If it seems coincidental that proposed changes to the Sewerage & Water Board governing model are being bandied about just as a rate hike to increase revenue for much needed repairs to the system’s aging infrastructure has been approved, we say that it’s no fluke at all.
As with everything that has occurred in New Orleans – particularly during the last seven years or so – every move, every play has been about power grabs and big dollars. And we contend that this is no different.
The reform plan to reduce appointees, limit terms on the board and even change how individuals are recommended for appointment is not at all about building trust, but about exacting control. And the incessant chorus declaring that Sewerage & Water Board a problematic agency has been little more than a smoke-and-mirrors trick, an attempt to convince residents that these changes are needed. Just because the BGR or the Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux calls S&WB a troubled agency does not make it true. And the reality is that Sewerage & Water Board’s finance department has received awards from the Government Finance Officers Association for several years for its fiscal management of the agency. And the agency has already taken corrective action steps recommended by an independent auditor to improve operations and management as of last year. What’s more, the $12.1 million that S&WB pays for its employee and retire healthcare costs breaks down to a per-person cost of $6,733 – a figure its director Marcia St. Martin says is less than the city’s cost to provide health insurance for its employees and retirees. So don’t be fooled by the propaganda. Powerbrokers and opportunists smell the money, and we smell something else.
We at The Tribune know that an increase in fees will be an imposition for many residents already struggling, but the reality is that maintenance of the city’s sewerage and water systems have been deferred for too long and are in desperate need of overhaul. We have to be willing to pay for progress. Let’s not allow disingenuous showboaters to steal this from our communities and businesses. Let’s not fall for the misinformation, half-truths and party lines. For once, let’s remain vigilant and not squander this opportunity to improve a much-needed city service.