Friday, July 18, 2008

Save our Public Utilities!

Here in Akron, our mayor wants us to lease the public sewer system to some un-named corporate entity in order to fund scholarships so that Akron students may attend the University of Akron or trade schools located in Akron. The goal is to provide a free education so that more young people will decide to work and live in Akron after they graduate.

While I have no problem with promoting further education and encouraging young people to settle in this fair city, I cannot support the plan to sell or lease any of our public utilities to a for-profit company. Public utilities are those that are essential to the health and well-being of our community. We need to be in control of our own destinies, not at the mercy of some multi-national group that could care less whether we have filthy sewer water running into the Cuyahoga River.

To me, this plan comes across as a con game. A noble purpose is put forth to mask a giveaway of a public asset to a private corporation. If the citizens of Akron feel it is important to fund college scholarships, then put a tax levy on the ballot for that purpose. Do not attempt to disguise what the real goal of this move is -- to rid the city of a sewer system that needs a major upgrade and is under EPA watch until it is fixed.

When the mayor announced his plan early in the spring, he stated that the sewer would be sold. Now it is the sewer system will be leased. In spring, the money would be used so that all Akron kids could go to college. Now we are hearing that the money will be used so that all working class kids can go to college. The mayor announced in the spring that he would appoint a task force to come up with all the details. In his latest announcement -- that he will put the lease on the fall ballot for citizens to vote upon -- he accuses those who have doubts of being nay-sayers and "scarerists" (rhymes with terrorists).

Mr Mayor, I take offence at your words. Why should anyone embrace your plan when the parameters keep changing? Why didn't you wait until your panel put forth the final plan with all the details so we could all look and comment at the same time? The tone of your denigrations of those who oppose the plan makes me even more suspicious. Who have you made promises to? Who is going to be making big bucks on this deal? Is it true that corporate high ups have already been given tours of the sewer works here in Akron?

No college education is free. Somebody is going to be paying for it, and it is most logical to think that it will be the rate-payers once the corporation takes over.

A group called Save Our Sewers has collected petitions for a ballot vote this fall. If you've been following the story in the ABJ, you will know that city lawyers sent the petitions back due to a technicality on notarizing each petition. Read further for the rest of the story:

Citizens to Save our Sewers and Water (SOS)
190 N. Union St., #101 Akron, OH 44304
Phone: 330-408-5409 Web:

In less than 72 hours thanks to your incredible help, we resubmitted our petitions to the City of Akron — with more than 400 additional signatures! The grand total (even more than quoted in the Beacon Journal article today — see below) was 5716 signatures on 160 separate petitions!

City Hall’s effort to stall our campaign by claiming we needed to notarize our petitions on separate pieces of paper rather than on the petition itself failed. We responded swiftly and stronger than before. People want to decide! People want to govern themselves! People want to keep public utilities public. Hardly the motives of “naysayers.”

Please note in the Beacon article the very curious comment by Akron Law Director and Mayor Plusquellic appointee Max Rothal — that we intentionally filed the petitions incorrectly to gain publicity. Really? This suggests we had nothing else better to do for the last 3 days than run around the city and state getting petition circulators to re-notarize our petitions on separate sheets of paper. There’s a term for such a charge. It’s called “blame the victim” a means to distract attention from others. Rothal also charged this was at least the third time some of us have had petitions not comply with the city charter. Huh? It’s true that 3 times before some of us have been involved in citizen initiatives in the City of Akron. None of us are aware of any instance of submitted petitions not complying with the charter. Once, maybe twice, we didn’t have enough signatures to qualify at first for the ballot (which we did after gathering additional signatures). More than likely, it’s simply a charge meant to discredit our cause.

Distract and discredit. We’re likely to see and hear much more of this once we get on the ballot and move into the educational phase of the campaign. We must respond to any charges but to also maintain focus on what our grassroots citizen initiative is all about — placing any and all proposals to sell, lease, or transfer any public utility before the voters.

Once the petitions are validated, the petition itself will go before Akron City Council for its formal approval on Monday, July 28. We’d like a big turn-out for that meeting. Details later.

Thank you again for all your help!


redhorse said...

The City and Mayor switched from a "sell" to a "lease" position when they realized they could still apply for federal repair funds. Under a sell scenario, the private owner could not.

Working class kids is merely rhetoric; no credible report has limited the scope of the scholarship program. That said, I'm wary we still haven't seen fuller details.

Village Green said...

One of the main details I'm interested in is the name, reputation and background of the entity that wants to lease the sewers.

Ben said...

redhorse, I agree that the fact we have not seen more details is not a good thing.

LisaRenee said...

I hope this doesn't go through, it sounds similar to plans to sell/lease the turnpike and I totally agree with you that public utilities should stay owned and operated by the government.