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Atlantic City Residents Speaking Out Against Utility Privatization

ATLANTIC CITY N.J. (CBS) - People of Atlantic City are boiling mad about the prospect of the city's Municipal Utility Authority being sold.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," said Ernest Coursey.

Coursey is a county freeholder and long time resident. He feels politics and not policy are at play here.

"We have politicians who, for personal gains, are attempting to take over the MUA because of the amount of money that it generates," Coursey said.

As is often the case in Atlantic City, money is a central theme.

With the state running the show now, local voices say too much of it has been siphoned already, leaving the MUA as the last piece to pillage; the last straw.

"Mess with our water, we'll mess with your money."

Those voices have been so loud, the battle cries were heard in Baltimore at the national office of the NAACP.

"We are in Atlantic City because water is life sustaining," President Cornell William Brooks said Tuesday at City Hall. "What is understood to be a money problem is in fact a democracy challenge. This is not about dollars and cents. It's about human beings."

His concern with privatization is that the city's stellar and affordable water would be far more expensive for families living in poverty if purchased by a for-profit company.

"We are encouraging people to sign petitions to put this to a referendum so that the voice of democracy might be heard in the context of people literally holding on to their water. We understand fundamentally that water rights are civil rights, and civil rights are human rights," Brooks said.

He says the best people to make decisions about the people of Atlantic City are the people of Atlantic City.

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