As we near next week’s Consolidated Election on Tuesday, April 7, I want to encourage everyone to exercise one of the great freedoms we have as residents of America, by voting.
I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes by our 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the importance of voting.
FDR once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
Last year, The Washington Post reported that just 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots for the 2014 Midterm Election.
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The turnout was dismal, but not surprising—participation has been dropping since the 1964 election, when voter turnout was at nearly 49 percent. In fact, last year’s Midterm Election had the lowest voter turnout during a midterm cycle in over 70 years. Despite the depressing statistics, I still believe that elections are the most important part of government—especially on the local level. Local government elections allow residents to choose who they want to represent them and how they want their community to progress into the future.
On April 7, the city will have an advisory public question appear as a referendum item on the consolidated election. The question will appear as, “Shall the City of O’Fallon consider only a lease and not a sale of the municipal-owned water and wastewater systems and related assets.”
O’Fallon is now at a decisive point where we can choose what we want our community to be: progressive, capitalizing on opportunities for growth, working to become the premier community in the area; or stagnate, witnessing other communities leverage the advantages of successful growth. This is why we are carefully studying the possibility of leasing the city’s water and wastewater systems to a world-class operating partner.
Our consultant’s analysis indicate a lease could generate a minimum of $50 million for the city to fund future-focused projects listed in the Strategic Plan, while maintaining local ownership of the system.
Any potential lease of the city’s water and wastewater systems would have to achieve at least the following benefits:
• The costs to operate the water and wastewater systems will be reduced;
• The operating partner will hire current employees, subject to existing hiring policies, at comparable pay and benefit levels;
• The operating partner will be responsible for funding most capital improvements, not the City; and
• Service quality and environmental standards must equal or exceed current practices.
In addition to these benefits, the city would retain ownership and oversight and the city council will establish water and wastewater rates.
The strong working relationship between city hall and the residents we serve is yet another example of why O’Fallon is such a great community in which to live.
Gary L. Graham