Sunday, October 17, 2010

Public comment submitted to the Scottsdale City Council on Arizona American Water agenda item

The following comment was submitted to the Scottsdale City Council regarding item number 22 of Tuesday's agenda, consideration of options regarding the operations and facilities of Arizona American Water (see this earlier post for more info).

The comment -

Mayor Lane and members of the Council,

By now, you are familiar with the history behind item 22 of this week's agenda - the discovery of contaminated groundwater in south Scottsdale, the clean up efforts, and particularly, the failures of Arizona American Water (AAW) to perform its duties in this regard.

Failures that exposed thousands of Scottsdale residents to contaminated drinking water.

On Tuesday, October 19, you will be considering two possible options for dealing with those failures.

One option is to engage in a "Treat and Transport" agreement with Arizona American Water. The City would handle the "treatment" (cleanup) of AAW water before forwarding it to AAW's system so that AAW could then deliver it to their customers.

The second option would be to acquire AAW's assets in the affected area through a condemnation proceeding and to bring those customers into the municipal water delivery system.

The report from City Staff cites low short-term costs and resource consumption as advantages of the "Treat and Transport" option while citing the opposite as among the disadvantages of the "condemnation" option.

City Staff favors the "Treat and Transport" approach (, however, I am urging you to give serious consideration to acquiring AAW's Scottsdale assets through condemnation.

To be certain, condemnation of private property is a serious issue and not something to be undertaken on a whim or lark. However, in this case it is wholly appropriate.

With its failures, AAW's operation has become a public health risk, one that merits the removal of AAW from Scottsdale (at a fair price, of course.)

The draft agreement included in the Council Report on this item does include insurance provisions, but those provisions do not cover liability incurred for failure to properly treat contaminated water.

The very reason that this item is before you.

Either option would result in the City assuming that liability. However, the "Treat and Transport" option would cause the City to incur that risk while AAW would retain the profit from the City's efforts to clean the contaminated water.

Much like the federal bailout of Wall Street, that kind of socialization of risk and privatization of profit hurts the public interest far more than it helps it.

Inevitably, a number of lobbyists for AAW will decry any move to condemn AAW's Scottsdale operation as an inappropriate interference with the "free market" and an improper abrogation of "private property rights."

And if the issue at hand concerned a Brown Avenue retailer selling overpriced yet substandard trinkets to tourists, I would agree with them. While sales to tourists are important to Scottsdale's economy, they aren't a matter of life or death.

However, the matter at hand it water, something we all need to survive. "Substandard" isn't good enough.

Those lobbyists will be looking to safeguard AAW's short-term interests, and that is their job.

Your job is to look after the long-term interests of the residents of Scottsdale.

Thank your for your time.



The above comment is sure to annoy certain people (such as regular reader Thane :) ), but while I would strongly oppose a move to take property from one private owner in order to transfer it to another, more politically-favored, private owner (see Kelo v. New London), this truly is a matter of the public good.

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