Tag Archives: Utah

Amid Stericycle outcry, University of Utah hospitals rethink waste

Source: Kirsten Stewart, Salt Lake Tribune, October 16, 2013

Utah hospitals send tons of medical waste to Stericycle each year for incineration. But as community activists fight to shut down the North Salt Lake incinerator for alleged emissions violations, at least one hospital group, University of Utah Health Sciences, is rethinking the practice. …

There are 5,735 staffed hospital beds in Utah, according to the Utah Hospital Association — translating to 97 tons of waste per day.

Most of it is conventional garbage — paper, cardboard, food waste — that is either recycled or dumped in landfills. But hospitals also churn out a complicated mix of infectious medical waste that has to be separated and treated, including blood-soaked bandages, used syringes, expired prescription drugs and hazardous chemicals.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of this potentially infectious material is sent to incinerators, which emit greenhouse gasses, dioxins and other toxic substances.

But hospitals, recognizing the links between environmental harms and disease, are eyeing newer, greener waste-management technologies.

One option being weighed by the U.: on-site machines to sterilize waste and render it nonhazardous for disposal in lined landfills….

Stericycle given more time to settle pollution violations
Source: Judy Fahys, Salt Lake Tribune August 2, 2013

Stericycle, a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake, has been granted another 30 days to negotiate its penalties with the Utah Division of Air Quality. The Illinois-based company was cited by state regulators May 28 for violating pollution and record-keeping standards. Its state permits allow the incinerator to burn as much as 2,500 pounds per hour and treat about 7,000 tons of medical waste per year from throughout the West. But a series of lapses led to a state investigation that found the incinerator had released too much nitrogen oxide, which contributes to Utah’s summer- and winter-pollution problems, as well as excessive volumes of dioxins, furans and hydrochloric acid, which are hazardous air pollutants….

Medical incinerator comes under fire from N. Salt Lake community
Source: Judy Fahys, Salt Lake Tribune, June 27, 2013

Neighbors of the primary medical waste incinerator in the West demanded solutions Thursday from a company under state and federal scrutiny for excessive emissions. Representatives of Stericycle Inc. flew in from Illinois to meet with the concerned residents at a town hall meeting. Originally, the residents just wanted to know what was behind the state’s May 28 violation notice, but now many say it’s time for the state to make their community safe and shut down the plant….The Utah Division of Air Quality, which also attended Thursday’s meeting, has accused the company of manipulating emissions tests and pumping excessive pollution into the air, including dioxins and furans, chemicals that disrupt hormones and that have been linked to cancer. State permits allow the incinerator to burn more than a ton an hour and treat about 7,000 tons of medical waste per year….

Mental Health Cuts in Utah Leave Some Feeling Adrift

Source: Jack Healy, New York Times, July 24, 2013

…Citing budget cuts, the nonprofit agency, Valley Mental Health, was removing Ms. Graham and some 2,200 other people from its roster and transferring them to other providers, a change that mental health advocates said was striking in its size and sweep, even in these austere times. … Valley Mental Health, which had about 10,000 clients before the recent reductions, is by far the largest and most expansive mental health agency in the state. It treats autistic children, recently released prisoners, people who have just attempted suicide and those who need little more than prescription refills to help manage their depression or anxiety. The organization has also faced years of money problems. In 2009, it announced plans to lay off more than 100 employees and slash several programs to cope with drastic budget shortfalls. Over the past two years, Valley Mental Health said, its $28 million budget fell by more than $5 million, as the county received less in Medicaid payments and a for-profit company took over managing mental health services in Salt Lake County. County officials hired that company, OptumHealth, a subsidiary of the UnitedHealth Group, to bring more efficiency and wider services to public health care. But Valley Mental Health seemed to struggle under the new layer of private management. …

National Charter School Study 2013

Source: Edward Cremata, Devora Davis, Kathleen Dickey, Kristina Lawyer, Yohannes Negassi, Margaret E. Raymond, James L. Woodworth, CREDO at Stanford University, 2013

From the press release:
A new, independent national study finds improvement in the overall performance of charter schools, driven in part by the presence of more high – performing charters and closure of underperforming charter schools.

