"pretty soon the government loses all control over its inherent functions"
Citizens Group Opposes Privatization
of City Water Department
The grassroots watchdog group, Illinois Citizens to Protect the Public Commons (ICCPC), is concerned about the potential long-term consequences of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s proposal to have private companies operate the Water and Sewer Customer Call Center in the Department of Revenue. The organization fears that this may be the first step in the sale of Chicago's water to the private sector which would operate delivery of water for profit, much like the parking meter deal.
The group opposes private-public partnerships which transfer operation and/or ownership of the city's infrastructure to companies seeking to make profits from public services with lucrative revenue streams, such as water. In March the mayor announced formation of a "Chicago Infrastructure Trust" to facilitate the funding of building and infrastructure projects via public/private partnerships. The group opposed this "Trust" and supported an alternative ordinance which would have opened the "Trust" to far greater transparency and public oversight. Chicago has a long history of suffering from the long term consequences of deals done in the back rooms of City Hall.
Charles Paidock, a member of the group who has represented civil service employee as a union official in many contracting out actions, says, "This is one way to get the conversion process started. First you contract out one department, then another, and pretty soon the government loses all control over its inherent functions. And it rarely, after a year or two, ends up saving money or costing less."
The mayor wants to lay off the 34 workers from the city's water billing center, and then pay NTT Data, a company based in Japan, to run the operation. Holly James, a member of the group, added, "These jobs need to stay in the city and in our neighborhoods, Why should we send these jobs out of the city? The cost savings in the long term, if any, does not make up for the impact of loss of jobs in those neighborhoods already suffering economically."
Earlier in the year the Mayor brought in private companies to operate CDPH primary health care clinics, as well as the DFSS homeless outreach program.
The group applauds Sixth Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer for proposing the Privacy Transparency Accountability Ordinance that would require City Council hearings for any proposed privatization deal like the NTT contract. The group endorses the concept of including a public process prior to any decisions for further privatization, of any aspect of our city services. The city would then have to justify such contracts, as to whether they are really beneficial to the residents of Chicago, over the long run. The group maintains that no part of essential city services such as water should be privatized.