Sometimes it’s harder than other times to suck down my anger over how our city officials carry out their pogrom against the middle class year after year, seemingly oblivious to how their actions subject the poor to generations of poverty, enrich the rich and drive away those who are neither rich nor poor.
Water rate hikes that the City Council rejected unanimously barely a week ago were enacted into the law on Friday with only Janice Hahn and Dennis Zine honest enough to speak the truth or vote with honor against the DWP’s latest effort to turn the public’s desire for environmental sensitivity into revenue to sustain its bloated payroll.
Starting June 1, residents of single-family homes get a 15 percent cut in their base water allocation and face a 44 percent increase on every drop of water they use above that — a rate that is 75 percent higher than the base.
Yet, as far as I can tell, apartment owners and businesses and everyone else in LA only need to cut their base rate consumption by just 2.5 percent
The allocation takes into account lot size and other factors so that houses on small lots face the same 15 percent cut as those on giant lots which get roughly twice as much water on their base rate allocation.
At the same time, the DWP is in the process of more or less doubling those on reduced rates to about one-sixth of the total number of households. This is being done without regard to means testing so, for example, people who live in an area where most people are poor all get the reduced rates regardless of income.
Is any of this fair or rational or likely to achieve conservation goals? Does any of it achieve the mayor’s stated goal of “re-inventing” LA’s middle class (re-inventing because the middle class has been chased away for years) or does it strengthen the message that the real goal of City Hall’s policies is get rid of the middle class homeowners replace them and their houses with high-rise slums surrounding luxury enclaves?
LA does have a water shortage, an electricity shortage, a land shortage, a paved streets and sidewalks shortage, a jobs shortage and a budget shortfall so massive that the mayor on Monday will announce he will start selling off pieces of the city like parking revenue, raising fees on the middle class and cutting services just to get through a few more months before the situation worsens.
This has got to end. In fact, it will end one way or another. Middle class workers are losing their jobs and their ability to pay the escalating costs of city government, let alone their mortgages. Small business people are seeing their revenue tumble so they’re getting rid of workers, paying less in sales and business taxes.
Meanwhile, the revenue from the water rate hikes will keep DWP workers in their jobs at bloated salaries without any effort at making the utility more cost efficient.
The Daily News today has a long list of things that actually could be done to conserve water use if that were the DWP’s goal, which it isn’t.
David Coffin at Westchester Parents offers a good explanation of much of what’s wrong with the water rate hikes and suggests a graduated system of as many as five tiers with rates rising at each level. Environmentalists who have studied our failed electricity rates system have suggested similar ideas to encourage reduced use of increasingly precious resources.
The rich and flagrant wasters would be soaked for their excesses; those at the lowest end of the middle class, like the poor, would not suffer. It’s sort of like the graduated income tax and if combined with streamlining of the DWP and reductions in payroll costs would keep the utility solvent, provide a degree of fairness and achieve meaningful conservation.
But that would require leadership at City Hall, a degree of honesty and integrity and respect for all segments of the community.
That isn’t going to happen without an uprising of the people. City Hall is at war with the middle class and the only sane response is to fight back with renewed energy as we did to stop Measure B.
Maybe we should all start by appealing the rate hike. Don’t many of us face economic hardships these days? Won’t the massive sales tax increases and proposed state income tax increase and city fee hikes add to our economic burdens?
If you’ve lost your job, seen your income fall sharply, already conserved as much water as you can, aren’t you entitled to a break like the rich and the poor?