Archive for Privatization

With the imposition of a state-appointed emergency manager for Detroit, a local activist says half the voting population of Michigan has, essentially, lost the right to vote. As we noted during our recent visit, they’re also cutting off the water to thousands of Detroit families and headed towards privatizing the water and sewer systems. Sally Kohn looks at The Republican Occupation of Detroit:

Why would any city want to privatize its water system? A report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) shows that water privatization fairly universally leads to higher prices for cities and consumers and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies. In fact, the track record for water privatization is so abysmal that CAI found more than 20 American cities that had once privatized their water have taken back control of their systems since 2002. If water privatization is bad for the city of Detroit and its residents, who is it good for? Corporations. Which is where the state’s interest comes in.

Government governs best that’s closest to the people? Not so in Michigan. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s GOP may hate what they decry as the nanny state, but they are just fine with a paternalistic daddy state.

Under Governor Pat McCrory and the GOP-led legislature, North Carolina is headed there as well. Michigan just got there first.

Jul
23

Water Is A Human Right

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Don’t mess with Maureen Taylor.

Scroll to 1:08:40. “This monstrous thing that’s going on in Detroit … beyond demonic … You gotta leave here changed! … Water is a human right.”

Seems we got their attention:

Detroit suspended its aggressive policy of cutting off water to customers with unpaid bills on Monday, the latest response to a controversy that has prompted large protests and caught the attention of the judge overseeing the city’s bankruptcy.

The city said there will be no shutoffs for the next 15 days. The disclosure was made in bankruptcy court where Judge Steven Rhodes is overseeing the nation’s largest ever municipal bankruptcy. He has been encouraging Detroit to come up with alternatives to shutting off water for thousands of homes and businesses.

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Jun
27

Friday Open Thread

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Photo: Mark Clifton via Wikimedia Commons

Even the conservative Civitas Institute is growing wary of public-private partnerships. The state is getting ready to sign a 50-year contract with a foreign company with a track record of financial trouble on PPP deals elsewhere that leave taxpayers footing the bill for failure.

And Thom Tillis? He’s one of the driving forces behind the deal.

Gosh, where’s Fox News when you need them?

What’s gotten up your tailpipe this morning?

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Jun
20

Friday Open Thread

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It’s “Free-Market Ideology Gone Mad” Friday here at ScruHoo, courtesy of Wikileaks:

Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federating public service workers in 150 countries, has reported that TISA threatens to allow multinational corporations to permanently privatize vital public services such as healthcare and transportation in countries across the world.

“This agreement is all about making it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders,” said PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in response to the leak. “The aim of public services should not be to make profits for large multinational corporations. Ensuring that failed privatizations can never be reversed is free-market ideology gone mad.”

It’s not mad. No. It’s become a cult.

Another day in Wake County Superior Court yesterday in the case of “Moffitt v. Asheville,” Judge Howard Manning Jr. presiding. Rep. Tim Moffitt and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson were on hand for the hearing in the lawsuit challenging Moffitt’s “Regionalization of Public Utilities” law that forcibly transfers control of Asheville’s water system to a new regional authority.

Much hinges on whether or not Moffitt’s bill was deliberately written to evade the state’s constitutional ban in Article 2, Sec. 24 on enacting local legislation “relating to health, sanitation, and the abatement of nuisances.” Asheville activist Barry Summers was there to remind attendees — graphically — not of the water system’s history, but of the legislation’s.

While both McGrady and Moffitt watched the proceedings in court, Asheville’s attorney Dan Clodfelter disagreed with the state’s assertion that the bill was not local in nature. An attorney with the Charlotte-based law firm Moore and Van Allen, Clodfelter himself served as a state senator until last month, when he was named the mayor of Charlotte.

The bill does not specifically name the city of Asheville. But Clodfelter said it was clear that was lawmakers’ intent, rather than creating a statewide bill with a general set of principles to administer.

