*This piece has been updated to more accurately reflect Mayor Pugh's commitment to public water
On August 6th, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution setting the city on course to become the first major city in the country to ban the most extreme forms of water privatization. With voter approval this November, Baltimore will be the first city in the country to amend its charter to declare its water and sewer systems are “inalienable,” outlawing the sale and lease of these essential public services.
How did we get here? Baltimore is one city (of many) that is constantly overwhelmed by water justice woes.
People have been dealing with
- Unaffordable water
- Incorrect water bills
- Water shut offs
- Tax sales
- And threats of water privatization
The problems with unaffordable water and the problems with the water billing system have caused trauma on low-income communities and communities of color across the city. People were even losing their homes and churches to erroneous water bills.
Last state legislative session, a proposal to temporarily protect Baltimore homes from being seized and sold over unpaid water bills passed.
Threats From Private Companies
For at least 25 years, private water companies have sought control of Baltimore’s water system. In the last few years, they’ve been ramping up their efforts to privatize our water system.
In 2014, Veolia pushed hard for a privatization contract, and this year Suez has been trying to convince Baltimore to sign a 50-year lease of the water system.
Water privatization elevates corporate control over the common good, and deepens water affordability problems. In Baltimore, privatization of the water system would spell disaster.
We’ve fought back against the prospects of privatization, along with many Baltimoreans, and won! But to make sure the water industry would not be allowed to take over Baltimore’s water system for the long-run, we need to ban water privatization in the city.
A Proactive Victory
In June, Mayor Catherine Pugh proposed the original charter amendment to permanently keep Baltimore’s water public. At that time, the charter amendment did not move forward through the City Council.
Then, just a week before the deadline, Council President Jack Young pushed this critical amendment forward through the Council.
On August 6th, the City Council voted unanimously to pass the amendment with the support of Mayor Pugh.
The amendment would prohibit asset sales, leases, and franchises of the water and sewer systems. In effect, this would outright ban the most extreme forms of water privatization. This would be a historic and groundbreaking victory for Baltimore and for Food & Water Watch and supporters of public water everywhere.
Next up the Mayor just has to sign the amendment by August 13 in order for it to be on the November ballot.
We look forward to working to ensure the amendment passes at the ballot in November after Pugh moves it forward. Then it is in the hands of voters.
First Major City to Ban Water Privatization
We believe that Baltimore voters will pass this charter amendment, making Baltimore the first major city in the United States to ban water privatization. Soon, other cities across the nation should be able to look towards Baltimore as a model for how to protect the human right to water. Join us in working to make sure this becomes reality.
Join us in working to make sure this becomes reality.