The National Charter School Study 2013, released today by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, is an update and expansion of CREDO’s 2009 landmark 16-state study, Multiple Choice, the first study to take a comprehensive look at the impact of charter schools on student performance. The 2009 study found a wide variance in quality among charter schools, with students in charter schools not faring as well in the aggregate as those attending traditional public schools.

The National Charter School Study 2013 looks at performance of students in charter schools in 26 states and New York City, which is treated separately as the city differs dramatically from the rest of the state. In those states (and New York City), charter school students now have greater learning gains in reading than their peers in traditional public s chools. Traditional public schools and charter schools have equivalent learning gains in mathematics….

ALEC v Kids: ALEC’s Assault on Public Education

Source: Progress Florida, Better Georgia, Progress Iowa, Progress Michigan, Progress Missouri, Progress Now Nevada, Progress Texas, Alliance for a Better Utah, Progress VA, 2013

From Progress Iowa’s summary:
Read the new report detailing the damaging influence the corporate front group ALEC has on public education policy. The report, ALEC v Kids, demonstrates the growing influence ALEC holds in Iowa and across the country, including its secretive access to elected officials and the drafting of ‘model’ education policy designed to benefit ALEC’s corporate funders which compliant lawmakers pass off as their own then push into law.

Among the key findings in ALEC v Kids:

Iowa enacted ALEC’s indirect voucher policy in 2006, a tax giveaway to defund public education and instead provide tax breaks for attending private schools

ALEC is attempting to expand charter schools across the country, including in Iowa. Governor Vilsack signed legislation in 2002 establishing a pilot program of charter schools, and although this year’s legislation did not pass, ALEC and its ally Students First appear to be gearing up for renewed legislative efforts in our state.

Bridgepoint Education, a corporate member of ALEC’s education task force, operates one of their two online universities in Iowa (Ashford University in Clinton). Bridgepoint has an abysmal track record, one of the worst of any of their competitors (84.4% of students seeking an associates degree withdraw from school).

ALEC v. Kids focuses on nine states, and analyzes the disastrous effect of ALEC’s education policy. The report details examples at the state level, specifically the negative effects of ALEC policies and the coordination between ALEC and its allies. By examining the real world effects of ALEC policies and coordination across a single issue, this report examines ALEC from a unique perspective.

Stalemate between Utah Senate, House over prison privatization?

Source: Brooke Adams, Salt Lake Tribune, March 13, 2013

House and Senate lawmakers were at odds late Wednesday over whether to allow a prison relocation authority to consider proposals to turn a new prison’s programs and operation over to private contractors and the bill continues to be in flux.

The House will get a first shot at considering the seventh version of SB72 this morning after a bi-partisan conference committee voted 5-1 Wednesday night to once again make privatization proposals an option….Four of the six entities that expressed preliminary interest in the project have experience operating or partnering with government entities in operating prisons. According to Wilson, two are interested in building the prison and leasing the facility back to the state….
Is now the right time to move the Utah State Prison? / Urban growth has engulfed Draper prison site since 1951 debut, making land worth millions to developers.
Source: Brooke Adams, Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 2013

…Jenkins has stated matter-of-factly that impetus for the project came from developers, which has only heightened concerns about potential conflicts and catering to special interests. ….The first Wikstrom study found that the quickest financial return would be to convert the current prison property into housing, which at build-out would generate $150,000 annually in property taxes for Draper. A longer-term return — and the option supported by Draper then and now — would be to convert the property to a “mixed-use employment center,” which the study anticipated would generate $970,000 in revenue annually for the city. …

The entities that met with the committee and provided information indicating that relocation is feasible are:
Deseret Corrections Center of Bountiful
Carter Goble Lee (CGL) of Alpharetta, Ga., a Hunt Company
Dewberry Architects Inc. of Virginia
The Molasky Group of Companies of Las Vegas
Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville
Point West Ventures of Alpine

Beware of any move to privatize Utah’s prisons
Source: Peg McEntee, Salt Lake Tribune, March 6 2013

…This time, it’s a replay of a 2011 plot to demolish the Utah State Prison in Draper, move it to who knows where and let developers and property managers wheel and deal and make yet another great big suburb in the southernmost Salt Lake Valley….On Tuesday, Sen. Scott Jenkins brought out SB72S4 — the fourth substitute version of a bill that’s been in the public eye for about a week — and slingshot it through the Utah Senate. This time around, though, the bill opens the door for private companies to submit requests for proposals to build and operate a new prison….

