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The fight to keep water decisions local

Update, May 3, 2013: H488 has passed in the NC Legislature. Please take the time to email Governor Pat McCrory or call his office at (919) 733-5811, and ask him to veto the bill. To quote a Winston-Salem Journal editorial, “McCrory’s platform included a strengthening of the state’s urban areas, the state’s economic and population drivers. Now he must rein in a legislative leadership that appears determined to meddle in local affairs.”

Let’s call on the former Charlotte mayor to stand up for the rights of municipalities to continue managing public water systems for the good of the people, without Raleigh lawmakers stepping in.

House lawmakers recently introduced H488, unprecedented legislation forcing a municipality, the City of Asheville, to transfer its water system to a regional authority. The move ignores 86% of City residents who voted against the transfer in a referendum last fall, and leaves local officials out of the final decision. The bill gives the City NO compensation for the system, and has very WEAK protections against privatization. If it passes, H488 could set a precedent for lawmakers to take away local control of water from other municipalities throughout the state without local input. (Read about why CWFNC supports local, public control!)

defendourwater

H488 would set a precedent of legislative interference in local government decisions. It could damage the economic vitality of municipal utilities, and make it hard on local economies and small businesses. (Why invest in infrastructure with the knowledge that Raleigh lawmakers could take assets without compensation?) This comes at a time when we already have massive unfunded infrastructure needs in North Carolina.

The language in the bill that nominally protects the new regional system from privatization would still allow public-private partnerships for operation and maintenance of the system. Public-private partnerships, or P3s, have been linked to many of the same negative impacts as full privatization, and communities across the state should be watching for attempts to push this model – the NC legislature last year had a study committee on public-private partnerships and has introduced at least one bill this session to enable them.

Intrusive legislative decisions impacting individual water and wastewater systems are no substitute for public engagement and local cooperation to meet water and wastewater needs in ways that serve the public interest.

What can you do?
Can you take action to keep water and decision-making local? Call your state representative TODAY and ask them to oppose H488!

As of March, 45 towns and cities had passed a resolution opposing legislative transfers like the one that could soon affect Asheville. Is yours on the list? Find out at http://saveourwaterwnc.com/ and if not, consider writing to your local officials and asking them to support such a resolution!

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