Ward: Acquiescent acceptanceWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | email@example.com
Despite the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” reaction to the proposed utility rate increases by some Toledo residents, the window is about to be shut for several years.
Tom Crothers, the director of the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), and his staff did an excellent job in selling the reasons for the increase to our local media. They reported the city’s reasons why the utility rate increase for water, sanitary sewer and storm water by Toledo was felt to be needed.
Only a few dozen residents showed up at the hearings to protest the rate increases; more commented on news websites, Facebook and local blogs. While it’s clear members of the Bell administration follow what’s being discussed on the Internet, all that was offered was a reduction in the amount of the increase sought by .9 percent per year for water and sewer costs.
Citizens have demonstrated that for the most part, they will rant and complain but the manner in which they do so doesn’t often net results. This also creates a scenario where our elected members of Council give acquiescent acceptance rather than risk the possibility of standing alone.
Is this a situation where those who are elected are making an unpopular decision because they know it’s in our best interest? Utility rates are usually sought every four years. Few could disagree with the need for an increase — it is the amount of the increase that gives some pause.
Councilman D. Michael Collins’ phrase, “is it a want or a need?” has been repeated by other members of Council, with most appearing to agree this is a “need.” The deeper question of “where will it go?” remains publicly unanswered.
Left unanswered is the financial management of the DPU funds, especially when it comes to non-DPU positions being funded from DPU revenue. Left unanswered is the planned purchases of equipment that the city has a long history of leasing or using contractors for.
Also left unanswered is what impact did the differences in water rates charged to other areas contribute to the lack of revenue for Toledo. We are told the blame for creating the need for such a high rate increase lies with the previous administration, even though a number of staff worked for both recent mayors and selected discounted water rates have happened under this administration.
At the Dec. 14 Toledo City Council agenda review meeting, Mayor Mike Bell requested that Council remove the utility rate increase legislation from committee.
“One of the reasons that I think it is important to do, sooner than later, is that it does not get any cheaper and I know that everybody’s looking for a cheaper way to do this, but there is not a cheaper way to do this,” he said. “I’ve listened, and I’ve listened pretty intently for the last 30 days or so of people talking about this and not wanting it. I think that it’s pretty succinct that it takes four things to actually live; one of them is air, you stop that, you stop breathing in five minutes, water most likely about a week, food about two weeks and shelter you need that, so we’re talking about a key component of what we need to be able to survive, just to live here in this city and I don’t think we want to jeopardize that portion of it so, we need you to move forward with this.”
There was no discussion beyond a point of order raised by Councilman Mike Craig. This means the utility rate increase will be marked “Item likely to be relieved from committee” on the agenda for the Dec. 21 Toledo City Council meeting.
If you don’t support the utility rate increase being sought or if you still have questions, your time to act may be ending soon. If relieved from committee, this could be voted on and approved as early as Dec. 21.
Just talking about how mad we are or waiting for someone else to do something is not going to give us a better government.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.