The We the People Save Our Waters Coalition (“We the People”) held its first rally on the front steps of the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola on Monday, February 27. Because of the cancellation of the vote by the Legislature to close the precincts, the expected crowd never materialized. So, about 10 people who had expected to be in the background of a much bigger movement, now stood alone with their protest signs and their pledge to stop the sale or lease of the County’s three sewage treatment plants.
We, the people, are being kept in the dark about this historic decision that will affect the people of Nassau County for generations to come. We the people need a voice in this decision. We are demanding a citizens’ advisory committee.
We are making headway. While we rallied outside, a private meeting was taking place inside with the Deputy County Executive and two Island Park civic members from the Nassau County Coalition of Civic Associations (NCCCA). The County Executive agreed to meeting with a citizens’ advisory group comprised of members of the “We the People Coalition” on a regular basis to discuss the County Executive’s Plan to sell or lease our assets – the Cedar Creek, Bay Park and Glen Cove Sewage Treatment Plants. We refuse to be left in the dark any longer.
The real fireworks began when we went into the Legislative Chambers. If you ever go to a legislative session, you would unfortunately see the ugly side of politics. By attempting to make it political, the Presiding Officer tried to marginalize the magnitude of this proposal. But, we the people, will not play into their party politics. This issue is way too important to the people of Nassau County. We went up, one by one and explained how this one-time budget fix will impact our community forever. We explained that if you take a service that is operating in the black with $75 million in reserves and now introduce a private company into the equation, our taxes will go up. A company is not going to invest $1.3 billion without expecting to reap huge profits off our tax dollars. We, who pay our water bills to a private company, know how much more we pay for our water than do those who have public water. This deal will be nothing more than a back-door tax increase.
Some legislators listened. Legislator Denise Ford agreed on the record to hold hearings within the next few weeks so that the people know about the County Executive’s plan. It is very important that the people get a chance to voice their concerns. Although we heard the Presiding Officer say under his breath that there was only going to be one hearing, we are hopeful that Legislator Ford will keep to her promise and do the right thing for the people. Transparency in government is vital. People need to trust that these deals will not continue to go on behind closed doors and without public input.
It is still an uphill battle. Morgan Stanley will not go quietly into this good night. They stand to make at least $5 million if a deal is made. Our tax dollars are already paying them over $500,000 to find a private investor and operator of our plants. Morgan Stanley will make money whether the deal is good or bad for the people of Nassau County. And if this deal is made, the County Executive will get enough money to fill this year’s budget gap. But who’s looking out for the people’s best interest… We, the people, must have a voice. Right now, it is barely a whisper. But with the public hearings and a committee of citizens, we are getting louder.
For more information, visit www.nassaucoalition.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit "We the People Save our Waters" on Facebook.