BY JAIME YARBROUGH
For the last couple weeks I have occasionally helped support the protest movement against the increase of our water rates. While I attended the city council meeting where the presentation justifying the increase was given, I had my doubts about it. As I listened and found myself mixed on the findings that justified the rate increase I had no problem with the protest.
It was pointed out to me that the rate increase would take effect by the end of “public comment” on November 4th. If the only public comment were to come from those in attendance, which is typically pitifully poor, the rate increase would surely go into effect. It was clear to me the greater public was not being informed nor given the exposure of their comment. For the council, public comment is a mere formality as their decision has already been made.
Personally I understand the reason behind the rate increase. The money is needed. However it is abundantly clear that the incremental rate increase is not only the 60% they keep talking about, but much more, actually 150% over five years. Dumping it on the current rate payers in the current economic climate is, as I stated in a previous article, abhorrent.
Over the past couple weeks I have walked some of the streets to gather signatures for the protest. In my travels I have run across a broad spectrum of people. Most, be they tenant or owner, have been eager to sign. I try to explain that I have no particular bias except if I did not get their signature the rate would go into effect regardless of their economic situation or desire.
Of the signatures I have acquired most fall into this area. There have been some who defiantly say, “No”. Their response is often, “we haven’t had an increase in 10 years” or, “Someone has to pay for the maintenance because (either) it’s ultimately our system, or, because the city is broke and someone has to.” The ratio between those who sign verses those who do not is about 15 to 1. There are many houses I visit that do not answer for a variety of reasons. I am personally amazed how many properties are for sale, or are vacant due to foreclosure. The prospective renters or buyers of these properties do not have a voice. This is why I am collecting signatures. So the people being served have a voice.