Monthly Archives: October 2009

Does this sound familiar?

From elsewhere in the U.S. we find that the same German water conglomerate that wants to get its hands on our precious Trenton Water Works is maneuvering to take over the Chicago water utility in a lease deal that doesn’t bode well for city residents and their wallets.

It turns out the water company is charging three times normal rates for water in the surrounding suburbs, citing costs associated with infrastructure improvements as the catalyst in the exorbitant rates.

CBS Chicago found that residents of those surrounding suburbs are actually RATIONING their water usage as a means to combat the costly water charges. This is what Trenton’s suburbs – and probably the city itself – face with a New Jersey American Water Co. takeover of the local water system.

Is Mayor Daley Looking To Lease Water System?
Private Firm Would Jack Up Rates For Residents, Watchdogs Warn
Roseanne Tellez CHICAGO (CBS) ―

If the parking meter deal put a bad taste in your mouth, try swallowing this:
Chicago is considering leasing its water system to help fix the budget.

The new boss could charge whatever they want for water, CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports.

Could it happen here in Chicago? It already has nearby. Homer Glen in Will County relies on Lake Michigan water, but the supply comes from a German-owned firm. Locals say there’s a lot more than water going down the drain.

It’s a vital resource you can’t live without. But in Homer Glen, the question is can you afford water. Residents say rates are breaking the bank.

Homer Glen resident Lillie Gajda said her family has tried to cut back to offset high rates.

“Oh, we do everything — we’ve changed out toilets, we’ve changed our showerheads, we’ve changed faucets, we’ve changed dishwashers,” she said.

Mayor Jim Daley says residents pay about three times more than those in neighboring communities. He said Illinois-American Water Co. offers the same explanation.

“They simply say that they have infrastructure improvements they need to make, that they can show their costs,” he said. “What we’re saying: It’s absolutely absurd.”

But Could Chicago be next? A trade publication says the city’s Department of Water Management is “considering a lease of its water and wastewater system.”

Alderman Scott Waguespack has heard similar rumblings.

“We’ve already heard inklings that they’re thinking about it,” he said. “They’ve had discussions. Why is the public not at the table?”

Waguespack was one of the few holdouts on the City Council when the parking meter deal went through. Under that controversial plan, the cash-strapped city agreed to lease its parking spaces for 75 years to a private firm that would collect higher parking rates. It netted the city more than $1 billion in cash.

“Why are we having a fire sale on everything in the city?” Waguespack said.

Jon Keesecker, with Food and Water Watch, says there’s simply no public accountability.

“The financial situation is dire, but handing off an asset that is essential to life and that absolutely all residents in the city need is probably not the best solution,” he said.

CBS 2 made repeated calls to Illinois-American Water, with no luck. Mayor Daley didn’t want to talk, either. And Water Commissioner John Spatz did not return calls.

According to the mayor’s 2010 budget, the city expects to bring in $453 million from water sales next year. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what a private firm would get.

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Mencken on elections, government

“The government consists of a gang of men and women exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government. They have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principle device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.” H. L. Mencken

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Accountability Now!

The Trenton Residents Action Coalition filed a city vehicle accountability ordinance with the clerk’s office this afternoon. She was actually pretty positive about it, “encouraging citizen activists” and their importance in light of Trenton’s generally uninvolved population.

She gave me a copy of the top petition with her datestamp and confirmed that by getting them in now we’ve beaten the election clock, which means we need 720 valid signatures rather than whatever a post-gubernatorial election delivery would have required.

I know the city administration and council has talked about better vehicle controls and begun keeping a few city vehicles at City Hall, but they haven’t actually put anything permanent in place, like an ordinance, to implement the changes.

TRAC has taken the position that Trenton’s officials, including Doug Palmer and others who constantly lament the state’s unfulfilled financial obligations, need to save as much money as possible to show our state benefactors that we deserve more consideration and state aid.

In addition to this effect, this ordinance will also provide an extra layer of accountability by showing Trentonians exactly how cars and vehicles are being used and why, in a city of only 7.5 square miles.

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