Bobby Wilson, manager of Cloudland Canyon State Park, said after a public hearing last week he had heard no rumblings from on high that the state planned to farm his park out to a for-profit company for privatization, as the state has announced it will do with several other state parks. But judging from Wilson’s presentation at the May 9 hearing, going corporate in Cloudland Canyon’s case would be a redundancy or simply a formality: The park is already operating in a businesslike way, with both eyes trained steadily on the bottom line. … What Wilson had to present for the future was what he called a “business plan,” and what he had to report from the past few years, though he called it “exceeding 100 percent of cost recovery,” translated to what most companies would call turning a healthy profit – 135 percent revenues-to-investment for 2012. … The park also depends heavily on its volunteers. Describing the 2012 successes of the park during the meeting, Wilson said a new marketing arm of the nonprofit Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park had been a great deal of help in attracting visitation. A small investment in certain targeted advertising had resulted in the park’s becoming a Mecca for the bride-and-groom trade, he said. “There were weddings and weddings and more weddings,” he said. “We’ve never seen anything like that.” …
Lowndes County leaders are going to court to try to stop a sanitation company from picking up trash for some county residents. County leaders say Deep South Sanitation is in violation of a new ordinance that only allows Advanced Disposal to contract with county residents. … The ordinance that went into effect February 1st states Advanced Disposal is the only authorized waste collection franchise in Lowndes County….Before the ordinance was passed several solid waste companies were able to bid on the contract. Advanced Disposal was chosen on its proposal to charge county residents about $13 a month for pick-up services….
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is moving to privatize lodge parks in the state, as part of fulfilling a state mandate to become, among other things, more self-sufficient. …. But recent moves and ones taking place late last year have prompted outrage and concerns, particularly over how law enforcement will be handled…
…A private company, Florida-based Coral Hospitality, contracted by the North Georgia Mountains Authority, has managed the lodge and cabins at Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawson County since Dec. 1, and the lodge and cabins at Unicoi State Park near Helen in White County since Nov. 1, said Bill Donohue, the authority’s executive director. By July 1, all the amenities at Georgia’s lodge parks — Unicoi and Amicalola in North Georgia and Little Ocmulgee, Georgia Veterans Memorial and George T. Bagby state parks in South Georgia — will be managed by the authority…
…A move to take certified rangers out of state parks has drawn worries from area officials…. Carlisle said shifting the burden to counties to save money at the state level is troublesome…. Under the new structure, Bryson said DNR law enforcement officers would be available to respond to calls at the state parks and management areas in their region, which consists of a five-county zone….
But a Columbia University economist, hired by the Amalgamated Transit Union, contends the KPMG study that recommended that MARTA explore privatizing those areas is a severely flawed guidebook… MARTA officials contend that the KPMG management audit is their “road map” to stabilizing the authority’s finances. They have acknowledged the upfront costs to privatizing certain services may be more costly in the start-up years and some KPMG areas might not result in savings. Still, Parker’s plan to be running a surplus within five years closely tracks the KPMG recommendations. … But Sclar contended the increased costs often continue because the transit agency has to add bureaucrats to manage its contracts with private companies and that contracts ultimately often cost the public more in terms of worse service and deferred maintenance. He said even the KPMG study found that MARTA’s back office staff performed better than Denver transit system, which outsourced 40 percent of its employees….
With privatization, 800 MARTA jobs could be cut
Source: Steve Visser, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 13, 2013
MARTA privatization plans might cut nearly 800 jobs from the system, although transit officials are downplaying that number, which would be nearly 20 percent of the workforce.General Manager Keith Parker, an advocate of judicious privatization, acknowledged a management audit says the transit authority might eliminate nearly that number by outsourcing functions such as cleaning and para-transit service over five years, but he believes many of those people might transfer to whatever private company that will be performing the service…Union officials and other analysts, however, contend privatization usually mean forcing down wages and benefits and cutting jobs because private companies need to perform the same work at a lower cost while making a profit….
Fight over Atlanta mass transit raises race issues
Source: Ray Henry, Associated Press, February 17, 2013
A proposal to change the power structure of metro Atlanta’s mass transit system raises the complicated politics of race in Georgia…. His bill, even if unintentionally, has political consequences that unfold along race lines. It would keep MARTA’s board at 11 voting members but change who appoints some of them….Others aspects of Jacobs’ plan would privatize back-office support functions to save money, put limits on MARTA’s debt and eliminate a defined-benefit pension system for new unionized workers. In return, Jacobs’ plan would extend a temporary suspension of a rule forcing MARTA to spend half of its revenues on its capital budget — a restriction that is unique in state government….
