City shouldn’t privatize more services

By Lauren Kelly

Just nine months after Chicago leased its parking meters to a private company in a quick deal, Mayor Richard M. Daley made a statement that any city service is up for sale given the right price, according to the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.

Chicago is still in financial trouble despite the $1.15 billion meter deal with Chicago Parking Meters LLC in February, and the city is now reportedly open to selling off other services to keep its funding afloat. The latest option being discussed is to privatize the entire water system.

This is an even worse idea than leasing the parking meters and would not benefit the city in the long run. A company’s main goal is to make a profit, not serve people. Many other cities in Illinois who have private water systems, such as Bolingbrook and Homer Glen, have seen prices rise drastically.

The privatization of any public service invites the risk that the company buying it will take advantage of customers and drastically raise prices while providing less consistent service to make a higher  profit margin.

Instead of leasing more public services to private companies, the city should try to find funds elsewhere and not sell such a vital city resource. The potential downsides of leasing the water supply to a private entity are too numerous for The Chronicle’s Editorial Board to support a sale.

But if city officials do decide to lease more public services to private firms, accountability is unquestionably needed—both from the company purchasing the service and city of Chicago officials.

There should be stipulations in the contract that limit how much a company can hike prices and specify details about the level of service it should be required to provide. Also, before finalizing the lease, city officials need to approve a budget detailing how the money received from the deal will be spent.

These precautions would help prevent the city from spending the money made from the deal irresponsibly, as well as hold the companies involved in the contract responsible for providing a low-cost, safe service to Chicagoans.