Move protects suburbs from more water hikes

Move protects suburbs from more water hikes

By RAY HANANIA

Southwest News-Herald Thursday, February 27, 2014

, former White House Chief of Staff

, former White House Chief of Staff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that every public utility has a watchdog agency that ensures that the taxpayers’ rights are protected, except when it comes to Lake Michigan water?

That’s one reason why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and every mayor before him has been able to capriciously raise water rates anytime the city’s budget is in the tank, which is every year.

The first thing Emanuel did when he became mayor was to jack up water charges, not right away to Chicago residents but to all of the residents living in the suburbs. The first increase went up 25 percent and it has increased 15 percent each year that followed. (Chicago meticulously measures water use in the suburbs, but is lax in enforcing water rate collections in Chicago, especially in the inner-city where water meters are often not read. It’s easier to harass suburban voters and to give your own a pass.)

That’s outrageous. No other government would be allowed to rape and pillage taxpayers that way, except when it comes to Chicago squeezing every penny out of the suburbs.

Emanuel claims he needs the cash to improve the water delivery system, but everyone knows he wants the money to shore up the city’s collapsing economy. Whenever Chicago has trouble, it reaches into the wallets of suburban taxpayers as if we have no say.

This past week, a group of suburban legislators and communities have said enough is enough. They introduced legislation to prevent unjustified water rate hikes from being imposed.

The bills were introduced by state Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th) (HB 4288) and state Sen. Steve Landek (D-12th) (SB2907). (For transparency purposes, I do media work for Landek.)

The Water Rater Protection Act has the backing of the West Central Municipal Conference (WCMC) headed by Executive Director Richard Pellegrino, and it’s Suburban Water Task Force.

“The intent is to create an entity similar to the Citizens Utility Board, whose sole purpose would be to objectively and fairly regulate Lake Michigan water,” Pellegrino explained in a release this past week.

Founded in 1980, the WCMC represents 51 municipalities, townships, Brookfield Zoo and two community colleges in the Western Cook County and Eastern DuPage County. But their goals are goals that reflect the needs of all of the region’s suburbs.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being kicked around by Chicago. I remember fighting with Mike Royko in the 1980s when Chicago snatched suburban funds to bail out the Chicago transit Authority.

When things don’t go right in Chicago, they grab money from the suburbs.

We need it to stop. It’s a matter for fairness. Already, we know many Chicago residents don’t even pay water bills, or even electrical bills. Inspectors who try to get into some of the poverty stricken neighborhoods are chased out with bats and clubs. So government pretends there isn’t a problem.

It’s easier to pick on the suburbs and beat up on suburban taxpayers with higher, unjustified fees.

Ironically, Chicago doesn’t own Lake Michigan. It’s a natural resource. It should be treated as a natural resource to benefit the people, not governments that can’t get their financial acts together.

We need to make our voices heard. Out of all the bills in Springfield, this one is probably the most important in terms of defending the rights of taxpayers.

Standup and be counted. Let your legislators know you want the water tax grab to stop. Chicago needs to tighten its belt, not squeeze more money from suburbanites.

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall Reporter. Reach him at http://www.TheMediaOasis.com or email him at rayhanania@comcast.net.

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  1. Rep. Welch (7th) Sponsors Legislation Seeking to Prevent City of Chicago from Arbitrarily Raising Water Rates Again | The Village Free Press

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