Mayor Elorza withdraws support to monetize city’s water

A big announcement at Providence City Hall on Thursday now leading to bigger questions, as Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city is backing out of a plan to monetize the city’s water supply.

The announcement is quite a reversal from the mayor who for the longest time pitched the benefits for the city over making a buck off its water,

On Thursday he asked lawmakers to pull a bill at the State House that would do just that.

Right now, the city is staring down an issue with unfunded pension liability, and this was pitched by the Elorza administration as a major fix.

But now, the city is finding itself back at square one with the billion dollar question of how can it be fixed?

The mayor making the announcement flanked by city council members and lawmakers at the State House.

“We’re asking our sponsors to pull this bill from consideration as we are officially withdrawing our support and we have no plans to pursue this bill in the future,” Elorza said. “Big problems like this require big solutions..”

The mayor said that the reason why he pulled an about-face was because of the potential environmental impact and the “political viability” of the bill.

“Any time you talk about water, it being a natural resource, it being a public resource, it needs to be maintained in public hands,” Elorza added.

Meg Kerr with the Rhode Island Audubon Society, who strongly opposed the bill, praised the decision by Elorza saying that lawmakers need to turn their attention away from the water supply.

“We also have to be mindful of climate change and the impact it will have in the future to our water supplies,” Kerr said.

The mayor was hoping to use money from leasing the water supply to help handle Providence’s unfunded pension liability. The city now has to come up with a plan B, but the problem is they’re not sure what that might be.

“We are not abandoning our efforts to address the city’s long term financing issues, nor are we prescribing one particular solution going forward,” Elorza said.

So now it’s back to the drawing board but Elorza said once the city comes up with a few proposals, they will be planning workshops with citizens for feedback.

He said bankruptcy is not an option for the city.