Matt Comer

Water Belongs to the People

Filed By Matt Comer | March 15, 2012 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Ni America, North Carolina, privatization

Long time, no see, Bilerico readers! It's been quite a while since I've contributed here at The Bilerico Project, but I'm glad to be back. A recent change in jobs (I left Charlotte's QNotes to become Campus Pride's new communications and program director) has left a big ole void in my passion for writing, so I've picked up the regular blogging bug again.

scp4.jpgI'm so happy to be back contributing here at Bilerico and plan on making it a regular habit again. I'm also happy to say that the fabulous Bil Browning happily agreed to publish my new weekly column, "Sex, Cash & Politics" (@SexCashPolitics), a new commentary series that will introduce you to both LGBT and other progressive issues and politics in North Carolina and across the South. (Yes, my friends, there is a progressive movement in the South.)

The column debuted last week with a commentary on hate group leader Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a supporter of North Carolina's anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. I hope you'll enjoy the commentary, which is also being delivered free-of-charge to print and online publications across North Carolina for use as op-eds and guest commentaries.

If you live in and around North Carolina and like what you see, I highly encourage you to write your favorite publication and encourage them to learn more about, subscribe to and print my columns. Getting LGBT-inclusive, fair-minded and progressive commentary into mainstream Carolina and southern press is important - a mission in which I know you all believe just as strongly as me. Additionally, standing strong and speaking out on non-LGBT progressive issues is important; so many of those who oppose our equality also oppose equality for our allies and progressive solutions to some of our nation's most pressing problems and questions.

Below is the second edition of "Sex, Cash & Politics."

Water Belongs to the People, Not Private Corporate Interests

What is government? What functions and responsibilities do those who are elected to represent the people have to their constituents? For most Republicans and other conservatives, the answers to those questions bear no resemblance to the society in which we now live. In the hands of Republican government dismantlers, one can rest assured knowing the voice of the people will be subjugated to private corporate power.

tapwater_tomraftery.jpgCase in point: The move to privatization of formerly government-operated responsibilities has now shifted its focus to public water and sewer systems.

Carolina Public Press reports this week that town leaders in Tryon, N.C., are considering selling their public water system to the Houston, Texas-based Ni America, which manages water and sewer systems in Florida, South Carolina and Texas.

According to the online Western North Carolina news site, Ni America would join other private firms already selling water for profit in Henderson, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk and Rutherford counties.

Who exactly wins and loses when private corporate interests buy the rights to public water systems? What backup plan would be in place to maintain continued operation of water systems in the case of corporate buyouts or bankruptcy? How would families be assured of continued access to water? Which corporate officer and which private policy would dictate who gets the privilege of doing business with their company? Would families be denied water service or be forced to pay massive deposits because of bad credit?

Republicans will tell you that government needs to get smaller. They say that its bureaucracy has grown too large, too cumbersome and too expensive. How far are they willing to go in their constant quest to dismantle government? How much damage will they do to the government's responsibility to provide for the people's welfare? Are they, as the pun suggests, willing to throw the baby out with the bath water?

Can you imagine a world where, like water service, other basic services are doled out to private interests? If you need police protection, you must first subscribe to a monthly law enforcement plan. For an extra monthly fee, you can add home fire protection. And, if you bundle police, fire and emergency services like paramedics and ambulance transport, you can get an extra 20 percent knocked off your bill!

Alan Peoples, the more than decade-long mayor of Tryon, knows a foul-smelling plan when he hears one. "I don't think we should sell our system," he told Carolina Public Press. Instead, he proposes a regional water authority - one that remains in the hands and the ownership of the people it is designed to serve.

"The key is local control," he said. "I like the idea [of a regional authority] because local people would be the ones who make the decisions ... not someone at a company in another state."

Families, elderly citizens, the disabled and the poor will no longer have access to locally- and people-owned services like water if the backers of privatization have their way. Instead, they will wait hours holding on the phone to speak to compassionless call-center representatives whose first priority is to ensure their employer makes a profit off of an element as necessary to human life as the air we breathe.

Our nation, our state and our hometowns are facing important, history-defining questions. Let us not be the generation to sell our government - our "more perfect Union" - to those whose decision-making processes will be guided by stock prices and corporate shareholder interests. Future generations are counting on our commitment and resolve.

(Photo credit: Tim Raftery, via Flickr)

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