Water Fight Is Far From Over

By Karen Schaefer The Milwaukee Water Works system is one of the best in the nation. Our water is clean and inexpensive. We are situated on the most bountiful source of freshwater on the globe. But in a desperate response to a city-level financial crisis, the Milwaukee Common Council is considering peddling the control of our city’s most valuable and essential resource: our water.                KPOW – a coalition of local organizations that stands for Keep Public Our Water – asserts that the privatization of our most critical resource is not the way to solve the city’s financial problems. And Milwaukee residents are on board – over 200 people rallied at City Hall on Monday, June 15 in the middle of the workday to show Alderpersons that their constituents will not tolerate the loss of control of the future of our water. Speakers at the rally cited rate hikes of up to 200%, decline in water quality, and system deterioration as classic marks of privatization efforts in other US cities. The Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee voted on June 15 to keep on hold a proposal to hire an advisor to help the city solicit multinational corporate bidders for a 99-year lease of the Milwaukee Water Works. While that action will temporarily stall the effort to privatize Milwaukee’s drinking water, Alderpersons have made it clear that the proposal may very well resurface, perhaps soon. KPOW presented members of the Steering & Rules Committee with a petition signed by more than 500 people, calling on the Common Council to permanently withdraw the privatization proposal. Jayme Montgomery Baker, member of Making Milwaukee Green Coalition and The Campaign Against Violence, stated, “Milwaukee has an excellent system. This would change if it is owned by a multi-national corporation, and our community cannot afford to be hit with large water fee hikes. This has happened in every city that privatized their water.” KPOW organizer Corinne Rosen points out the necessity and urgency of citizen involvement in this issue. “We cannot trust our government to safeguard our most essential resource to life and future economic growth in Milwaukee until we have a clear commitment from our elected officials to keep our water in the public hands. Now is the critical time to get involved and let our officials know that we will not stand for a patronizing ‘hold’ on this issue. We deserve a clear answer!” KPOW is urging community members to call and write their Alderperson to express their views on this critical issue. For more information and to get involved, contact KPOW using the information below. Kate Schaefer is a Riverwest resident and member of KPOW, a diverse coalition of Milwaukeearea organizations working together to fight the privatization of Milwaukee’s Water Works. The group includes environmental groups, neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations, civic activists, unions, youth, and other concerned citizens. To get involved, email or call 414-573-1900.