

In recent years, privatization of government services has seeped into just about every aspect of daily life. Most recently, I was saddened to learn that Vineland Public Library is in danger of becoming privatized by an out-of-state company called Library Systems & Services, which claimed that it would be able to save the city of Vineland about $350,000 a year in operating costs. However, during the September meeting of the library’s board of trustees, the representatives of LS&S were unable to clearly state exactly how they would produce those savings. Unfortunately, despite the fact that several hundred local residents turned out for that meeting to protest the company’s proposal, it seems that the plan is still under consideration by city officials. … I urge everyone who cares at all about the future of Vineland’s treasured library to attend the Nov. 16 meeting of the library board of trustees to express your concerns. …

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Vineland library takeover faces strong opposition
Source: Anthony V. Coppola, The Daily Journal, September 29, 2017

Supporters of the Vineland Public Library left no doubt at Thursday night’s board meeting how they feel about a potential outsourcing of the facility’s operations. Hundreds of people packed the community event room at the East Landis Avenue library to hear a presentation from Library Systems & Services — a Maryland-based management company that says it can save the Vineland library $350,000 a year in its budget. … The library board welcomed LS&S to its board meeting at the request of Vineland City Council. … Frager’s pitch seemed to fall on deaf ears, as one by one, audience members took the microphone largely in strong opposition of LS&S involvement. The board, while receptive to LS&S, also hinted at cynicism over the company’s claims. Board President Victor Druziako was left still wanting specifics on how LS&S would arrive at the $350,000 savings. …

The water systems in these 3 towns are broken. Now corporations stand to make millions

Source: Michael Sol Warren, NJ.com, November 5, 2017

… After decades of neglecting their water and sewer systems, three New Jersey towns now find themselves in similarly unenviable positions: On Election Day, voters in High Bridge, Long Hill and West Milford will choose whether to sell the systems to private corporations and give up local control — or to borrow large amounts of money to make the repairs themselves. And no one seems especially happy with either choice. … The three largest of the companies in New Jersey — New Jersey American Water, Suez Water New Jersey and Aqua New Jersey — are all subsidiaries of larger publicly traded corporations; American Water Works, the parent company of New Jersey American Water, is worth more than $13 billion. But privatization is especially widespread here. According to a Washington Post article published last December, 43 percent of New Jersey water is privatized, the third most in the nation.

… Yet not everyone thinks water privatization is such a great idea — and some say that a recently passed law, the Water Quality Accountability Act, is only compelling more municipalities to go private. The law demands that water systems around the state be updated. But the cost of those updates is often too much for smaller municipalities to bear. … Smith and other opponents of privatization point to broken promises by the companies and argue selling a system is a short term fix that could lead to bigger problems in the long run. For one thing, that rate stability that the companies tout doesn’t always pan out. … Another wrinkle to privatization plans: Many municipalities end up with a lot less money than their water systems are actually worth. … And whereas public utilities are accountable to the taxpayers, private corporations are accountable to their shareholders — which leads to situations like the one in Camden, which contracted its water and sewer systems to Suez in 1999. … The heated arguments in High Bridge last week centered around the questions of whether local residents have been given the full picture of the issue as they head into polling stations on Election Day. Jane Karp and other opponents of privatization are angry that High Bridge borough councillors requested bids without first finding out how much their water system is worth. …

Atlantic City Votes To Protect Its Water From Chris Christie

Source: Daniel Cohen, Alternet, July 14, 2017
 
On Tuesday, the Atlantic City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to ensure its residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  Why might New Jersey sell or lease Atlantic City’s water? Well, because Christie has been laying the groundwork for such a deal for years. In 2014, he passed a statewide law making it easier for struggling municipalities to sell off water infrastructure. Turns out, Atlantic City has been struggling—mainly due to a rash of casino closures, including Trump’s failed Taj Mahal. Last summer, after the state bailed the city out, Christie made it loud and clear there were strings attached: “I want [the loan] secured by every asset they have, so that if they don’t pay it, I get to take the assets, sell them and pay you [the taxpayer] back.” Late last year, he delivered on that promise and took control of the city’s assets and most of its decision-making power.

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Atlantic City residents, activists file petitions for vote on sale of MUA
Source: Erin Serpico, Press of Atlantic City, June 14, 2017

Residents and activists crowded City Hall’s lobby Wednesday afternoon to illustrate the support they’ve gathered against the state takeover. With signs such as “Water is a human right” and “Our water, our voice,” about 20 people walked into the city Clerk’s Office to deliver 2,400 signatures — 1,200 were required — on a petition aiming to force a vote on the sale of the Municipal Utilities Authority.

