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Kucinich Blasts Tawa, Tells Toledo Not to Give Away Water Assets

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich visited Toledo’s Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church last Thursday, April 5, and shared his thoughts on the proposed regional water agreement in the recently released Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a group of several dozen invitees, including members of the clergy, city council members and community activists.
 

Dennis Kucinich

 

“This [proposal] opens the door for the wholesale theft of the assets of the people of Toledo,” Kucinich said as he opened his remarks.

In 1977, 31-year-old Dennis Kucinich, the newly-elected mayor of Cleveland – a city on the verge of financial ruin, faced a decision that would define both his political future and the fiscal well being of the residents of Cleveland. Bankers offered him the opportunity to take Cleveland Municipal Power off his hands and move it into the private sector. Privatization would help the City overcome its financial shortfall in the short run but it would also, he knew, elevate utility rates for those residents to an unacceptable level. He said no and fought to reject the sale.

Cleveland continued its downward slide into bankruptcy. Kucinich lost his bid for re-election in 1979 and what might have been a political career for the ages was in ruins. Kucinich wandered the political wilderness for the next 15 years until 1994, when he moved back to Cleveland and won a seat in the Ohio State Senate. In 1996, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served for four terms. In 1998, Cleveland City Council honored him for having had the “courage and foresight” to stand up to the banks, saving the city an estimated $195 million between 1985 and 1995.

Given his history, publicly-owned utilities are something of a passion for the candidate.

“You have a regional water system and you have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on it recently,” he said of the current 10-year, $500 million repair and upgrade to the Toledo water plant. “Why does Toledo have to give up their assets?”

Kucinich then ticked off his concerns about the proposed Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA) as outlined in the MOU which was developed by an area working group led by consultant Eric Rothstein who was hired by the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce.

He dismissed the proposed TAWA structure that would grant wholesale prices to business clients while assigning retail prices to households. Such an arrangement, said Kucinich, would mean that household rates will be increased in order “to subsidize business interests.” Furthermore, he noted, “nothing in the language [of the MOU] stops the privatization” of the water plant. “It is axiomatic that when you privatize something that belongs to the public, the rates are going to go up.”

He raised the issue of the proposed language and its ambivalence about whether the sewer system and storm water system are going to be merely given away as part of the deal in light of those two systems considerable value.

He was troubled by the transition costs as spelled out n the MOU which essentially means that “Toledo will provide the money that TAWA would use to pay for the system.”

He questioned the fact that the MOU “contemplates building a separate water system,” a move he called probably unnecessary and certainly expensive for Toledoans. Moreover, he said, a second intake system in Lake Erie would not have any health benefits with respect to the algae blooms that shut down production in 2014.

He objected to the fact that Toledo, as proposed in the MOU, would have only two of the seven representatives on the TAWA board, calling such an arrangement “taxation without representation.” He particularly took issue with the fact that such a board would meet only four times a year meaning that there would be “no accountability and no transparency” from this group of out-of-touch unelected officials.

He also took issue with the fact that some would believe that Toledo needs this type of regionalism to ensure economic growth.

“Water is the future,” said the former mayor of Cleveland. Toledo, he observed, is in the enviable position of being one of the leading cities in the country when it comes to access to water. Why give away that advantage and ensure higher rates in the bargain?

Thursday’s information session was organized by former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who is part of the Protect Our Water (P.O.W.) group and Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

The City of Toledo has proposed placing the Memorandum of Understanding on the ballot in November for the voters of Toledo to express their approval, or disapproval. A series of six town hall meetings has concluded during which residents were given the opportunity to hear from City representatives and consultant Rothstein on the benefits of the MOU and to pose questions of their elected officials. Meanwhile Rothstein and the area representatives are at work on another MOU that would omit Toledo from the regional pact should such an arrangement become necessary.

 
   
   


Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/12/18 11:51:39 -0700.


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