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Chicago water – still for sale?

Michael Hawthorne does a great job getting perspectives from mayors and managers of other cities that have looked into — and experienced — leasing municipal water systems; for community and nonprofit sources in several of those cities (and for links to reports from several nonprofits), see Newstips’ October 20 piece, which first discussed the city’s interest in privatizing the water system.

It was on October 21 that the Trib’s editorial board asked Daley about water privatization and he revealed that consultants had recently completed a study of possible asset sales.  “Nothing is off the table,” he said at the time.

Now Jacquelyn Heard tells Hawthorne, “The mayor is not thinking at all now or even in the near future about leasing any more assets.”

That’s because the economic crisis means he’ll have to wait a year or two.

Industry observers we’ve talked to say there are two basic dynamics at work across the country:  cities are utterly desperate for new funding sources, but citizens get crazy when you start talking about selling off their water systems.   For now, however, there’s no way to finance a big deal like that.

For Daley it will depend on how much control over the City Council he has, when the time comes to consider a deal.  That and his own cost-benefit analysis — between a big chunk of money and a likely storm of popular outrage.

That’s why one element of the orginal Newstip deserves a little more attention:  the effort by Illinois PIRG and Ald. Scott Waguespack to pass an ordinance establishing greater transparency and accountability in asset sales and leases.

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Category: city budget, privatization, water

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