“Our constitution says what it says,” Manning said, indicating that the constitutional question was the crux of the case. Expect an appeal, however Manning rules.

Moffitt v. Asheville is a style of legal shenanigans we have seen emerge over the last decade from Wall Street to Jones Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. That is, to push the limits of the law to the breaking point and beyond, to knowingly step over the line and — using the law itself for cover — to arrogantly dare anyone to push back. If no one does, or if they do and fail, those who twist the law to their own ends succeed, and the boundary between the legal and the criminal moves again, and not in the direction of the public good. Rinse, repeat. Thus, torture becomes “enhanced interrogation,” fraudulent securities become top-rated investments, and public investments in schools, water systems, highways and airports slowly become the private wealth of oligarchs. Like watching an accident in which everything goes into slow motion, it is happening before our very eyes. Because it transpires in remote meeting rooms under color of law, we the people are not supposed to notice.

(Original post has been corrected. Rep. Nathan Ramsey was not in attendance Friday, but was cited in reporting as an original sponsor of the water bill.)

Apr
24

This Week In Privatization

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The Privatization Backlash

For decades, city and state governments have seen contracting as a cost-saving panacea. But past experience has left some of today’s policymakers more skeptical.


Western lawmakers gather in Utah to talk federal land takeover

‘It’s time’ » Lawmakers from 9 states gather in Utah, discuss ways to take control of federal lands.

Like grabbing NC airports and water systems, whaddya figure conservation isn’t the real agenda here?
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Apr
16

I-77 Widening: Ah, Privatization

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In case you missed it last Friday. This is NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis’ latest brainchild, one opposed by local businessmen, the Mecklenburg-area T-party, and contrary to his party’s own platform. (Emphasis mine):

Raleigh – The N.C. Department of Transportation announces the apparent successful bidder for its first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of I-77 in the Charlotte area, one of the most congested roadways in the state.

P3 contracts are an innovative way of leveraging new funding sources to lessen the financial impact to the state and help complete projects sooner through investments by a private firm. Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group.

Cintra, a world-wide leader in managed lanes projects, estimates the total project cost at $655 million. Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes. NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is significantly less than the $170 million it had projected.

Wow, that is innovative. The state’s estimated $170 million highway project will now cost $655 million, but only cost the state $88 million in tax dollars. (Update: To be clear, general-purpose lanes were estimated at about $500 million.)

Hmm, where will the Spain-based company, Cintra, make up the difference? Oh, right, by collecting tolls from drivers for next 50 years. But — now listen up — those 50 years of tolls paid to a foreign conglomerate are not taxes. So, Freedom!

Of course, Cintra will have to manage to stay in business if it means to collect. They’re about to go into default on their toll road in San Antonio after only a year in operation. This from last October:

Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road financed through a controversial public private partnership just got downgraded to junk bond status by Moody’s Investors Service. The Spain-based firm, Cintra (65% ownership), and San Antonio-based Zachry (35% ownership), known as SH 130 Concession Company opened the southern leg of State Highway 130 last November.

What innovations will aspiring Speaker of the House and Tillis’ fellow ALEC board member, Rep. Tim Moffitt, bring North Carolina, if re-elected? Maybe a PPP for the I-26 project in Buncombe County? Surely Moffitt will listen to his constituents more than Tillis? You think?

Feb
28

Cashing In On Kids

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Yesterday the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest launched Cashing in on Kids, a website devoted to researching and exposing corporate influence in and privatization of public education. We have written plenty about that here.

Cashing in on Kids is described as

 a one-stop shop for the facts about for-profit education in America. The site profiles five for-profit charter operators: K12 Inc., Imagine Schools, White Hat, Academica and Charter Schools USA. It identifies several issues that need to be addressed in charter school policy, including public control, equity, transparency and accountability.

