Lawmakers in Iowa, Maryland Oregon and Washington advanced legislation to rein in reckless outsourcing of public services to for-profit corporations and private entities. Meanwhile, Minnesota is the latest state to introduce legislation that would keep taxpayers in control of their services by increasing transparency and accountability, bringing the total number of states to 16. And locally, Douglass County, Kansas, passed some of the toughest taxpayer protections against predatory outsourcing in the nation.
“American taxpayers are tired of getting ripped off by corporations that take control of public services and rake in massive profits by cutting corners to public health and safety,” said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest Action Fund. “There is a sea change happening and taxpayers are leading the charge.”
In Iowa, SF 2235 passed the full Iowa Senate. SF 2235 would give Iowa taxpayers more power to cancel contracts if for-profit corporations fail to meet performance standards.
We all know the political shorthand: “red” states vote conservative while “blue” states vote progressive. But these days the deep red hue of Idaho, Arizona and Texas isn’t just a reflection of their political leanings; it’s all the red flags voters are raising about private prisons in those states.
In 1997, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) took over the Idaho Correctional Center. Predictably, the facility was soon plagued with rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity and contract fraud committed by CCA. One former inmate said the facility was so violent that it was commonly referred to as “gladiator school.” What’s more, in 2012 the Associated Press showed that taxpayers didn’t even get the savings they were promised.
This month, tired of the bad headlines, Idaho Governor Butch Otter – a strong proponent of outsourcing – announced that the state is taking back control of the privately run prison.
When future taxpayers look back to the moment they started taking back control of their schools, roads and services, they will look to 2013. From coast to coast, taxpayers rejected reckless outsourcing schemes. They held for-profit corporations accountable. And they said “no deal!” to CEOs who would put profits ahead of public health and safety.
These victories don’t always appear in the national media. But taken together they represent a real shift. Working together, I’m sure we will have many more in 2014.
Connecticut: Opponents of education privatization defeated three Bridgeport school board members who supported pro-charter schools superintendent Paul Vallas.
Idaho: Corrections Corporation of America left the state “after more than a decade marked by scandal and lawsuits surrounding its operation of the state’s largest prison.” Upon hearing the news, Spokesman Review columnist Shawn Vestal wrote,
The 100,000-person town entered into a five-year contract with the for-profit management company CH2M Hill to operate almost all of the town’s services: running trash collection, and street cleaning, and wastewater management, and even security and administration for the courthouse. A for-profit company, rather than public officials and public employees, would be in charge of providing all “public” services except for fire and police departments. CH2M Hill employees, wearing Sandy Spring uniforms and driving trucks with Sandy Spring logos, even enforced municipal ordinances like grass-cutting and parking regulations.
Sandy Springs, an affluent suburb of Atlanta — home to Herman Cain, professional sports players, and the woman who voiced iPhone’s Siri — had been fighting for years to spin-off from Fulton County,
The young lifeguard, Tomas Lopez, who was fired recently for saving a life, is now being honored by the South Florida city of Hallandale Beach as a hero. He’s been interviewed on CNN, Fox and Friends and is a YouTube celebrity. This week, he was given the key to the city.
Lopez was the employee of Jeff Ellis Management, LLC, the private company the city contracts with to provide lifeguard services on a stretch of public beach. He ran to rescue a swimmer and was fired because he left the beach zone the company was paid to protect. Six of Lopez’s co-workers said they would have done the same and were fired also. It has been a public relations disaster for the company and has put the small city of Hallandale Beach into the national spotlight.
But, in some respects, the firing was a logical, if unwise,