The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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Opinion

July 2, 2012

READER'S LETTER: Residents cannot afford more bill hikes, taxes or fees

CLINTON — With regard to the Clinton Herald front page article dated Wednesday, June 20, 2012 titled, “Unpaid sewer bills cause alarm.”

What alarms me is the casual way the hiking of a late fee is recommended. It is precisely this blatant attitude of raising everything from sewer late fees to taxes, by those who are not even remotely in touch with a true reality of Clinton, Iowa. That being, this city is in crisis.

The amount of those folks who cannot pay or are simply struggling to pay their sewer bills is far greater that those who, as one council member castigated people who enjoy a free lunch on the city’s dime, somehow insinuating that anyone who cannot pay their sewer bill on time has now become a deadbeat in their judgement. Forgetting altogether that this situation, though blamed on an unfunded mandate, only a part of this is true. An unfunded mandate represents only one segment of the problem; the rest of this problem has been totally created by City Hall, a fact not often spoken of.

This “problem” can be traced back to a time when the first 1 percent sales tax was approved by voters for sewer infrastructure rebuilding during the 1980s. How much of this 1 percent tax actually went toward sewers? Once City Hall saw this cash flow start rolling in suddenly sewer rebuilding slowed to an occasional new sewer grate installed somewhere, while this cash flow went towards all those pet projects. Even today, how much of this 1 percent sewer tax is still actually rebuilding of sewer lines? I think the answer lies within yet another alarming statistic. So a statement like the ones made by public officials reveals to me, how some of you holding these public elected offices have truly forgotten who it is you’re supposed to be representing. The poverty within this community is startling.

There are so very many people living in the city of Clinton who, on a regular basis, must choose between food, sewer bills, electric bill, buying prescription medications, or simply to see a doctor. So a choice is made, pay the sewer bill, putting off the doctor until next month, meanwhile the condition they wanted to see the doctor about that could have been treated, takes their life as has recently happened to a resident right here in Clinton. I have known retired people who have lived here their entire lives who can no longer afford to feed and care for their pets, so sadly their pets went to the shelter, all because their retirement funds are stagnant. 

Even SSI is not remotely keeping up with the cost-of-living increases heaped upon these residents of this community. So we move off hardship claims until a year or so down the road.

Once again showing a complete disconnect between City Hall and city residents who for years have struggled to keep up with the cost increases coming out of not only City Hall, but also from the Clinton School District as well. As the average and non-union wages have remained the same in this area for years, this is a situation that seems unknown to those who have no problem raising taxes and fees on those who can least afford them, while enjoying a very lucrative pay and benefit package much like the one recently given to our Clinton school superintendent. Seems it’s quite easy for many to go ahead and vote for an increase in whatever fee, tax or pay package one can think of while one’s own checking account is comfortably balanced. So now we see the utility payments are in arrears and are told it’s an “alarming statistic.” To see what a really alarming statistic is, ask those people who are having trouble paying this sewer bill now, who are about to see it increase in just a few weeks. It’s these people, those who go to work every day, ask them how long it takes them to see a true cost-of-living wage increase that would make paying just the basic bills affordable? This would be the truly alarming statistic.

So go ahead, keep on raising your fees and taxes to the point they are all becoming an alarming unpaid statistic as well, because this crisis is just beginning. As myself and others begin to look toward retirement, there is a sad harsh reality that must be faced, that is I cannot afford to retire in this city....

Robert Mueller,

Clinton

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