Statement of NLG-MD in Support of Baltimore City Ballot Initiative E to Maintain a Public Water and Sewage System

In response to Carol Park’s October 21st OP-ED titled “It’s Not Too Late to Privatize Baltimore’s Water System; Here’s Why We Should”.

As an organization that has been fighting alongside our partners against the disastrous rise in water rates, the Maryland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG-MD) was interested to read the Op-Ed published by Carol Park on October 21st regarding the benefits of privatizing Baltimore’s water system. NLG-MD shares Park’s shock at the decades-long history of water mismanagement in Baltimore City and agrees that rapidly raising water rates present a crisis for Baltimore’s low-income residents and the city at-large. However, we take strong issue with her conclusion: that Baltimore and Baltimoreans would be better off with a private water company as opposed to a publicly managed entity.

The idea, raised by Park, that sovereign immunity would protect a public water provider, or at least create so much of a hindrance as to preclude a legal negligence action, is incorrect. The myriad of lawsuits dealing with sewage overflow in Baltimore show that private citizens who are harmed can hold the city government liable when it is negligent in providing water services. Although there are additional procedural steps to filing a formal action, these burdens are outweighed by the greatest benefit to keeping water in public hands: transparency.

Local governments in this state are subject to the Maryland Public Information Act. This means that DPW must provide documentation of sewage backups, water/sewer line work scheduling, accounting information and a myriad of other data. This documentation and information are crucial to advocating for a client in court or for the benefit of all Baltimoreans in City Hall. Were we to lose this valuable tool of data and information gathering, citizens, activists and lawyers alike would be in the dark as to the machinations behind how one of our most precious resources is being delivered.

A human being cannot be a human being for very long without water. It is because of this fact that we as an organization believe that humans have a right to clean water. As Baltimore voters go to the polls on November 6th, we hope that they agree with us that transparency and citizen oversight is the most effective way to make that right a reality.

-Statement Adopted by NLG-MD on October 24, 2018

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