Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T NZ tour operator thl has announced plans to merge its New Zealand rental business with KEA Campers and United Campervans, in a bid to advocate tourism and deliver financial benefits. Although acquisition and implementation costs totalled $1.7 million, thl’s operating profit has been forecast rise to $19.3 million from $16.3 million during the 2012 financial year. “This merger is logical, strategic and the best response to the challenging realities of the current New Zealand market,” thl chairman Keith Smith said. “thl is the industry player that already has the scale to market New Zealand tourism and New Zealand campervan vacations to a broad international audience and therefore the best placed to make the most of the additional brands.” Debt reduction of $19 million is expected in the first eight months after the merger. In the first full year following the merger, operating earnings are forecast to rise to $28.8 million. “The merger is an appropriate response to the challenging macro-economic factors facing New Zealand tourism and the campervan industry,” thl chief executive Grant Webster said. United Campervans principal Kay Howe will join the thl board as an executive director to assist with the merger, while KEA Campers principal Grant Brady is poised to lead thl’s New Zealand vehicle sales operations. “thl, combined with United and KEA, has a great future and will be a powerful advocate for New Zealand tourism particularly in high-value international markets such as the United Kingdom and Europe,” Ms Howe said.thl recently posted high operating profits, despite global instability and economic uncertainty. The merger is scheduled to be completed on 31 October 2012.
The International Air Services Commission (IASC) has decided to grant Qantas’ application for an allocation of seven services per week on the South Africa route and codesharing capabilities for South African Airways.The IASC determination was issued this month and is valid for five years, while South African Airways is permitted to codeshare on Qantas’ flights to and from South Africa until 31 December 2014.The Commission noted that on this occasion, Virgin Australia had not made any submission.“The Commission takes the view that it is not likely that a third direct carrier would enter in competition with Qantas on the Sydney route or SAA on the Perth route within the next two years,” the Determination said.The codesharing agreement excludes the carriage of freight. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T IASC grants QF, SAA codesharing capabilities. Image: M. Torres
Source = MSC Cruises MSC Cruises 2021 World CruiseMSC Cruises 2021 World Cruise an all New Itinerary of Discovery on the Far East and MoreMSC Cruises, the Swiss-based world’s largest privately-owned cruise line and market leader in Europe, South America, South Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, announced that sales for its much-awaited 2021 World Cruise will open today.This once-in-a-lifetime experience – a follow-on to the now nearly all sold-out 2019 and 2020 MSC World Cruises – will see guests embark on board MSC Poesia on a 119-day journey around the globe departing on January 5th, 2021. With an all-new itinerary featuring a significant focus on unique Asian destinations, the 2021 World Cruise has been designed to allow guests to really discover some of the region’s most inspiring destinations and more.Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO, commented: “At MSC Cruises, each time we bring a new itinerary to our guests we are committed to making that part of a unique and unforgettable holiday experience. Our newest World Cruise itinerary for 2021 – which features one of our most charming ships, MSC Poesia – will offer guests not only an incredible number of different destinations and overnight stays in iconic cities but a rich array of on board entertainment and music, enrichment activities as well as dining experiences that are sure to make this a voyage of discovery both while on board and ashore.”Brand New Itinerary for 2021 World Cruise featuring an enriched Asian segmentThe 118-night voyage sails roundtrip from Genoa and Civitavecchia (Rome) in Italy, Marseille in France and Barcelona in Spain and takes guests literally across the globe in one single voyage of discovery. Going westwards, the first leg crosses the Atlantic to the islands of the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal, sails the west coast of the continent (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico) to San Francisco. The second leg visits the scenic Maui and then volcanic Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Auckland in New Zealand, Sydney and the Australian Coast together with Cairns and the incredible Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. It then arrives in Japan during its most beautiful season: the cherry blossom.After visiting Kyoto, Tokyo and Shanghai in China, the third leg cruises to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia allowing guests to really discover this part of the Asian Continent. Finally, crossing the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka and Dubai guests can explore Oman and Jordan (Petra) and travel through the Suez Canal, back to the Mediterranean.Guests will travel in style and comfort on board MSC Poesia – MSC Cruises’ “poem to the beauty of the sea.” On board, guests will enter a refined world of comfort, created to surprise and delight. There’s so much to delight in from the spectacular foyer waterfall to the Zen Garden, authentic Japanese Sushi bar and opulent MSC Aurea Spawellness centre with steam room, sauna and divine massages to pamper body and mind – it’s the perfect place to unwind. For the more active, there are even a basketball and tennis court, shuffleboard, state-of-the-art gym and mini golf area. Plus 3 swimming pools, 4 whirlpools and a giant poolside cinema screen, to name only some of the features of MSC Poesia.2021 World Cruise HighlightsSome of the highlights include:Puerto Limon, Costa Rica – the stunning beaches and lush rainforest are a haven for any nature lover. Here guests will have the unique experience of interacting with native sloth species or discovering the rich history that the 2nd largest city in Costa Rica has to offer. One of the best ways to take in the landscape is through the ‘VERAGUA RAINFOREST & AERIAL TRAM’ shore excursion, offering guests a comfortable and convenient way to adventure deep into the rainforest, to encounter myriad butterflies and breath-taking waterfalls.San Francisco, USA – Guests will not want to miss a chance to get a look at the iconic Golden Gate bridge, visit the famous penitentiary-turned-prison Alcatraz, or taste the local California wines in one of the United States’ most famous cities. The ‘SAN FRANCISCO & GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE’ shore excursion, one of the many unique shore excursions featured on the cruise – is the ideal way to take in these landmarks during your stay, offering a plethora of can’t-be-missed sites in one trip.Honolulu, USA – Hawaii is renowned for its sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and looming volcanoes. On Oahu, the Hawaiian capital is home to all three of these treasures, where guests can partake in a luau or simply say ‘aloha’ to a day of sunbathing on the famous Waikiki Beach. To discover the city, as well as learn some of its most moving history, the ‘PEARL HARBOR & CITY TOUR’ will usher guests from sunken submarine and battleships, to pearls of the ancient Hawaiian kingdom.Sydney, Australia – Sailing by the Sydney Opera House and towering Harbour Bridge, guests will have two days to explore the iconic Australian city. Whether they choose to visit the famous Taronga Zoo for a chance to see real-live kangaroos or learn to surf at Bondi Beach, this is a destination for everyone. To truly experience the city, customers may join the ‘SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE CLIMB’ shore excursion, where they will ascend the 134-metre tall bridge for a panoramic view of the city, while their climb leader details the history from 1932 until now.Tokyo, Japan – The bright lights of Tokyo are one of six Japanese cities the MSC Poesia will visit during the world tour. With a plethora of uniquely Japanese activities to experience, guests may choose between traditional tea ceremonies, observing Sumo wrestlers’ morning practice sessions and discovering the restaurant offerings that make Tokyo the most Michelin-starred city in the world.Shanghai, China – One of China’s most iconic cities will give guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in the Far East, visiting the Jade Buddha Temple, walking along the Bund waterfront or taking a day trip to the Zhujiajiao water town, where the historic homes and bridges will have guests feeling they’ve stepped back in time.Hong Kong – This vibrant metropolis is where East meets West, where guests will be amazed by the many modern skyscrapers that paint the city’s skyline and delighted by the rich history, such as the Tian Tan Buddha.Da Nang, Vietnam – Vietnam’s 5th largest city is one of the country’s most beautiful. Guests may opt to climb the one-of-a-kind Marble Mountains, bask in the sun on My Khe Beach or discover the many stunning pagodas that the city is known for.Singapore – Framed by the unmistakable Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the city’s symbol, the Merlion, Singapore is a paradise for shoppers, with breath-taking malls that are as beautiful as they are well-stocked. The historical Raffles Hotel and eye-opening Gardens by the Bay make this small island a taste of the best of both worlds, modern meets classic. The ‘HIGHLIGHTS OF SINGAPORE’ shore excursion, for example, mixes classic coach and walking tours and will allow guests a chance to take in the many neighbourhoods of the city, starting with the exotic Little India.Aqaba, Jordan – This city rests on the Red Sea coast and is a haven for divers and history buffs alike. From snorkelling in the Aqaba Marine Park to Mamluk Castle and the Aqaba Archaeological Museum, this destination has something to satiate everyone’s interests.Booking Information:The MSC 2021 World Cruise sales will initially open to MSC Voyagers Club members only for one month, with sales opening to all guests on 10 January 2019. Cabins will start at AUD$27,599 per person, NZD$29,549 per person. Each cruise ticket comes with a set of 15 included shore excursions, as well as a mealtime package.For more information, visit here msccruises.com.au or msccruises.co.nzTo explore remaining availability for the much-sought-after 2020 MSC World Cruises see msccruises.com.au or msccruises.co.nz, phone 1300 028 502 or call your local travel agent.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) is eyeing big on India’s outbound tourism potential. Thanks to the increasing emphasis of all the seven States in the UAE on India to promote ‘within the country’ destinations under one umbrella of its extensive tourism offerings. Highly placed representatives of the UAE’s travel and tourism industry under the umbrella of National Council of Tourism and Antiquities (NCTA) announced its India-specific tourism promotion plans during India’s biggest Outbound Travel Mart – OTM 2016 in Mumbai. The UAE has the largest pavilion at the OTM.H.E. Sultan Mohamed Bin Khadin, Acting Consul, the UAE Embassy in India, who was present on the occasion, said, “The UAE has trade and cultural ties with India since ages. We want to strengthen these ties further and foresee a substantial growth in the number of tourist footfalls in the near future.”The UAE is positioning itself as a unique country where all the seven states like Dubai, Sharjah, Ras-Al-Khamaiyah, Abu Dhabi, etc. have different tourism varieties to showcase to India. Unlike other tourist destinations, where tourists need to travel long distance, the UAE has a long expanse from the North to South, which has a wide variety of tourism offerings like terrains, mountains, beaches, desert, etc.Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority, who is part of the delegation representing the UAE, said, “The UAE has been promoting its tourism potential globally and we find India as a great opportunity to expand relationships with India’s outbound travel and trade fraternity. In the UAE, Dubai is a commercial hub, Sharjah is a cultural hub and that way all the seven states have different offerings. Sharjah alone contributes about 8.5% of GDP from tourism, which is bound to grow further. We are expecting a manifold increase in tourism footfalls from Tier I and Tier II countries of India.”In Sharjah alone, the number of hotel guests from India has seen a 23% per cent growth. Adding further, Kahlid Jasim Al Midfa, said, “There are 110 flights per week just for Sharjah from India. We will achieve a double-digit growth in footfalls in the near future.”
A 52-year-old man, arrested in Cyprus last week as part of a major investigation by Belgian authorities into financial fraud and possible match-fixing, was released on Monday under terms after challenging his extradition to Belgium.He had been in custody since Wednesday when he was taken to court for his extradition hearing. The man is a national of another European country and a holder of a Cypriot passport who has been living in Cyprus for the past 20 years.He has filed an appeal over the European arrest warrant issued by Belgian authorities.He was arrested last Wednesday on suspicion of participating in a criminal organisation and money laundering. The offences are said to have been committed in Belgium, Cyprus and other EU countries between 2012 and 2018.Police told the court last week that the 52-year-old is a director/accountant in several companies in Cyprus through which the alleged unlawful activities were committed.The 52-year-old objected to the demand of the legal services to remain under custody until the next court hearing, which has been set for October 31.He was released after signing a €100,000 bail bond. Court granted his request to be released as the man is a widower and has two children who are minors.Following his appeal, the court must issue its final ruling on the case within 60 days of his arrest. In special circumstances the 60-day period may be extended by another 30 days at most.The suspect is said to have had a long association with another person who is “indirectly implicated” with these companies. This person allegedly helped the 52-year-old draw up fake contracts and invoices in the name of a specific company with the purpose of laundering monies obtained through illicit activities.The 52-year-old is said to have received payment on a commission basis for services rendered to the other person.The search and arrest were part of investigations launched in Belgium in connection with forgery and circulation of documents, tax evasion and money laundering.Belgian prosecutors said the searches were related to an investigation launched at the end of 2017 into suspect financial transactions in the top Belgian football league, with possible charges of criminal organisation, money laundering and corruption.Some agents were suspected of hiding commissions on transfers, players’ pay and other payments from the Belgian authorities, the prosecutors said. You May LikeUltimate Pet Nutrition Nutra Thrive SupplementAdd This One Thing To Your Dog’s Food To Help Them Be HealthierUltimate Pet Nutrition Nutra Thrive SupplementUndoAngels And EntrepreneursRobert Herjavec Announce Venture Could Make You RichAngels And EntrepreneursUndoDr. Marty ProPower Plus Supplement3 Dangerous Foods People Feed Their Dogs (Without Realizing It)Dr. Marty ProPower Plus SupplementUndo Turkish Cypriot actions in Varosha ‘a clear violation’ of UN resolutions, Nicosia saysUndoConcern over falling tourism numbersUndoPensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoby Taboolaby Taboola
09Jun Rep. Jacobsen encourages local residents to cast a line during Free Fishing Weekend Categories: Featured news,News Tags: #SB, Free Fishing Weekend, Jacobsen, June 11-12, MDNR State Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, announced today that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) is sponsoring a free weekend of fishing this Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12.“This free weekend of fishing provides an experience that families and friends can share together at no cost out of pocket,” Rep. Jacobsen said. “It encourages Michiganders to get outdoors and enjoy our state’s pristine lakes and rivers in hopes of catching a few fish and exploring all that Pure Michigan has to offer.”Residents and tourists across the state can enjoy Michigan’s premiere freshwater fishing at no out-of-pocket expense. The MDNR will waive the fishing license requirement and open the state’s waters to anyone looking to cast a line.During the Free Fishing Weekend all other fishing rules and requirements, such as size and species limits, apply.For more information about free fishing weekends, please visit the MDNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr.######
