Tag Archives: New York

STA awarded 3 New York contracts

Source: School Bus Fleet, February 24, 2014

Student Transportation Inc. subsidiary Student Transportation of America Inc. (STA) has been awarded three new school transportation contracts in upstate New York.

Batavia City Schools and Attica Central School District, both members of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, along with Williamsville Central Schools, have all signed new contracts with STA and will switch from their current service provider beginning next school year.

The contracts will generate more than $7 million in new annualized revenue for STA starting next school year. STA will provide approximately 150 vehicles, and all contracts include customer-paid fuel, further reducing STA’s exposure to fuel fluctuations, officials said.

How social impact bonds put private profit ahead of public good

Source: Mark Rosenman, PBS Newshour, Making Sense, February 19, 2014

Not long ago, New York City and Goldman Sachs began to experiment with a new financial instrument — social impact bonds (SIB) — to reward private capital for financing a nonprofit program that might otherwise have been passed over for municipal funding.

There has been some excitement about this notion, as deficit-strapped governments, underfunded charities and too-limited foundations see a potential new source of program dollars, especially one rife with sanctified market aphorisms.

Unfortunately, the SIB model is being touted much more broadly as the next best thing without any critical examination of the assumptions behind it or the funding crisis which drives it.What, for example, would happen if taxes were cut to the point that government is hard pressed just to fund defense, public safety, entitlements and its own operations, and so has to turn to private investors who demand a profitable return to finance critical public infrastructure and nonprofit services? If some have their way, we’re likely to find out.

In fact, we’ve already begun to face exactly that situation. Over 57,000 children have lost Head Start services because of tax cuts and the sequester while Goldman Sachs has launched a “social impact” investment fund to provide private capital as an alternative to public funding for early childhood education and for many other nonprofit program areas experiencing government shortfalls.

We know Head Start saves government at least $7 for every dollar spent on it. If Goldman and Morgan Stanley have their way, we’ll soon have to pay them and their clients a portion of those savings for having replaced taxpayer funding for such programs with private capital investments.

Let’s call it what it is: private profit crowding out a public good. But how did we get here?….
Opinion: Why Let Financial Institutions Profit From Financing Services for the Needy?
Source: Mark Rosenman, Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 12, 2013

Private Investors Put Money on Decreasing Teen Recidivism Rate
Source: PBS Newshour, April 9, 2013
Rikers Island prison houses 88,000 inmates a year, many of whom are repeat offenders. In an effort to decrease the teen recidivism rate, high finance and do-good innovation have made an unlikely partnership. Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores a new way to fund government social services through private investment.

At Rikers Island, Investing in Decision-Making Lessons for Teens in Trouble
Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on efforts to keep young people from returning to New York’s Rikers Island once they’ve served their time. A privately financed pubic program utilizes evidence-based behavioral therapy to imbue teens with a sense of greater control over their lives and decisions.
Source: PBS Newshour, April 10, 2013

Résumé fibber now a principal at charter school

Source: Laura Italiano and Aaron Feis, New York Post, February 15, 2014

…Brooklyn charter-school principal Lewis Franklin Thomas III has been booted from education jobs in three other cities after a string of résumé falsehoods — which were first exposed in Cleveland in 2005 after he claimed he was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity but couldn’t do the handshake, the education news site Chalkbeat reported. And while Thomas has deleted the fictitious frat membership from his bio — and no longer claims, as he did in Cleveland, that he had held staff jobs with Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton — other apparent lies and exaggerations still riddle his online bio at the Urban Dove Team Charter School in Bed-Stuy. The lies include a claim that he “transformed” a DC charter school where he served as principal two months before being asked to leave. He also claims that, “in 2006, he was recognized by the White House as one of the top 50 Innovative Principals in the country” — an award that the Department of Education says does not exist….

