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Tough Decisions Require Mental Strength

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.
The Truth Contributor

Water issues are a problem of power and control. Water has replaced oil as the international bargaining chip. However, you can live without oil but you cannot live without water.     
                       -  Detroit Faith Leader

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

Whether to cede control of Toledo’s water supply to a regional water authority is a challenging question. The decision becomes even more burdensome when based upon not entirely rational and hardcore assertions spoken with the intensity of road rage. These appeals often drown out saner counter proposals based on facts and common sense.

For me, making the decision to join or not join the Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA) comes down to having the mental strength to separate indisputable facts from the uproarious myths and fiction perpetuated by proponents of the status quo.

The facts are:

·         Water rates have increased 43 percent over the last four years under the status quo gang – 13 percent in 2015, followed by an additional 13 percent in 2016, 13 percent more in 2017 and another four percent in 2018. This lack of rate stability hurts overall economic development and has viciously battered our income-challenged and working residents.

·         Forty percent of Toledoans are being “ripped off” by Toledo’s water department via policies that require citizens to pay for a minimum usage of 2,000 cubic square feet of water, even though four in ten are likely to consume a mere 1,000 -1,400 cubic square feet. The city’s purpose is likely a backhanded plan to generate extra funds to help manage water plant operations and to cover the $20 million in uncollected debt on bad water accounts that people could not afford to pay for their water.

·         The city currently has no water affordability bank or program such as HEAP or PIP (percentage of income plan) to help those who have difficulty paying their water bill to make arrangements while keeping their water from being shut off. The regional system, in contrast, and mostly paid for by the suburbs, is designed to create such an affordability bank to help “income-challenged” persons to keep their water on.

·         Currently, 75 percent of Toledo’s water lines are lead and pose a public health hazard that could possibly, one day, cause our city to become another Flint, Michigan. Conversely, the TAWA agreement replaces all of the lead service lines in the City of Toledo, the financing which, is also provided by those who have few or no lead lines such as Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Monclova, Monroe, Maumee and Perrysburg.

The plain hard truth is that none of these benefits take place without Toledo’s participation in the TAWA or under the status quo. Based on a meeting held on March 20, there seems to be a real possibility that all the suburban communities could leave the Toledo agreement over the next 10 years leaving Toledo to fund $185 million in federally mandated upgrades to its plant. In this case, water rates in Toledo are expected to triple or rise at least 300 percent.

In addition, and only spoken about in hushed tones, is the urgent need for Toledo to treat their own – the citizens who live within its boundaries - better. Particularly its low-income residents, who, in effect, are subsidizing or paying for large commercial and industrial customers who receive preferential low water rates for high volume usage. Residential customers receive a surcharge, in effect, for lower usage, and a higher rate for average usage, while commercial customers receive a lower rate for higher usage. This policy smacks with injustice and has nothing to do with the suburbs.

Not only that, but the city requires one to be a property owner to have the water bill placed in their own name. Standard practice has been to put water accounts in the landlord’s name. So theoretically, you can pay your rent every month thinking that the water bill has been getting paid and possibly come home to find a hangtag or notice of water shut off because you assumed the landlord was paying the bill.

Another fact:

·         A major myth has been that joint MOU is binding and final. However, the truth is that this document is merely an aspirational framework that is used to obtain an interim order to “form” the TAWA. Once the order to formulate the authority is obtained, then board members can be appointed and a detailed plan of operation with input from the community is required to be developed. This process is likely to take approximately one year to complete and the court is expected to monitor what is going on. This is also a period that any of the participants, including Toledo, can withdraw if they are not happy with the detailed plan of operations or policies.

What shall we do?

We need to do more than talk and act tough. We must instead become informed and mentally strong. And we need to do it quickly if we are to obtain urgently needed stable water rates needed to eliminate double digit rate increases, create a water affordability account and help replace lead service lines and the other unfair policies preserved by the status quo.

We must also ensure that the right people are appointed to the TAWA board, those who can secure all of the things that are needful and fair and who can make certain that these things will actually get accomplished or hold the TAWA accountable.

We can also talk with people like Gary A. Brown, the City of Detroit’s representative on the Great Lakes Water Authority, which is comprised of the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. Brown is a retired deputy chief of the Detroit Police Department also currently serves as the director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Finally, once the MOU has been approved in court, the process calls for community members to participate in a court-monitored development of a detailed plan of operation. Making sure that the right people from the community, government and nonprofit world are available to contribute what the utility needs in order to be operationalized is paramount.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:10 -0700.



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