Tag Archives: Texas

It’s official: UNT, Dallas Cowboys go forward with plans to partner up

Source: Anna Tinsley, Star-Telegram, August 9, 2016

The Dallas Cowboys and The University of North Texas are proceeding with their plans to team up. After months of negotiations, officials formally announced Tuesday that they are forming a partnership — the cost of which could top the $1 million mark — to bring students unique academic and athletic jobs with the world-renowned football team. … In May, the University of North Texas Board of Regents agreed to move forward with negotiations to let the college become a sponsor and exclusive higher education partner with the Dallas Cowboys. UNT officials at the time said they didn’t know how much the partnership could cost, but agreed that a multi-year deal could easily top the $1 million mark. And they did note that no tuition, fees or legislative money would be involved in any partnership with the Cowboys. … Officials have noted that this proposal would be two-fold — one part involving advertising and promotions and another a public-private partnership. UNT board documents have shown a multi-year agreement with the Cowboys could include letting UNT use the Dallas Cowboys star and other logos; present displays in “select event exhibit space;” place radio ads on game days; participate in television commercials; and put ads on the DallasCowboys.com website. …

SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS

Source: Jessica Hathaway, NCSL, July 12, 2016
Overview

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), a type of pay-for-success funding agreement, are a private financing mechanism used to fund social programs. SIBs are gaining interest from policymakers at all levels of government as a way to mitigate the simultaneous demands of tight budgets and rising social service costs. To date, state level SIB activity has centered on legislative efforts to authorize the process, create study committees, begin pilot projects, engage in feasibility studies and learn which types of programs this financing tool can be effectively used for. …

Use of Social Impact Bonds at the State Level

At least 24 states and the District of Columbia have considered, are considering or are implementing SIB related projects. Of these, 11 states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah —and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation. Legislative introductions and enactments range from establishing study committees to creating funds and supporting pilot projects. Enacted legislative actions are listed below. …

See list of enacted Social Impact Bond bills.

Dallas seeks to privatize Fair Park

Source: Fox 4 News, June 30, 2016

Fair Park could soon be owned by someone other than the city of Dallas. The parks and recreation board will discuss a privatization plan Thursday. City leaders are looking at the Dallas Zoo as a model. The zoo is now run by a non-profit foundation and the idea is to do something similar with Fair Park. … The 277-acre park opened in 1936. A lot of the buildings and infrastructure need some serious repairs. Upgrades including cameras, underground parking and improvements to the surrounding community are estimated to cost about $181 million. … The parks and recreation board must first decide on a recommendation. After that the plan goes before the full council.  If approved, the non-profit foundation could take over as soon as Oct. 1. …

Transform the Poverty Industry: Stop States Pocketing Aid via Contractors

Source: Daniel Hatcher, Non-Profit Quarterly, June 29, 2016

To shore up its budget, New Jersey is taking federal government assistance away from school children from poor families. The state has hired a private contractor called the Public Consulting Group to access more school-based federal Medicaid funds. This money is intended to help schools serve special education needs more effectively, but New Jersey has diverted over 80 percent of the funds to its general coffers for other uses—effectively taking tens of millions of dollars from school children every year. …

… In Maryland, the state foster care agency has hired a company called Maximus, Inc. to find children whose parents are deceased and to increase the number of children who are determined to be disabled. This is not to provide them with more help, but to enable the state to take their disability and survivor benefits. In a prior contract to lay the groundwork for this effort, Maximus described foster children as a “revenue generating mechanism.” …

… It’s clear that a fundamental realignment of purpose is required. The poverty industry combines the vast powers of government with the profit-seeking appetites of private enterprise. This collaboration can do some good if partnerships are properly constructed and regulated closely, but only if public entities lead the way. State governors and directors of human service agencies control all contracts with private companies, so rather than using them to take resources away from foster children they could encourage contractors to help children obtain their disability and survivor benefits to conserve the children’s funds in planning for their future transition out of foster care. To be clear, I’m not arguing that government aid programs should be cut. On the contrary, current levels of public assistance are significantly insufficient to meet current needs. If states are misusing resources, then the appropriate response is not to cut the funding but to stop the misuse. …

COLUMBUS JUST WON $50 MILLION TO BECOME THE CITY OF THE FUTURE

Source: Aarian Marshall, Wired, June 23, 2016

….. If all goes according to plan, the Ohio capital will soon burst with electric vehicles, autonomous shuttles, platooning trucks, and bus rapid transit, which will sail through smart traffic lights that turn green just for them. Every resident will benefit.  Foxx today declared Columbus the winner of the $40 million Smart City Challenge, a competition that asked mid-size governments to envision how their city could capitalize on growing overlaps in transportation and technology. Announced in December, it’s the first of its kind: a speedy grant process buttressed by public-private partnerships, with money for cities instead of states. Of the 78 cities that competed, seven made it to the final round: Austin, Texas; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Columbus…. Foxx says Columbus isn’t the only winner here. The six losing finalists can pursue their own plans, with technical and financial assistance from the DOT and its private sector partners, including Alphabet, Mobileye, Autodesk, NXP Semiconductors, and Vulcan. Even those who didn’t make it to the final round now hold detailed plans that could lead to their own equitable transportation futures. Columbus is just the first guy on the dance floor. ….

