Tag Archives: New Jersey

A NJ Pension Fund Bets on CoreCivic and GEO Group

Source: Max Siegelbaum, Documented, August 16, 2018

As state pension funds pull back from companies that profit from immigration detention, one New Jersey fund has sunk nearly a million dollars into the industry. According to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the NJ State Employees’ Deferred Compensation Plan purchased 18,000 shares of CoreCivic stock and 20,000 shares of Geo Group stock. The total investment was $964,000, a small portion of the entire fund, worth $559 million. According to SEC filings, the shares were purchased sometime between June 30 and Aug. 2, around the height of the “zero tolerance” policy period. Geo Group runs Delaney Hall Detention Facility in Newark and CoreCivic runs Elizabeth Detention Center, a low slung building in Elizabeth that houses about 300 detainees and an immigration court.

… In 2017, New York City became the first municipality to divest from the private prison industry. … Other cities and states have followed in removing public retirement funds from private prison stock. Philadelphia sold $1.2 million last October. Nashville, Tenn., has also moved to sell its holdings. Other cities like Cincinnati, Ohio, Portland, Ore. and Minneapolis have either divested or moved towards it. Universities like Columbia, Princeton and Stanford have active student divestment movements. …

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Editorial: UC should divest from companies linked with immigration crisis 
Source: Daily Bruin, August 19, 2018

President Donald Trump’s turbulent administration hit rock bottom following revelations that the federal government was separating families of asylum-seekers at the border. Among the list of offenses: caging children, coercing non-English speakers into signing esoteric forms and traumatizing minors seeking a place in this country. Californians have been crying foul ever since. The most prominent display of disdain has come from workers, who have called on state institutions to cut investments in companies linked to border detentions. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, a union representing University of California workers, called on the University in July to divest from contractors linked with the detention of immigrants at the border. And California teachers wrote a letter to administrators of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System earlier that month, demanding it divest from private prison companies and organizations involved in immigrant detention. …

Chicago teachers plan to divest private prison companies
Source: Meaghan Kilroy, Pensions & Investments, August 17, 2018
 
Chicago Public School Teachers’ Pension & Retirement Fund added private prison companies and businesses that operate immigration child detention centers to its list of prohibited investments, said Angela Miller-May, chief investment officer of the $9.8 billion pension fund, in an email. At its Thursday board meeting, the pension fund board directed investment staff to instruct the fund’s investment managers to “prudently liquidate public market holdings in (these) companies as soon as reasonably practical and in accordance with the managers’ fiduciary duties,” Ms. Miller-May wrote. The pension fund estimates it has approximately $548,000 invested in these companies. …

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P3 bill signals new infrastructure path for New Jersey

Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, August 15, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
Legislation signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to expand the state’s use of public-private partnerships lays the groundwork for increased infrastructure investments throughout the state, supporters say. The bipartisan bill Murphy signed Tuesday enables local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges to enter into P3s for capital projects. P3 opportunities in New Jersey previously only applied to public colleges and universities. …

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New Jersey bill seeks P3 expansion
Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 13, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
New Jersey lawmakers are pushing again for an increase in the use of public-private partnerships to jump-start infrastructure improvements in the cash-strapped state. Two and a half years after former Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed an expansion of New Jersey’s P3 program, a state senate committee advanced legislation on April 5 that if enacted would permit localities to enter into P3 agreements for building and highway infrastructure projects. The measure would make local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges eligible to enter into P3s where the private entity would assume full or partial financial and administrative responsibility for capital projects. …

Murphy administration demands action from major group home operator after safety problems revealed

Source: Susan K. Livio, NJ.com. August 10, 2018

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has halted new admissions at New Jersey’s largest group home operator for people with developmental disabilities and demanded “immediate correction of all concerns” involving safety and staffing shortages uncovered in 18 months of inspections. The state Department of Human Services intends to appoint an independent monitor and to continue random unannounced inspections at all 62 properties operated by for-profit Bellwether Behavioral Health, state Department of Human Services spokesman Tom Hester said.

The state stopped referring people to Bellwether on July 12, Hester confirmed, a decision revealed after an Aug. 3 report aired on public radio station WNYC about ongoing problems at a group home in Branchburg. … In addition to having the largest capacity of any group home provider in New Jersey, at 494 beds, Bellwether has also recorded the largest number of allegations of abuse and neglect. According to state data from March 2017 to March 2018, the state investigated 71 complaints, and substantiated 33. Six residents were repeatedly victimized, the data said. …

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Trapped: Abuse and neglect in private care (Podcast)
Reveal News, August 4, 2018

Deep in the backroads of central Florida, hidden between trees dripping with Spanish moss, sits the campus of an infamous center for the developmentally disabled. Its story shows what can happen when families have nowhere else to find care for their loved ones. After years of complaints, Carlton Palms is finally being shut down. But its parent company, Bellwether Behavioral Health, is still running group homes across the country, where new allegations have arisen. WNYC reporter Audrey Quinn investigates the company and speaks to a family whose son was abused at two of Bellwether’s New Jersey facilities. She discovers that, with national spending on autism services expected to increase 70 percent by 2025, the company is owned by a private equity firm.

