MontCo Healthcare Rights Committee co-coordinator Jacob Butterly responded to a last-minute request to help organize a rally in Norristown on Saturday, July 11th, to protest the privatization of the city’s sewage and wastewater treatment. Requests came from Norristown Opposed to Privatization Efforts (NOPE) and BuxMont Democratic Socialists of America, both of which had tried since May to persuade the City Council not to approve the purchase agreement with AQUA America. Instead, the city rushed the deal through with virtually no public awareness. The rally was part of an attempt to build public awareness and gather signatures on a petition that could send the deal back to the drawing board.
Speakers pointed out that the parent company of Aqua America has been aggressively buying up water utilities and now owns them in 8 states, and is the second-largest water utility in the country. Aqua typically raises rates up to five-fold over pre-privatization rates.
Jacob Butterly put privatization in a broad frame. “Corporate takeovers are part of the same system,” he said, “that drains our economy with endless wars, militarizes the police, and shrinks budgets for basic human needs, such as housing, healthcare, and education. Corporations, accountable only to shareholders, are in effect waging economic war on the poor.”
We did not gain enough signatures to overturn the deal, but our allies are planning to continue the fight with a ballot initiative in the fall. Our HRC made several contacts among attendants, and formed a potential alliance with the two co-hosting groups.