WEST GROVE, PA — Lip service: a verbal but insincere expression of agreement or support. It is a quality many ascribe to career politicians, and one that fits the current representative of PA House District 13, John Lawrence. “Harrisburg is broken” is a common talking point of his, used to deflect criticism and redirect responsibility away from himself. Rep. Lawrence has been in office for 10 years. If he truly believes Harrisburg is broken and can’t be fixed then why does he insist on returning term after term?
Take the Chester Water Authority (CWA) as a prime example of the larger issues surrounding District 13’s current representation. In 2016, Lawrence voted yes to a piece of legislation, Act 12 (attached to HB 1326), that resulted in two major outcomes: first, private companies can now offer to buy municipal authorities for more than they are worth, which means poor communities who need funding will accept high dollar bids even if a sale is not in the long-term best interest of their people; second, municipal authorities, such as the CWA, do not need to be in financial or operational distress to be privatized. The consequences of sales allowed by Act 12 include higher water bills, loss of open space to development, and the people’s loss of power over their own water.
The CWA’s infrastructure is in Rep. Lawrence’s backyard and access to the Octoraro Reservoir is a PA constitutional right of his constituents. With the passage of Act 12, he placed a target on the CWA’s back. The COVID crisis has pushed and will continue to push many Chester County and Lancaster County boroughs and townships to their financial and operational tipping points. Greedy for-profit companies, such as Aqua, see opportunity in our communities’ distress. They are swooping in across the state to gobble up municipal authorities in a bid to consolidate their power in everything that flows through our pipes: water, wastewater, and gas. There is a reason Aqua recently changed its name to Essential Utilities. That is exactly what they want to become: essential to you and essential to those who represent you in Harrisburg.
On April, 13, 2020, Gov. Wolf declared a Fiscal Emergency for the City of Chester, the place where the CWA was first incorporated. I went on record on April 17th stating that the CWA and the Octoraro Reservoir must be saved and that the best way to save them was through an environmental land trust. On April 22nd, just 5 days after my statement, Rep. Lawrence wrote a letter to the PA DCED (Dept. of Community and Economic Development) about saving the CWA. Our water has been under attack for 4 years, but it was only 5 months ago, during an election year and with a political rival taking a stand that Rep. Lawrence finally decided to show his support for the CWA.
Since then he has put forth HB 2597, a bill whose introduction conveniently coincided with the departure of PA Speaker of the House, Mike Turzai, who has since gone on to work for Essential Utilities. An analysis of the bill reveals unclear language and potential loopholes, which could have the effect of ultimately working to the advantage of for-profit companies like Essential. Why does Rep. Lawrence continue to push unclear legislation which will not actually protect the CWA?
What we do know is that in 2014, he accepted a campaign contribution from Aqua America, and in June, just 4 months ago, he accepted a $25,000 donation from Mike Turzai, who, as I stated above, is now a member of the Essential Utilities team. They want to be essential to those who represent you in Harrisburg. That’s how they expand and how they keep their power.
Is Rep. Lawrence’s support of the CWA sincere or is it just the lip service of a career politician who has been in office for a decade and whose main concern during an election year is staying in power and pleasing his political party? Last week, The Consumer Affairs Committee had an informational meeting/hearing for constituents to provide testimony for HB 2597. Will Lawrence fix the language in the bill and build the coalitions necessary in the PA House and PA Senate to pass the bill before the November election? Or will he drag the process out, pay his constituents lip service, and after the election promptly declare that there is nothing he can do because “Harrisburg is broken”?
I’m here to tell you that we can save the CWA. Send me, Richard Ruggieri, to Harrisburg to be your next State Representative. My top priority is ensuring that our communities keep their water and their access to the Octoraro Reservoir. A vote for Richard Ruggieri is a vote for the CWA. As an Air Force veteran, I took an oath to defend my country, and as your elected state representative, my oath will be to defend my state and my constituents, not a political party and certainly not my reelection campaign. It’s time for District 13 to have new representation.
Richard Ruggieri is running for State Representative for District 13, learn more about him and his campaign at RuggieriPA13.com.
District 13 encompasses Chester County: Atglen Borough, East Nottingham Township, Elk Township, Franklin Township, Highland Township, London Grove Township, Londonderry Township, Lower Oxford Township, New London Township, Oxford Borough, Penn Township, Upper Oxford Township, West Fallowfield Township, West Grove Borough, West Nottingham Township and Lancaster County: Christiana Borough and Sadsbury Township.
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