Kofi Osei, one of a slate of candidates from Towamencin NOPE (Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts), led the successful effort for voters to approve a Government Study Commission in Towamencin to recommend whether the township should adopt a “home rule” charter.
NOPE opposed the sale of the township’s sewers.
Towamencin NOPE is a group of Towamencin residents who opposed the sale of the sewer system. Members are Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, who worked together towards a shared vision of keeping control of the sewer system and sewer rates.
While affiliated with other local, grass-roots NOPE groups in Bucks County, Conshohocken, and Norristown that share the same ideas and values, Towamencin citizens are in charge of Towamencin NOPE.
“I was looking through the Township website to find out what our trial plan was like and noticed that we were exploring sewer monetization,” Osei said. “I have read about what had happened in other municipalities and reached out to David McMahon, who started the first NOPE group in Norristown.”
McMahon and Osei are both members of the Buxmont Branch of the Democratic Socialists of America. Osei has been in Towamencin for 26 years and many of his friends and family are still around.
“I wanted to get involved first and foremost because Towamencin is where I grew up, and I did not want to see my friends and family sold out to some big utility company,” Osei added. “The more I read about water/sewer privatization, and specifically the ‘fair market’ valuation method PA uses, the less I thought it was a good idea and wanted to make sure the people of Towamencin knew what was going on before they eventually get the bill a few years later.”
Osei, 29, one of seven individuals, will serve on the Government Study Commission, which evaluates how well-run the local government is and solicit feedback from residents.
Before promoting the commission, Osei went to township meetings for a year and was appalled that a governing body could so blatantly ignore facts and constituent opinion on such a huge decision. Osei wanted to make a charter where that would never happen again.
“I believe home rule has the potential to stop the sewer sale. I do not see any merits in fully privatizing water/wastewater utilities. I believe a charter precluding the township from selling such utilities would be the best,” Osei said. “Some other municipal charters in other states have similar privatization bans. Besides the sewer sale, Pennsylvania has very weak citizen provision, and the only way to get a broad referendum right in PA is to have a home rule charter that gives citizens that right.
“If the government study commission writes a charter that stops the sewer sale and adds referendum options, I hope Towamencin voters will be responsive in a future election,” Osei added.
In other services to the community, Osei was involved in the KEY club at his high school, where he volunteered for many events held in the area.
Osei completed his undergraduate degree in Computational and Applied Mathematics from West Chester and works as an actuarial analyst in health insurance. While Osei was not politically active before NOPE, he hopes to stay involved locally.
“I have no strong plans currently. This non-partisan, issue-focused, and hyper-local type of politics has been much more enjoyable than a lot of the partisan stuff at the state/federal end,” Osei said. “I perceive a need for the General Assembly to reform our utility laws, especially with how messy the Chester Water Authority and DELCORA situations are.”