Submitted by Jeff Tittel
It has been two years since the first proposal to eliminate Newark’s water department and the idea is being introduced yet again. This proposal was stopped two years ago with thousands of people showing up at the hearings opposing the plan, but they still have not learned. Getting rid of Newark’s water department to set up a municipal utility authority is nothing more than a financial gimmick and Ponzi scheme.
The state Local Finance Board signed off on this scheme last week because it is more interested in Gov.Chris Christie taking care of his political ally Cory Booker than it is in what’s best for the people of Newark. The board in the past has signed off on projects like EnCap and a lot of other boondoggles. It’s Chinatown Jake. This is about controlling water and taking care of special interests, not about better serving the people of Newark.
Municipal utility authorities and other independent agencies for years have been a dumping ground for patronage and political appointees with many wasteful spending practices. The city of Newark is pushing an MUA to get money for the city’s budget, not to improve water service and quality for the people of Newark. This is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that will make rates go up, while service and water quality go down for the people of Newark.
The Sierra Club is concerned that an MUA deal will lead to even more problems as the City of Newark will later decide to privatize the water and sell it to some foreign multinational conglomerate. The water company can also raise fees on its consumers to help balance the budget for the City of Newark. Instead of the City of Newark buying a new water truck, it will have the water department buy a new truck. Instead of the city hiring new staff, it will have the water authority hire staff. It will turn Newark water into a pay-to-play pit and a patronage drain that will put Newark’s water at risk. This is robbing Newark’s future. When cities sell water, they are restricting future growth. This is an overall bad deal for the people of the City of Newark.
The author is director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.