Categories: Kelly News,News Michigan’s local public schools would get $100 more per student for the 2017-18 academic year, raising funding to a record level through legislation approved today by the state House’s budget committee.The bill advanced today by the House Appropriations Committee also contains budgets for Michigan’s public universities and community colleges as work toward completing the next budget plan continues.“Our classrooms are the key to building a better future for Michigan, and that is why we are investing in schools with this budget,” said Rep. Tim Kelly of Saginaw Township, sponsor of the education funding bill and chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid. “We are focused on giving students the education they need to succeed and helping Michigan prosper for decades to come.”Highlights of the bill:Michigan’s K-12 public schools would get record funding at $14.3 billion, with a priority on keeping more money in the classroom to benefit students. School districts across the state would get $100 more per student at each grade level, equating to a $143 million increase.Early childhood literacy is emphasized with $25.4 million dedicated to help K-3 students improve their reading skills.An additional $129 million is dedicated to help “at-risk” students, with the definition expanded to include students who are homeless, migrant and in foster care.Funding for career and technical training would increase through competitive grants for equipment upgrades and for intermediate school districts to hire counselors. The programs are designed to help prepare Michigan students for jobs of the future.The higher education budget supporting Michigan’s 15 public universities would get a 2.3 percent funding increase, including an average of 1.9 percent more for university operations. Funding for tuition incentive programs and a competitive scholarship program would increase.The education budget bill advances to the House floor for further consideration.###The legislation: House Bill 4313 25Apr Rep. Kelly, Michigan House budget panel OK record funding for public schools
Categories: Lucido News,News State Rep. Peter Lucido of Shelby Township today introduced legislation to speed up the implementation of consistent income tax relief for Michigan families.Lucido’s bill deals with the homestead property tax credit. The new legislation would annually increase the maximum credit allowable by the rate of inflation starting with the 2019 tax year.Current law calls for the credit cap to increase to $1,500 in the 2018 tax year and remain there until increasing by the inflation rate starting in the 2021 tax year.“My proposal would begin providing the inflation-related tax relief two years earlier than now planned,” said Lucido, who is a member of the House Tax Policy Committee. “There’s no reason to wait. Michigan families deserve tax relief, and this is just one of the ways I’m working to bring it to them.”Lucido also has introduced legislation to provide an income tax credit to offset fees families pay for students to participate in sports, band or other extracurricular programs in schools. The Michigan House already has approved a Lucido bill to protect taxpayers from unwarranted personal liability lawsuits in property tax cases.###Rep. Lucido’s legislation is House Bill 4883. 16Aug Rep. Lucido continues fight to provide income tax relief for Michigan families
06Mar Rep. Hornberger bill ensures taxpayer dollars benefit Michigan residents Categories: Hornberger News,News Legislation addresses library funding along state’s southern bordersThe House Commerce and Trade Committee today advanced a bill proposed by state Rep. Pamela Hornberger providing clarity to a previous law that entered Michigan into the Interstate Library Compact.Residents in communities along Michigan’s borders with Indiana and Ohio have more convenient access to libraries now that the state is a part of the compact – made law by the governor’s signature last year. The compact, which includes over 30 states nationwide, also allows out-of-state residents to use Michigan libraries. Michigan became the first member of the compact since Ohio joined in 1976. Hornberger’s new proposal assures only Michigan residents will be taken into account when library funding is requested and provided.“Funding is provided by the state after gathering data on the number of people served at a community library,” said Hornberger, of Chesterfield Township. “We need to make sure that libraries are funded on a per Michigan resident served basis as opposed to merely a per resident served basis and that’s what my bill does. It’s a small change to something that got Michigan involved in a beneficial system, but we need to protect our taxpayers.”House Bill 5618 now moves to the full House for consideration.
No appointment is necessary to attend office hours. Anyone unable to attend who would like to voice a question or concern to Rep. Hughes may contact her office at (877) 633-0331 or HollyHughes@house.mi.gov. Friday, April 68 to 9 a.m. at the Ravenna Round Table, 12396 Stafford St. in Ravenna. 20Mar Rep. Hughes invites residents to her upcoming office hours Categories: Hughes News State Rep. Holly Hughes announced her upcoming office hours for March and April.“It is important for me to meet with residents on a regular basis to hear the questions and concerns they have regarding state government,” Hughes said. “I encourage everyone to join me for office hours.”Rep. Hughes will be available at the following times and locations:Thursday, March 2910:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Holton Township Hall, 6511 E. Holton Whitehall Road in Holton; and2 to 3 p.m. at Roosevelt Park City Hall, 900 Oak Ridge Road in Roosevelt Park.
