Keeping Baltimore’s Water in Public Hands

Source: Kevin Zapf Hanes, AFSCME Now, August 23, 2018 

Water profiteers have long sought to call Baltimore home. AFSCME Council 67 members joined with community allies years ago to educate city residents about the dangers of private water companies taking over the city’s water utilities.  At the continued urging of community and workers, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution this month barring the sale of the city’s water utility. Mayor Catherine Pugh signed the measure soon thereafter. The measure will now be placed on the November ballot for voter approval. It’s expected to pass. … AFSCME Council 67 President and International Vice President Glenard Middleton testified before the city council.  He said, “Poor people and communities of color would be disproportionately harmed by water privatization. The water rate hikes needed to generate corporate profit would lead to water shutoffs in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. And water corporations would likely invest more resources in wealthier areas of the city because these companies have a track record of cherry-picking projects to generate the highest returns for their investors, instead of keeping the public’s best interest at heart.” …

Related:

Baltimore Set To Ban Privatization of Water System
Source: Ayana Byrd, Color Lines, August 8, 2018
 
Legislators in Baltimore have taken historic steps to ban water privatization in the city—a move that will benefit lower-income earning communities in the majority Black city.  On Monday (August 6), members of the Baltimore City Council approved a resolution that will ban water privatization via a nearly unanimous vote. … Baltimore, a city of approximately 611,000 people, is 63 percent Black. Twenty-one percent of its residents live below the federal poverty line, according to the latest Census information. Glen Middleton, the executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 67, said, “Not only will water privatization increase water rates across the city, but it will also deprive low-income communities and communities of color access to clean and safe water…. Keep water privatization away from our communities.” …

Responding to activists, Mayor Pugh, DPW director assure they don’t want to privatize Baltimore’s water system
Source: Ethan McLeod, Baltimore Fishbowl, June 13, 2018
 
Fear not, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director Rudy Chow say: Baltimore’s water system will remain in public control, despite any charter amendments that activists worry could open up a pathway for privatization.   In a joint statement issued Wednesday morning, Pugh and Chow assured they’re not looking to let companies like Suez Environment in on managing Baltimore’s drinking water supply or any of its resources.  “Baltimore City’s drinking water system is a jewel that must be maintained in the public trust,” Pugh and Chow said. “From the reservoirs in Baltimore and Carroll counties, to our filtration plants in the Ashburton and Montebello communities, we share the commitment of prior generations of civic leaders to keep this life-sustaining resource in public hands.” …


Baltimore’s Water Crisis: Can It Get Worse?
Source: Food & Water Watch, May 8, 2018

In Baltimore, water issues have become the norm. People have been dealing with unaffordable water and incorrect water bills for years, and now the Mayor might be looking to privatize the water system. … Water privatization companies have been circling around Baltimore like sharks for decades. It’s nothing new. But this time, one company is getting more heavy-handed. Since last fall, Suez has been pitching Baltimore officials on a plan to take over the city’s water system. It’s pitching a scheme, in partnership with a Wall Street firm KKR (which should immediately set off your alarm bells), that is an especially harmful form of water privatization called a long-term concession lease. …

Veolia is rejected by city panel as consultant for water efficiency study
Source: Mark Reutter, Baltimore Brew, December 3, 2014

Two days after 100 people stood up at a City Council hearing to denounce a possible city contract with French water giant Veolia, an administrative panel today approved the bid by its sole rival. PA Consulting was selected by the city’s Architectural and Engineering Awards Commission to negotiate the terms of a $500,000 efficiency study of Baltimore’s water and wastewater treatment plants prior to final ratification… ….One Baltimore United, a coalition of 40 community, faith and labor organizations formed this summer in response to fears that Veolia was trying to privatize Baltimore’s water system, issued a statement tonight that – in part – applauded the city’s decision.

