We are fortunate enough to live in a country where decisions about public property cannot be made without the support of tax payers through our elected officials. While we have not reached $45/shower just yet, it is fast becoming a possibility in Newark.
As protesters gathered today at the steps of City Hall, their message was clear: no Municipal Utility Authority (MUA) for Newark! Unmoved by Ledger language that the proposal had been ‘ditched,’ Newark Water Group founder, Bill Chappel, joined by Weequahaic Park Super Neighborhood Chairperson Brenda Toyloy, and People’s Organization for Progress Newark Chapter President, Debbie Strong lead the coalition of residents, tax payers, educators, and non-profits, for the third time to date saying “No MUA” to Mayor Booker and the city council.
Also vocal and in attendance was former poet laureate Amiri Baraka and former Newark Mayor Ken Gibson, both of whom citied the many civilizations that have gone to war over water rights. “If this goes to pass, you can believe that historians will show this was the downfall of Newark," said Gibson.
The threat of a Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) is real. The City of Newark owns a 38,000 acre watershed in Milford, New Jersey (ever wonder our facet water is so refreshing?) In a proposal to the City Council, Mayor Booker sought approval to franchise (sell a portion of) the watershed to an external governing body (MUA), which would then give them the right to raise rates, adjust purification settings, and make whatever changes they choose to increase profits and lower production costs.
In the May 31st Star Ledger article entitled, “Cory Booker ditches proposal for water authority,” Booker is quoted as saying, "I realized we were rushing this thing in order to get the goal that I wanted, which was more revenue, and that we were rushing too fast." While it is admirable to admit error, it is also questionable why one would give up ownership of an asset as invaluable as water for a short term cash-flow injection. These questions and more were asked inside the Municipal Council Chambers at their monthly meeting.
How important is your civil RIGHT to water?