Share14TweetShare2Email16 SharesJune 16, 2015; Center for Media and Democracy’s PR WatchBoth the federal government and education reformers have made strategic objectives out of “school choice” and increasing the role of charter schools. But the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to holding charter schools to the same level of oversight and accountability that traditional public schools are expected to meet is increasingly in question. School choice and charter schools have been key elements of the Department of Education’s strategy to implement the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and the DoE has pledged to provide effective oversight for their operations: “Both charter schools and other autonomous schools funded under this program must be subject to the same accountability systems as traditional public schools, as well as increased accountability for improving student academic achievement.”A recent article by Jonas Persson in the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch spotlights how limited and ineffective Charter School accountability is: “Designed to create and expand ‘high-quality’ charter schools, the quarter-billion-dollar-a-year program has been repeatedly criticized…for suspected waste and poor financial controls.”Persson found that the complex process that terminates in the authorization of independently managed charters makes oversight difficult if not impossible:“With oversight outsourced to charter school authorizers, the state departments of education are reduced to conducting independent reviews of the applications, and to follow up by providing support and training to the authorizers in the hope that they will follow best practices. […] Not only did officials…ignore reviews on a whim, they also met frequently with the charter industry while arguing for even less accountability.”Using Colorado as a model, Persson found that starting from the point where an organization applied for a charter to operate their school, effective oversight was impossible. The personnel delegated to review charter applications are “beholden to the industry they are tasked with reviewing.”The job posting for charter reviewers makes it clear what the Education Department is primarily looking for:Charter school fundersCharter school and charter management organization leadersSocial and education entrepreneursGrant makers or managers with experience in the charter sector.While the Department of Education will consider applications from state or district education officials, reviewers must still “have a solid understanding of the charter school movement” and experience in “designing, evaluating, or implementing effective charter school models.”The DoE’s guidance on accountability when it comes to conflicts at a state level is contradictory and sets a low standard. Federal standards guide states, too, but in reviewing Colorado’s application for ESEA Charter School funding, federal reviewers found that “the application includes a plan for implementing a turnaround model for failing charters, which seems to contradict the concept of strong system of accountability.” Federal reviewers of Colorado’s application even gave the state credit for not requiring Charters to be subject to local zoning and building regulations.President Obama has set a high bar for our nation’s public education system: “Every child in America deserves a world-class education… We must ensure that every student graduates from high school well prepared for college and a career.” With Congress now debating ESEA’s renewal and increasing funding for charter school expansion by 48 percent, now is the time to consider whether schools with limited public accountability can ever be counted on to help our nation reach its goals.—Marty LevineShare14TweetShare2Email16 Shares
Share15TweetShare3Email18 SharesNovember 3, 2016; Next CityA new report from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley is generating some buzz in the rental advocacy world. The report “costs out” the Federal Assistance In Rental (FAIR) program, which would provide a tax credit to lower income households that are rent burdened, which means “paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities.” (The report does not specify whether gross or net income is used in the calculation.) The report offers three options for a renter tax credit that could expand resources going to rental households while reducing the outlays for existing subsidy programs.The Rent Affordability option would make up the difference between a household’s rent and the HUD-established Small Area Fair Market Rent so that the household pays no more than 30 percent of its income in rent. Any household that is below 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) and rent burdened would be eligible. To provide full coverage for 13.3 million households, the report estimates a cost of $76B, but notes that some of the cost could be offset by reduced spending for housing choice vouchers and homeless services.The Rent Reduction option would provide a credit to more families, 15.1 million, but credits would be capped at a lower level of 12 to 33 percent of rent. While this plan would leave households with some rent burden, nearly all renters making less than 80 percent of AMI would receive some financial relief. Rent Reduction option would be much cheaper ($41B) than the Rent Affordability option.A Composite plan would offer the Rent Reduction option to the majority of households and the more ambitious Rent Affordability option to a smaller number of extremely low-income families. The composite plan would assist 15.1 million households at a cost of $43B. To address the problems reaching extremely low income households, the credit in the Composite plan could be provided to landlords, more like a housing choice voucher.Anticipating some “sticker shock,” the Terner study’s authors, Carol Galante, Carolina K. Reid, and Nathaniel Decker, offer some suggestions for implementation that might lower the cost. However, they caution that these restrictions could undermine the savings that could be realized in existing programs. Interestingly, the study has suggested a pilot project to assess how the FAIR plan would impact families and housing markets. The idea of test-driving a radical new policy makes some sense since there may be cost savings from a reduction in eviction and an enhancement of household mobility. A pilot might give some clues about whether a renter subsidy would improve or degrade housing quality standards. Would the