Some on Council want to privatize solid waste system

Source: Eva Ruth Moravec, Austin Monitor, May 18, 2016

City Council Member Don Zimmerman wants to talk trash with his dais peers and is actively looking for two others who will support his proposal to privatize the city’s solid waste collection service. … Strongly opposed to the idea was Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert, who told the committee he didn’t see a “due cause” for the discussion. He noted that customer service is among the highest in the nation, that the department has strong diversity and that it hires second-chance employees. For these and other reasons, he said, rate comparisons were nonsensical. … But Zimmerman insisted on a deeper cost analysis and at least a request for proposals after Gedert noted that the city has never sought bids on solid waste services. While the department director repeatedly told Zimmerman that no service comparison would be entirely “apples to apples,” Zimmerman, a fiscal conservative, demanded one to properly compare the system. … Companies, meanwhile, are already lining up to participate in Austin’s waste services should they get the opportunity. … Both Carol Guthrie and Todd Kiluk of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spoke to the committee in opposition to the concept. … The union representatives found a sympathetic ear in Council Member Ann Kitchen, who cautioned that wages are only one piece of the affordability puzzle. If the jobs are privatized, some Austinites will lose their salaries entirely.

Related:

Privatization questions rankle union, expose rift between commission and city staff
Source: Elizabeth Pagano, Austin Monitor, March 11, 2016

A resolution that would explore the idea of a public-private partnership for collection of residential garbage, recycling and yard trimmings stalled out Wednesday night at the Zero Waste Advisory Commission, where commissioners opted to table the resolution and take no action. But even the specter of the resolution caused problems. Carol Guthrie, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), advised the commission to look through the city’s budget for cost-saving measures if that was its goal. … Acuna explained that the commission respected the city’s front-line employees but that the Austin Resource Recovery Department “has budget issues,” and the commission is not receiving the information needed to make “simple decisions.” He said the resolution was an attempt to get at how the private sector manages collections and to figure out what the city might be missing. … Gedert said that private collection services would displace 400-plus city employees, who could lose health insurance and pension benefits even if they were rehired by another company. He also noted that the department is a “second-chance employer” that offers employment to disadvantaged Austinites who would not be considered for employment in the private sector, where the same wages and benefits offered by the city would not be available. He also stressed customer satisfaction with existing services.

City Set To Go Forward With Outsourcing Utilities Billing, New Meters

Source: Lynette Sowell, Cove Leader-Press, May 17, 2016

Copperas Cove utility customers could have new water meters and new ways to access their bills via a company that will take care of utility customer service, by October 1. At tonight’s Copperas Cove city council meeting, city manager Andrea Gardner is presenting a request to the city council for authorization of a Software As A Service Agreement with Fathom Water Management, Inc. The implementation fee is $7 million, $5,910,139 of which would be used to replace all water meters for city residents and businesses, along with installing a computerized account management system and advanced metering infrastructure. Fathom would also institute a software as service fee to the city of $1.75 per managed utility account per month along with a managed services monthly fee of $2.57 per account. Those fees to the city could be increased annually each October 1, with the earliest being Oct. 1, 2017. … At the city council planning session on April 7, Gardner told the council part of the reasoning for this system is to help ease the workload at the city’s utilities administration office, which can receive hundreds of phone calls per day in addition to walk-in customers. However, several utilities employees would also need to be reassigned to other positions in other city departments, as the plan with Fathom would reduce the need for employees in the utilities department. There would still be a brick-and-mortar office for utility services. …

Incorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer turns care into Confinement

Source: Cate Graziani, MSSW, MPAff Eshe Cole, Ph.D., Grassroots Leadership, February 2016

Executive Summary:

As criminal justice reform sweeps the nation, an alarming trend has emerged that could mean private prison profiteers control a person’s fate for life, not just the term of a prison sentence. The same private prison profiteers who built billion dollar empires as partners in tough on crime policies are adapting to reforms by rebranding themselves — as humane treatment providers. The criminal justice system has created ample opportunities for their expansion, including mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, correctional healthcare, and community corrections. This report will look specifically at one segment of their expansion: mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, facilities that represent the potential for lifetime confinement and long-term guaranteed profit. In fact, the same for-profit company is making aggressive moves to take over both types of facilities. Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as GEO Care, a spin-off of GEO Group, has deep roots in the private prison industry. Although the company has shifted and changed numerous times over the last few years, CCS currently runs seven “treatment” facilities in Florida, Texas and South Carolina, including five mental health facilities and two civil commitment centers. This report’s in-depth analysis of GEO Group, GEO Care and now Correct Care Solutions’ involvement in operating mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers exposes serious concerns.

