The vote puts to bed a months-long debate over the future of the Reading water system, providing a firm rebuke of proposals to sell or lease the system to a private entity.
The Reading vote adds to a string of victories in communities throughout Pennsylvania fighting privatization attempts. In September, the Altoona City Council voted unanimously to abandon a water privatization proposal. In October, the Philadelphia City Council killed a proposal to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works, the municipally-owned gas utility. And last year, activists and community members pressured Allentown leaders away from leasing the city water system to a private company.
Reading voters affirmed the proposed charter amendment by a margin of three to one. Our Reading, Our Water, a community-led campaign, collected 1,800 signatures from Reading residents to put the question to the ballot and then made more than 4,000 attempts to contact voters in the weeks before the election to educate them about the need to pass the ballot measure.
“The people of Reading have acted as public leaders and protectors,” said Sam Bernhardt, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group that worked closely with other local community groups to support the measure. “Communities throughout the region looking to safeguard their public assets against the threat of privatization can use this victory as a model. This is a smart, common-sense decision. The people of Reading collectively own their water system, and they should be ensured the right to make these important decisions as a community.”
Contact: Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 718.943.8063
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.