absence of regulatory standards lead tenants to choose lower quality units, or would households use their enhanced “buying power” to choose better quality units? Probably some of both.There are five good reasons for the new Congress and the president-elect to consider a renter’s tax credit.Rents continue to rise faster than tenant incomes, causing rent burden for half of the renter households in the U.S.Cost of a renter tax credit could be offset by a decrease in the mortgage interest deduction credit, which goes to the wealthiest property owners.Because of funding restrictions, only about one-fourth of households who are eligible to receive a federal housing subsidy are actually receiving help. A tax credit would go to all eligible renters. The Fair Plan would cover roughly three times the households currently receiving federal assistance through public housing, housing choice vouchers, and project-based rental assistance.Unlike existing subsidy programs, tax credits would be cheaper to administer than existing housing programs, which have volumes of regulations that are administered by thousands of private landlords and public housing authorities.Republicans in Congress seem to be more favorable to tax credits than appropriations (spending). Consider Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Earned Income Tax Credits.Administrative savings from a simpler administration does not mean administration is simple. Even though a renter’s tax credit could reduce lots of bureaucracy, the IRS would need to figure out the right level of support for each household based on household income, the amount of rent they pay, and the fair market rent in their community. That’s a lot of math. Then too, Congress would need to figure what to do for households that don’t file income taxes or households that have less conventional living situations. Finally, there would need to be a way for households to receive their credit monthly in order to pay rent. Usually, tax credits come annually. At least initially it could be hard for a household to figure out what level of subsidy they are likely to receive, making it hard to make reasonable choices. One can imagine a new cadre of “navigators” like those created for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.Under a system of renter tax credits, tenants would need to become their own inspectors, financial managers, and code enforcers. No one from government will be checking for housing quality standards, rent reasonableness, or unconscionable lease provisions. That could mean tenants would need more reliance on private counselors and legal services agencies for support when things go wrong in the landlord-tenant relationship. On the other hand, tenants with a renter tax credit would not face the roadblock of discrimination based on source of income.It is hard to assess the likelihood of a renter tax credit in the near future. Tax reform seems to be on the short list for congressional action in 2017, but, as usual, rental housing is not high on the agenda. The FIRED (Finance, Investor, Real Estate, Developer) lobbyists will be opposed to shifting tax benefits away from wealthy property owners to tenants. Still, the concept has been endorsed by a wide variety of groups and rental tax credits could meet some objectives of Republicans who know they need to govern, not just obstruct. Many in Congress represent low-income renters who are expecting something tangible in return for their support for President-elect Trump. Others in Congress might see renter tax credits as a counter to the wave of rent control measures bubbling up from local areas. Time will tell.—Spencer WellsShare15TweetShare3Email18 Shares
Share51Tweet5Share3Email59 SharesApril 14, 2017; SalonDuring Elizabeth DeVos’s contentious confirmation hearing, Senator Tim Kaine asked her if she would “insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter, or private?” One measure of accountability is whether education funding is spent effectively and wisely. A new report from In The Public Interest, “Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California Charter School Funding,” should give educational leaders a reason to take this question seriously. ITPI’s findings tell us that, at least in California, there is a job still to be done.ITPI examined $2.5 billion spent for the facilities used in California’s public charter school sector over the past 15 years. In evaluating how wisely these funds had been spent, it asked several core questions, which would establish the basis for responsible and accountable funding.Were the funded facilities located in areas where additional classrooms were needed?Did the schools using funded facilities perform better than other schools serving the same geography?Were these schools developing new and innovative educational models that could be replicated more widely?Did these schools offer content not available in other neighboring schools?On all of these measures, the report says, California has not gotten the results that this investment should have garnered.Concern over the poor quality of education provided by many traditional public schools has been a major rationale for building a new, market-based, public education system. But ITPI found that public funding was not supporting a superior educational product. In three-quarters of California public charter schools, “the quality of education on offer is worse than that of a nearby traditional public school that serves a demographically similar population. Taxpayers have provided these schools with an estimated three-quarters of a billion dollars in direct funding and an additional $1.1 billion in taxpayer-subsidized financing.” Almost 20 percent of these funds went to schools whose performance was ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all publically funded schools.Across the country, school boards are challenged to align their facilities with the demographics of their districts, placing new schools in neighborhoods with growing student populations and closing facilities where the student population has fallen. ITPI found the California charter sector was not being asked to use this logic. “Nearly 450 charter schools have opened in places that already had enough classroom space for all students—and this overproduction of schools was made possible by generous public support” totaling more than $670 million. What’s more, a large number of these schools were also not performing well academically. ITPI concluded that “one of the key policy judgments normally at the heart of