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Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

July 11, 2012 001 

New Hampshire’s Executive Council voted 5 to 0 this morning to approve a contract with MGT of America to review 8 proposals from 4 private firms interested in building and operating prisons in the Granite State.  In a meeting characterized by debate-less votes on contracts and appointments, this one at least merited comments from most of the Councilors and responses from Department of Corrections and Department of Administrative Services leaders.

Linda Hodgdon, who heads the Department of Administrative Services, said state workers did not have time to analyze the 60 boxes of documents from the 4 bidders.  The MGT analysis, which is supposed to be completed by October 5, will enable an “apples to apples comparison” between the proposals, and also with continued state operation of the prisons.  

She said she has received an email from MGT assuring her that their analysis will be objective. 

[Click here for the MGT contract.]

Hodgdon said there is “no pre-conceived outcome” of the process.  “The State wrenn hodgdon July 11, 2012 could decide not to do anything,” she said.

“We may decide it’s not worth our while to go with any of the 8 proposals,” added William Wrenn, Commissioner of Corrections.

Governor John Lynch also stressed that build-lease, in which a private firm would finance and build a new prison then lease it to the State, is also an option.

Both Wrenn and Hodgdon insisted the data from MGT will inform a discussion of whether privatization is a good idea. 

Exactly how and when this policy discussion will take place is as yet unclear.  What is clear is that the MGT report will be released just as the election campaign is heating up.  Since John Lynch and two of the five Executive Councilors are not seeking re-election, a process that allows a decent amount of time for public discussion could extend beyond their terms of office. 

Get more information at www.nhprisonwatch.org.

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New Hampshire’s Executive Council will vote July 11 on a $171,347 contract with MGT of America to analyze proposals from four companies interested in taking over the state’s prisons and running them for profit.

So far the fact that private prison companies have extensive records of scandalous performance has not halted the process.  The record from other states provides ample evidence that instead of producing savings or improved services, privatization leads to decreased public safety, worse conditions for prisoners, worse working conditions for prison employees, and no savings for taxpayers.  If the Executive Councilors are doing their homework, they will say “no” now to privatization, reject the consultant contract, and save the state a pile of money.  That’s not likely. 

But the tawdry record of the privateers could be revealed if MGT does its job.  The contract explicitly calls on the consultant to “identify performance and financial risks associated with privatization options” and to “compare the costs and benefits of government management of the detention system with potential privatization of the facility.”  We won’t know, though, until their report is completed in early October.

In a recent opinion column published in the Concord Monitor, Nashua Telegraph, and Keene Sentinel, I wrote that “the public deserves a full and open airing of the privatization issue,” which has thus far been evaluated mostly beyond eyes and ears of the public.

Privatization opponents (I’m one of them) have just launched a new web-site to make information and action needs easy to find. 

According to the documents under review by the Executive Council, “Late last year the Department of Administrative Services in conjunction with the Department of Corrections (DOC) released a series of three Request for Proposals (RFPs) for the construction and/or renovation/expansion of prison facilities for the State.  As a result of these RFPs, the State received a host of responses from interested vendors, offering a wide array of options for facilities design, construction, renovation, expansion and/or operation.”

“During the process of evaluating these varied proposals,” the document continues, “it was determined that it would be beneficial to hire a consulting firm to assist in the evaluation, particularly in relation to the operational/financial analysis of the proposals.”  MGT of America appears to have been the sole bidder for the job. 

The privatization inquiry was initiated by the Legislature, which ordered the DOC to consider privatizing the state’s prisons.  Four firms – Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Management and Training Corporation, and the Hunt Justice Group, which has recently merged with the CGL Corporation – submitted bids.   Unlike most contract proposals, in which the state proposes to purchase a specific product or service, the prison RFP gave vendors a wide variety of options.  And since the DOC was ordered only to investigate privatization, it is also an option for all four proposals to be rejected.  

The job of the consultant, assuming the contract is approved, is to develop a way for the state to compare proposals from the four companies, and also compare them with the non-privatization option. 

MGT’s work would start July 11 and extend through the end of October, according to the contract.  Its report – which could recommend a contract with one of the 4 vendors or reject the privatization option — would be submitted by October 5. 