Private operations for MARTA?
Source: Moderated by Tom Sabulis, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta Forward blog, September 24, 2012
Following the failed transportation tax referendum — and with a major audit of MARTA about to become public — one local leader says the transit system requires a transformation through funding and governance. Privatization is not a panacea, but should be carefully explored. Another expert writes flatly that MARTA went wrong favoring rail over buses, and privatization would save $400 million.
MARTA Releases Draft Management and Operations Review
Source: MARTA, Press Release, September 24, 2012
…The draft report detailed 12 operational areas that could be “sourced” by hiring third-party firms to perform specific functions, internally or externally. Those areas include payroll, computer support, customer service, recruiting, cleaning services and Mobility for paratransit customers….
When the Chatham Area Transit Authority partnered with French conglomerate Veolia Transportation in July 2010, board members claimed the relationship would open new funding opportunities and improve efficiency. About three years into the five-year contract, the experiment has been brought to a halt. The CAT board voted Thursday to end the partnership and gave Veolia 45 days to transfer management back to the authority.
Chairman Pete Liakakis said Monday the partnership was becoming too expensive, but referred further inquiries to CAT attorney Ty Butler…Calvin Kennedy, CAT employees’ union representative, said a U.S. Department of Labor rule, 13(c), requires that all of the 150 or so employees retain their jobs during the transfer because federal funds were used to purchase the buses….
…Since taking over management duties, Veolia staff has reached out to local universities and businesses to increase ridership and its service area. Some of the efforts have been more successful than others. While the outreach led to a partnership with Savannah State University to provide transportation for its students, efforts to make a similar arrangement with Armstrong Atlantic State University have proven elusive….
A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home….
The push for the “parent trigger” option for turning around struggling schools continues, with new laws under consideration in 12 states’ legislative sessions, even as such laws already on the books remain unused in all but one of the seven states that have them.
Many education advocates opposed to what they view as efforts to privatize and corporatize public schools are watching with trepidation as lawmakers in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and elsewhere review parent-trigger bills. Opponents argue that the mechanism ultimately hurts schools and ruptures communities.
Meanwhile, as of mid-March, three other states—California, Indiana, and Texas—were also considering revisions to their existing parent-trigger laws. …
Georgia could become the only state to force local school boards to consider petitions to transform non-failing traditional public schools into charter schools. Seven states have so-called “parent-trigger” laws on their books, though only one of them, California’s, has been used to change a school.
California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas all allow parents to start a process that could change a traditional public school into a charter school. But in each of those states, where the law is fairly new, the parents could trigger that process only if the public school is, in some way, determined to be a failing school.
Legislation written by Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, would let parents and teachers trigger that charter process in any public school in the state. Lindsey’s legislation, House Bill 123, has already passed the state House of Representatives and is scheduled to be discussed in the Senate Education and Youth Committee today….
The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and private education management firms are pushing for new “parent trigger” laws in states across the U.S. by lobbying many Republican and some Democratic legislators to make it easier to convert more traditional public schools to charter schools….Charter schools are the latest scheme to privatise public education in the U.S., and are seen as more politically feasible than “voucher” proposals that would give students vouchers to purchase private schooling. Many charter schools are operated by for-profit educational management firms, which receive sometimes lucrative contracts to operate the schools….
…The parent trigger legislation being pushed by ALEC and other pro-charter lobbyists creates a petition process, whereby a majority of dissatisfied parents at a school could force the school to take one of several actions. Often the preferred action is to convert to a charter school to be managed by a private company.
Another type of legislation being pushed by ALEC is to create a statewide charter school commission that could override the decisions of local school boards. Such a commission has been established in Georgia.
As of June 2012, seven U.S. states had enacted parent trigger legislation, beginning with California in 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The other six states are Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas. In California, a group called Parent Revolution was founded with more than one million dollars from foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation to push for the parent trigger law. “An integral part of improving education in Georgia is greater parent buy-in to their children’s education. …
Retail giant Walmart will open a small store on the campus of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga. later this year. Georgia Tech will be the second college to host a miniature Walmart, joining the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville store which opened in January. The Walmarts on campus will have pharmacy services, basic groceries, general merchandise, check cashing and bill paying services. The UA location replaces a university-run pharmacy, Advertising Age reports. …