education planning—how to balance a district’s school portfolio to meet the needs of the overall student body—has been declared off-limits for state and local elected officials.”While ITPI used facility funding as its metric, the impact of unwise spending on charter schools goes well beyond the circle of capital funding. Every unwisely sited public charter school bleeds funds from the underlying public school system. With fixed costs estimated at between 35 and 55 percent, shifting students from existing schools to newly created but unneeded public charters forces cuts in educational programs for the students remaining in the traditional system.The problem is not limited to California. Charter and choice advocates have extolled the virtues of school choice and competition with little consideration for the impact of growth with limited accountability and the need for a comprehensive perspective. According to Salon, the findings are “significant on national and statewide levels, especially since California has more charter schools than any other state and the Trump administration has proposed spending $20 billion for a range of ‘school choice’ initiatives, from charter public schools to tuition vouchers for religious schools or to subsidize home schooling. Charter schools are privately run K-12 schools and have become an industry dominated by corporate franchises seeking rapid growth.”The debate now taking place in statehouses across the nation is often posed as binary: pro-market versus anti-market. ITPI’s analysis suggests that policymakers need to consider a different angle. How is the overall effectiveness of our national, state, and local educational systems being held to account? Who is responsible for the whole, and not just one of the system’s many pieces? If the debate could be reshaped, we might see better outcomes for all.—Martin LevineShare51Tweet5Share3Email59 Shares
Share5Tweet3ShareEmail8 Shares“Hackfort 2 Hackathon at Trailhead” [cropped] by Daniel X. O’NeilNovember 27, 2017; CityLab“Cities are right to pour their energy into homegrown businesses,” advises David Zipper, who served as director of business development for Washington, D.C. from 2009 to 2013 and now is a fellow at the German Marshall Fund.Zipper is no wild-eyed local economy enthusiast. Indeed, he warns cities against issuing high-risk “large contracts to local startups for untested or inferior products.” But, as Zipper outlines in CityLab, cities adopting a “grow-your-own” orientation to economic development can draw on a wide number of lower risk economic development tools that they have at their disposal.As Zipper writes,There are plenty of ways for city leaders to support startup-fueled economic development without dipping into public coffers. An easy process for business licensing and registration can nudge prospective entrepreneurs to take the plunge (and make life a little easier for existing businesses, too). Creating a startup advocate position within city hall—as Seattle has done—can give founders a useful “front door” when they have questions about setting up shop or navigating city government. Cities can also provide funding and support to create a startup hub that brings together students, entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations—much as Boise did when Trailhead launched in 2015. Each of these techniques can improve the urban environment for startups and make it easier for new ventures to launch and scale.The nonprofit Trailhead acts both as a hub and accelerator for local small businesses. It presently has about 375 individual members and supports more than 60 member companies. Similar organizations can be found in other cities. For example, in Richmond, Virginia, a city-business partnership known as RVA Works acts in a similar fashion.City officials can also use the bully pulpit to good effect. For instance, Zipper writes,A mayor could visit a startup’s office or tweet about their product. A testimonial from a city official can be a powerful lift to an entrepreneur building a brand and show legitimacy to prospective customers. A mayor could also deploy her network to help a local startup, providing connections to city businesses that could become customers or partners. And if she really believes in a startup’s new product, a mayor could offer a chance to test it through an unpaid city pilot. Some startups may ask for a token payment to show they can close a deal, and that’s OK, too.The nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has been advocating for locally based economic development for over 40 years, earlier this year produced a report that outlined eight city-based policy strategies that can form part of a comprehensive homegrown economic development strategy. In addition to setting up a small business office (like the startup office Zipper cites in Seattle), these policies include designing retail to favor local businesses (such as using zoning to ensure smaller spaces are available for local businesses to rent, potential set-asides for local businesses in larger retail developments, and limitations on the density of so-called formula or chain stores); rules that facilitate the adaptive reuse of old buildings, as Phoenix has done; expanding access to capital through loan funds; giving slight bid preferences to local business, as Cleveland, Ohio, has done; and shifting economic incentive dollars to support local business, as NPQ covered earlier this fall in Asheville, North Carolina.“To summarize,” Zipper writes, “if you’re a city official ready to adopt a grow-your-own economic development strategy, make it easier for prospective entrepreneurs to take the plunge and celebrate them when they do. Simplify business regulations, tweet about successful startups, offer to do a city agency pilot, and introduce entrepreneurs to resources in the community.”“And while you’re at it,” Zipper adds, “pat yourself on the back for doing something more productive than climbing aboard the HQ2 bandwagon.”—Steve DubbShare5Tweet3ShareEmail8 Shares
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has signed an occasional use capacity deal with SES for contribution and distribution of the 2011 Pan American Games taking place in Guadalajara, Mexico.The EBU is using over one transponder of C-band capacity on SES’ NSS-806 to bring the international sporting event to fans across Latin America and parts of Europe. It is also using uplink services at SES’ teleport facility in Manassas, Virginia, as part of its global distribution strategy behind the Pan American Games.
