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Issue of the Week, Jerk and Hero of the Week

Nov. 4, 2009
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Privatizing Water Would Soak Consumers

The Milwaukee Common Council has backed off the city’s attempt to lease the Milwaukee Water Works to a private corporation as a way to generate revenue for the cash-strapped but water-rich city.

Earlier this year, Milwaukee Comptroller Wally Morics had estimated that a 99-year lease would add $30 million to the city’s coffers every year. Not bad, when you consider that the city is facing an eye-popping $90 million deficit next year.

But that’s what the city government would have gained if a deal had gone through.

Consumers, on the other hand, likely would have gotten soaked.

According to a just-released report by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, for every dollar the city would have received from the deal, consumers would have had to pay $1.60 to $5.40 to the private company, or about $17 million to $31 million each year.

Consumers would have to cover the private company’s profits, higher interest rates on bonds and income taxes. In contrast, the publicly owned Water Works pays no income tax, has a lower interest rate on bonds, and doesn’t generate a profit. It does, however, send a few million dollars to the city’s coffers each year.

“If the city pursues this [privatization] option, there is ample evidence that the community could suffer from high rates and poor service,” the study warned.

We hope the Common Council is listening.


Hero of the Week

Environmental Educator John Lunz

While Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and the Milwaukee Common Council battle over future funding for the nationally recognized Milwaukee County Park System, others are taking direct action to preserve our area’s vital green spaces for future generations. One such individual is John Lunz, chair of the Park People’s Environmental Committee. Jim Goulee, interim executive director of the Park People, described Lunz as a “missionary for educating people about, and eradicating, invasive species in the parks.” Also the president of Preserve Our Parks and a Navy veteran, Lunz still teaches occasionally at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), from which he retired in 2007. In addition to his educational efforts, Lunz can be found with his hands in the dirt most Saturdays in the spring and fall, leading “weed-outs,” in which groups of volunteers remove invasive species from parks. For his tireless endeavors to keep Milwaukee’s parks in award-winning condition, we make Lunz our Hero of the Week, and urge readers who wish to get involved to visit www.parkpeoplemke.org.


Jerk of the Week

State Rep. Brett Davis

In an effort to appeal to our baser human instincts, state Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon) proposed denying the H1N1 vaccine to inmates in the state prison system. He characterized the situation as “prisoners getting vaccine, but children are not,” portraying the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as stealing candy bars and vaccines from state children and distributing the loot to an undeserving convict near you. Davis would even withhold medical care from at-risk pregnant prisoners. ACLU Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty decries Davis’ disregard for the health of correctional officers and their families, noting “prisoners and guards are in just the kind of setting that needs aggressive preventive measures to avoid widespread infection. Suggesting that prisoners, who are in close contact with facility staff, are not capable of catching and spreading the virus is ludicrous. To suggest that they should not receive vaccine because they are less important than the ‘law-abiding citizens of our state’ will only further the spread of H1N1 to everyone.”  

Rep. Davis, who is interested in running for lieutenant governor and is pandering to the right-wing base of his party, would better serve Wisconsin by coming up with positive ideas instead of jeopardizing the health of corrections employees and their families.


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