GUEST WORDS-As a pastor, there are times when I must speak on behalf of the everyday concerns of my congregation and community.
With the cost of living rising rapidly for many Angelenos, those who are less financially secure are being hit the hardest. Many families in our congregations are struggling to make ends meet and pay their bills, including bills from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).
These families are now threatened with another rate hike and tax hike to pay for the questionable Delta tunnel project.
Previously, this project would have built twin tunnels to change the way water is diverted in Northern California. Now, proponents of the mega-project want to start with one tunnel. Starting with just one tunnel would still cost Los Angeles ratepayers even more money, but not bring us any benefits.
Metropolitan Water District (MWD) already committed to $4.3 billion dollars in 2017 and is now considering throwing in at least $1 billion more to start with – and possibly more than $11 billion. The costs may rise even further, as MWD discusses possible plans to pick up the tab for other contractors who choose not to pay for the project.
Rather than further raise our bills and taxes for a far-away project, it would better for Mayor Garcetti and DWP to put residents of low-income communities to work on local water projects here in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable released a report in 2011 which foundthe ratio of jobs created for every $1 million invested in recycled water, groundwater, and storm water projects is higher than many traditional Los Angeles industries, such as motion picture production and new home construction.
And a new report released just last month by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), found that capturing LA rainwater could create nearly 10,000 jobs in LA county.
Today, only about one to two percent of LA’s water supply comes from recycled water, but it could be closer to 40 percent. Cleaning up our local groundwater could provide up to 20 percent of the City of Los Angeles water supply. And as the LAANE report explains, LA County “currently capture[s] about 65 billion gallons of storm water annually, but we discharge an additional 163 billion gallons each year. Investing in storm water infrastructure could triple the amount captured, setting us on a path to sustainability.”
Los Angeles can’t pay for both the tunnels and local projects. There is a limit to how much residents can pay for water, and many are already beyond that limit today. Investing in local and regional water projects would guarantee new reliable sources of water and create local jobs. Investing in tunnels, would create jobs elsewhere, and might not provide us any water.
Mayor Garcetti, Compton City Councilmember Janna Zurita, Leticia Wilson-Vasquez and other officials voting on Tuesday have an opportunity to protect struggling LA communities and create local jobs by voting down this wasteful tunnel project. We need Mayor Garcetti to do more than symbolically oppose the tunnels and let MWD force this on LA residents. A real leader would fight this unfair rate and tax hike by saying loudly and clearly that it must be stopped.
(Clarence Moore is president of the Los Angeles Pastors and Minsters Forum.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.