Thursday, April 30, 2009

Water Torture Memo

Now that Martha Stark-and her nepotistic payroll-have departed from city government, how about the complete overhaul (should we say dismantling?) of the DEP; where there hasn't been a commissioner named to replace the benighted Emily Lloyd. Here's an agency that also underscores the disconnect between the editorial lionization of Mike Bloomberg's managerial competence, and the harsher reality of oversight failures and political hackdom.

Once again, the DEP is about to sock New Yorkers with a rate hike. As the NY Post reports: "The 14 percent water rate hike on tap this year could be followed by another wallet-crunching 12 percent increase in 2010, officials reported yesterday. That would represent the fourth double-digit boost since 2007 and would propel the annual water bill for typical one-family homeowners past the $1,000 mark for the first time."

What's going on here? Has the agency itself sprung a leak? Here are the comments of Councilman Vacca: "One could say water rates are really out of control," fumed City Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D-Bronx) at a tense City Hall hearing." So what's causing this water logging?

The NY Daily News weighs in on the problem: "A small but angry group of Bronxites charged Tuesday that they're being soaked by the city Water Board. Bronx residents who managed to take time off from work for the afternoon public hearing voiced their opposition to a proposed 14% hike in water rates. "It's ridiculous," said Evelyn Rodriguez, 57. "Don't we pay enough for everything else? Everything goes up, and now they're raising our water. If the measure is approved, this will be the third consecutive year of double-digit rate hikes."

Just another example of why Mike Bloomberg is Mr. Indispensable; after all, no one else could soak the citizens with the same degree of elan-and huff and puff so well that folks are bamboozled over his alleged skillful stewardship of the city. Exhibit #1? The DEP, of course: "Vacca rushed to the Bronx from a hearing at City Hall where City Council members questioned the agency about the rate hikes. "I pointed out savings that the city could make that would mitigate the entire increase," said Vacca. "I pointed out things that they have no answer to." Vacca argued that the DEP has $94 million in a "holding fund" that could be used to offset the rate hikes. He also noted that 12% of the DEP's payroll goes to overtime payments."

Not only that, Jimmy. We still don't have any confidence that these incompetents can accurately gauge anyone's water bill-and the agency is blithely going ahead with planned water shutoffs. To which one commenter at the City Room blog had this to say: "So the city’s record keeping system was atrocious, and now people are being deprived of a basic human need because of it? And at a time when people are losing jobs by the thousands, those who can’t pay a bill are being referred to as “deadbeats”? This is disgusting."

Here's another wise observer's remarks: "When we lived in a single family house in Queens we got a statement of our status on city bills. There was an overdue water bill, so I called to say we’d never gotten it and ask how to pay. The idiot on the other end said “that’s what they all say” and hung up on me. When I called back another person read the address on the bill, which had their office’s zip code instead of ours. She agreed I was a dead beat because, of course, the post office would have figured it out and delivered it to us. My husband had to go in person to straighten it out."

All of which is against the backdrop of the billion dollar amen choir singing, "Four more Years!" Accountability is evanescent when all of the accountants are either on the mayor's dole; or else work over at the DEP.