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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,621

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Academic Labor Unrest Spreads to Maryland Colleges

(In These Times) BALTIMORE – Part-time professors at the historic Maryland Institute College of Art are joining a growing movement of academic workers around the country who want a union to help them with fundamental issues of fair pay and decent job conditions.

A committee of part-time faculty—also known as adjuncts—filed a petition on March 7 with the National Labor Relations Board seeking an election to establish Gaithersburg, Md.-based Service Employees International Union Local 500 as its collective bargaining agent. Joshua Smith, one of the committee’s leaders, tells In These Times that the adjuncts hope to move to an election within just a few weeks.

And instructors at other institutions in the region see the move to unionize as highly necessary. “This is an exciting development. Adjuncts really need a union to protect them from the abuses of a system they are unable to change. At the moment, they have no voice ... There can be no sense of community, scholarly or academic, when adjunct faculty are not included in decision-making as to curriculum or policy,” says Peggy Beauvois, a part-time instructor in the College of Education at the nearby Loyola University Maryland, which does not employ unionized faculty.

“We simply can not meet the needs of students when we must have two—and sometimes three—adjunct positions to even begin to support ourselves. I’ve heard stories about adjuncts who can’t afford an apartment and are living out of the back seat of their cars,” she adds. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/16461/academic_labor_unrest_spreads_to_maryland_colleges

Why Hillary Clinton Should Fear Bernie Sanders (audio link)

Listen: http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/why_hillary_clinton_should_fear_bernie_sanders_20140320

This week on Truthdig Radio in association with KPFK: If the socialist senator runs, he might find an electorate hungry for radical change. Also: Starving students, the Supreme Court’s campaign hypocrisy, and Google owes you $500.

The Breaking of a Power Monopoly: Community Choice?

The Breaking of a Power Monopoly: Community Choice?

Thursday, 20 March 2014 09:27
By Dina Rasor, Truthout | Solutions

Pacific Gas & Electric has had a monopoly on the energy needs of the northern two-thirds of California since 1905. But a new state government entity called Community Choice Aggregation promises to turn over most conventional wisdom of who has the power.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), as an energy utility, has had a monopoly on the energy needs of the northern two-thirds of California since 1905. As an investor-owned power company, it has amassed great wealth, assets and political power over the years. However, there is a new state government entity, called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), that promises to turn over most conventional political wisdom of who has the power.

The first attempt to break PG&E’s monopoly came in 1996, when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson pushed through a bill that loosened up the lucrative California energy market to the “Wild West” of a free market with few price regulations in the price of electricity sold to the state’s utilities. But it did not remove the restriction and cap on prices of what PG&E could charge to their retail customers for electricity. In 2000, drought and other problems put a strain on the California energy market. The notorious Enron Corporation artificially made the shortage worse by illegally shutting down their energy pipelines from Texas to California and manipulated markets to create an artificial power shortage in California. Enron began selling energy to a strapped PG&E at inflated prices but PG&E, by regulation, still had a regulatory cap restricting it from passing most of these energy costs to its customers. From April to December, energy rates increased an astounding 800 percent. Because PG&E was not able to require its customers to pay for most of this outrageous increase, its cash flow was drained quickly. PG&E was headed toward bankruptcy. The next year saw a series of infamous rolling blackouts, and the state had to step in and buy expensive power on the spot market because PG&E did not have the cash. The public did get stuck with paying for the state’s losses through taxes and the cost of PG&E’s bankruptcy that increased PG&E’s overhead and cost of doing business through higher electric bills. Billions of dollars were lost, with some estimates being as high as $45 billion.

After this ongoing trauma was inflicted on the state, PG&E emerged from bankruptcy with its monopoly intact. Many California communities were growing interested in renewable energy, but PG&E had gotten its rate of renewable energy only to less than 20 percent. In 2002, still smarting from the damage of the artificial market crisis, environmental and consumer groups looked for another way to try to infiltrate part of the PG&E’s power empire. This time, California legislators tried another route. They passed a law creating CCA. Communities now have the right to pool the citizens’ and businesses’ energy use in their cities or counties to purchase power for their aggregate unit. Communities such as cities and counties can also group together to form a larger CCA. CCAs are governmental agencies that generate income, similar to water districts.

How could these communities have their own power agencies compete with a powerful PG&E? To understand it, you need to think about PG&E having two monopolies. One is the ability to buy or make and sell electricity - that is, to sell electrons. The other is the infrastructure needed to deliver those electrons, through power towers and power lines, to your door. It would be ludicrous to think that a CCA could duplicate the infrastructure to deliver the electricity to your house or business. CCAs are just buying and/or generating the electrons. So PG&E still has a monopoly in delivering the electricity but the CCAs now have the ability to use PG&E’s power lines to compete and deliver electricity that has a higher percentage of renewable energy and perhaps even at a cheaper rate. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22576-the-breaking-of-a-power-monopoly-community-choice

More Californians ditching their cars in favor of biking, walking, transit

(LA Times) The rate of Californians walking, biking or taking transit on a typical day doubled to 22% over a 10-year span starting in 2001, according to a new study released by state transportation officials.

The study also found that the rate of Californians driving on any given day fell by about 12 percentage points over the same period.

From 2010 to 2012, researchers working for the California Department of Transportation asked about 110,000 people in more than 42,000 households to record the duration and distance of every trip they took during a random day, including running errands, going out to eat and commuting to work or school.