As big cities privatize bus shelters, Minneapolis moves them to government control

Source: Maya Rao, Star Tribune, February 12, 2014

Big cities around the country are striking deals with private companies to run their bus shelters, but Minneapolis leaders think the government can do it better. Minneapolis is shifting management of nearly 180 privately owned bus shelters to Metro Transit, which already owns nearly two-thirds of the shelters in the Twin Cities. In doing so, it will lose a cut of the revenue from ads for such things as iPhones, beer, luxury apartments and more. The end of the longtime agreement with CBS Outdoor follows complaints about the upkeep from lingering graffiti, loose glass and a “nightmare” shelter with missing panels, rust and faded scribblings. … The practice has raised some controversy. In 2012, an audit by the New York City comptroller found that Spanish company Cemusa was not maintaining bus shelters as it agreed to in a $1 billion agreement, with subcontractors falling short. News reports also said Cemusa was not properly shoveling snow at the stops. …

De Blasio Critical of Bloomberg Over Long-Delayed 911 System Overhaul

Source: Bobby Cuza, NY1, February 7, 2015

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to the $2 billion modernization of the city’s 911 system, a Bloomberg administration initiative begun in 2004, as “a project that had really gone wrong.”
The project is the subject of a blistering new report from the city Department of Investigation that found that “persistent mismanagement between 2004 and 2013” contributed to the project running 10 years behind schedule and some $700 million over budget….
DOI Investigation into the City’s Program to Overhaul the 911 System Reveals Significant Mismanagement at the Root of Cost Overruns and Delays
Source: City of New York, Department of Investigation, Release #03-2015, February 6, 2015

Mark G. Peters, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), issued a Report today on the City’s decade-long, multi-billion dollar effort to modernize its 911 system, known as the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (“ECTP”). The report, requested by Mayor Bill de Blasio last May, documents a number of management, oversight, and performance failures which caused the program to be years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over its original budget. As a result, the program has yet to fully deliver on its promise of a modernized 911 system that will more effectively respond to the health and safety needs of New Yorkers. …. The original schedule for ECTP projected the program would be completed in its entirety by September 2007, at a projected cost of $1.345 billion. According to current estimates, the program will not be fully delivered until 2017, nearly a decade behind schedule, and at a cost of approximately $2 billion dollars. When these delays and cost overruns became public early last year, Mayor de Blasio requested that DOI conduct this investigation to determine the cause of the problems and what changes were needed going forward. As part of its seven month investigation, DOI reviewed tens of thousands of documents, including copies of contracts, bids, progress reports, invoices, budget documents, and electronic communications. DOI also conducted more than 50 interviews with individuals involved with ECTP, conducted site visits and analyzed financial records related to the project ’ s budget. DOI found significant mismanagement, internal control weaknesses, and contractor performance deficiencies that created the conditions for the substantial delays and rising costs which have plagued the program. The report acknowledged significant steps the City has since taken to begin fixing these problems. DOI’s review identified an excessive reliance on consultants, leading to inflated markups on price estimates for products and services. In one instance, the sheer amount of sub-contractor s involved in the program resulted in inflated price estimates of as much as 600 percent on a specific service. ….

Stringer to Increase Oversight of New York City’s Computerization Contracts
Source: Kate Taylor, New York Times, April 2, 2014

A contractor revamping New York City’s 911 system billed the city $147 an hour for tasks that included opening an office door and having a large bug killed in the bathroom. A company hired to build an online procurement system for school principals bolstered profits by hiring low-paid programmers in India and Turkey, though it was supposed to employ only New Yorkers. …. Burned for years by boondoggles, fraud and delays in its biggest computerization contracts, the city is now putting in place measures that officials say could improve oversight and keep projects from spiraling out of control. The city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, is issuing a directive that he says will standardize how information technology contracts are handled across all city agencies. “No one has looked at the I.T. problems systematically,” Mr. Stringer said in a phone interview. “We’re now going to be able to have a systematic set of rules that will go a long way to cleaning up this scandal-plagued process.”

