Move protects suburbs from more water hikes

Move protects suburbs from more water hikes

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Move protects suburbs from more water hikes

By RAY HANANIA

Southwest News-Herald Thursday, February 27, 2014

, former White House Chief of Staff

, former White House Chief of Staff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that every public utility has a watchdog agency that ensures that the taxpayers’ rights are protected, except when it comes to Lake Michigan water?

That’s one reason why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and every mayor before him has been able to capriciously raise water rates anytime the city’s budget is in the tank, which is every year.

The first thing Emanuel did when he became mayor was to jack up water charges, not right away to Chicago residents but to all of the residents living in the suburbs. The first increase went up 25 percent and it has increased 15 percent each year that followed. (Chicago meticulously measures water use in the suburbs, but is lax in enforcing water rate collections in Chicago, especially in the inner-city where water meters are often not read. It’s easier to harass suburban voters and to give your own a pass.)

That’s outrageous. No other government would be allowed to rape and pillage taxpayers that way, except when it comes to Chicago squeezing every penny out of the suburbs.

Emanuel claims he needs the cash to improve the water delivery system, but everyone knows he wants the money to shore up the city’s collapsing economy. Whenever Chicago has trouble, it reaches into the wallets of suburban taxpayers as if we have no say.

This past week, a group of suburban legislators and communities have said enough is enough. They introduced legislation to prevent unjustified water rate hikes from being imposed.

The bills were introduced by state Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th) (HB 4288) and state Sen. Steve Landek (D-12th) (SB2907). (For transparency purposes, I do media work for Landek.)

The Water Rater Protection Act has the backing of the West Central Municipal Conference (WCMC) headed by Executive Director Richard Pellegrino, and it’s Suburban Water Task Force.

“The intent is to create an entity similar to the Citizens Utility Board, whose sole purpose would be to objectively and fairly regulate Lake Michigan water,” Pellegrino explained in a release this past week.

Founded in 1980, the WCMC represents 51 municipalities, townships, Brookfield Zoo and two community colleges in the Western Cook County and Eastern DuPage County. But their goals are goals that reflect the needs of all of the region’s suburbs.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being kicked around by Chicago. I remember fighting with Mike Royko in the 1980s when Chicago snatched suburban funds to bail out the Chicago transit Authority.

When things don’t go right in Chicago, they grab money from the suburbs.

We need it to stop. It’s a matter for fairness. Already, we know many Chicago residents don’t even pay water bills, or even electrical bills. Inspectors who try to get into some of the poverty stricken neighborhoods are chased out with bats and clubs. So government pretends there isn’t a problem.

It’s easier to pick on the suburbs and beat up on suburban taxpayers with higher, unjustified fees.

Ironically, Chicago doesn’t own Lake Michigan. It’s a natural resource. It should be treated as a natural resource to benefit the people, not governments that can’t get their financial acts together.

We need to make our voices heard. Out of all the bills in Springfield, this one is probably the most important in terms of defending the rights of taxpayers.

Standup and be counted. Let your legislators know you want the water tax grab to stop. Chicago needs to tighten its belt, not squeeze more money from suburbanites.

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall Reporter. Reach him at www.TheMediaOasis.com or email him at rayhanania@comcast.net.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com