Tag Archives: Virginia

Why Anytown, USA, Privatizes Its Water System

Source: Ellen Dannin, Truthout, 31 October 2013

In August 2013, Allentown, Pennsylvania, rented its water and waste systems for 50 years because it did not have enough money to pay the pensions owed to its employees or to maintain its water system.

Allentown is not alone in turning to infrastructure privatization to deal with cash-flow problems. Indeed, Allentown is Anytown, USA, as cities, counties and states across the country privatize basic infrastructure built and paid for by prior generations. However, water is not just another type of infrastructure to be sold to the highest bidder. As NASA scientists know, water is life. …

…Allentown and the Lehigh County Authority are public entities with many strong ties to one another. Does that mean that their public-public, 50-year infrastructure contract is different from public-private infrastructure contracts? The answer is no.

The 195-page LCA-Allentown contract (not counting any attachments) includes the same recursive language generally found in infrastructure privatization contracts. For example, it includes Article 14, the Adverse Action provision. In contract after contract, that section gives private contractors the right to reimbursement for claims that the public partner has done something that deprives the private “concessionaire” of anticipated revenues….

….This is not the way true partners treat one another. So why did the LCA want to include such a term in its contract? Is the standard contract the only alternative?

In fact, Food and Water Watch promotes a different model – a PUP, a public-public partnership – that retains local and public control of existing water systems. This FWW report provides an overview of domestic and international PUPs and publicly owned water. Among the many models and resources are a crowd-sourced online book on international public water control and management, remunicipalization of water and resources from Water Justice, including information about reclaiming and protecting public water….

Access Restored for Food Stamp Users, Xerox Says

Source: Associated Press, October 12, 2013

People in Ohio, Michigan and 15 other states found themselves temporarily unable to use their food stamp debit-style cards on Saturday, after a routine test of backup systems by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure. Xerox announced late in the evening that access has been restored for users in the 17 states affected by the outage, hours after the first problems were reported….Earlier Saturday shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, because they couldn’t get their benefits, said shopper Barbara Colman, of Saco, Maine. The manager put up a sign saying the EBT system was not in use. Colman, who receives the benefits, called an 800 telephone line for the program and it said the system was down due to maintenance, she said. … Wasmer said the states affected by the temporary outage also included Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Ohio’s cash and food assistance card payment systems went down at 11 a.m., said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Johnson said Xerox asked retailers to revert to a manual system, meaning customers could spend up to $50 until the system was restored. …

Breaking Away: Top Public Universities Push for ‘Autonomy’ From States

Source: Marian Wang, ProPublica, October 7, 2013

…There’s relatively little research on the overall benefits or drawbacks of schools gaining autonomy, but it does appear that such universities often end up resembling private colleges, moving toward a “high tuition, high aid” model in which schools hike sticker prices significantly while offering big discounts to students schools are trying to attract. (As ProPublica has detailed, state schools have been giving a growing portion of grants to wealthier students and a shrinking portion to the neediest.) State and university officials pushing for more autonomy often balk at the term “privatization,” noting that the universities aren’t severing all ties with the state….

…Even some supporters of moving toward privatization have begun to have second thoughts. James Garland, former president of Miami University, a public university in Ohio, was once a strong proponent of what he calls “semi-privatization” of American public universities, having headed a university that he describes as “public in name only.” In 2009, he wrote a book arguing that public universities should be autonomous and deregulated by their states….

Virginia advances draft P3s to procurement

Source: Kalliope Gourntis Infrastructure Investor, July 24, 2013
(subscription required)

Improvements on Interstate 66 (I-66) and air rights development in Arlington County are two of the 10 candidate projects that will move into the procurement stage in 2013-2014, Virginia’s Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3) announced on Monday, in a web presentation providing an overview of the state’s public-private partnership (P3) programme…. Earlier this month, an RFI was posted for the development of mixed use facilities above I-66 at the East Falls Church metro station and at the Rosslyn metro station in Arlington County. The revenues that would be generated through this air rights pilot project could go towards funding other transportation projects. While the concept is not new to the US, it is new to the state of Virginia…. OTP3 has also been working closely with the VDOT, the department of the treasury, and the office of the attorney general (OAG), to explore whether availability payments are an option for future P3s….

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.

Transurban offloads US toll road

Source: Matt O’Sullivan, Sydney Morning Herald, June 14, 2013

Transurban will offload an under-performing tollroad in the US to its banks, in a deal which will provide relief to investors worried it was about to throw good money after bad. Australia’s largest toll-road operator wrote down the value of the Pocahontas Parkway 895 in rural Virginia by $138 million to zero about a year ago, and has since been considering what to do with it. Transurban wants to complete the transfer of ownership to its lenders by October, which it said would have no cash impact on its business. The 14-kilometre Virginia tollroad has been a major disappointment for Transurban, which spent $US611 million on buying it in 2006.

States Get Creative to Fund Transportation Projects

Source: Mary Branham, Council of State Governments, E-newsletter Issue #117, June 20, 2013
The big picture regarding transportation infrastructure funding typically centers around the rapidly declining revenues that are tied to the primary funding source for roads—the motor fuels tax. But the real picture is even bigger than that for state governments….

…Georgia used alternative financing models, such as public-private partnerships and design-build-finance, to fund needed projects. It also looked at expanding sponsorship opportunities and focused on negotiating contracts with pay based on performance…

…The Virginia legislature did pass a proposal for funding transportation in the 2013 session—a compromise between Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate the motor fuels tax and a variety of Senate bills to increase them…That includes public private partnerships, toll roads, reform at the state Department of Transportation, and the use of bonds and debt to fund infrastructure projects. But the public is growing increasingly intolerant of tolling and the state was “pretty maxed out on the credit card,” Powell said. …

States Act to Bolster Transportation Funding
Source: Council of State Governments, Webinar, June 14, 2013

Harrisonburg Does Not Plan on Privatizing Golf Course

Source: David Coy, WHSV, April 25, 2013

Golfers may consider other courses to tee off from if the City of Harrisonburg would move or sell its golf course. Joshua Huffman of the Harrisonburg Tea Party said the course is a waste of taxpayer money and it’s not a business the city should be a part of…. The course has seen an increase of income for the over the past few years. The income last year from the course was up $20,000 from the year before. It brought in more than $697,000. One of the main reasons why the Heritage Oaks Golf Course has lost money in the past is because there are many other courses in the area. It’s the biggest revenue generator for the parks department.

Some contractors find success in state and local work

Source: Marjorie Censer, Washington Post, April 21, 2013

Many government contractors view state and local work as a waste of time involving small dollars and difficult, ever-changing regulations. But for several area companies, this business is proving fruitful, particularly as federal spending shrinks. Herndon-based DLT Solutions, which is known as a reseller of computer hardware and software but also provides professional services, saw double-digit revenue growth in 2012. … At Reston-based Maximus, state and local work provided a boost, too. The company has long depended significantly on this business, which makes up about 65 percent of its revenue. Health insurance exchanges and Medicaid program expansion and modernization are a key source of growth, said Bruce L. Caswell, president and general manager of the company’s health services segment. Maximus specializes in managing health and human services programs, from processing applications to providing job placement support….

…But many contractors have had bad experiences with state and local work. Some of the most prominent troubled contracts have been with this type of business. McLean-based Science Applications International Corp., for instance, settled its way out of CityTime, a time-keeping program it ran for New York City but was labeled “a massive and elaborate scheme to defraud the city” by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Falls Church-based Northrop Grumman had its own troubles when Virginia’s information technology infrastructure — managed through a partnership with Northrop — went down for almost a week, hitting state services from driver’s licenses to tax refunds….