Update of Activities
JUNE 15th- RALLY
Over 200 citizens arrived at 12:30 at City Hall to protest against water privatization. It was covered by news and tv media.
See this link Water Privatization Protest
MAY 6th Minutes (edited)
I’m not sure if anyone took minutes from our first meeting, so I will try to quickly summarize what we spoke about on May 6 at AFSCME for those absent:
- We briefly went over the status of the water privatization bidding process. Learned there are 17 bidders to the City RFP for an auditor (16 of which are legitimate). We talked a bit about background and how a similar process was undertaken when the City decided to privatize MMSD operations—they hired a consultant to grease the wheels (Malcolm Pierney??). Our understanding is that the City will take about 60 days to review the bids, and will then make a recommendation to the City of a desired firm along with a dollar figure for hiring that firm (maybe somewhere between the $250,000 to 400,000 range). EDITORIAL COMMENT: Jon Keesecker and I learned today during our that almost all of the bids included a combination of a fee for service as well as a “success fee”. The success fee would go to the firm if privatization was successful. This is a common process, but a concern obviously as there is great incentive to privatize for these “auditors” if they get a cut of the sale/lease.
- There is a feeling this is a way to fill holes in the City budget (99 year lease would mean about 30M annually for the City), and/or to raise awareness of the dire fiscal straits at the City and the need to raise prices for water. City currently charges 40% of what they could charge on the open market. The PSC gave the City the ability to raise fees by 15% but they only raised by 6%. One reason may be that the City can only use water fees for water “projects” and can’t raise fees and then use those funds for other types of city expenses.
- We talked a lot about why privatization makes no sense—in terms of the city losing their power over a strategic asset, defaulting on their obligation to the public to provide clean water; length of deal is way too long. We also spoke about how City would lose any leverage under the Great Lakes Compact to sell water to out-of-basin communities or straddling communities.
- Jon spoke about other cities such as Akron that had defeated privatization scenarios, and their use of a referendum to help quash the proposed privatization.
- We spoke of issues facing customer municipalities should a privatization scenario occur—possible legislative issues.
- We spoke in depth of our desire to kill this quick. Our first opportunity is when Morics goes to the Common Council for approval of an auditor contract (probably within 30 days). There is a sense (using lessons learned from other places) that once an auditor is hired—the skids are greased for privatization. We talked a little about an advocacy or lobbying strategy for reaching out to Common Council Members and discussed their proclivities on the issue. We felt that Kovac and Davis are on our side or against privatization. Jon Keesecker met with Davis and Baumann, and we met today with Kovac. Peter McAvoy met with Ald. Murphy.
- We talked about the need to build grassroots support through education, press, earned media, etc.
- We talked about the need to develop messaging around this—Jon Keesecker will send work that has been done in other locations in the US. Options may be: don’t privatize our water; privatization is taxation through the tap; etc. Cheryl will see if their marketing people could work on something.
- We talked about the need for funding to develop outreach materials, yard signs, etc. Food and Water Watch may be able to help with some of this (?).
- We spoke of the need to broaden our list of partners, and the need to reach out to other stakeholders including local churches, neighborhoods, etc. in addition to labor and conservation groups.
Also—here is the link to Jon Keesecker’s Lake Effect Interview if you didn’t catch it:http://www.wuwm.com/programs/lake_effect/view_le.php?articleid=712