Private equity-backed telco company Sunrise will launch an IPTV service in Switzerland in the first quarter of 2012.It has already conducted a trial service and will launch IPTV as part of a quad-play offer early next year. Private equity firm Cinven acquired Sunrise from Danish telco and cable operator TDC for US$3.3 billion (€2.5 billion) last year and it is Switzerland’s second largest mobile and third largest broadband operator.
Sky Italia managed just 23,000 new subscriber additions during the second quarter, 2012, ending December with 5.03 million customers.The News Corp-owned DTH operator did, however, post a healthy improvement in its profits due primarily to increased advertising and subscription revenues. Operating income amounted to $6 million (€4.5 million), an improvement of US$18 million versus the $12 million operating loss reported a year ago.News Corp chief operating officer Chase Carey said, “We successfully tackled the competitive challenge from our major industry competitor as well as a challenging regulatory environment to regenerate growth and excitement in our business.” He added that Sky’s business was “pretty resistant to the economic headwinds but it is not immune. We expect short-term growth to be impacted by Italy’s macro situation but we are extremely bullish on the long-term potential”.News Corp reported a 2% year-on-year increase in revenues to US$8.98 billion.
Hungarian transmission company Antenna Hungária has named András Piller as its new CEO.Piller has worked at various broadcasters and TV operators, including RTL Klub, T-Kábel and Fibernet. He was most recently CEO of Latvian operator Baltcom.Piller replaces Yves Coulomb who was acting CEO. Coulomb will remain as chief financial officer and will serve as a board member.
Bouygues Telecom chief Martin Bouygues reportedly met French president François Hollande last week as part of a drive to convince French official circles of the seriousness of its move to acquire Vivendi-owned telco SFR.According to the Journal du Dimanche, the meeting was intended in part to reassure the government about the impact of any merger on employment. The paper said that Bouygues plans to make an offer for SFR within the next 10 days.Bouygues is reportedly anxious to head off Numericable shareholder Patrick Drahi’s move to engineer a merger of the cable operator and SFR that could leave the smaller telco isolated in the face of competition from Free, Orange and the new entity.Bouygues is also keen to benefit from synergies from the ‘mutualisation’ of Bouygues’ and SFR’s mobile networks.According to BFM Business, Bouygues has engaged HSBC and Rothschild to prepare an offer for SFR that would top the €5 billion deal reportedly on offer from Numericable.
Chris Albrecht & Jon FeltheimerLionsgate chairman and CEO Jon Feltheimer has said the US$4.4 billion (€3.9 billion) acquisition of premium cable channel Starz is “the most transformative transaction in [the studio’s] history”.Furthermore, the merger will provide Lionsgate a “unique opportunity to dramatically scale” production of “premium television production, which we believe is the critical success factor for any content-driven company”, he said.Feltheimer added the combined company would invest nearly US$1 billion a year in new TV series, and US$1.8 billion when factoring in movies.“The deal to acquire Starz will accelerate the growth of both companies, deepening our portfolio of content, expanding our access to distribution, diversifying our pathways to the consumer and unlocking enormous opportunity for long-term value creation for our shareholders,” he said.Lionsgate brought to an end a near-two-year period on the negotiating table for Starz, which had spun out of Liberty Media in 2013. CBS Corp. has confirmed it looked at the company, while 21st Century Fox is also understood to have kicked the tires. Lionsgate was consistently linked, and finally announced a US$4.4 billion deal in June following four months of talks.Starz lead shareholder and cable mogul John Malone is increasing his influence within Lionsgate after both Liberty Global and Discovery both took 3.4% stakes in the business. Malone has significant shareholdings in both companies.Feltheimer addressed analysts on Discovery and Liberty’s involvement, noting that discussions had taken place over creating content for Liberty, which this week secured its biggest ever original drama agreement, with production subsidiary All3Media.He noted Lionsgate had set up a documentary business with Discovery, and added there were “constant conversations” with both companies over programming and distribution moves.Elsewhere on the call, which followed good first quarter results, Feltheimer said there had been discussion about adding “third-party products” to Starz’s OTT platform, Starz Play.Lionsgate recorded a profit of US$1.3 million in Q1, ahead of analysts’ expectations of a loss. It was posted revenues of US$553.6 million, up on the US$409 million taken a year ago.