On Monday, March 20, the Des Moines City Council is scheduled to vote on whether the city should support House File 484, a controversial bill that would eliminate the Des Moines Water Works. Call them and urge them to vote no.
Mayor Frank Cownie
City Hall Phone: (515) 283-4944
Home Phone: (515) 255-3644
Bill Gray – Ward 1
City Hall Phone: (515) 237-1623
Home Phone: (515) 274-0077
Linda Westergaard – Ward 2
Home Phone: (515) 988-4288
Christine Hensley – Ward 3
City Hall Phone: (515) 237-1625
Home Phone: (515) 255-4716
Joe Gatto – Ward 4
Home Phone: (515) 402-2626
Christopher Coleman – Ward 5
City Hall Phone: (515) 237-1622
Home Phone: (515) 276-7644
Skip Moore – At Large
Home Phone: (515) 681-9804
Why You Should Stand Against HF 484
House File 484 is a bill being considered in the Iowa Legislature that would disband the governing boards of the Des Moines, Urbandale, and West Des Moines water works. If signed into law, these three independent utilities would be forced to turn over management and their assets to the city councils in each city.
This is a diversion
- There is no drinking water quality crisis in the Des Moines metro area that would necessitate the state legislature stepping in.
- The real problem is source water quality in the state. The Legislature should be focused on water quality – not local water production.
- Metro utilities have done an outstanding job for decades of planning and implementing the supply, treatment, and transmissions projects necessary to ensure everyone in the metro has access to quality water in adequate quantities at reasonable rates.
- This legislation stands in stark contrast to Home Rule (the right for local self-government)
- Iowa Code Chapter 388, states that a city may establish or dispose of a city utility, but it is subject to the approval of the voters of the city.
- This legislation takes the right to vote out of the hands of the citizens of Des Moines, West Des Moines, and Urbandale.
- Approximately 15 years ago, West Des Moines asked the citizens of West Des Moines to vote on dissolving their water board. More than 90% of the voters said no. This legislation will allow them to take over the utility without it going to the voters.
- This is clearly an effort to bypass existing law and the will of the people.
Current version of the bill doesn’t even address regionalization
- The amended bill doesn’t create a regional water authority, which was ostensibly the reason for the original legislation.
- Regionalization, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. This is why a coalition of 22 metro water utilities commissioned a study in 2014.
- House File 484 would dismantle in an instant all of our accomplishments today. The metro water utilities will find a solution to our region’s future water needs by continuing the dialogue, not dismantling what has already been done.
Why water boards were set up independently
- Water utility boards were set up independent from city councils for a reason – to protect a public health necessity from politics. Simply stated, it is an independent local water utility owned by its customers and it works, and has worked for 100 years.
- There is absolutely no need to dismantle the water boards in the metro area that have decades of experience of delivering safe and affordable drinking water, and have long histories of financial diligence that have resulted in healthy water systems at relatively affordable rates.
- Currently, water rates are reinvested in the water system, funding imperative capital improvements – for example, over $3 million this year in water main replacement projects for Des Moines.
- It is no secret the City of Des Moines needs new revenue sources. If assets, responsibilities and revenue are transferred to City of Des Moines, portions of water rates could be funneled to the general fund of City of Des Moines, circumventing needed infrastructure plans.
- Takes the management of delivering safe and affordable drinking water from professionals and puts in the hands of politicians.
Why you should stand against HF 484
- This is a solution looking for a non-existent problem.
- The legislature is sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.
- The proposed legislation actually impedes the regions ability to create a regional water authority.
- House File 484 sets a dangerous precedent for all of Iowa’s 500 independent utilities boards.
- Legislation could impede economic growth as it puts a freeze planning and construction of new water treatment facilities.
- House File 484 is an example of politics at its worst. This legislation is clearly retaliation for the Clean Water Lawsuit, and shows no regard to the 500,000 people who depend on Des Moines Water Works for clean and affordable drinking water ever day.
- As we saw in Flint, Michigan, when financially strained cities make decisions for purely economic reasons, the results can be catastrophic.