Friday, February 24, 2012

How are most of the suburbs handling Chicago's draconian water rate increases?

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The Village of Orland Park is not unusual. Like most of the suburban communities held hostage by the City of Chicago, Orland Park buys its Lake Michigan water from Chicago through Oak Lawn. Other communities go through other suburban pumping stations, but Oak Lawn is one of the largest.

This year, to off-set the cost of corruption that has plagued Chicago for most of the past two decades under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and to cover the excessive pension contributions the city has given to its elected officials and clout-heavy employees, it faces its annual cash shortfall. In other words, because of poor money management, Chicago is always in need of cash. So, instead of making its services more efficient and cost-effective, and instead of eliminating waste, Chicago increases its taxes, fees and fines.

This year, not satisfied with punishing its own taxpayers, Chicago decided to punish the suburbs where efficiency and waste are not as enormous as they are in Chicago government. So newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel has dramatically increased the charges for water.

Why do the suburbs have to go through Chicago to get the water from Lake Michigan, I don't know. Some corrupt politician set it up that way in the 19th Century. Few knew that the suburbs would become a failed haven from Chicago corruption. What right does Chicago have on Lake Michigan other than much of the lake's coastline hugs the polluted city's shores?

Most suburban communities sent notes out to their homeowners and taxpayers informing them that the City of Chicago increased water rates this year 25 percent. And, Chicago will increase water charges 15 percent for each of the next three years.

Orland Park is no different and the water bills that arrived today included a short note that reads simply, and accurately:

"City of Chicago Raises Water Rates.
"The Village of Orland Park buys its Lake Michigan Water from the Village of Oak Lawn, which buys it from the City of Chicago.

"On January 1, 2012, the City of Chicago increased its water rates 25 percent, passing this cost onto its water customers, including the Village of Orland Park. Subsequent increases of 15 percent per year through 2015 have also been imposed by the City of Chicago.

"Based on this action by the City of Chicago, beginning in January 2012, Village of Orland Park water customers can expect an average water bill to increase approximately $3.75 per bi-monthly billing period, based on a bi-monthly usage of 9,000 gallons."

Nothing more was said. but reading between the lines, Orland Park, like nearly every suburban community, is telling you that Orland Park is going to pass along the increases from Chicago through Oak Lawn and through Orland Park to you, the taxpayer and water "consumer."

In fact, most suburban communities simply passed along the Chicago rate increases, making taxpayers share the entire burden. Most suburban communities, that is, except the Town of Cicero.

Cicero gets its share of unfair media coverage. I know because I work there as the Town Spokesman. The truth is most of the crap published by the Chicago Sun-Times is little more than exaggerated garbage. Crap that couldn't even be wrapped in the oily, greasy inked stained Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.

But Cicero is different that most other suburban communities. It has held the line on property taxes for most of the past seven years since Larry Dominick was elected Town president. And, the fact is Chicago raises the water fees almost every year, this year being the largest. And Cicero has absorbed -- yes absorbed -- the majority of those water rate increases for the town to tighten its belt and share in the burden with its 80,000 official residents.

This year, Cicero only passed along 66 percent of the increase and absorbed the remaining 33 percent.

"Absorbed." And "sharing." These are not words you read much about in other suburban communities. It's so easy to pass along the rate increases and just blame it on Chicago. 

You won't read about that is the Chicago Sun-Times -- where I also worked as an award winning writer from 1985 until 1992.

But the citizens of Cicero know the benefits they receive and they really don't care if the Sun-Times editors, who live in Ivory Tower and ritzy suburban communities like Winnetka, Highland Park, Wilmette and Evanston, want to spend their time criticizing Cicero.

Cicero's residents get more services than any other suburban community. More and better healthcare services. Public works, street cleaning, snow removal and even a Town Board that would sit back when the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago fails to do its job -- its "mission" is to manage flood and rain waters, but it doesn't do a very good job of doing that and probably never will. No other public agency spends more money on its pampered elected officials than the MWRD.

Sp next time you get a glass water of water from the tap, you might want to pour it on your copy of the Chicago Sun-Times. Oh. I forgot. Most residents of Cook County don't read the Chicago Sun-Times. Crains Chicago Business has reported that the Sun-Times circulation has dropped to about 200,000 a day. Pathetic circulation that reflects its pathetic reporting.

-- Ray Hanania

1 comment:

  1. Ray...ask anyone who suffered with well water in Palos in the 1970s. The water tasted like an iron ore cocktail, it was difficult to wash clothes in--rust stains would appear on "clean clothes," and water softeners purchased to combat the well water lasted a year or two. I doubt Orland was any different then.

    Lake water is much better--even if it is expensive.

    Our subdivision in Palos Heights was one of the few to have what we called affectionally called "city water" in the '70s