BY KATHERINE KELLY
It’s understood that the water fund needs money. It’s understood that the infrastructure needs improvement. This is not at issue in this protest against the proposed water rate increases for the next five years, soon to be followed by another increase in our sewer rate. The issue here is demographics, and math.
The economic demographic of Crescent City is bleak:
- The percentage of people living below the poverty level is 45%, with 16% of those living at 50% below the poverty level. That’s about half of our population.
- The majority of the population makes less than $30k a year, and among that number, most make less than $10k, followed by the second largest group at $20k.
- Unemployment, officially, is 13.2%, but we all know that number is skewed to the low end. It’s much higher if you add in those who have stopped looking for work and the underemployed.
- Crescent City is #18 of the top 101 cities with the most people living below the poverty level.
- We’re #17 on that list for the most people living below 50% of the poverty level.
- Our median income level is $19,000, less than half of the state’s average.
Back when the sewer rate was doubled, we warned the city council of the financial hardship it would impose on the most vulnerable. They didn’t listen. They aren’t listening now. When you take from someone who already has nothing to give, it has to come from somewhere. Food? Heat? Medications? Rent?
We say this to the city leaders: When the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, come back and talk to us about paying more. When there’s a subsidy for those that live beneath the poverty level, come back and ask for more money. When poverty is the exception and not the rule, that would be the time to increase rates on a vital utility. Until then, find another way. It’s not that we don’t want to pay more for our water; it’s that we can’t give what we don’t have.
KATHERINE KELLY IS THE ORGANIZER FOR THE PROP 218 PROTEST