Opinion by Gregory Lobo Jost
Our billionaire mayor once again shows how out of touch he is with reality by crassly dismissing calls to provide immediate relief to water rate payers. When asked about the calls by City Council Members Gennaro and Weprin for the City to return a portion of the rental payment to rate payers, Mayor Mike brushed off the entire issue. So reports the Daily News,
"They spend the money on real projects which we need," Bloomberg said of the city's water system Monday. "From what I can tell, they do it reasonably efficiently, and this [rental relief] seems to me to be a brouhaha about nothing from a couple of people who want to run for higher office."
While some of the elected officials making this point are running for higher office, that doesn't make their point invalid. In fact, those who will be sticking around in public office during the coming years realize that the problem of incresing water rates will only get worse. The easiest route for Bloomberg is to ignore the problem and let the next Administration deal with it -- so much for our visionary Mayor planning ahead to 2030! What about 2010?!?
Significant side point: The Mayor probably wasn't thinking about the filtration plant where costs have skyrocketed when he made his "reasonably efficiently" comment. (By the way, the parks improvements that were part of the deal Bronx politicians made to allow the construction in Van Cortlandt Park aren't being paid for out of the Parks Department budget -- they are coming from rising water rates!)
While the Water Board is also holding hearings this week (last night in the Bronx and tomorrow at 5:30 in Manhattan), they will argue that all that they actually have little control and our points should be made directly to the Mayor's office. Since the Mayor's office isn't holding public hearings on the topic, though, advocates will continue to press major points of reform with the Mayorally-appointed Water Board. Hopefully they will have the wherewithal to take our case to the Mayor, or resign in protest of what's going on -- but I wouldn't hold my breath on either count.
Meanwhile, the Independent Budget Office released a report on the water rate increases this week, although they focus entirely on short-term relief. A better comprehensive look at the system can be found in the Urban Prospect (entitled Liquid Assets), released today by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council.