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Letter to the Editor: NIFA's Decision Saved Residents

Sam Bernhardt, the Long Island organizer for Food and Water Watch discusses NIFA's decision to reject the county's sewer privatization deal.

The following is from Sam Bernhardt, the Long Island organizer for Food and Water Watch.

In blocking Nassau County's plan to privatize its sewer system, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) has taken decisive action to protect the pocketbooks of all county residents.

NIFA made clear its decision arose from the nature of this ill-conceived and ill-afforded privatization deal. This deal being pursued by County Executive Ed Mangano would effectively refinance the county's current debt at a higher interest rate, and pass that debt on to Nassau residents. NIFA has acted to keep Nassau's over-drawn credit card in its wallet, where it belongs.

Research from Food & Water Watch shows that the 10 largest privatizations in the country have increased rates on consumers by an average of 15 percent per year.

Both NIFA and the New York Comptroller's office have called this plan fiscally irresponsible. Now, it winds up where it belongs: flushed down the drain.

This decision also prevents the transference of a valuable county resource to United Water, a corporation that has demonstrated a long history of poor service and disregard for the environment.

In Gary, Indiana, United Water Services is facing felony charges for violating the Clean Water Act and conspiring to defraud the federal government by misrepresenting its compliance with wastewater treatment standards.

Nassau County residents won’t stand the profiteering corporate takeover of such a critical public service.

Hollingsworth May 24, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Wayne doesn't realize that Mangano chose United Water to operate the plants. They are not giving us one penny. We are paying them. The comments also shows that they don't realize that the investor that is giving us a lump sum of $750 million would go toward paying off a $465 million sewer debt and a $285 million county-wide debt. Again, not one penny is going toward fixing up the plants. The only thing we do know for sure is that the contact will be written to raise our taxes every year for the next 50 years, which will be used to pay for the $427 million improvements already budgeted for by the last administration for projects that were supposed to be completed by 2013. United Water says it will put in those improvements over a 10 year period and we will be paying the investor back for the next 50 years through increased taxes. By the County's calculations of increasing our taxes according to the consumer price index - our taxes will double in 10 years - which will be written right into the contract. Those who oppose do have a plan to improve the plants, but no one seems to want to listen because this whole deal has always been about the money - not about improving the plants. Remember not one penny of the investment is going toward improving the plants.
Wayne Smith May 24, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Wayne realizes that Mangano chose United Water but Wayne doesn't see that as a central point. By the way, this is Wayne. You can argue that there are all kinds of flaws with Mangano's plan - and I'm sure you're right. But if you're telling me that someone in a leadership role, associated with the opposition to this plan, has put forward an alternative plan summarizing how we're going to fix a broken system and how much it's going to cost, and even more to the point, how this is going to happen when Nassau County is rapidly approaching insolvency, I haven't seen it. Indeed, what I have found enormously frustrating with the entire public dialogue on this matter is the seeming indifference to the fact that our broken sewers are an environmental train-wreck. Seemingly the whole discussion has been about the financial engineering and whether or not rates are going up and nobody wants to talk about how we're going to fix this mess. It's unconscionable.
Phillip Franco May 25, 2012 at 10:03 AM
We fix the plants by using the "BLUE RIBBON PLAN"; a plan discarded 3 administrations ago and hasn't been implemented since. Cedar Creek was one of the best in the country until this plan discarded.
Wayne Smith May 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Ok, fair enough and let me acknowledge that I'm not familiar with this plan. That said, I would suggest that given the county's current fiscal staits, the chances that this plan will remain dormant through yet another adminstration or two are probably pretty good unless there is a groundswell of public sentiment supporting implementation. The problem I see is the following: assuming this plan is comprehensive in nature the estimates I've heard for what it would take to fix Nassau's sewer system are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which, as far as I can tell, would mean a siginificant rate increase. Yet a signfilcant rate increase is exactly what those who have opposed Mangano's plan have been presenting as the key reason to oppose a private-public partnership, while remaing relatively silent on the point that if we're going to fix this broken system rates have to go up anyhow. I'm neither for or againt a public private partnership per se. There are venues where this model has worked; and there are venues where it has bombed. But my simple point is that whatever we do has to acknowledge that this system has done some pretty serious damage to the South Shore and needs to be fixed, which will cost money. And ignoring this reality is both disingenuous and irresponsible.
An tUasal Airgead May 25, 2012 at 12:18 PM
The problem for a long time has been the apathetic Nassau County residents who were not involved enough to demand their elected officials do what we sent them to do; govern. The problem now is that we are somehow willing to accept that they can't, or won't govern, that we've rationalized accepting our elected officials selling off their responsibilities to the highest bidder, while they play us for fools claiming it is in our best interests. The solution is simple but would take the greatest amount of effort on the part of Nassau County residents which of course is the problem with the simple solution. Our elected officials and the County employees under their command MUST step up and manage our taxpayer assets. Until we do this, we will be paying, either through raised taxes to pay for the continued County mismanagement or by taking a real financial screwing in the manipulation of our taxpayer assets by Wall Street firms. It is not my responsibility to propose a plan; it is the responsibility of the people we picked to be our County leaders. They need to get it done or get out. Stop listening to your politicians, make them listen to you!

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