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Vote to Double Sewerage and Water Bills Set for This Thursday – Dec 6

Dear Fellow New Orleanian,

As promised, I am fighting to assure that you, a citizen and taxpayer of New Orleans, are informed about the workings of your government.  To that end, you need to know that your City Council is set to vote this Thursday to double your Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) bills over the next eight years.  A decision of this magnitude deserves much public discussion and scrutiny. This vote is premature, and I see no reason to rush it to conclusion in the next four days.  The Council is no stranger to the task of increasing S&WB rates.  In 2007, we were faced with this issue.  As with every fee, tax, or rate increase request, we studied it, asked questions, and engaged the public to inform our decision.   After multiple hearings and meetings with citizens and taxpayers, we took the difficult step of voting to raise the rates by 82% for businesses and 43% for residential customers (see Times Picayune article by Bruce Eggler on October 5, 2007).  Starting last year, Mayor Landrieu’s administration and S&WB executives began pressing for an additional rate increase.  The basis for this increase was a voluminous consultant’s report (see Raftelis Report dated September 28, 2011 with update April 2012).  Mayor Landrieu then pressed for further refinement of the increase.  The result of that effort was a new proposed increase based on a modified rationale (see September 19, 2012 letter from Marcia St. Martin).  Two weeks ago (while the Council was involved in budget hearings), the S&WB voted to approve this new rate increase and send it to the Council.  The next day, through Councilmember Clarkson, the administration filed the $583M rate increase request that is set for vote this Thursday, December 6, 2012.

This is a matter of extreme importance to the public.  It is complicated further in that the rationale and amount of the increase has changed several times over the last year.  For these reasons I believe a Public Works meeting is in order, as was held during the 2007 rate increase debate.  This meeting will be well publicized and set far enough in advance to allow meaningful engagement by interested constituencies [1] Unfortunately, Councilmember Clarkson scheduled a Budget Committee hearing on the issue of the rate increase for this Wednesday, December 5, at 2:00 p.m., which is less than three business days away and less than 24 hours before the scheduled vote.  I have requested a deferral on this ordinance to no avail.  This is against typical council protocol as deferrals are commonplace – particularly with an issue of this magnitude — and the result will be to avoid meaningful public engagement. 

I hope that you agree that this matter warrants thorough public discussion and input.  To voice your concerns, please contact your City Council representative:  Guidry – 658-1010; Bajoie – 658-1020; Gisleson-Palmer 658-1030; Hedge-Morrell 658-1040; Charbonnet 658-1050; Clarkson 658-1070 or by email: jbclarkson@nola.govsgguidry@nola.gov,dbajoie@nola.gov,

Stacy Head

New Orleans City Council President[1] The parties needed at this meeting include S&WB executives, Raftelis representatives, someone with knowledge of the time-lines for EPA consent decree compliance, representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, bond council and someone from the Administration to respond about use of Hazard Mitigation dollars.