Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fear not, Rover, that water is all yours... for now.

John Kromko got the signatures he needed to get his repeal-the-garbage-fee, no-growth, conserve-water, no-toilet-to-tap initiative on the ballot, (aka "Tucson Water Users Bill of Rights") for now:

Controversial water initiative qualifies for November vote

By Rob O'Dell
Arizona Daily Star
An initiative to repeal garbage pickup fee and prohibit "toilet-to-tap" drinking water and limit future water connections has enough signatures to be placed on November's ballot. Tucson City Clerk Kathy Detrick verified Thursday that the initiative dubbed the "Tucson Water Users Bill of Rights" has the needed 11,615 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

This measure addresses two interrelated issues, growth and water. By limiting connections to Tucson Water to 9,000 new homes, Kromko hopes to make sure that there is enough water for those of us that are already here. Converting wastewater into potable water, aka "toilet-to-water", would be banned completely. As an added bonus, the $14 a month garbage fee would also be repealed.

To many, there is little to not like about this initiative, of unless you are a developer or the City Manager. Groups like SAHBA clearly don't like the idea of being limited on how many homes could be built and Hein has said that the $$ from the fee keeps the city functioning at current levels and without it would have to cut back services somewhere (law enforcement is usually mentioned first, as that is an easy way to scare folks). And no one likes the idea of paying for something that used to be free.

This initiative, however, has numerous flaws and is doomed to trash heap even before it is printed:

#1. Constitutionally, this bill is doomed because it deals with more than one issue, the Arizona Constitution limits propositions and initiatives to one issue. Trash, limiting new connections, and water reclamation are very different issues. Those groups opposed to this law will challenge it on this alone. and Win.

#2. The trash cash has become so intertwined into the city budget that cutting it cold-turkey would have some pretty devastating effects. City manager Mike Hein spoke @ Drinking Liberally last year about the trash fee and how critical it is to the city budget. Besides, $14 a month is a bargain compared to the $17 I paid when I lived just outside the city limits. As for those that feel that they can't afford it, there are programs in place to provide relief from this fee.

#3. The measure also prohibits ANY non-federally mandated advertising by Tucson Water, outside of circulars included with the bill. Sorry, but Beat the Peak worked well back in the day. You old-timers like me remember Pete the Beak, the mascot of Tucson Water's water conservation program. Who reads those stupid glossy things, anyway.

#4. Section A, Part 4 requires new connections to pay the costs of the connection. This will drive new construction prices through the roof. New house prices are already out of reach for the average working Tucsonan. This would put them even further out of reach.

#5. Limits on new connections. This could be interpreted as overstepping state laws prohibiting building moratoriums. This is something else that would make new homes too expensive for the average person. One potential positive outcome of this limit on new construction would be to push more folks into the resale market. (and drive up resale prices, again, hurting average workers).

#6. False pretenses. this may be the weakest of my arguments. Folks who were gathering signatures labeled this as a repeal of the garbage fee. It turns out that this was so much more than this. John Kromko himself referred to it as dealing with the garbage fee at a Drining Liberally meeting a couple of months ago.

There are several good things in this measure, however. The ban on toilet-to-tap is a great idea. Sorry, but the thought that Rover and I would be essentially sharing the same drinking water is just not appealing. I don't trust the technology that would clean the water to be 100% effective and running 100% of the time. And if the cleaning equipment failed, how long woult it take before they caught it and how long would we be boiling our water before they could assure us that the water was safe and that our pipes weren't contaminated???? Toilet to tap is just a bad idea.

Prohibiting additional fees for transportation construction is a good idea, also. We voted in the Regional Transportation Plan just over a year ago to cover our transportation needs.

I like John Kromko and respect him . He served this community in the legislature for years and did a fine job. He just over-reached with this one. My fear is that by over-reaching, he will allow the Toilet-to-Tap to go forward.

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