Amid protests, DPW selects efficiency consultant for water-treatment facilities
Source: Edward Ericson, City Paper, December 4, 2014

The Department of Public Works selected PA Consulting, a London-based company, to conduct a $500,000 “efficiency study” of the city’s water treatment facilities. Normally such a small contract, which is not yet finalized, would not rate any ink, but this one has prompted protests and organizing by a Boston-based nonprofit that says small contracts like this one can lead to “water privatization” schemes that ill-serve ratepayers. Corporate Accountability International has targeted Veolia, the giant French company that competed for the Baltimore contract. With a coalition of local union and church-based organizations, it staged a protest rally in August and packed a hearing Monday in which people sharply questioned public works officials and criticized the consulting contract, according to the Baltimore Brew. …

Baltimore panel recommends London company for controversial DPW efficiency contract
Source: Yvonne Wenger, Baltimore Sun, December 4, 2014

A London-based consultant is in negotiations with Baltimore for a highly watched efficiencies study of the city’s Department of Public Works, officials said Wednesday. The city’s Architectural and Engineering Awards Commission recommended that PA Consulting Group be considered for study of the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants. The city is looking to pay about $500,000 for the review, but an amount hasn’t yet been finalized. The contract is expected to go before the Board of Estimates for approval in the coming weeks….

Hearing scheduled for concerns on city water system privatization
Source: Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun, October 27, 2014

Concerns about Baltimore selling its water system to a private company will be vetted at a City Council hearing at 5 p.m. Dec. 1. Councilman Carl Stokes said while Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration has stressed that there are no plans to sell the water system, he wants agency officials to explain why they are looking for a consultant to study operations.

All Wet? “Consultant” contract prompts concerns that the city may privatize its troubled waterworks
Source: Edward Ericson Jr., City Paper, August 19, 2014

After Baltimore City wrested its water and sewage system away from the private Baltimore Water Company in 1854, the municipal system expanded and made improvements, so much so that by 1914 the city crowed about its “finest in the world” new sewer system in a brag book aimed at tourists and business owners. A hundred years later, a nonprofit corporate privatization watchdog that thinks the city is about to sell its waterworks to a private company is focusing attention on a tiny Baltimore contract to promote efficiency in the city’s troubled waterworks. Some city workers protested the contract—which has not yet been awarded—on August 13 at City Hall. ….. The Corporate Accountability Campaign is allied with AFSCME, the huge state-and-local government employee union. Glenard Middleton heads up the Baltimore local, but he did not return City Paper’s calls asking about Veolia and the water contract.
Related:
Is Baltimore City’s Water Supply Up For Privatization?
Source: Jaisal Noor, The Real News, August 15, 2014

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: On Wednesday, August 13, activists, union members, and concerned citizens rallied at Baltimore City Hall to decry what they say could be the first steps in privatizing the city’s water. GLEN MIDDLETON, PRESIDENT, AFSCME LOCAL 44: And we’re here because we want to put a spotlight, a spotlight on selling out Baltimore. …. The Real News reached Kirk Coker, spokesman for Baltimore Department of Public Works, who says there are no plans to privatize the city’s water.

Water worries [Editorial] Our view: Privatization protest was premature, but concerns about the water system are real
Source: Baltimore Sun, August 14, 2014

If Baltimore were actually considering privatizing its water system, the 50 or so people who were protesting outside City Hall on Wednesday would have had a strong case to be upset. But it’s not. Rather, Baltimore is looking for a consultant to evaluate the operation and maintenance of its aging system to find ways to increase efficiency — something that should be greatly in the public interest at a time when rates are constantly going up and broken water mains are distressingly common. Something needs to be done. …. The fact that 50 people were willing to protest even the possibility that the city would consider privatizing water the water system should show just how concerned the public is about the delivery of the most vital of city services.

Protesters question city water system study/ Baltimore officials say they have no plans to privatize water service
Source: Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun, August 13, 2014

About 50 protesters rallied Wednesday outside Baltimore City Hall to object to a proposed study of the water system, a step they fear could eventually put the system in private hands.
The group, led by labor organizers and the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International, is worried that a $500,000 consultant’s study could lead to the private management of the water system.
But the Department of Public Works request for proposals did not involve privatization, city officials said. The request seeks to find a company to study ways to improve “operating and maintenance performance” while “reducing costs and enhancing operational efficiencies.” … In St. Louis, a contract proposal between the city’s water division and Veolia Water North America was dropped in October after protests over the company’s environmental and business practices, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis officials said the contract was intended to find a way to cut costs and avoid rate increases for customers. Asked for comment about the Baltimore proposal, a representative from Veolia referred questions to the city. …