Monday, May 19, 2008

Bloomberg's Watergate

Last Friday the Water Board raised the city's water rates by over 14%-and water rates have increased by a whopping 77% since 2001. As the NY Times blog reports; "According to official projections, the average single-family homeowner will pay $800 for water in the fiscal year that starts July 1, up from $700 this fiscal year." But it's not just about the water-the larger issue is how New Yorkers under the tax and spendthrift mayor have been beleaguered by higher taxes and fees.

Still, the water torture bears examination since the DEP is historically one of the most inept city agencies we have, and there is a compelling need to put the entire operation under some form of trusteeship (something the mayor won't do since there are no crane killings to embarrass him, like there are with the DOB). At least Bill Thompson weighed in: "The proposed 14.5 percent rate increase, on the back of an 11.5 percent increase last year, will have a very real, deleterious effect on those that can least afford it."

And it's not only homeowners being squeezed We talked to a couple of supermarket operators who detailed just how much they're being charged for water and that fee, when added to the 32 separate permits required, and the multiple agencies that oversee their business, adds considerably to the cost of doing business in New York-another factor in the disappearance of local supermarkets.

Speaker Quinn also criticized the rate hike in the City Hall Insider: "Ms. Quinn called the spike "excessively high, especially as New Yorkers are dealing with rising costs for every other basic necessity" and called on the city Department of Environmental Protection to "start looking for other ways to maintain services without passing the extra costs onto consumers." The problem, however, is calling on the DEP to clean up its own act, something that the agency's incapable of doing.

The NY Daily News almost puts its finger on the problem: "The steep hike was attributed to sharply rising costs for everything from chemicals for water and sewage treatment to the cost of capital improvements largely caused by federal mandates. Add to that the unpaid bills by so-called water deadbeats." All of these rationales, without a full evaluation of the agency's abilities, simply miss the boat.

And what is missing in all of this is the impact that this rate hike, along with all the other tax and fee increases (and grocery price hikes also), has on the elderly on fixed incomes The NY Post captures this: " One elderly resident in Jamaica, Queens, said higher water bills, coming on top of higher electric rates, are going make her life even tougher fiscally. "The electric, the gas and now the water," said the 76-year-old, who would reveal only her first name, Joanna. "I live by myself and I'm scared and I have no money to go anywhere. I still watch TV and the lights are never on and I don't eat too much. It's not only hard for me. It's hard for everyone."

Well said. It's about time that the Bloomberg mystique gets the appropriate reappraisal.