New Orleanians: Don’t let the Sewerage & Water Board piss away twice as much of your money!

Water meter coverPlease read the following now: Council president seeks delay of vote on huge water-rate increase

Or, if you prefer the wholly unofficial CliffsNotes™ version of Tyler Bridges’ exceptional article, please consider the following excerpts:

“New Orleans City Council President Stacy Head accused Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Monday of trying to ram a doubling of sewage and water rates through the council on Thursday, without, she said, the issue having been fully vetted.

“Head is asking her colleagues to postpone the vote because she said the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans has failed to explain how it would spend the $583 million in additional money that it would collect over eight years.

“Landrieu opposes any delay.”

Bridges adds,

“If approved Thursday, the new rates would go into effect next month. Consumers pay for clean water and sewage disposal every time they take a shower, flush a toilet, wash dishes and so on.”

And Janet Howard, president of the Bureau of Governmental Research, zeroes in on why delaying this vote is the only responsible choice:

“‘The council should hold a well-publicized public hearing,’ Howard said. ‘The public deserves an opportunity to comment on something that affects them. A deferral request makes all the sense in the world, regardless of what you think about the proposal. There is a transparency problem.'”

The release of more comprehensive report on this subject from the Bureau of Governmental Research is scheduled for Wednesday, 12/5/12 — the day before the currently-scheduled City Council vote on Thursday, 12/6/12.

The ’70s era water conservation quip, “If its yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down!” may take on twice the significance if this rate-doubling is approved; I wish that this proposed immediate rate hike was even remotely funny.

WHAT IS THE RUSH? Why doesn’t a decision of this magnitude deserve a full public vetting? Why isn’t the city’s administration using this opportunity to compel serious and meaningful changes at the grossly-mismanaged S&WB? Why is anyone even considering handing them MORE money to misuse and squander?

If the Sewerage & Water Board has allowed for the system’s infrastructure to deteriorate to the point where city officials estimate that our city “loses 40 to 50 percent of its treated water,” why are citizens being asked to pay double before what should be a requisite keelhauling and overhauling?

I’d also like the Mayor to explain how, exactly, he went from proposing that the water system not raise rates more than 10 percent annually to demanding immediate approval of its more than doubling (a 114% increase overall) between 2013 and 2020 in less than one month’s time, bypassing the opportunity for customary council protocol. Without a plan in place before any rate hike is approved, I’m betting that the ultimate result will be double the dollars down the drain.

This is about YOUR money. And this could be the ONLY vote on the proposed increase which, if passed, will be in effect forever after.

What can a concerned citizen do on such short notice?

In response to the concerns voiced by Council President Stacy Head, Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson has scheduled a Special Council Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday, 12/5/12 at 2:00 PM in the City Council Chamber to solicit public comments regarding the proposed rate increase. It is likely, however, that this meeting has been called far too hastily for significant public attendance or input.

Whether or not you are able to attend the meeting, please email and call your elected representatives at your earliest opportunity. Demand that the vote be delayed so that there an be a full public vetting of this rate increase.

Please clip-and-paste to send your email to the following addressees:

shead@nola.gov, jbclarkson@nola.gov, sgguidry@nola.gov, dbajoie@nola.gov, kgpalmer@nola.gov, chmorrell@nola.gov, efcharbonnet@nola.gov, mjlandrieu@nola.gov

If you, by chance, have additional time available to address this issue between now and 10:00 AM on Thursday, 12/6/12, please also call our Councilmembers and Mayor Landrieu:

Jacquelyn Clarkson, Council at Large supporting immediate vote: (504) 658-1070
Stacy Head, Council at Large opposing immediate vote: (504) 658-1060
Susan G. Guidry, District A: (504) 658-1010
Diana Bajoie, District B: (504) 658-1020
Kristin Gisleson Palmer, District C: (504) 658-1030
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, District D: (504) 658-1040
Ernest F. Charbonnet, District E: (504) 658-1050
Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu: (504) 658-4900

I believe that they all need to have all of their phones ringing off the hook regarding this issue, but none more so than Councilmember Clarkson, as it seems that she, in particular, is closely aligned with the Mayor in this rush to vote.

As an additional resource, City Council President Stacy Head has also sent out an email encouraging citizen participation and action.

In August 2012 as Hurricane Issac buffeted our city, Mayor Landrieu stated the following during one of his frequent press conference updates: “The water drainage and sewer systems are operating on backup power in much of New Orleans, there has not been enough power to clear sewage out of the system. …We are working right now to balance that power. In the meantime, I’m going to ask you to minimize the flushing of toilets.”

Now it seems that our Mayor and Councilmember Clarkson are asking us instead to flush our money down that same dreadfully compromised system just as quickly as possible with only a charade of vetting, as if it’s just another edict to follow without the need for due public consideration. Unlike the conditions experienced during Hurricane Issac, however, I believe that any urgency expressed regarding this premature vote is inflated and illegitimate.

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3 thoughts on “New Orleanians: Don’t let the Sewerage & Water Board piss away twice as much of your money!

  1. My water bill for November was $117.00! Ridiculous considering that I haven’t had a trash can since I moved in here. I call SWB every week and ask them where my trash can is, the reply “Your on the list, we’re just real busy.” The abandoned warehouse across the street from my house 2500 block of Banks St. has a broken water pipe in it that has been spewing water for months. No one at the S&WB cares. I will be writing my council member today.

  2. “The biggest weakness in the S&WB’s requests for rate increases is the lack of a plan for spending the additional O&M revenues. The lack of a well-conceived and articulated plan increases the potential for waste and inefficiency and raises the specter that the agency will merely plod along. Developing a clear spending plan should be a high priority for the S&WB.”

    Bureau of Governmental Research: Time to Pay the Pipelayer? The Proposed S&WB Rate Increases in Perspective

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