In a 5-3 vote on Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council approved a massive increase in water rates after Mayor Pro Tempore Thelda Williams and Councilwoman Laura Pastor reversed the votes they cast against the increase at the December 12 meeting.
In a procedural maneuver to keep the issue alive, Williams voted against the increase on December 12 in order to bring it back for a vote this week.
Vice-Mayor Jim Waring, Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Michael Nowakowski voted against the increase on both dates.
Ratepayers will will see an average increase of 6 percent next month and another 6 percent in February 2020. The change will be applied to the fixed monthly service charge, seasonal volume charges and the environmental charge.
”Today, I voted no on raising Phoenix residents water rates by 12% over the next two years,” stated Councilman Michael Nowakowski. “Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues on the City Council supported this and it passed. With this increase, water rates for Phoenix residents will have increased by 17% over a 5-year period. Today’s vote hurt the most vulnerable people in our community. While I understand and support critical infrastructure needs in our city, I have concerns with the inaccurate forecasting that continues to put us in this situation. I also fear that the revenue generated from these increases will not be properly accounted for. We cannot continue to raise rates on a resource that is a necessity for all people. We must do a better job forecasting and finding alternative ways to fund our infrastructure improvements. I will continue to advocate for the District 7 residents I hear from regularly who can barely afford to pay their water bills at today’s rates.”
“Today’s vote to approve a water rate increase for Phoenix residents was truly a difficult one, but sometimes in order to lead effectively you have to make very tough choices,” said Councilwoman Laura Pastor. “Leadership is hard, and it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in and do what is right, especially under challenging circumstances. Even when faced with retaliation from your critics, it is extremely important to do the right thing, perhaps even more so.”
Councilman Sal DiCiccio made it clear that he doesn’t believe it took courage to raise taxes. “Nothing in the recent history of the City of Phoenix justifies the trust that the Council majority chose to place in City Leadership by approving the largest water rate increase in our history, and I will be eager to see what votes and positions on other issues, including the Vice Mayorship, are soon affected by today’s decision,” said DiCiccio in a press release. “Simply put, City of Phoenix leadership has demonstrated a complete lack of credibility on this and a broad range of issues and continues to place the interests of insiders ahead of our voting public.”
Less than two years ago, the Council voted for a 5% increase in water rates, supposedly to handle our future infrastructure needs. At that time, the Council requested a plan to see how those monies would be spent. We never received that plan. Now, this. Once again, there is no clearly identified plan. Once again, we’re told that the Water Services Department needs these monies desperately, but never given more than the vaguest details of what these funds will be used for – exactly like the last increase they sought. It is all too likely that rather than the infrastructure City staff claims we need, what we’ll really get is more employees in administration, more overhead, and another request for another increase in the near future.
From the tax on medicine to the sale of over $700,000 worth of land for $50,000 (Phoenix is being sued over this deal) and the terrible one-lane plan for South Central Avenue; City of Phoenix leadership has proven over and over in recent months that they cannot be trusted. They are even using a City contract attorney to sue 40,000 of our own citizens who banded together to oppose the disastrous plan for light rail in South Phoenix. Until substantive changes are made to the way things are run at City Hall, it is utterly irresponsible for the Council majority to continue to support these boondoggles.”