On the Eve of the Clean Water Act’s 40th Birthday, Mayor Presses Water Lease, City Council Balks

Pawlowski presses. Don’t know if he knew that today is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  Do know that his press conference was held in anticipation of last night’s City Council meeting.  At that meeting, Council voted to not approve anything lease-related until more financial specifics about the process are divulged.  How much, exactly, has the formulation of the Mayor’s proposal cost the City thus far?  We don’t exactly know.

Good for City Council.

Morning Call reporter Emily Opilo, who covered the Mayor’s press conference and the Council meeting, tweeted that at the latter, Rich Fegley, owner of the BrewWorks, said he’s not considering Allentown as an expansion location.  Mr. Fegley opposes the water lease deal.

Mayor Pawlowksi said today that the believes the language in his RFP will protect Allentown residents from skyrocketing private pricing.  Opilo wrote:

The proposed lease agreement calls for rates to be tied to the Consumer Price Index plus a percentage after the freeze expires. From 2016 to 2032, the percentage above CPI would be 2.5 percent, and from 2033 and beyond, the percentage above CPI would be 1.5 percent, he said.

Additional rate increases could be approved by council for major capital expenditures of more than $2 million.

Just a few days ago, Council president and Pawlowski ally Julio Guridy said that any rate increases will have to be approved by Council.  That’s not what the Mayor said yesterday.

Frankly, it seems to me that the matter should eventually come to voter referendum because of the public resources (not the least of which just happens to be our water) involved.  Some fear that low-information voters won’t have the savvy to make the right choice.  Some say the only alternative is a crushing tax-hike.  I say something this important needs to be a fundamentally public process: the Mayor and his surrogates need to be in the community selling their plan at weekly community forums.  They should have to defend it in as many public situations as possible, and there should be debates on local TV.  We’re talking about something as basic and necessary as safe, affordable water, and the process of getting it for the next 50 years in the fastest-growing and third-largest City in the Commonwealth.

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