Bill would beef up privatization board

Source: Robert Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune, March 11, 2013

A proposal to beef up a board created to look at privatizing government services that could compete with private businesses passed the House easily Monday. The bill, HB94S1 is championed by freshman Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, who owns Cascade Golf Center and has previously said public courses hurt his business….

…Stratton’s measure would add staffing resources to the existing Privatization Policy Board and changes the name to the Free Market Protection and Privatization Board. Previous versions removed public employee representatives from the board, but their positions were restored. The House approved the bill 54-19, sending it to the Senate….

States Struggle To Keep Online Schools Accountable

Source: Ben Wieder, Stateline, February 15, 2013

Online classes have exploded in popularity, with more than six times as many students enrolled in electronic K-12 courses now as compared to a decade ago, according to the U.S. Department of Education… Advocates say online classes offer a more flexible and personalized form of education, allowing students to progress at their own pace and on their own time. Supporters also tout online education as a way to dramatically expand course offerings, particularly at rural schools. But the rapid growth of online education is raising concerns—especially as more for-profit companies launch online programs. While unscrupulous or incompetent online educators may be rare, there are enough of them that many states are considering ratcheting up their oversight.

…Many of the new programs are operated by for-profit companies, such as K12 Inc. and Connections Education…Fewer than one in five of the full-time K12 Inc. schools rated by their states were deemed satisfactory….

…But in the majority of states, funding is based on the head count during one or two days, or the average daily attendance. That system incentivizes providers to drive up enrollment, Miron says, even if it means they’re taking in students who aren’t ideally suited to online education….Many online advocates place their hopes in “blended” learning, which combines the personalization of online instruction with the face-to-face support of traditional classes. The major players in the online sphere have rolled out their versions of a blended system, and startups such as California’s non-profit Rocketship Education have been expanding rapidly. Connections’ Revenaugh says that Ohio legislators took an important first step last year in keeping up with “blended” learning: They became the first state to define it….

Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets

Source: In the Public Interest, September 2012

From the press release:
For years, corporations have joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the opportunity to develop legislation that diverts public dollars into their corporate coffers. A new report by In the Public Interest, “Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets,” exposes ALEC’s extensive privatization agenda. The report details how private prison corporations, online education companies, health care corporations, and major industry players pay large membership fees to ALEC in exchange for valuable and unfettered access to state legislators. Corporations are able to work with ALEC lawmakers to craft bills that allow private control of public functions, and guarantee a steady stream of tax dollars to enhance profits.

Corporate and legislative ALEC members work together to jointly develop pro-privatization model bills, and then legislators introduce and push these bills in their state legislatures. These bills make it easier to create virtual public schools, encourage states to privatize vital health programs that help vulnerable populations, force state governments to sell public prisons to prison corporations, and help other industries take control of public assets and services.

In 2011 and 2012, ALEC model bills that sought to privatize core public functions were introduced in states across the country, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. Many ALEC bills fail their first time, but examples of success expose their real goal: enhancing corporate pocketbooks with lucrative government contracts.

Public money spent on private business can be a gamble

Source: Jason Hidalgo, Reno Gazettte-Journal/ USA Today, July 30, 2012

… As founder and chairman of video game developer 38 Studios, Schilling convinced Rhode Island officials in 2010 to give his company a $75 million loan guarantee in exchange for relocating from Massachusetts. It was a public-private partnership that was supposed to bring in 450 new jobs and kick start a new industry that Rhode Island could grow. … The spectacular rise and collapse of 38 Studios serves as a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when public money is used to support private enterprise….. In some cases, jobs produced by companies being incentivized do not match expectations, said Thomas Cafcas, a research analyst who tracks Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states for national policy resource center Good Jobs First….

Cities merge police agencies in light of budget realities

Source: Kevin Johnson, USA Today, February 24, 2012

….. The reluctant surrender of a municipal institution has not just been confined to Midvale. It’s happening in cities and towns across the country where persistent budget problems are changing the way basic public services are delivered. Until the recession, law enforcement was largely spared from budget tensions, but some communities, including Midvale, have reaped both financial savings and operational efficiencies following consolidations or mergers of their police functions. And there is evidence that local government officials are increasingly considering similar dramatic changes in pursuit of more affordable public safety options, according to local government records and law enforcement authorities.