Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Water privatization

Cheryl Nenn is interim executive director of the Milwaukee Riverkeeper. She and I have had our differences, really just one disagreement- about the Estabrook Dam issue- but I deeply respect her, her education, opinions, and knowledge. Someone called her my "frenemy", but (even though I love neologisms) that is completely inaccurate: she and I are adults who are able to have rational conversations, usually via email, and can agree to disagree.

She wrote this article against the proposal of water privatization for the local daily paper, and I love the title: "Public asset belongs in public hands." Milwaukee has a long, proud Socialist history, and this will- I hope-continue to be yet another part of that history.

"Water is essential for life. Access to clean water is a human right. But in the hands of a for-profit company, water easily can be denied to those without the resources to pay for it.
In many communities that have privatized their water systems, jobs have been lost, salaries and benefits of workers have been cut, and monitoring and services have been reduced or delayed."

Please read the rest of her editorial for yourself. She concludes, "Finally, we... will lose control of it through privatization, and we forfeit our responsibility to hold a private corporation accountable (emphasis mine). Throughout the term of a 99-year lease, we will vote generations of elected officials in and out of office but will have no way to 'vote out' or hold a private water company accountable for its performance. [This does sound vaguely similar to how the DNR is run, though, doesn't it.] Other cities, such as Mequon and Felton, Calif., have incurred significant expense to take back water systems from private hands."

And, as Sura Faraj posted on Facebook, "200+ showed up (at Monday's hearing) to protest water privatization. We scared the security guards with our chanting. They threatened to put us in jail, because "This is a place of business." Alders temporarily held the matter. We want a resolution that says privatizing our water will be taken off the table permanently. Until then we will continue to organize. What can you do? Call your Alder 286.2221 and say so." Here's more on the subject.

What do you think? Post a comment-contact our elected officials- contact Cheryl and let her know what you thought of her editorial. Spread the word. Drink tap water. Keep the discussion going.


Erik Helm said...

Public assets must remain in public hands. Public resources should not be used to enrich the private sector at the expense of the people's control over the quality and delivery of the services developed from those resources. Selling off the public trust is a desperate and foolhardy idea.
Raising money through this sale is like auctioning off ones daughter to the highest bidder. Once it or she is sold, it can never be taken back. Our Milwaukee Aldermen should be ashamed of themselves.

Dave Reid said...

@Erik They should not be ashamed of themselves, none of them want to do this, but they are looking at very very significant budget problem. Now I'd rather not see it privatized either but their reasoning of investigating it is valid. For example, they can close ALL the libraries and still have a $68 million budget gap. See the problem?

Further, I don't believe an ordinance saying they can't sell it has any value anyhow. They can just pass another later undoing it. The bigger question is what are we as citizens ready to cut and/or tax to fix the problem?