I am greatly concerned about Bullhead City’s proposal to seize our water company (“City files EPCOR referendum with county,” Mohave Daily News, July 17, 2019). This has been tried over and over and over again in cities and towns all over the country, and the results are rarely if ever as promised by the politicians who push for these measures.
For example, politicians promise to stabilize or lower rates after seizing control, but the reality is that rates often increase because once the government gets its hands on the spigot, the only way to stop future rate increases is to vote them out of office … after previous rate increases have gone through. Politicians know this.
Another meaningless promise is “local control.” We citizens won’t be making decisions, only those in city hall. Politicians know this, too.
And then there’s the magical “savings” claim. In this case, the mayor says that city hall will save a quarter-million dollars annually. Guess what? That means that we residents will be paying to make up the loss of what the city used to pay. City hall gets to keep more of our money (you notice there is no mention of a tax reduction due to this imaginary “savings”) and turf its water bills off onto residents.
Left unaddressed is the issue of the personnel who run the water utility. In private industry, employees can be hired at market rates. When you convert those to government employees, though, wages and pensions go through the roof, and there’s absolutely nothing us citizens can do about it. Underfunded pension liabilities are one reason why so many municipalities are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
So, what happens if costs go up and politicians keep their promises to keep rates low? Water system maintenance suffers, and then your water quality suffers, and then nothing improves until things get so bad that further bonds are needed to repair what should have been maintained all along. And those politicians who made all those promises in the first place? They’ll be long gone by the time that happens, so the new crop can say “it’s not our fault — give us more money to fix it.”
To look at this another way, if it is a good idea for the government to run the water company, why doesn’t the government-run all companies? Why have private industry at all if the government is so good?
The obvious answer is that government is less efficient than private industry, period.
A quick look at the roads in Bullhead City should be enough to convince anyone that the city should concentrate on doing what only it can do, and leave the rest to private industry. Any other approach is a slow-motion disaster.