Coalition Launch Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: Feb. 14, 2010

Privatization Meets Strong Resistance in New Jersey
Diverse Coalition Formed to Fight Damaging Effects of Privatization

Trenton, NJ: In an unprecedented show of unity, a diverse group of organizations representing consumers, tenants, workers, ethnic communities, community groups and environmentalists took a unified stand against the rush to privatize everything from parks to parking lots in NJ with announcement of the NJ Coalition on Privatization.

“Our organizations are standing side by side with a shared concern that privatization contracts are perpetuating corruption and adversely impacting taxpayers and ratepayers, service quality, jobs and the environment,” said Jim Walsh, NJ Director, Food & Water Watch and Spokesperson for NJ Coalition on Privatization.

Privatization of government services is something that is gaining more and more attention as budget shortfalls push state, county and municipal governments to seek remedies to structural budget deficits.

“Privatization contracts can have unintended consequences, which can leave communities worse off than they were before the privatization took place,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, President, Latino Action Network. These contracts can disproportionately hurt people of limited incomes,” added Argote-Freyre.

“Turning public services over to private entities is always a gamble, said Joanne O’Neill, State Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of New Jersey. “Although most claim to be cost cutting, the privatization of government services has rarely delivered on its promise. In study after study, it has been shown there was very little, if any gain and in most cases the public suffers substantial losses,” added O’Neill.

After residents saw their water bills double or triple following a water privatization contract, North Brunswick, NJ took back public control of their water system, saving rate payers $140,000 per year.

“There is no reason to believe that private contractors will do a better job than the public sector”, said Matt Shapiro, NJ Tenants Organization.  Lack of public accountability, coupled with profit motive, can foster an environment where abuse and corruption can grow.”

“With privatization we see higher costs, worse services, and at times threats to public health and safety. It is bad for the consumer and for the environment.” said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club.  “Many of the companies care more about their shareholders than the public they are suppose to serve. The word privateer comes from privatization which is just another name for a pirate.”

Last week the Assembly State Government Committee heard testimony on ACR150/SCR131, legislation introduced by Senator Rice and Assemblyman Barns that would allow New Jersey voters to determine an amendment to the state constitution that would set minimum standards and procedures regarding certain contracts to privatize public services.

“This legislation will help protect communities from damaging privatization contracts and help ensure public assets and services are managed for the public good, rather than for private gain, said Senator Rice.”

“This legislation does not eliminate the privatization of services, it simply places safeguards to guarantee the public receives the same quality of services that they have grown to expect” said Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Edison).  “We cannot allow private companies to charge us premium prices for mediocre services,” added Barnes.

In addition to working to enact protections for communities from privatization, the coalition plans to educate the public about the negative aspects and broad impacts privatization can have on our communities.

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