Landrieu:harsh words for council president on S&WB rate increase - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Mayor Landrieu has harsh words for council president on S & WB rate increase

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Mayor Mitch Landrieu Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has harsh words for City Council President Stacy Head...after Head says she wants a council vote on proposed water and sewer rate increases, deferred.

The New Orleans City Council is scheduled to take up the rate hike proposal Thursday. The mayor says the vote needs to happen now because it's been pushed down the road for far too long.

But Stacy Head says she needs more time to look over the presentation as there are still many lingering questions about where the money collected, will go.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu says previous administrations and city councils have been afraid to pass rate increases like the one the current city council will vote on Thursday. The proposal calls for a 10 percent increase every year to resident's water bills, over the next eight years.

Mayor Landrieu said of the proposal, "This ought to be a no brainer and a 7-0 vote is what it ought to be."

Council President Stacy Head wants Thursday's vote deferred, saying she doesn't have enough specific information on the proposal.

But Landrieu countered, "If a council member doesn't have all of the details, it may be that she didn't ask for them or she didn't show up for the committee hearing when she was supposed to but trying to delay this some more until its perfect, is a great example of why cities fail."

Head isn't alone in her concerns. The Bureau of Governmental Research released a report Wednesday, supporting the rate increase proposal, but the report questioned why there's no detailed plan for 40 percent of the money that would be collected, that's allocated for operations and maintenance projects.

Janet Howard, President of BGR explained, "There really is no plan for how that money will be spent. There's some information on staffing shortages in some areas but there's nothing that spells out how the money will be used."

Landrieu isn't concerned saying, "You can't have every fine detail worked out on a massive plan like this."

The mayor also isn't concerned that the BGR report says less than half of the $583 million collected would actually go towards infrastructure and other capital improvements. Instead, a majority of money will go towards paying off Sewerage and Water Board debts.

And to counter Stacy Head's claims that the public should have another opportunity to weigh in on the proposal, before council votes on it, the mayor says that's already been done.

"This thing has been vetted in 31 public hearings. We've had six community meetings for two and a half years. We've worked on getting this better and people keep wanting to freeze the field goal kick. It's time to do it is now," Landrieu said.

The mayor insists the fact that he's pushing for the vote to happen Thursday, has nothing to do with the election Saturday during which two new city council members will be chosen. And by having the vote Thursday, Diana Bajoie, who Landrieu hand-picked to serve as an interim council member, will be able to cast a vote.

If the rate increase passes, it will go into effect January 1st.

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