Since I've never taken any business classes that explained to me just how a quasi-municipality functions, I'll just have to guess. Better yet, I'll tell you what I'd like to see, and what I hope we haven't got. I sense that a quasi-municipality could be a very good thing – but there is always a possibility that some quasi-con artists are scheming to exploit us.
There are times when municipalities just make sense:
Municipality profits and expenses are regulated. If a private company or corporation ran SNWA, I'd be willing to run down to Vegas and bet everything that the price of water would be higher, if you could get it. Privatization of water, both in the US and the world, has been a disaster. Almost without exception, privatized water systems' water prices have skyrocketed, and quality has plummeted.
Municipalities can reduce redundancy of equipment needed by separate companies, and therefore, costs.
Municipalities can reduce competition for resources (which can lead to a “waste it now or someone else get it” attitude).
Municipalities must respond to the community. Consequently, they have to be socially responsible. If SNWA were a corporation, their shareholders profits would be more important than the community – their customers. Attorney Joel Bakan is quoted in UTNE magazine; “it's actually illegal for a (corporate) manager or director to do anything that subtracts... from shareholder returns.” No community wants that.
As long as a quasi-municipality doesn't get out of control, by taking on the worst habits of corporations and governmental bureaucracies; this new form of business might prove quite functional. The big concern is; have they, or will they take on those bad habits? Here's how SNWA rates on the previous points:
The price, quality, and reliability of water in Las Vegas are all quite acceptable. SNWA passes the first test.
SNWA is more efficient than redundant companies. SNWA passes the second test.
When Las Vegas was just a bunch of people with wells, the water table dropped like a rock. SNWA has made a significant difference here. They've shut down most of the the private wells. They've even recharged some wells. However, another way of looking at this is that SNWA got rid of their competition, has almost total control over the water in Las Vegas, and wants unlimited access to as much water in the State as they can get. Whether SNWA passes this test depends upon whether you're for unsustainable growth in Las Vegas or not. Rural Nevada has become the competition (to be eliminated) for the water underneath our own feet. Its as if SNWA wants to waste it now, or Rural Nevadans' children might get it.
The developers in Las Vegas want Las Vegas to grow. Undoubtedly, SNWA is responding to them. But the rest of the citizens, the vast majority of the population, aren't all that thrilled about uncontrolled growth. They have no desire whatsoever to despoil the rest of the State. And they fear that they will end up getting stuck with the bill when pipeline costs overrun. Since SNWA is now beginning to act like a State entity, it would make sense to consider the rest of the State effected by SNWA's actions as part of the community. So, when it comes to responding to the community, SNWA essentially fails. They have responded to the big business interests and ignored most of the people in Las Vegas and the State of Nevada. Maybe this is why SNWA doesn't want to be particularly clear about the way their business functions.
If you have more information about SNWA's quasi-municipality form of business, please leave a comment.