Standing Up for Atlantic City: “Water Rights Are Civil Rights”
Source: Food and Water Watch, April 21, 2017

NAACP president and CEO Cornell Brooks came to Atlantic City on April 20 for the public launch of a campaign to prevent the privatization of the city’s public water system.  Brooks spoke in support of the campaign to protect the civil rights of city residents as a result of last year’s takeover law, and tied it to his group’s advocacy for water justice in Flint, Michigan. “Water rights are civil rights, and civil rights are human rights,” he told the audience. … In addition to many Atlantic City community groups and neighborhood associations, the AC Citizens Against the State Takeover campaign has been endorsed by statewide organizations like the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and the New Jersey National Organization for Women, labor unions like AFSCME, AFL-CIO and the Communication Workers of America, as well as national groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and Color of Change. …

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A.C. trash collectors angry service privatized despite council

Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 17, 2017
 
Angry workers and residents criticized the state’s move to privatize trash collection Wednesday night during a long public-comment portion of a City Council meeting.  The meeting came two days after officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed the council to approve a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental of New Jersey, a company in Gloucester County. … City officials say the deal will save the financially-troubled city $1.1 million this year and won’t require layoffs. Sanitation workers will fill vacant positions in the Public Works Department, city and state officials said.  The council tabled a vote to outsource the service three weeks ago after some council members said they never received a cost-savings analysis. …

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State privatizes Atlantic City trash collection without City Council
Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 16, 2017
 
Officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed City Council on Monday to privatize the city’s trash collection.  The state authorized the city administration to award a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental, a private company that will handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The decision came nearly three weeks after the council pulled a vote to outsource the service.  State Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham informed Council President Marty Small of the decision in a letter dated Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Press of Atlantic City. … The move marks the first time the state has used such power over the council. The state took over the city’s finances in November through the Municipal Stabilization & Recovery Act, which gave state officials authority to pass or repeal any council resolution. Cunningham’s letter specifically cited the state’s power to “procure services” on behalf of the city.

… City administration officials said the contract to Gold Medal will save the city $1.1 million per year without requiring layoffs. The council considered the contract to Gold Medal on April 26, but balked at outsourcing the service after some councilmen said they didn’t have enough information. Those council members, including Councilman Frank Gilliam, had said they never received an analysis comparing the contract to the cost of doing the service in-house. Gilliam said Monday that he had since received a report from city Public Works Director Paul Jerkins, but said the cost analysis didn’t have “legitimate numbers” that justify the savings claimed by the city and state. …

Atlantic City Council to consider privatizing trash collection
Source:Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, April 25, 2017

City Council will consider privatizing trash collection, awarding a contract for a bike loop and amending rules regarding rolling chairs Wednesday evening. The council is scheduled to vote on awarding Gold Environmental of New Jersey a three-year, $7.2 million contract to handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The measure is intended to cut costs in the cash-strapped city. The city’s 2017 introduced budget listed a $393,313 savings from its Public Works Department this year. …

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. …

Atlantic County considers privatizing assets to mitigate PILOT costs

Source: John DeRosier, Press of Atlantic City, April 27, 2017

Atlantic County is considering privatizing some of its assets to mitigate the costs associated with casino tax refunds and because it’s not getting a 13.5 percent share of the PILOT money. Such moves could save taxpayers money but cost some county employees their jobs. The county has been responsible for refunding more than $65 million to Atlantic City since 2010 because of costly tax appeals by the casinos. … On Tuesday, however, Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said the county is considering privatizing assets that don’t make money, such as Meadowview Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Northfield, in an effort to spare residents from large tax increases and keep social services, such as Meals on Wheels, intact. …

N.J. Lottery Sales Fall Short Following Privatization

Source: SNJ Today, April 18, 2017

Those hoping to win big in the New Jersey State lottery are spending less on their dreams.  State lottery sales are down for the third year since being privatized.  Lottery operations management firm Northstar New Jersey promised a return of more than $1.4 billion over 15 years when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie moved the games to privatization in 2013.  Since then, Northstar has missed its income projections and spent $20 million in allowance funds to cover financial shortfalls. …

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Privatizing lottery isn’t lucrative deal for New Jersey
Source: Michael Catalini, Associated Press, January 9, 2016

