Home   Archive

They don't know any better

Jack Balshaw 1/16/02

I think I can safely say that there is not one person in Washington D.C. working on the health insurance problem who doesn't have employer provided health insurance. Whether they are elected officials, senior bureaucrats, or lobbyists; having health insurance isn't one of their personal worries.

Similarly, none of those in equivalent positions in Sacramento working on how to allocate costs for electric power or how to adjust the state budget, have any concern that they will not be able to afford electricity or that the state budget outcome will impact their family finances.

The same can be said for those on our City Council who are making decisions which will cost us all money.

But it's not really their faultm, they don't know any better. These people at the decision influencing and making level do not represent, socio-economically, all those who will be affected by their decisions. Locally, our council members all have comfortable incomes. This is normal. Poor people don't often get elected to office at any level. The managerial level governmental employees are all very well paid.

It must also be considered that, in general, people tend to hang out with others in their generational age group and their socio-economic status, and so they continually get feedback that their views are everyone's views. At least the views of everyone they know.

The end result is that legislation is never passed that is financially detrimental to them or those above them in income. Unfortunately, at some level below them, the actual individual costs of such legislation can be significant. Currently, our City Council is considering a number of major decisions that will each have financial impact on all members of the community.

These decisions are associated with a new wastewater treatment plant, an expanded water supply with increased rates, replacement of old storm drain pipes in part of the city and special taxation for street improvements. Using the first three as an example, I'll outline my concerns.

Their decision on January 7th to go with a specific type of wastewater treatment (sewer) plant will cost each water user up to $20 per month extra for the sewer portion of their water bill, (maybe even more the way construction contracts increase). This could increase if wetlands have to be purchased.

That amount doesn't seem too excessive to me but then I can afford $20 per month or $240 per year.

Then there will be the cost increase because of the new water delivery system. Much of this cost was covered when the water rate was increased from $1.08 per hundred cubic feet in November of 2000 to $1.80 in June of 2001. For me the cost increase for the June to November period in 2000 and 2001 respectively averaged $22 per month. Well, that's another $264 per year.

The cost for fixing the old pipes, which will also be on the water bill, is estimated now at over $30 million. I don't know how much that will add to our monthly cost but let's say just $10. That's another $120 per year. On top of all these, the City Council will also consider varying water rates by the amount used. The cost for this is unknown.

My concerns with what the council members are doing are threefold. First, while each individual increase I noted above is tolerable, the aggregate of all three ($624 per year) represents a significant cost. Second, assuming both the poor and not so poor have the same amount of grass and plants to water, each wash their cars and flush their toilets about the same, the cost to a person of limited income represents a much larger percentage of his income. And third, none of the amounts above will really matter to any of our council members as they all have adequate income.

The bottom line for me is that none of our legislators, at any level, realizes the impact his decisions will have financially on the bottom 30% or more of the people. The decision makers are insulated financially from any hardship and don't associate socially with anyone who isn't.

They just don't know any better. But they should.


Home   Archive