Baltimore City Council Shows Unanimous Support for Water Reforms

October 28, 2019
Baltimore Right to Water Coalition stands with City Council President Brandon Scott

Water Accountability & Equity Act Passes Second Reader in City Council 15-0 without Chow amendments

Baltimore, MD —Today, the Baltimore City Council voted 15-0 to pass the Water Accountability and Equity Act (WAEA) through second reader without the proposed amendments of the Department of Public Works (DPW). Next, the bill moves to third reader where the Council is expected to vote in favor of the bill again before sending it to Mayor Jack Young to sign into law. In an article in the Baltimore Sun published earlier today, Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said the mayor is eager to sign the bill into law.

The City Council, led by City Council President Brandon Scott, voted in support of the bill without any of the amendments proposed by DPW’s Dir. Rudy Chow. This move by the City Council proves that Baltimore City is ready for a complete overhaul of its water billing program.

“We know that every Councilmember has experienced the breakdown of our water billing system. We see it through our constituents’ communication every day,” said City Council President Brandon Scott. “This legislation is focused on structural change — on accountability and transparency within the Department of Public Works. DPW must be held accountable to its customers – Baltimore residents.”

“This bill helps tens of thousands of Baltimoreans receive due process in water billing and assistance in paying for this life-giving resource, when needed,” said Molly Amster, Baltimore Director of Jews United for Justice. “We applaud the Council for taking a strong stand to meet this basic need for all of the people they represent.”

Years of powerful grassroots campaigning across communities in Baltimore demonstrate the significant public support for the comprehensive bill. DPW Dir. Rudy Chow, who came under fire for his outrageous amendment proposals, announced his plan to retire as DPW director last week. With Chow on his way out, the City Council rejected his amendments. Advocates in the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition hope to see Baltimore’s leadership usher in a new era of safe, accountable, and affordable water for all people, regardless of income.

Right now, more than half of the city is ineligible for water billing assistance. WAEA includes renters – who make up 53% of the city. At the same time, WAEA’s affordability program would cost over $19 million dollars less through FY2024 than the current H2O assists program being implemented by DPW.

“Baltimore is a stone’s throw away from becoming a leader for water equity in this country,” said Rianna Eckel, Senior Organizer Food & Water Action. “The WAEA would ensure all Baltimoreans have access to clean and safe water at a lower cost to the city. Passing a strong bill into law as soon as possible should be a no-brainer.”

“Considering the cost and the number of people covered, this legislation is the easy choice. Homeowners and renters have access to assistance with high water bills. Plus, when people can afford their water bills, they pay them,” said Amy Hennen, Managing Attorney with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service.