Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Fiscal responsibility. It's a term heard a lot by those interested in where their money is going. In most cases it means a responsible use of public money, but with the way the term is thrown around by city policy makers, it's more of an excuse to push their own agendas.
Members of the Sunnyside City Council have been touting their interest in privatizing water and sewer services as a financial savings. They say they are looking into it because it will save the residents of Sunnyside money.
My biggest question is, save money for what?
As it is, the price of living in Sunnyside will most likely go up when the city makes repairs to the sewer system, something the city council has procrastinated doing for years. There are lots of pet projects the city has taken on to chisel away at the reserve fund, including the community center, but the council has failed in its main responsibility to adequately represent the residents of the community.
The citizens of this town had a reserve fund that could have taken care of much of the costs of revamping and upgrading the wastewater treatment plant, but the council didn't see fit to keep that money for a rainy day. Well now, it's pouring and the council is scrambling to scrape pennies together to make the upgrades.
If the council thinks it has the pulse of the community, I would have to say it probably doesn't. They have a few select people, including themselves, who they listen to for their decision making.
The only way the council will get a real feel for the community is to put it up for a vote.
The council blackmailed the community by threatening to close the city library, so the citizens of the community stood up and voted to turn control over to the county library system, which now costs all of us more money each year.
The money saved by the city no longer operating the library, we don't see that. It's not in our pockets. They never even really told us what pet project they were going to spend the savings on.
The same vote should go for the privatization of water and sewer services. No matter what happens in the end, we will have water and sewer services even if the city is required to continue providing them.
Up to this point there hasn't been enough convincing information that would make me support privatization.
There are too many unforseeable factors that could be written into a contract. There isn't a contract long enough to cover Sunnyside for all of the possibilities. Plus, how fiscally responsible is it to pump money into a corporation that will be removing our tax dollars from our community?
Supposedly, the company that City Manager Bob Stockwell has hand-picked (Sunnyside will be the fifth community he has brought Veolia Water to) will bring all this experience to the water and sewer plants. What does that say about the employees the city has? Many of them, life-long Lower Valley residents, have made a career of learning the ins and outs of the water and sewer system. They know problem areas in the community, quirks of the system and how to serve the citizens of the community with the respect they deserve.
City councilmen, you say you're listening to all the facts, and in the end will make a decision that is best for the community. This is a decision too big for you. Let the citizens make the decision on how we want our money spent.