Rent-seeking investors see a huge potential for private profit in public education. The only obstacle is the public part. By state constitution and/or by the statehood acts that admitted them, states states provide education on a not-for-profit basis (the HORROR!). Investors need to elbow states, communities and public school teachers out of the way if they want to get at … well, let Rupert Murdoch explain it:

In 2010 Rupert Murdoch, who now has a growing education division called Amplify, said recently that “[w]hen it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”

The site features details on the failures in major cyber and for-profit charter schools. All seem to suffer from a lack of transparency, public control and accountability. The site hopes to serve as a resource for tracking the underperformance of the national chains.

“This is a simple exercise of following the money,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, one of the nation’s two largest teachers unions. “How many times do people simply get up on a pedestal and say we care about kids, and then you realize that they care about profits, they care about tax deductions, they care about privatizing the public system?”

Weingarten says she is not ideologically opposed to charters.

“I am not anti-charter, and there are many people that run great charter schools that are very well-intentioned and well-meaning,” she says. “But there are also people within the so-called charter school movement … who are really all about profiteering.”

Follow the money.

Categories : Education, Privatization
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Jan
20

No Problemo. Shower Away.

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You always knew that someone in authority would simply declare the drinking water safe no matter what the truth, rather than, you know, tearing out and replacing fouled piping in 300,000 homes and the surrounding environs.

On January 18, 2014, Dr. Ben Stout, an ecologist from Wheeling Jesuit University, took water samples from the kitchen faucet and hot water tank of an unflushed Charleston, West Virginia home. Stout is testing for crude 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries in Charleston, West Virginia into the Elk River on January 9 (possibly January 8). Residents in 9 counties receive their water from the Elk River.

Stout suggests that people manually flush their hot water tank for the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol is likely forming an oily ring in the tank. The 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol smells like cherry licorice, is light, oily and floats to the top of water.

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Wow! That’s terrific bunny …

Federal judge strikes down Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s welfare drug testing law

A federal judge in Orlando, Florida ruled Tuesday that the state’s law requiring drug tests from all applicants for public assistance is unconstitutional. According to the New York Times, Judge Mary S. Scriven found that the law — Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott (R)’s signature piece of legislation — violates the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” Scriven wrote.

South Korea: Rail Workers, Repression and Resistance

In South Korea, no one can hear you scream. Workers have the right to organize, just not the right to do anything with it.

As the strike dragged on -soon becoming the longest rail strike in Korean history -the repression intensified. On December 17, police raided the headquarters of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) in search of top leaders to arrest -but found none. Instead they confiscated office equipment. including disk drives and confidential documents. Two days later, they carried out similar raids on union offices in four other cities.

Frustrated by their inability to locate the union leaders, police then besieged the headquarters of the KCTU, where they believed the railway workers’ leaders had sought protection. Trade unionists formed a defensive cordon but eventually riot police charged the building, smashing down glass doors and firing pepper gas, causing several injuries. There were reports that some of the trade unionists responded with improvised water cannon.

On Christmas, Republicans Quietly Declare War on Themselves

The news came in the Wall Street Journal, where the Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it will be teaming up with Republican establishment leaders to spend $50 million in an effort to stem the tide of “fools” who have overwhelmed Republican ballots in recent seasons. Check out the language Chamber strategist Scott Reed used in announcing the new campaign:

Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates… That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.

Good luck with that.

The primary NSA issue isn’t privacy, it’s authority

Government’s access to that data must be determined, in turn, by a separate and much more stringent set of laws born of the principles set forth in the Bill of Rights and built with the knowledge that government has the means to use our information against us, in secret. Does theNSA’s mass collection, analysis, and use of communications metadata violate the Fourth Amendment? I think it does because it acts as surveillance over innocent citizens, treating all of us as criminals in government’s dragnet without probable cause or due process. Or as Jay Rosen puts it: “My liberty is being violated because ‘someone has the power to do so should they choose.’ Thus: It’s not privacy; it’s freedom.”

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