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Heartwell says No to Privatizing GR’s Water for Now

May 12, 2011

Yesterday, it was announced by Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell that privatizing the water services was no longer on the table. The Mayor made this announcement on the blog of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC).

Hear is what Heartwell had to say about how he came to the decision to take privatizing the water off the table.

“After Commissioners individually considered this idea they concluded that it is not an option they wish to pursue. And so, rather than bringing the idea to the community for consideration, I have withdrawn it.  There is much work remaining for us to do in our journey toward sustainability; none of us can afford to take precious time and energy exploring an option that has little chance of succeeding. There are many other opportunities for transforming local government and we will vigorously pursue those that have the greatest possibility of success.”

What is missing from the Mayor’s comments is the fact that there has been numerous efforts to stop the privatizing of the City’s water system. A Facebook page was created several months ago in opposition to the possibility of water privatization in Grand Rapids, GRIID has been posting numerous articles on the matter and last month the Bloom Collective hosted a forum on the issue. Out of that forum people crafted a letter and got people to sign on demanding that Heartwell take a public stance on this issue. The letter read as follows:

It was brought to our attention that you have recently engaged in communication with the companies Veolia and Suez regarding the potential privatization of Grand Rapids’ water services. We find such communication to be deeply alarming.

In communities where water privatization has occurred, water quality has gone down, water bills have gone up, and control over our most precious natural resource has been removed from the hands of the people to the hands of corporations. This distribution of power places top priority in profit rather than the health and happiness of the people and the environment. This is not something we want for our city and our water. While we understand the gravity of the current economic situation, tampering with the condition and control of our water is absolutely not a solution, and will simply not be tolerated by the people of Grand Rapids.

In our attempts to contact your office and city council members, it has been communicated to us that water privatization is no longer being considered in our city. While we find this moderately relieving, we are requesting an official public statement from you specifically so that we can rest assured that you are committed to keeping water services in the public hands. Pledge yourself and our city to accessible clean water for everyone.

We await your prompt and positive response. In the meantime, we will continue to educate ourselves and our neighbors, and maintain open and probing dialogue regarding the privatization of our water supply. We are prepared to take further action if it is not made explicitly clear by you that Grand Rapids will no longer be considering this option and that negotiation of such has been permanently removed from the table.

It seems that the public opposition has worked and that for now water privatization in Grand Rapids is off the table.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    May 12, 2011 3:52 pm

    This is fantastic news! Thanks for the update, Jeff.

  2. chad permalink
    May 12, 2011 7:09 pm

    I think the fact that Heartwell decided to announce this on the West Michigan Environmental Action Council’s blog is an acknowledgement of the public opposition to the plan and the organizing done by environmental groups. Kudos!

  3. David Rios permalink
    May 22, 2011 11:32 pm

    It’s Stopped for now but the greedy water barons will try to sneak in and grease the wheels (aka:Local Politicians) and take over our water! Do not let this issue go, pay attention to what your city officials maybe up to. Don’t let them BS you in any way.
    Make them accountable for everything they do because they work for YOU not big GREADY business !!!

  4. Jeff Smith permalink*
    May 23, 2011 12:14 pm

    David, we are not assuming that this issue has gone away permanently and plan on monitoring the city if it gets put back on the table.

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