Privatization

Baltimore City Council Approves Water Privatization Ban

Baltimore could become the first major city in the U.S. to make the sale or lease of its water system illegal.

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Baltimore just took a big step toward becoming the nation's first major city to ban the privatization of its water and sewer system.

The Baltimore City Council overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment yesterday that makes the sale or lease of its water system illegal, The Baltimore Sun reports. The measure ensures that the public owns and controls the water system.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who supports the measure, has until August 13 to sign it. Then, it will be put on the ballot for voters to approve or reject in November.

City council President Jack Young, who proposed the amendment, thinks voters will approve it. "I think overwhelmingly the citizens of Baltimore are going to vote to keep a system that's an asset to them," he said, according to WBAL. "I think they're smart enough to realize that this belongs to them. It doesn't belong to me, personally, it belongs to the citizens of Baltimore. I want to make sure that it stays that way."

For years, companies have been making the case for privatization. The French company Suez Environment, for instance, has proposed what seems like a mutually beneficial deal. The Sun reports:

Suez—a descendant of the company that built Egypt's Suez Canal—has pitched city officials on a lease agreement in which the company would pay the city upfront to take control of operating Baltimore's water system and then collect the money charged from water bills. The company has said it would hire current Department of Public Works employees, honor union contracts, and pledge to raise water rates only minimally.

Proponents of a ban on privatization say it would raise rates and generally hurt customers. "Communities that have privatized their water systems see skyrocketing rates, lost jobs and declined quality of service, because when corporations come in to run water and sewer systems, they have one goal and one goal only, and that is profit, not the public good," Rianna Eckel, a state organizer for the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, tells WBAL.

But private companies' concerns about making a profit may actually help consumers. As Reason's Adrian Moore noted in 2016:

Private utilities simply borrow the money to build new water supply pipelines or treatment plants when they need them, and they have every incentive to build them fast and keep costs down. In contrast, for a municipal utility it is a long and painful political process, fighting against other agencies and political priorities, to get approval to borrow money to build new facilities.

Plus, privatizing water systems and other utlities means less long-term risk for cities. "Sales and leases," says Reason Foundation policy analyst Austill Stuart, "allow cities to transfer risks of deferred maintenance to the private sector."

According to the National Association of Water Companies, private water companies serve nearly 73 million people on a daily basis. These private utilities are accountable to their customers, and that accountability motivates them to provide better service. Unfortunately, Baltimore residents may never get the chance to experience such benefits.

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32 responses to “Baltimore City Council Approves Water Privatization Ban

  1. If Baltimore did it, you can bet it isn’t good.

    1. Yep! Lived there for 7 years and the city actually had a fleet of trucks to respond to “water emergencies” because water main ruptures were so common. That should give you an idea of how well the city manages its water system.

    2. Hey, guys, if Austin privatized their water supply, they could shut off Alex Jones’ water supply! Who wants to hydrate haters, amirite?

      1. Could they make the Antifa’s toilets back up too?

        1. Don’t be ridiculous. The whole world is Antifa’s toilet.

  2. Why do I get the impression that if I sat down with Jack Young, Rianna Eckel and three full glasses of ice cold tap water in 90-degree weather, I would be the first, if not the only one to take a drink?

    1. Tap water is for the peasants, your betters only drink Fiji or Voss.

      1. Actually, progs now want everyone to drink only tap water, without a straw of course…

  3. Privatization of monopolies doesn’t make much sense to me.

    1. 1. Its only a monopoly because of government violence.

      2. With privitization there is now a profit motive to reduce the cost of providing service to below the leasing fees the company is paying the government for the rights to manage the system.

      1. In the case of water, what do you think you’re going to do? Hire some other water company to put the water into your pipes? How exactly is that going to work, logistically?

        1. I’d love to see someone try to explain that too. A lot of libertarians just ignore inconvenient realities on issues like physical infrastructure, and its where we end up looking like total loons to the normies

          1. You all realize, of course, that most water systems are essentially private non-profits that are not governed by the local government. Clearly Baltimore doesn’t realize that

        2. Same way it does with electricity. Or cable.

    2. There is still a supply-demand curve for monopolies that care about making a profit, so if they want to make one they have to still find an equilibrium price. If they want continuous demand, they will keep the quality above a certain threshold. The same can’t be said for a municipality. The incentives just aren’t there to keep up quality or service.


      1. The incentives just aren’t there to keep up quality or service.

        *cough*Flint Michigan*cough*

  4. Ask people in Flint, MI how they might have liked privatization…

    1. Amusingly, people point to Flint as an example of how corporations are evil. The facts be damned.

  5. “Communities that have privatized their water systems see skyrocketing rates, lost jobs and declined quality of service, because when corporations come in to run water and sewer systems, they have one goal and one goal only, and that is profit, not the public good EVUL KKKORPORAYSHUNZ!,” Rianna Eckel, a state organizer for the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, tells WBAL.

    FTFY

    1. The demonization of profit is idiotic. I bet rianna eckles (or whatever) consumes more calories than she burns on a fairly regular basis, the dirty capitalist.

  6. Baltimore has been trying for years to attract more affluent residents, but hasn’t yet succeeded-wonder why?

    1. Baltimore is competing with nearby Washington, DC for wealthy residents, and the federal government in Washington, DC has more free money to throw at them.

  7. “Communities that have privatized their water systems see skyrocketing rates, lost jobs and declined quality of service, because when corporations come in to run water and sewer systems, they have one goal and one goal only, and that is profit, not the public good,”

    Yeah, and the Soviet Union was a paradise for workers.
    It’s criminally negligent for a public official to be this ignorant. But it’s the world we live in.

  8. Maybe they will provide customer service about as well as Comcast?

    1. You’re so close here. Gee, I wonder why cable providers are so bad? As if their competition is banned within jurisdictions or something

      1. Are you talking about the NY thing? Elsewhere it’s not an issue.
        There is a very high barrier to entry, with infrastructure efficiencies. It’s no easier to lay a second cable network than a second set of water pipes.

        1. It’s no easier to lay a second cable network than a second set of water pipes.

          Simply wrong even if you are burying the cable.

    2. That’s a great example of a private company.

  9. With all the attention Flynt got, who wouldn’t want the government in charge of their drinking water?

  10. Was there a danger that the council would approve the sale? I don’t see the city electing a pro privatization council anytime soon.

  11. For years, companies have been making the case for privatization. The French company Suez Environment, for instance, has proposed what seems like a mutually beneficial deal. The Sun reports:

    Suez?a descendant of the company that built Egypt’s Suez Canal?has pitched city officials on a lease agreement in which the company would pay the city upfront to take control of operating Baltimore’s water system and then collect the money charged from water bills. The company has said it would hire current Department of Public Works employees, honor union contracts, and pledge to raise water rates only minimally.

    What if Baltimore has Suez pay to revamp its water and sewage infrastructure in exchange for getting water and sewage fees and then nationalizes the rebuilt infrastructure as part of its fight against French colonialism? It worked for Egypt.

  12. First hand experience – Suez sucks.

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