New Hampshire’s Executive Council is a relatively obscure but extremely powerful part of the state government.  In a sense a leftover from the early post-colonial period when American revolutionaries were intensely suspicious of executive power, the five members of the Council have to ratify most gubernatorial appointments and all contracts above $10,000.   The Council would also vote on a privatization contract if one emerges from the MGT study.  Based on the timing, details of a privatization deal could become public just as the election campaign is heating up. 

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9-27-11 007 

“CONGRESS BROKE IT, CONGRESS CAN FIX IT”

Postal workers and allies held 485 rallies across the USA today to call for passage of legislation to save the US Postal Service without the sacrifice of jobs and services. Support for passage of HR 1351, already co-sponsored by nearly half the US House of Representatives, was a theme at the rallies, which were organized by the four unions that represent postal workers (American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association) joined in a campaign called “Save America’s Postal Service.”

“Despite what you may have heard, the Postal Service isn’t broke. Nor is it losing billions of dollars a year delivering the mail. And a taxpayer bailout isn’t imminent. Reduced services are being presented as a foregone conclusion, but they’re not,” organizers said.

“At the heart of the Postal Service’s current problem is a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade—a burden no other public agency or private firm faces,” according to the organizers. “The Postal Service is actually paying, out of its operating budget, for the future retiree benefits of people who haven’t been born yet. That cost—$21 billion since 2007—accounts for 100 percent of the agency’s red ink over that period. House Bill 1351, which has bipartisan support and nearly 200 co-sponsors, would address the pre-funding issue.”

“Congress created the problem. Congress can fix it,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative9-27-11 009 Director for the NH Postal Workers Union at a lunchtime rally in downtown Concord. Another larger rally took place at Manchester City Hall later in the day.

Speakers included leaders of the 4 postal unions, who said they are not accustomed to working together so closely. Hopefully this day of action will show them the importance of collaboration.

Other speakers included Mark MacKenzie of the NH AFL-CIO, Representatives Pat Long and Steve Shurtleff, Terry Lochhead of the Alliance for Retired Americans, Rev. John Gregory-Davis of the Meriden UCC Church, Rev. Gail Kinney of the S. Danbury UCC Church, and former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who is 9-27-11 025 again seeking the US House seat in the First Congressional District.

The current occupant of that seat, Rep. Frank Guinta, has not given his support for HR 1351. The state’s other Congressman, Charlie Bass, has separated himself from most Republicans by adding his name as a co-sponsor.

I was honored to be a speaker at both rallies. Instead of talking much about the Postal Service, about which I know far less than most of the people who attended the rallies, I tried to put the current attempt to downsize the Postal Service in the context of a 9-27-11 035 decades-long assault on the public sector.

The ideology of market fundamentalism, which has taken hold in the USA since Reagan’s administration, is based on a belief that profit-driven enterprises are always better than those tied to government. Enforced throughout the world by the IMF, World Bank, and “free trade” agreements, market fundamentalism calls for privatization, de-regulation of business, fiscal austerity, “free trade,” and weakening of workers’ power, all in the service of international investors and a “good business climate.” In such a belief system, ta public postal service is suspect.

As Naomi 9-27-11 026Klein explained in The Shock Doctrine, market fundamentalists pounce when crisis strikes. And if the crisis doesn’t occur on schedule, they are ready to  create one. That’s what’s going on now with the “deficit crisis,” I said.

The deficit was caused by a privatized health care system, a de-regulated financial sector, tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations they own, and a couple of wars. Instead of attacking the causes of the deficit, the “solutions” now being advanced call for more privatization, more de-regulation, more “free trade” agreements, more tax cuts, and the destruction of unions. Proposals to lay off postal workers and cut mail services have to be seen in this political context9-27-11 001.

In addition to passage of HB 1351, public sector workers should join together with  private sector workers and with everyone who depends on the services they provide, I said. Together we need to build a movement that reclaims legitimacy for services provided through means that are accountable to the people, not to the investor class.

If you ask me what should be done to fix the Postal Service, I say start by asking the workers. They know more than anyone.

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