City council president wants S & WB rate hike vote deferred - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

City council president wants S & WB rate hike vote deferred

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New Orleans, La.- In just two days, the New Orleans City Council votes on a proposed Sewerage and Water Board rate hike, but one council member wants the issue deferred, saying she doesn't yet have enough information. 

It's a rate increase that would double most residents' water bills over the next eight years and would bring in $583 million to the Sewerage and Water Board. The idea's been floating around for the past two years, but City Council President Stacy Head says the proposal itself has changed several times.

"It's really hard to get down deep into an issue this complex when we're in the middle of a budget process. We were just given this ordinance by the mayor two weeks ago, and this is the very first time the matter can even legally be brought up for vote," Head explained.

The council president says she's not opposed to a rate hike as she's voted for one in the past, but she's not prepared to vote on the issue Thursday, and wants the item deferred, in order to research it further. 

But council woman Jackie Clarkson is pushing for a Thursday vote. Clarkson wasn't available for comment Tuesday to tell us why the vote must take place this week.  

 "At this point it really does seem to be a real divide among the council about moving forward with this vote," said UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak.

Chervenak says a vote this substantial should be thought through and not rushed through the system.

"This is a critical program for the city and city's future. We really should have the ability to sit down and talk about it, and educate the public on where we need to go because we are asking a lot from the public," Chervenak said.

Sewerage and Water Board President Ray Manning issued a statement Monday, saying there have been plenty of public meetings across the city to discuss the rate proposal. He also said, "To say that we are rushing is a gross mischaracterization of the facts." 

But as Stacy Head points out, the Landrieu administration hasn't released any specific details about where each dollar collected, will go.

"Really what we're just hearing is infrastructure is bad so we need more money, so let's get it from the rate payers. That's what we're hearing and unfortunately that's not an acceptable answer to me," Head explained.

So, Stacy Head will formally ask her council colleagues Thursday to defer the vote, while she works to get more specific answers from the administration about the proposal. She's not sure if she'll be successful.

FOX 8 reached out to the Landrieu administration Tuesday with a list of detailed questions about where the money will go, if the rate hike passes. As of 5 p.m., they hadn't provided that list.  

On Wednesday, Jackie Clarkson will host a council budget committee meeting where she's expected to ask for public comment on the rate hike proposal. But that will only give council members one day to digest the public comments, before voting on the issue Thursday.

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