November 9, 2017

Bye Helps Announce New MDC Consumer Advocate

photo of Senator Bye.

State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) today joined Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz and state Representative Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) to announce that attorney David Silverstone of West Hartford has been named as the first Independent Consumer Advocate for Metropolitan District Commission consumers.

Silverstone was the first person to serve as Connecticut’s Consumer Counsel, from 1974-77, and he then served as the first Consumer Advocate for the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA) from 1980-89. Silverstone later served as the President and CEO of RWA from 2001-08.

“I’m so happy and proud that we’ve arrived at this day, and I think Attorney Silverstone is an excellent choice. I’m counting on him to be a strong advocate for all of MDC’s consumers,” Sen. Bye said. “We have an independent consumer advocate today because MDC’s customers refused to stand idly by when they saw issues of concern. Consumer voices matter, and when the community speaks out, it makes a difference.”

“I’m excited by the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the consumers of the Metropolitan District Commission.,” Silverstone said. “My roots are in consumer advocacy, and I bring those experiences and my knowledge of the water industry to this position. I look forward to meeting with, and learning from, the consumers of the district.”

Silverstone’s appointment is the culmination of an effort by legislators and consumer advocates to ensure that MDC water consumers are represented in MDC proceedings so that the consumer’s perspective may impact MDC decision-making.

Earlier this year, under the leadership of Sen. Bye, Rep. Slap, and state Representative David Baram (D-Bloomfield), the legislature passed and Governor Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 17-1, “An Act Establishing an Independent Consumer Advocate for Metropolitan District of Hartford County Consumers.”

The bill has several important components, including:

  • Creating an independent consumer advocate on the MDC to provide the public with information about MDC policies, ordinances, agenda, motions and votes, hearings, and other substantive information dealing with water and sewer management and operations of the MDC so that the public and municipal officials are aware of matters impacting their towns and fellow residents.
  • Preventing MDC-member towns from having to cover the cost of non-payments by other towns. Instead, the bill requires the state to withhold any payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) grants to a city or town, or withhold any state payments to help reduce automobile taxes, if that city or town fails to pay its sewer use assessment to the MDC.
  • Expanding both the uses and the timelines that the MDC can issue bonds (borrowing) for. Right now, the MDC can only get six-month loans for water projects. The new bill expands that timeframe to three years, and adds sewer projects and other working capital to the list of items they can borrow for.

“The creation of the consumer advocate was part of the very first public act of the 2017 legislative session and was passed swiftly and unanimously by the legislature. Today is another important step in strengthening the voice of MDC consumers,” Rep. Slap said today. “They deserve an independent advocate who will improve oversight, accountability, and transparency. Consumers should be able to have as much trust in the MDC’s governance as they do in its water.”

“Attorney Silverstone has more experience than anyone else in the state when it comes to establishing an independent consumer advocate office,” Katz said. “He will bring needed transparency to the MDC process and provide a strong voice for MDC water consumers. Confidence in the water system is essential for both the community and the MDC.”