Soapbox

California communities are thirsty for justice on safe drinking water

State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, passes lobbyists gathered outside the Senate chambers, on Monday. Legislators face a Friday deadline to complete all legislative business.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, passes lobbyists gathered outside the Senate chambers, on Monday. Legislators face a Friday deadline to complete all legislative business. AP

There are moments in California history when a single decision becomes a broader question of who we are, and who we want to be, and whether we move from an unjust past toward a more just future.

This week, our leaders must decide whether we will provide access to safe drinking water to all Californians.

One path is the current reality where as many as 1 million residents – predominantly in low-income communities of color – are dealing with unsafe drinking water. The other path leads towards a more fair future where all residents have their basic human right to water in one of the wealthiest places on Earth.

Our leaders should do what’s right and support Senate Bills 844 and 845 to finance the proposed Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.

Opinion

The bills are modest in scope and cost, but will save lives. They will raise a small, dedicated amount of funding through new fees on agriculture and voluntary charges on water bills to help low-income communities afford ongoing operations and maintenance costs for water treatment.

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Dolores Huerta

The range of supporters for the bills – some who have historically been on opposite sides – speaks for itself, as does the strong backing from Gov. Jerry Brown and bipartisan legislative champions. But even more meaningful is how the very communities impacted by unsafe drinking water have fought for this solution. Children, grandmothers and hard-working Californians, who sacrificed a day of pay, came to the state Capitol to make their voices heard.

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Tom Steyer

These communities are thirsty for justice. And now the Legislature must respond and leave a legacy of clean water for all.

The few entrenched interests that seek to obfuscate and obstruct this legislation are the same ones that opposed previous efforts. Hollow sympathy without action or commitment is a betrayal of our common values and the families who have gone without safe drinking water for far too long.

For those who care deeply about fairness and equality, now is the moment to make your own voice heard by calling or visiting your legislator and urging them to support SB 844 and 845. This moment is historic, a rare opportunity to choose a more fair and just future.

Dolores Huerta is co-founder of the United Farm Workers and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and can be contacted at cchavez@doloreshuerta.org. Tom Steyer is founder and president of NextGen America and can be contacted at info@nextgenclimate.org.

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