Governor Cuomo and ‘Backdoor’ Privatization

Source: Joe Maniscalco, Laborpress, January 24, 2014

As hospitals in Brooklyn continue to teeter on the brink this week, the head of the union representing more than 35,000 SUNY workers, says that a pilot plan contained in the governor’s new budget constitutes a “backdoor way of privatizing” – and demonstrates Cuomo’s failure to work with labor in finding a longterm remedy for the borough’s hospital crisis. … The pilot plan contained in the latest executive budget, however, calls for the creation of five corporations to operate state hospitals – including a teaching hospital or academic medical institution. Hundreds of UUP members working at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have already lost their jobs. Meanwhile, thousands more at Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital [LICH] face the possibility of those institutions disappearing all together. …

Parks Department Takes a Seat Behind Nonprofit Conservancies

Source: Michael Powell, New York Times, February 3, 2014

Somewhere along the way, New York City lost its faith in its ability to run a parks department. … The grandest parks, the royal courts of Central Park, the High Line, the Battery and Prospect Park, are in the hands of privately held conservancies. These organizations raise hundreds of millions of dollars and have enough people on staff — gardeners, programmers, curators — to keep a permanent shine on the Palace of Versailles. …At a round-table discussion held during Mayor de Blasio’s transition, State Senator Daniel L. Squadron spoke of his proposal that the wealthiest conservancies tithe 20 percent of the dollars they raised. This money, perhaps $15 million annually, would go the less well-endowed parks. … Yet conservancies are curiously unrepresentative stewards of public parks. The top eight employees at the Central Park Conservancy — four of whom make more than the parks commissioner — are white. Fifty-four of the 58 current and “emeritus” board members listed on the website are white. Nearly all board members are terrifically wealthy. (Last year, John A. Paulson, the hedge fund billionaire, gave $100 million to Central Park on the condition that not a penny be spent in another city park.) … I asked Mr. Squadron about the argument that it’s antidemocratic to sluice away a small amount of charitable giving. I recalled that Mr. Benepe refused to let Americans rally in Central Park in protest against the 2004 Republican National Convention, as they might have harmed the grass. …

Steuben County moves ahead with nursing home sale / Union say property has been sold illegally

Source: Mary Perham, stargazette.com, January 26, 2014

Plans to transfer the Steuben County Health Care Facility to Centers for Specialty Care Group LLC by June continue, despite an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Steuben County Legislature Chairman Joseph Hauryski said the county has filed the required applications to the state Department Health and expects the documents to be approved in February. State approval would allow the county to go forward with the sale of its 105-bed facility on Mount Washington to Centers for Specialty Care. However, an appeal by the Civil Service Employees Association, or CSEA, could delay the county’s scheduled closing date. The appeal, filed in the state Supreme Court Fourth District, maintains Steuben County legislators sold the facility illegally. The CSEA said the county nursing home can only be sold if it is no longer needed for public use….

CSEA: Steuben County nursing facility deal too secretive
Source: Jeff Murray, stargazette.com, October 10, 2013

The union representing workers at the Steuben County Nursing Facility in Bath is blasting the county for what it claims is a secretive process in the pending sale of the facility. The county is selling the facility to New York-based Centers for Specialty Care, which has purchased four or five other county-run nursing homes across the state and has a good track record of running them, County Administrator Mark Alger said. The county wanted at least $8 million and Centers for Specialty Care bid $11 million, Alger said. Civil Service Employees Association, the union, claims the county has carried out the process in secret and has refused several Freedom of Information and Taylor Law requests for documents…

CSEA files suit against Steuben County over nursing home sale
Source: Ray Finger, Democrat and Chronicle, April 29, 2013

The Civil Service Employees Association said Monday it has filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against Steuben County challenging the sale of the county health care facility in Bath….The Steuben County Legislature voted in December to sell the county’s 105-bed health care facility to Centers for Specialty Care Group. The union also objects to a vote by the county legislature allowing the county administrator to negotiate a sales agreement. In neighboring Chemung County, the legislature voted in February to hire Marcus and Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, a national firm, to evaluate and market the 200-bed county nursing facility in Elmira….

Pending sale of nursing home: CSEA sues Steuben County
Source: Derrick Ek, Corning Leader, April 29, 2013
The county reached a deal in December with Centers for Specialty Care Group – a private firm that operates 22 nursing homes and other health care facilities in New York and New Jersey – to sell the Steuben County Health Care Facility for $10.75 million…. Centers for Specialty Care Group also recently acquired Founders Pavilion, a nursing home in downtown Corning. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment Monday on the CSEA’s attempt to stop its acquisition of the Bath facility….