Read more about Carlton Palms.

How an inmate’s death led to changes at the Hudson County jail

Source: Monsy Alvarado, NorthJersey, July 14, 2018

… Towle’s death in the early hours of July 14, 2017, and that of an immigration detainee five weeks earlier fueled allegations of medical neglect at the jail and spurred changes that included the early termination of the county’s contract with the company that provides medical care to inmates and the hiring this week of a new one. The county also embarked on a renovation that will expand the medical infirmary and mental health services at the jail at a cost of more than $1 million. … The Hudson County freeholders asked a “medical review panel” it appointed to examine the circumstances surrounding Towle’s death and that of the immigration detainee, Carlos Mejia-Bonilla, a native of El Salvador who fell ill at the jail and died later at Jersey City Medical Center. … The report, which was given to the freeholders in the spring, has not been made public. O’Dea said it prompted officials to terminate the county’s contract with CFG Health Systems LLC of Marlboro and look for a new medical provider for the jail. … Since the deaths of Towle, 48, of Washington Township in Warren County, and Mejia-Bonilla, 44, four additional inmates have died at the jail.

… “We had to get rid of the other one, no ifs, buts about it,’’ Anthony Vainieri, chairman of the Hudson County freeholder board, said, referring to CFG. “Everyone wanted us to get rid of it, the activists wanted us to get rid of it, the [jail] director wanted us to get rid of it, and with all the deaths, God forbid … something had to be done.” … On Thursday, the Hudson County freeholders approved a one-year, $7.68 million professional services agreement with Correct Care Solutions (CCS) of Nashville to provide medical and mental health care at the jail. …

Consultant: District Wasting $1M Annually on Inefficient School Bus Routes

Source: July 10, 2018, School Bus Fleet

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — A school district here is wasting over $1 million a year, a transportation consultant has found, on inefficient school bus routes that it outsourced to private companies, while some of its own buses go unused, Asbury Park Press reports. The consultant, Ross Haber of Ross Haber Associates, was hired earlier this year to pinpoint potential cost savings in the public school transportation program, according to the newspaper. Lakewood Public School District spent about $9 million on public school transportation over the past school year. The report comes after the district took a $28 million loan from the state to settle a budget deficit for the upcoming school year, Asbury Park Press reports. … Haber’s preliminary findings are posted on the school district’s website and he shared an update on Thursday at a public meeting that was attended by school officials and dozens of district bus drivers and aides, Asbury Park Press reports. The report finds that inefficiencies include too many bus stops, empty seats on buses, and buses being contracted while some of the district’s own buses sit idle. …

Waste Management sues over ‘arbitrary’ bidding process in Carson, California

Source: Ellen Ryan, WasteDive, May 9, 2018

Claiming that its bid would have brought Carson 15 times more revenue than the eventual winner’s, Waste Management — a major player across the state — wants Los Angeles Superior Court to overturn the new contract and restart the bidding process. This is not the first time a waste collection company has turned to the legal system over a bidding loss. Late last year Republic Services sued Middletown, New Jersey, claiming the township violated state law in awarding a five-year hauling contract to Central Jersey Waste and Recycling. … Meanwhile, public complaints have grown as the City of Los Angeles revamped its waste hauling system in recent months, and citizens attempted a referendum to end it. Waste Management is one of the companies involved in the multi-zone, supposedly more efficient system that has broken down into complaints of lapsed service and higher fees. …

Atlantic City Water Services to Remain in Public Hands

Source: Jocelyn Alcox, AFSCME Now, January 9, 2018
 
Members of AFSCME New Jersey worked hard to make sure Atlantic City’s water system remains in public hands. Just before the Christmas holiday, the state announced that it will not lease or sell the city’s water system to a private company. This followed more than a year of concern from residents and activists about the fate of the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), and is due in large part to the hard work and dedication of AFSCME members in and around Atlantic City. “We immediately knew we had to do something,” said April Gould, president of Local 3408. “Atlantic City is already struggling and outsourcing the water would have been disastrous.  AFSCME members have always been on the front lines of community issues and this time was no different. This is the community that we live in and that we work in, you can’t just leave those problems up to somebody else and hope they work out.” …

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State says it won’t sell or lease Atlantic City MUA to private company
Source: Erin Serpico, Press of Atlantic City, December 20, 2017
 
Following more than a year of concern from city residents and local activists about the fate of the city Municipal Utilities Authority, the state announced it will not lease or sell the water system to a private company. … The state has previously urged the city to dissolve the MUA, but the city either pulled or voted down measures to do so before the state took over in November 2016. For months after, more than 100 people from civic associations, the local chapter of the NAACP, Food and Water Watch and a group called “AC Citizens Against the State Takeover” knocked on doors and collected signatures to protect the water system from being sold. …

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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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. …

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. …