Fountains Back, and Better; Defending Newark's Water
Newark's ornamental fountains, which were turned off to avoid freezing during our severe winter, are back on, and one has been made bigger and better. I showed here September 26th nitetime pix of the five Newark fountains I know of, all of which are lited at nite. The first shown was, at the time, a low, single ring of water (see the eighth foto of September 26th). But now, that fountain (seen above and just below) has two elements, a tall spout and a lower ring around it.
It is near the boathouse in Branch Brook Park, and is of a similar shape but still not as tall as the fountain between the lions and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I assume that all these fountains in Branch Brook Lake use lake water rather than piped-in, treated water from our watershed in the Highlands of northwestern NJ.
Protecting Newark's water infrastructure from private takeover is the object of the Newark Water Group. I mentioned here last Tuesday that James Street activist Bill Chappel would be speaking at Wednesday's City Council meeting. I later asked him how it went, and for the text of his remarks.
Madame President and Honorable Council members,
On behalf of the Newark Water Group I come before you today to ask for courage. This time of tight budgets will test your courage. It is tempting to use a quick-fix and thereby overlook the long term implications. One such quick-fix is a proposal to form a Municipal Utilities Authority for water and sewer. Yes upfront monies gained from the sale of bonds and franchise fees is a tempting quick-fix but at a price much too high. It is tempting for an ambitious politician to take the short cut to quick money and leave us behind, with the bills to pay, after he is long gone. Last May on the steps of City Hall former Mayor Kenneth Gibson said that our water system and our water shed is our most important asset. We say that you must not allow anyone to send the city’s most important asset to the hockshop. The revenue generated from our water should all go to maintaining the water infrastructure not to outside profiteers.
We insist that our elected officials not an outside board must be in direct control of our water. Remember that the State MUA Law protects the rights of bond investors but has not one word protecting the rights of people to access to the most vital human necessity, water. An MUA board has no other legal responsibility than to protect the investors and no legal obligation to insure access to water for those who are impoverished.
Water is the civil commons. We should resist all attempts to marketize, privatize, and corporatize water. Only through these means we can ensure the fundamental and inalienable right to water for people.Hear, hear!
It is only your courage to form a long term plan that will protect Newark’s most valuable asset from being squandered.
I have not seen in the materials Bill has sent me nor found via Google a website for the Newark Water Group, so sent Bill this email, starting with the NWG's stance that the entire Council and Mayor have to be defeated if they will not, before this year's municipal elections, commit themselves not to create a Municipal Water Authority.
Altho the mayor and present city council may be running as a "slate", they are still elected individually, and group solidarity is often not at all hard to break.
Is there a Newark Water Group website? I don't find one on Google. In this day and age, you can't expect to be taken very seriously without a dedicated website that gives people a rallying point and serves as center of operations, news central for updates as to developments, alerts as to actions, etc. Whoever is in charge needs to create a website, which I will gladly publicize, with at least these goals in mind: (a) state the danger; (b) state the case against an MUA (or is "MUA" said like a word, múe.wa or myúe.wa, so would take "a MUA"?; that [pronunciation issue] is something that should also be in the website text, so everybody speaks with the same voice on at least that) and its costs and dangers to the City and its finances; (c) explain what, if anything at all, needs to change to eviscerate the drive for a MUA, (d) discuss the doubts, in an FAQ, such as, if things are just fine as they are, why would anybody be talking about an MUA? and if there are problems with the Water & Sewer Dept now, can they be fixed without an MUA?; (e) provide a schedule of events, with information about things like what you need to do to be permitted to speak at a Council meeting, with appropriate contact info; (f) provide organizing contact information, for short-term actions (a telefone tree could be organized thru the website, for short-turnaround action alerts) and longer-term followthru; (g) provide a list of names, addresses, telefone numbers, and email addresses of (1) Newark public officials to pressure, (2) media to try to motivate to cover events, (3) letters-to-the-editor departments or other places where the anti-MUA story can be publicized, and (4) state or even Federal officials who could dissuade Newark officials or void their actions; (h) information about candidates running or trying to run against the pro-MUA councilmembers and mayor, with links to their websites or fone numbers so people can learn how to sign their petitions or volunteer in their campaigns; (i) links to other websites with useful information, including the horror stories that are sometimes sent out about unanticipated costs of other cities' MUA's, or hopeful stories about some municipalities' coming to their senses [and abolishing their MUA's]; (j) links to relevant legal materials, such as the text of the state MUA law and commentaries on it, for people, like lawyers, who may want to make legal challenges, pro bono. This list is not exhaustive, and not everything on it needs to be on an anti-MUA website from the outset; missing items could be announced, with a "coming soon" or "under construction" notation — but regular visitors should be able to see that progress is actually being made on improving the comprehensiveness of the website. There are many places that will host such a website free, among them Tripod.com and Google Sites. If there is a need to raise funds, at least some of these webhosts also permit fundraising with an online payment system, more than just an address for checks.
We didn't have this kind of simple, low-cost organizing tool (the website) when I was young, by means of which you could put out materials pretty much for free (as against the costs of printing and mailing leaflets and other publications) and give people a central point of contact and information that can be updated several times a day if need be. Now that we do have it, we must use it. I don't think that a facebook page or Twitter feed would suffice, tho they could be used to direct people to a website, and Twitter might be used to alert people to demonstrations and meetings in a hurry.
I trust we will see a Newark Water Group website sometime very soon, given the fact that the Mayor and Council elections are less than a month away, May 5th. A victory for the "Booker Team" does not necessarily mean defeat for the Newark Water Group, but the Water Group must get word out to people so they can know to tell the Mayor and their Councilmember that they do NOT want Newark's water privatized. This is a Democratic town. We don't want Republican "trickle-down" anything, and "privatization" is a scam by the rich to steal public property for private profit.