What is happening in California mirrors a nationwide decline in driving, experts say: The number of car miles driven annually peaked about a decade ago, and the percentage of people in their teens, 20s and 30s without driver's licenses continues to grow. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-more-californians-ditching-their-cars-20140314,0,3983703.story#ixzz2wYaJtrpd

Chicago: Task force: Create superagency for transit

(Chicago Tribune) In what would be the biggest reshaping of the Chicago region’s bus and train system in 30 years, a Public Transit Task Force is recommending abolishing the Regional Transportation Authority and the boards of the CTA, Metra and Pace in favor of a new superagency in charge of policy and funding.

The Gov. Pat Quinn-appointed panel concluded Monday that the current leadership structure -- with four separate transit boards and 47 directors -- has “structural, cultural and historical impediments (which have) led to stalemates and dormancy (and) inhibited collaboration” between the city and suburban transit agencies.

The 15-member task force, after seven months of work, concluded that the region needs a new framework for public transit to replace the governance system that has been in effect since 1983, regardless of the deeply divisive political implications that may be stirred up.

“We need to be bold and actionable,” said George Ranney Jr., the task force’s co-chairman. “Some of the politics will inevitably occur later. Let’s not try to outsmart the legislature or do its job for it.” ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicago-transit-20140317,0,3006718.story

D.C.: What's Delaying the Silver Line? Pull Up a Chair.

What's Delaying the Silver Line? Pull Up a Chair.

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 02:02 PM

[font size="1"]A Silver Line station (Fairfax County/flickr)[/font]

In their most revealing remarks to date about the problems delaying the completion of the Silver Line Metrorail project through Tysons Corner, officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) detailed time-consuming mistakes made by the contracting team led by the construction and engineering firm Bechtel, known as Dulles Transit Partners (DTP).

From speakers that have to be torn out to communications cables that do not work to wayside computer units that have to be replaced entirely along the 11-mile length of the $3 billion rail system, project leaders vented their frustrations about seemingly avoidable errors at the monthly meeting of MWAA’s board of directors. And to the question the D.C. region is asking – when will the Silver Line be ready? – officials could only provide a familiar answer: they do not know.

“I can’t give you a time because I don’t have one right now,” said Pat Nowakowski, the project’s executive director, who stressed progress has been made toward resolving outstanding problems during daily meetings with Bechtel and WMATA.

Progress, but no resolution, as a soft deadline of April 9 looms. That is when MWAA can begin fining Bechtel — as per the terms of their contract — $25,000 per day if the Silver Line has not been submitted by the contractor for “substantial completion.” Bechtel believes April 9 is subject to change because it has been given additional work outside the original scope of its project.

“This is just a far cry from where we were six months ago when everyone was saying we would get this thing in January, then February, then March for an opening,” said MWAA board member Tom Davis. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.wnyc.org/story/whats-delaying-silver-line-pull-chair/

Richard Wolff: Global Capitalism March 2014 Monthy Update: Obama and the Economy

by Richard Wolff.

Professor Wolff examines what Obama did, did not do, and aims to do in the face of ongoing economic crisis. Other major topics include the attack on employee pensions and the growing interest – in New York, the U.S. and globally – in worker cooperatives as alternatives to capitalist enterprises.

Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2013

from the APTA:

Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2013
The Highest Transit Ridership in 57 Years

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI. “Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”

Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide or on specific lines were located in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Pompano Beach, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Carlos, CA; Tampa, FL; Yuma, AZ; and New York, NY.

Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7 percent. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2014/Pages/140310_Ridership.aspx

Chicago: CTA set to put all fares under Ventra

from the Chicago Tribune:

Take heed, CTA and Pace riders. An announcement is coming by the end of March on plans to make Ventra those transit agencies' sole fare-payment system, a move that has been delayed for months by numerous technical glitches and bumpy customer service.

The move away from non-Ventra payment options will occur in phases, officials said. First, riders will no longer be able to reload value onto the old fare cards, then the sale of magnetic stripe cards will be halted, and lastly, none of the old-style cards will be accepted on buses or trains, the CTA said. A deadline for transferring remaining value from the old cards to Ventra cards will also be set.

"Some final details are being worked out on setting up informational events and the mail-in program so customers can transfer balances from their old cards to Ventra, but we're pretty sure an announcement will be made by month's end," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said Friday.

CTA officials first hit the reset button late last year. At the time, they expected to reschedule the phaseout of the trusty magnetic stripe card, Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus from the original mid-December target to late February or early March. ...........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-getting-around-cta-ventra-met-0310-20140310,0,5794524.column

LA Times: Teaching new Metro riders the subway of doing things

Teaching new Metro riders the subway of doing things
Art is the lure on these monthly Metro tours, but the aim is to show the ins and outs of the city's subway system. OK, time to tap!

By Nita Lelyveld
March 9, 2014, 7:35 p.m.

Commuters were rushing by. An update blared on a loudspeaker. An agitated young woman shouted a name again and again.

At 5:30 p.m. on a weekday, in Union Station's main concourse, strangers arranged themselves shoulder to shoulder in a circle.

They had come for a free tour of public art in three downtown subway stations. They had just been asked to raise their hands if they had taken Metro trains before.

Then artist Alex Amerri, one of the tour leaders, had smiled and said, "OK, so we have some people who are inexperienced." ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-adv-beat-metro-art-tour-20140310,0,4817531.story#ixzz2vehcbQ7m

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