New Jersey might get $1 billion less out of its state lottery as part of an amended 15-year deal with the private company that runs part of it, according to an Associated Press analysis. The deal, unveiled by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on New Year’s Eve, also reduces the amount the company must generate to avoid penalties. The revenue targets that Northstar New Jersey has to meet have been lowered by about $76 million per year over the contract, which was struck in 2013. The total revenue projection was decreased from nearly $16 billion to about $15 billion. … The underperformance — including a $5 million drop in revenue in 2015 — has raised questions from Democrats about the privatization strategy championed by Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who promoted lottery outsourcing as a way to shrink the government’s payroll and bring in more cash. The lottery brought in $960 million in fiscal year 2015, down from initial expectations of a little more than $1 billion.

New Jersey Having Second Thoughts After Privatizing Lottery
Source: John Reitmeyer, NBC Philadelphia, October 8, 2015
Two years after New Jersey turned over some state lottery functions to a private venture under a controversial long-term deal, lawmakers are questioning why revenues have not met expectations and whether the privatization contract is worth it. The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing on October 19 to review New Jersey’s deal with Northstar New Jersey to address concerns raised in recent weeks about fees Northstar is collecting even as it has failed to meet net-revenue targets. An Assembly committee is also scheduling a hearing on the deal. … Gordon, the Senate committee chairman, said the hearing on October 19 will also review the broader privatization issue, and whether the state is up to the task of monitoring such large contracts. He cited problems the state has had with private companies handling some of the recovery efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as another reason to broaden the scope of the hearing.

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Red Bank Charter School under federal investigation

Source: Payton Guion, Asbury Park Press, February 14, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into enrollment practices at Red Bank Charter School amid longstanding complaints that the school does not enroll enough minority students. The investigation was opened Jan. 31, according to a U.S. Department of Education spokesman. It stems from a civil rights complaint by a group of public school parents and a Latino advocacy organization who allege the school is in violation of a consent decree requiring its demographics match those of Red Bank. Critics of the charter school have long complained that minorities are underrepresented in the charter school, contributing to an over-representation of minorities in the public school district, where the population is also more economically challenged than the charter school’s enrollment. … Data from the state Department of Education show that the disparity in enrollment between the charter school and the borough school is also economic. … Additionally, 38 percent of district school students have limited proficiency in English; only 3.5 percent of the charter school students fall into this category. … Frank Argote-Freyre, director of the Latino Coalition of New Jersey, said that while the Education Department is primarily investigating Red Bank Charter School, it also has indicated it would look into segregation at other charters in the state. …

Group calls for investigation into Franklin Township charter schools

Source: Nick Muscavage, mycentraljersey.com, February 10, 2017

Two groups are calling on the state Department of Education to close the charter schools in this township, claiming that the charter schools disproportionately enroll English language learning students and students with special needs compared to the township’s public schools. The groups — the Latino Coalition of New Jersey and Franklin C.A.R.E.S. — are also calling on the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education “to conduct an investigation into the discriminatory impact of New Jersey charter school policies on Franklin Township and across New Jersey.” The charter schools that raised concerns from the groups are Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, 17 Schoolhouse Road, and Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School, 150 Pierce St. To support their claims, the groups referenced enrollment data from the state DOE at the two charter schools and compared the data to the township’s public schools. … Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School also disproportionately enrolls students based on ethnicity, the groups said. … The groups’ letter said that if charter schools are expanded in Central Jersey, segregation may expand, as well. …

Reinventing the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Source: Robert Poole, Reason Foundation, February 2, 2017

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey was established in 1921 to create a sustainable, de- politicized way to provide and manage bi-state transportation infrastructure. At the time, the highly centralized, Progressive-Era public authority model was state-of-the-art. Nearly a century later, however, the model’s three key limitations have become evident: politicized decision-making, money-losing facilities, and declining financial viability. … The PA needs more dramatic reform, and understanding why is based on a fundamental fact: Major transportation infrastructure requires ongoing investment: adding capacity as needed, renewing and replacing aging facilities, and keeping pace with the latest technologies. That is simply not possible until the PA abandons its decades-long practice of common-pool funding and extensive cross-subsidies, and moves instead toward infrastructure facilities funded by dedicated revenue streams and facility-specific accountability. The mechanism to do so is long-term public-private partnerships (P3s), which today mobilize hundreds of billions of new capital for infrastructure around the world. …

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