Sunday, June 14, 2009

Privatizing Milwaukee Water - - Pro And Con - - And One Fresh Proposal

The Journal Sentinel devotes considerable space Sunday to the City of Milwaukee Comptroller's study of the possible lease of the Water Works to raise funds for cash-starved general city operations.

Aldermen, having heard from constituents opposed to the concept, put the study on hold.

Good, says The Sierra Club's Dale Olen and Riverkeeper's Cheryl Nenn.

Comptroller Wally Morics defends his planning and thinking in an op-ed, and the Journal Sentinel editorial board argues that despite some reservations, the study should go forward.

The editorial board concludes with this line:

"Critics of Morics' plan should explain how they would solve the city's financial woes. Just saying no isn't enough."

Well, solving the city's financial woes is a little too much of an assignment: that falls by law to the Mayor and Council, but I agree that opponents definitely need to get more involved in discussions about the city's fiscal and service-provision picture.

In a posting on May 30th, after aldermen moved to put the study plan on ice, I wrote this:

"It's clear that Milwaukee faces genuine hurdles financing its basic services, so if water privatization is off the table, community organizations and activists who helped shelve the privatization study should keep working on alternative revenue and service solutions."

So here's a proposal: the council and Mayor should name a Revenue Advisory Committee.

This citizen panel, with adequate city staff, should be given at least nine months to debate the issues, hold public meetings, and write a series of recommendations addressing the resource and revenue issues in time for the crafting of the city's 2011 budget to be written and approved in 2010.

The 2010 budget process is already underway.

But if everyone is serious about finding adequate revenues, and matching them to services, then let the critics into the process.


Jon Anne Willow said...

Indeed. And that's the challenge with activism - often, the desire to prevent or forward a particular action does not come with a corollary alternate plan. I like this idea in theory, though it does smack a little of the "steering committee" stigma. But at least it would represent the active taking of responsibility in addressing the City's very real revenue concerns.

James Rowen said...

Agreed to the type of advisory committee. If it's fake, no one would/should sign on.

Anonymous said...

It's Morics who is paid well over 100000 to find solutions. His best plan is to sell our natural resources to a corporation? Maybe he should be privatized.

I say start by forcing older workers, who are milking their way to retirement and beefing up pensions, to do it. Their salaries and overtime pay are an enormous budget drain. I mean what is the logic in paying a fireman 95000? Noone can do the position at a lower pay? Unions are a problem.

Start with the biggest costs and work down. Why are selling off the only dept. that actually makes a profit? Learn how to profit off of water yourself, why let someone else do it for us?