Green Delaware Action Alert #99

Mayor "Bad Faith" Baker and Wilmington's Sewer Crisis

Baker double-crosses clean water advocates: 
Attacks HB 195 and proposes bill to protect sewage dumping

 "No Flush" Sewer Cleanup in Deep Doo-Doo?
 Calls, faxes, emails needed now to support HB 195

Port Penn, DE.  June 13, 2001. When James Baker was running against incumbent Mayor James Sills of Wilmington, Delaware, Baker said he wanted a 100% cleanup of Wilmington's raw sewage dumping. He said he could accept House Bill 671, the predecessor of HB 195, calling for a ban on raw sewage dumping in Delaware by Jan 1, 2008. 

He continued this line-vaguely-after the election, while refusing to cooperate with those promoting the cleanup effort. His "communications director," former journalist John Rago, wouldn't answer substantive questions but loudly insisted that "this mayor is different!" Baker kept the same foot-draggers in his Public Works Department.

Well, this mayor IS different. Compared to Mayor Sills, Baker is proving smarter, more aggressive, less scrupulous, and even more dedicated to keeping the sewage flowing into the rivers. The health of Wilmington children obviously means little to him. City Council president for nearly twenty years, "Bad Faith" knows how to play on peoples' hopes and expectations without making real commitments.

  • Bad Faith hired Bill Montgomery, a respected Legislative Hall bureaucrat, to help him manipulate the General Assembly; 
  • Bad Faith got legislators such as Helene Keeley to circulate grossly exaggerated rumors of the cost of cleaning up the sewers. (While a City report shows an  estimate of 210 million for essentially a whole new sanitary sewer system, Bad Faith's agents are circulating claims of as high as a billion dollars); 
  • Bad Faith got the Wilmington River-City Committee, to "roll over" and support his position. (River-City has historically been historically funded by the City government, but Bad Faith cut off its funding.....); 
  • In a sneak maneuver, House Bill 195 was assigned a "fiscal note" (although there are no appropriations in it) and assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. This committee is chaired by Rep. Joe DiPinto, who represents a Wilmington district and is a smart, influential, and effective anti-environment legislator; 
  • Bad Faith had his police arrest a Green Delaware member for putting warning signs on a Wilmington sewage overflow (State park officials removed the warning); 
  • Bad Faith has offered a "proposed alternative to House Bill 195." Baker's "Bad Faith Bill" states " less than 85% of the total volume of flow collected in the combined sewer system ... shall be discharged without receiving a minimum of primary treatment...." Whether this absurdity is intentional or not, the bill seeks the opposite of what House Bill 195 seeks-it attempts to codify in Delaware law that raw sewage dumping should continue. 
What happens now? Bad Faith has power-the power to give or not give people jobs, to cut off the funding of organizations, to scare and manipulate Wilmington residents, and to pull strings in the General Assembly.... Delaware media are generally not covering the sewer clean-up campaign. Bad Faith has behind-the-scenes support from state and Federal regulators, and probably from the Governor's office. Governor Minner is talking about a Liveable Delaware. Surely "liveable" includes Wilmington children not playing in sewage...?

On the other hand, Wilmington's credibility isn't too good in Dover, and legislators know people all over Delaware want the sewage dumping stopped. Various organizations, such as the League of Women Voters and the Delaware Nature Society are supporting HB 195, although not very actively so far. Seaford got rid of its combined sewer overflows. If Wilmington is determined to be irresponsible, some other body, perhaps a metropolitan sewer authority, may need to take over the sewers.

Stopping the dumping of raw sewage into our rivers is a no-brainer to most of us. It's a statewide issue: the dumping harms water quality throughout the Delaware Bay. But change doesn't come easily, no matter how glaring the need. Special interests often prevail unless the people speak out. Under no circumstances should the Bad Faith Bill be considered.

ACTION: Is your organization supporting HB 195?

ACTION: This is a good time to speak out. Governor Minner can be reached at, 744-4101 (Dover), 577-3210 (Wilmington) and
1.800.292.9570 (statewide). FAX:744-2775. You know how to reach your Senator and Representative.

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If you are associated with an environmental or civic or health organization, please ask it to support HB 195. If you are an officer of such an organization, please contact Green Delaware. See contact info below.

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This page was last updated on  June 16, 2001.