Saturday News: Privatization push


LOUISIANA INVESTMENT COMPANY TARGETS NC MUNICIPAL UTILITIES FOR TAKEOVER: A private-equity management company has been quietly reaching out to communities across North Carolina offering tens of millions of dollars to manage their utilities for as long as 30 years. Bernhard Capital Partners and a local subsidiary formed in August 2019, North Carolina Municipal Utility Services, have pitched “concession agreements” to more than 10 cities over the past two years. But what Bernhard is proposing in each case is somewhat of a mystery. The company required some community leaders to sign nondisclosure agreements and would not disclose key details in an interview. “Obviously they are in business to make money,” she said. “That is what their goal is and so they are going to have to find ways to do that. Whether it’s raising rates or cutting expenses, there’s going to have to be a way they can make money."

REPUBLICANS COME TO THE RESCUE OF BUSINESSES ON TAXES, BUT NOT THE UNEMPLOYED: For people who were unemployed last year, that means they won't have to pay taxes to the feds on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits. If they already paid those taxes through withholding, the IRS will send a refund. But when it comes to state income taxes, they'll be taxed like normal. The North Carolina General Assembly could change this, but there's no apparent move to do so. "I don’t think we’re doing that," House Finance Chairwoman Julia Howard said Friday. “It’s always been something that is taxed." The legislature is moving to ease tax burdens for businesses that took money from the Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan meant to keep businesses from laying people off during the pandemic. House Bill 334 and Senate Bill 112 would let businesses deduct expenses covered by the loans, a change that would cost the state $367 million in revenue for the next fiscal year, according to legislative analysis of the bill. Sen. Jim Burgin, R-Harnett, a co-sponsor on the PPP bill, said the two issues are "apples and oranges" and noted the PPP loans were used to keep people employed. Businesses that kept people on had to cover a lot of expenses, including setting up mobile offices, he said. A lot of unemployed people are going to suffer because of your "apples and oranges" bullshit, pal.

CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION IN NC CONTINUES, 5 MORE APPROVED: Wake school leaders argued that allowing Triangle Math and Science Academy to open a second charter school would increase segregation in the district. But the State Board of Education voted Thursday to grant the additional charter, siding with Triangle’s track record of academic success and promise to diversify the new school. Also on Thursday, the state board approved the charter school applications of American Leadership Academy in Johnston County, Bonnie Cone Leadership Academy in Mecklenburg County, Central Carolina Academy Charter in Lee County and Dogwood Classical Academy in Cabarrus County. Both American Leadership and Bonnie Cone would become the latest North Carolina schools managed by Glenn Way, a charter school operator who made millions of dollars building, selling and leasing properties to the schools he runs in Arizona. Of the 21 charter schools that applied to open in 2022, only five were recommended by the advisory board. Quigley said they only recommended the ones they felt confident could open on time.

CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT AGAINST GRAHAM PD DEALS WITH HIRING OF BAD GREENSBORO COP: As Rev. Curtis Gatewood expands the scope of his civil rights complaint to include both Graham police Chief Kristi Cole and Assistant Chief Rodney King, he hopes his actions will eventually lead to the end of what he calls wandering officers. This comes after Gatewood's original complaint against recently hired Graham officer Douglas Strader, who was involved in a pair of controversial incidents while employed with the Greensboro police. In his original complaints, Gatewood said the hiring of Strader, as well as the practice of dismissed officers finding work in nearby communities, place unnecessary risk on people of color. "For us to have to endure this and fight the department that is insisting on hiring a police officer that we know was involved in two acts of misconduct is appalling and sickening," Gatewood said. Strader was present with other officers when a suspect was hog-tied and later died. He also was involved in a shooting, at which he reportedly fired on a fleeing vehicle. Greensboro police officials fired him following the latter incident. In a statement made on behalf of the Graham Police Department, Capt. Daniel Sisk wrote in an email that Strader passed all necessary credentials. "Officer Strader overwhelmingly exceeded the rigorous standards required in the extensive hiring process of the Graham Police Department," Sisk noted in an email. I'd hate to see what you would consider "slack" standards.

UNIONIZATION VOTE FAILED AT AMAZON WAREHOUSE IN ALABAMA, DESPITE BIDEN'S SUPPORT: Nearly six weeks ago, President Biden blasted out a video to millions of followers on social media promoting a push by Amazon employees in Alabama to form a union. On Friday, that effort collapsed in defeat and Biden was much quieter, issuing no statements, making no comments and publishing no videos. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would wait until the National Labor Relations Board finalizes the result before speaking about it. The outcome underlined the perils of Biden’s decision to use his platform to promote organized labor more vocally than any president in recent history. Workers voted to reject the union drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., by a wide margin, showing the head winds facing organized labor, but also the limits of the president’s influence and possibly his decision to weigh in relatively late. Asked Friday about the union vote outcome at her daily press briefing, Psaki said the president would wait “for the NLRB to finish its process and declare a result to make a further comment.” More than 3,000 Amazon employees in Bessemer voted in the election administered by the NLRB, with 1,798 voting against unionizing, the NLRB announced Friday, and just 738 voting in favor of the union. Union leaders are already looking ahead to the next issues where they hope Biden will have their back. One of the biggest battlegrounds will be the competition to shape the sweeping infrastructure plan Biden is seeking to pass in Congress in the coming months.



Not sure if that was wise...

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad (giddy, actually) to see President Biden supporting organized labor. And it's going to take actions like that to nudge the fence-sitters.

But Uncle Joe only pulled 36.6% of the total votes in Alabama last November, and the pro-union vote pulled just 29%. Now, that's a long way from cause & effect, but it's definitely something to contemplate. Just because you want to help, it doesn't mean you will.


Really, what you're seeing with the Amazon union vote is the result of many decades of right-wing propaganda that a) unions are run by corrupt thugs that just take all your money and b) if you vote in a union, they'll close your plant.

That's what has me concerned about that "right to work/right to get screwed" NC constitutional amendment proposal. That would tip the balance fully towards big business with no accountability, with only an overwhelming change in the legislature and NC voters to overturn it.