Frugal Motorists Test Private Toll Roads

Source: Dan Frosch, Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2016

The four-year-old highway has the fastest speed limit in the U.S. at 85 mph. It’s free of the traffic that snarls the state capital. And now, it is in bankruptcy. For all its attractions, this portion of State Highway 130 failed to lure enough drivers willing to pay the price to use it. The company that operates it, SH 130 Concession Co., has struggled to repay its debt and earlier this month filed for chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Austin. … The Texas Trucking Association said the toll road south of Austin is too expensive for some truckers—especially now that an initial rebate for trucks from the state has expired. The group said many truckers who own their own 18-wheelers are reluctant to pay the $33.83 price tag it can cost to drive the portion of the road managed by SH 130 Concession. … SH 130 Concession isn’t the only toll-road operator to hit the financial skids in recent years. In 2014, an Indiana toll road partially owned by Cintra also filed for bankruptcy protection. The road has since emerged from bankruptcy after being sold. And private companies that operate toll roads in San Diego and Alabama have both filed for, and subsequently emerged from, bankruptcy protection in recent years.

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85-mph toll road revenue falls short of need
Source: Houston Chronicle, April 6, 2013

A billion-dollar Texas toll road with an 85 mph speed limit — the fastest in the nation— has drawn about half the number of drivers expected in its initial months of operation, a performance low enough that the private company that built it is facing a downgraded credit rating, according to Moody’s Investor Service.

The Texas 130 toll road extension generated almost $2.6 million in toll revenue in the first six weeks that the road was opened in late October, according to state records obtained by the San Antonio Express-News….

Moody’s announced March 15 it is investigating a possible downgrade of the credit rating of the SH 130 Concession Co., which spent $1.4 billion to build the toll road extension and will operate and maintain it for the duration of a 50-year lease with the state.

The report also indicates the company could struggle to make future debt payments if traffic revenues do not increase. Part of that debt is a $430 million federal loan.

The SH 130 Concession Co. is made up of Spanish-based Cintra and San Antonio-based Zachry American Infrastructure. Although the operating history of the toll road is limited, the shortfall was so significant that Moody’s said it warrants a review….

Day of Reckoning for Abengoa’s San Antonio Water P3

Source: Bill Reinhardt, Public Works Financing, March 2016

Facing possible liquidation soon, Spain’s Abengoa is discussing terms of a 20/80 partnership with a number of equity funds in an attempt to hold together its Vista Ridge water supply project in San Antonio, the first major water P3 in Texas. The fate of the  $844-million DBFOM project rests with creditors in Madrid and on continued support from the city for the deal it struck in 2014. As with everything related to Abengoa, any deal in San Antonio has to happen quickly.

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Private Sector an Oasis for Thirsty San Antonio
Source: Neena Satija, Texas Tribune, November 12, 2014

For decades, San Antonio tried and failed to find a new long-term source of water. Voters killed a major reservoir project in 1991; more than a decade later, partnerships with a South Texas supplier and, later, a Central Texas one were canceled; and in 2005, a controversial deal to buy water from a mining company was scrapped. So how did the city finally agree last month to bring in 16 billion gallons of new groundwater per year? Simple: Let the private sector do it. In a deal unlike any struck before by the San Antonio Water System, two private companies will be paid to do all the work for the $3.4 billion project, known as the Vista Ridge pipeline. Austin-based BlueWater Systems holds an abundance of groundwater rights in central Texas’ Burleson County and will pump the water, while the Spanish engineering and technology company Abengoa will build the 142-mile pipeline from the county to San Antonio. …. Still, sticker shock has been an issue. Vista Ridge water will cost $2,300 per acre-foot, more than what desalinated water will cost the city. Paying for the project will increase San Antonio water rates by about 16 percent. That’s in part because pipeline investors expect a 13 percent return. And the private project doesn’t qualify for state loans, which come with much cheaper interest rates. It doesn’t help that Moody’s gave Abengoa a low credit rating of “B2” in August, indicating that it is risky for investors, which critics have said could spook lenders. It is not Abengoa’s credit rating, but the San Antonio Water System’s, that will determine the interest rate, the water utility insists. But not all experts are so sure. ….

San Antonio Cuts Off Water Pipeline Proposal
Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, February 7, 2014
(subscription required)

The San Antonio Water System will reject controversial proposals from three private developers to pipe water to the city from as far away as 150 miles and go with desalination. Calling the private water supply proposal “too risky,” SAWS said Feb. 6 that its staff will recommend to the SAWS board the utility invest instead in a desalination plant in a partnership with the city’s gas and electric utility, CPS Energy. … The request for new water supplies issued by SAWS was meant to shift all risk to a private developer, calling for the developer to build the project and deliver water to a local SAWS pump station. … One private company, Abengoa Water LLC, was unable to guarantee that water would be available throughout the life of the project while still requiring payments from SAWS, Puente said. …