Voters Reject Water Privatization

The people of Akron came up big against corporate control of the commons.
One piece of legislation (Issue 8) you may not have heard about in all the election hoopla yesterday was a key win in the fight against water privatization. As we've covered before, Akron, Ohio had a measure up for vote that would have leased the city's sewer system, including its maintenance and operation, to a private, for-profit company.

The people of Akron voted overwhelmingly to keep public control of their water system, voting 62 to 38 against Issue 8.

Jack Sombati, of AFSCME Ohio Council 8 summed it up:
Last night the citizens of Akron won a tremendous victory. They overwhelmingly said 'No' to Issue 8, which would have leased the city's wastewater utility to a private, for-profit corporation. This would have meant rate increases, poor service, and bad maintenance. The Mayor disguised this proposal in the scheme of a scholarship program, but he did not tell the folks of Akron all the facts. We got the facts about this proposal to the citizens and they overwhelmingly voted down Issue 8.
Akron residents also voted "yes" on Issue 9, a citizen's initiative to ensure that all utility privatizations in Akron are subject to public referendum -- it passed by a 2-1 margin.

"The decisive defeat of Issue 8 was a victory for keeping Akron's public utilities public," said Greg Colleridge, director of the Economic Justice and Empowerment Program. "The overwhelming support for Issue 9 was a clear statement by Akron voters that they want to have a direct voice in the future of their public water, sewer and other utility systems. Citizens in Akron now join the growing trend of people nationally and globally who feel public utilities are valuable community assets that should be publicly preserved rather than sold or leased to for-profit business corporations who care principally about their shareholders and owners."

Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter weighed in as well:
Issue 8 would have leased Akron's sewer system to a private company for 99 years, a plan that has never been carried out in the U.S. and would have amounted to making the residents of Akron guinea pigs of a risky privatization experiment ...
Privatization is not the cure to repairing ailing infrastructure systems. The evidence from the 86 percent of U.S. water systems under public control clearly shows higher efficiency with lower costs for ratepayers. In contrast, corporations' costs are higher and any efficiency premiums are often passed on to their shareholders. Indeed, the 14 percent of U.S. water utilities that are privately owned charge ratepayers anywhere from 13 percent to 50 percent more than their public counterparts.
Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.
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