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Blue Community Designation

Recently, the City of Los Angeles touted that it has been declared a “Blue Community,” a designation it received from the Council of Canadians. In order to receive this “honor,” a city must ban any private water company involvement in the delivery of water services now and forever.

But what does this really mean for Los Angeles and its residents? It’s worth a closer look.

First, what is the Council of Canadians?

Council of Canadians, based in Ottawa, advocates against “economic globalization and unregulated market capitalism.” The group was created to fight against “big business,” and supports “non-violent civil disobedience.” One of the Council’s founding members and its current Honorary Chair is Maude Barlow, one of the most vociferous opponents of the private sector. Barlow also happens to be the Board Chair of the activist group Food & Water Watch.

Like Food & Water Watch, the Council of Canadians is not interested in bringing solutions to communities facing water challenges, but rather is ideologically opposed to any solution that involves the private sector, no matter how proven, beneficial or needed. Both the Council and Food & Water Watch are completely focused on getting communities to reject solutions that involve the private sector, even if it means a community is left worse off in the end. Baltimore is a great example of this.

Second, what does this mean for Los Angeles and its residents?

Los Angeles’ water system has recently faced enormous challenges, making this designation even more perplexing. In June, the FBI raided the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) as part of an investigation into improper billing practices. As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Investigators are seeking evidence of a wide array of possible crimes, including bribery, kickbacks, extortion, mail fraud and money laundering.” Further, the paper notes that LADWP’s leadership has been “mired in a controversy.”

In addition to the billing controversies, in September 2018, the EPA finalized an administrative order with the city over federal Clean Water Act violations. As part of the order, LADWP had to pay a $94,000 penalty and purchase $5.3 million in mitigation credits to offset the damage it had done to a local wetland.

The reliability of the city’s infrastructure has also been a concern.  In 2014, a massive water main break flooded the UCLA campus, resulting in $13 million in damage.   A 2018 main break in South Los Angeles created a sinkhole that swallowed up several vehicles and displaced almost 50 residents.

Despite years of trouble, after simply declaring itself opposed to private sector involvement, the Council of Canadians pinned a gold star on the city’s water system, totally ignoring all the issues the water system and the Department running it has had.

Declaring that there is no scenario in which the city would ever consider working with a water company is dangerously shortsighted. The City clearly has much more it should be concerned about when it comes to its water system management than whether it has this so-called Blue Community designation.

The Blue Community designation is simply a tactical maneuver by anti-water company activists to try to spread their ideological opposition to proven solutions. It does nothing to assure residents that their water service is safe and reliable and that the system’s management is sound.

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