LIMERICK — It’s time we start taking back what rightfully belongs to “we, the people.” The commons must be deprivatized. What should belong to the public has been hijacked by corporate interests that do not have the public good in their business plans. There are commodities that should be under control of “we, the people,” such as electricity, water, banks, the internet, etc. Malfeasance by corporations where privatization has taken place is proof that shareholder profits are deemed more important than public interests.

In Maine, Central Maine Power recently ranked last for power quality and reliability in a nationwide survey of business customers. Customer billing errors and lengthy power outages have earned CMP the worst performance rating in the country, behind even Pacific Gas & Electric. PG&E, located in California, deferred maintenance and facility upgrades to pad shareholder profits, resulting in a deadly wildfire and massive grid blackouts. Legislation proposed by Maine state Rep. Seth Berry would buy out CMP and Emera Maine assets to create a publicly owned nonprofit utility. Many Mainers support this move, and our legislators should get on board.

Public utility commissions in Illinois, Maine and elsewhere have been stacked with industry-friendly members to push through decisions written by their lobbyists. We need PUC members to be independent, not recruited from the institutions they are sworn to oversee. Although the water supply in Flint, Michigan, was under municipal control, the bureaucrats in charge acted in opposition to needs of the citizens. Citizen boards need to oversee operations of publicly owned utilities to ensure they are run in the best interests of the public. Maine should enact strict oversight rules on companies extracting water from our aquifers. Maine’s water, bottled and sent out of state, should be taxed to benefit the people of Maine.

Private internet providers can selectively serve their customers in order to maximize profits, rather than serving our needs. Neglect of rural areas keeps economic opportunity away from these parts of the state. Over 500 communities around the country operate publicly owned municipal internet networks. Maine should be a leader to provide publicly owned internet service to all citizens, including those in currently underserved rural areas. Gubernatorial candidates in Vermont and Michigan have proposed publicly owned internet networks. Maine should be the next state to follow suit.

When the Great Recession hit, financial institutions were propped up by government bailouts after they had underwritten subprime mortgages and bundled them to escape responsibility and transparency for their questionable practices. If the bailout funds had been directed to the consuming public who were hurt by these greedy practices, many unnecessary foreclosures and evictions could have been averted. These banks are continuing the practices that caused the Great Recession. Instead of a bailout, these failed institutions should have been taken over and converted to public banks.

Public banks, like the Bank of North Dakota, could focus lending practices that meet the needs of “we, the people.” Loans for environmental and infrastructure projects could benefit the public and create good-paying jobs. Other states are exploring public banks as a result of the nefarious big bank operations that have been allowed by a lack of proper government oversight into their financial schemes, resulting in skyrocketing corporate profits and outrageous executive salaries, bonuses and golden parachutes. Maine should follow in the footsteps of North Dakota to establish a Maine State Bank where deposits of public funds will be used for the good of the people.

These are a few examples of privatization of our commons that should be under control of “we, the people.” When electric grid maintenance is neglected, drinking water is mismanaged and banking practices adversely affect the public, we need to have our eyes opened to see that changes are necessary. Maine needs to continue being a leader to represent its citizens and not be beholden to corporate lobbyists acting in their own interests at our expense.

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