The Los Angeles City Council today took the bold step of supporting unanimously a substantial sewage service fee increase. The household fee will incrementally increase from an average of $29 a month to $53 a month over the next 10 years. The hike will generate an additional $1.8 billion over the next decade to pay for much-needed sewer and sewage treatment plant maintenance, repairs and replacement.
I’ve been going to council meetings for over 25 years and this was the most sophisticated and intelligent council discussion on wastewater that I’ve ever seen. The lack of public opposition to the rate increase underscores the Bureau of Sanitation’s effectiveness in educating the public. Even the Chamber of Commerce strongly supported the measure.
The end result? Multiple wins – for public health, for the environment, for long-term, sustainable green jobs. It also marks a step in the restoration of my faith in the public process.
If the L.A. City Council can unanimously approve a major sewer service rate increase during an ongoing recession, then there is hope for government elsewhere to provide leadership on other environmental and green jobs issues. Today, L.A. understood that sewage infrastructure may be out of sight, but it can never be out of mind.
The same sort of leadership is needed at LADWP on green energy and sustainable water, countywide on stormwater, and statewide and nationally on green infrastructure.
America has a capacity crisis that we continue to ignore. Investing in green infrastructure for energy and water helps our economy, creates jobs, and protects the environment. President Obama, are you listening? ARRA missed the mark. And it doesn’t look like the new jobs proposal includes much investment in green infrastructure either.
In the meantime, Los Angeles has shown the way. People are willing to invest in infrastructure as long as they are well educated on the issues and the fee increase process is completely transparent.