“Chicago’s proposed rate increase, the centerpiece of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s push to create jobs while fixing a century-old utility, would end the long tradition of cheap water in the third-largest U.S. city. And it would force Coleman to pay up.
“I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Coleman, 49, a radiation therapist. “I see it irritating residents of Chicago, me included.”
Emanuel is pitching the increase as an economic stimulus bill whose cost would be shared by suburban water users. If approved by the City Council, the program would add 18,000 jobs over 10 years to both the municipal payroll and private companies hired to do the work, said Bill McCaffrey, an Emanuel spokesman. It’s a Chicago version of President Barack Obama’s plan to boost some taxes to pay for recession-proofing jobs.
Coleman joins a line of complainers stretching from coast to coast as as utility companies, towns and cities propose or enact steep water-bill increases as pipes and sewer systems crumble. The rate boosts acknowledge concerns that have been ignored for years, partly because they are underground, water experts say.
“Cities, especially east of the Mississippi, where the infrastructure is older, are having their comeuppance now,” said Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars.”
‘Super-Tight Revenue Times’
“Their water systems are more than a century old and people have put off the upgrading, and now they are breaking,” Annin said. “Mayors and city councilors in older urban areas are in a real spot because here we are in super-tight revenue times, and there is no more basic infrastructure need than the water system.” “