County to outsource some healthcare facility services
Source: Mary Perham, Bath Courier, July 01, 2012

Rebecca Steuben County Legislators Look to Outsource Health Care Facility
Source: Solomon, WMET, June 4, 2012

Health Care Facility residents plead: Don’t outsource our family
Source: Mary Perham, Corning Leader, May 21, 2012

Residents and employees of the Steuben County Health Care Facility spoke out Monday in favor of keeping the 105-bed nursing home completely under county control. The county expects to receive next week estimates from outside businesses on what they would charge to provide kitchen, maintenance and housekeeping services at the nursing home.

Oakland looks into more surveillance, drones to fight local crime

Source: Aarti Shahani, Al Jazeera America, December 30, 2013

Despite concerns about government snooping and tech incompetence, the progressive city is considering spy centers. … …Council members and citizens butted heads over the Domain Awareness Center— a surveillance hub that elected officials said would use thousands of live feeds from cameras, gunshot detectors and license-plate readers to protect the public. Critics worried it would violate rights….At the City Council hearing, protesters calling themselves “Seymour Butts” and “Edward Snowden” hinted at these reasons when they asked questions such as “Who pays if the project goes over budget?” and “What happens if the center is hacked?” The council members did not have answers. But they did have a grant deadline. If Oakland didn’t approve the project, it risked losing $2 million in federal money. Six of the seven members voted to move forward. … New York and other cities are working with companies such as IBM and Microsoft to use big data in policing. … It’s hard to turn down federal grants, but experts said the funding is not enough to cover the costs. Oakland has set an annual operating budget of $1.25 million for its surveillance center…. A 2012 investigation by the Oakland auditor indicated the city has a poor track record. The audit found that police spent at least $1.87 million on “never used or underused technology” and their purchases “have drawn down Oakland’s very limited financial resources without significant benefit to the citizens of Oakland.” … The city has not decided if the head of the surveillance center will be a public official or a private contractor. The contractor the city hired for the first phase of the project, Science Applications International Corp., paid New York City $500 milion in a settlement over contract fraud and overcharged Oakland for services. …

Can Government Avoid Technology Failure?

Source: Tod Newcombe, Governing, January 13, 2014

HealthCare.gov is another reminder of the ongoing problems government has with technology. But success and innovation are possible, says an expert. … Why? Because it’s happened often, despite a strong understanding of how to avoid such calamities (more on that below). While the federal government has its fair share of infamous IT failures (the IRS’s tax modernization program and the FAA’s NextGen air transportation initiative, for example), state and local governments have their own, rather long list of dubious achievements that keeps growing.

New York City watched the costs of its payroll modernization project grow from $63 million to $700 million before pulling the plug. The state of Texas had its seven-year, $863 million outsourcing deal with IBM that was plagued by problems. Recently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has tried to gain control of its new, $46 million unemployment claim system that has suffered from, you got it, glitches, delays and breakdowns….

…Still, as the Boston Globe pointed out in its investigation of the numerous state IT projects that have crashed and burned, government has a bias towards building big when it comes to IT. Part of it has to do with funding. A reliance on capital budgets to fund IT projects results in big, one-time systems that can take years to complete. But government IT projects have also grown big because of the complexity of delivering more holistic solutions to constituents. Just look at the online health exchanges, built by both the feds and the states, which pull data from numerous sources to verify the various levels of eligibility for enrollees. Similarly, the jobless system launched in Massachusetts last year is a complex piece of technology that replaces a system that was three decades old, and was designed to be deployed in phases.

To make matters worse, large projects not only fail more often, they deliver less, according to McKinsey, the consulting firm. Specifically, half of IT projects with budgets of over $15 million run 45 percent over budget, are 7 percent behind schedule and deliver 56 percent less functionality than predicted, according to a report released in 2012. And it’s not just government that suffer this fate, but private sector IT projects as well….