How CH's sewer system is like a boat
Ever hear the one about a boat? "A boat is a hole in the water you throw money into."
The on-land equivalent of that is a sewer system—especially when your city has neglected the sewer system for decades, and has finally entered into a $570 million consent decree with the EPA that will take decades to complete. (www.cleveland.com/community/2021/05/federal-consent-decree-on-cleveland-heights-sewer-overhaul-will-stretch-out-over-many-decades.html.)
The current Cleveland Heights City Council is strongly considering taking $28 million of the $38.8 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) windfall to apply toward that $570 million.
It seems to be council’s default position at this time.
Look, I'm all for functioning public sewage systems. And I recognize the need for the $570 million consent decree.
But I'm against taking $28 million, that could be spent to aid and assist our city and residents today, in order to marginally lower some future hypothetical residents' tax bills 30-plus years down the road. (I answered the city's online rank choice ARPA survey. There are problems with its format, so the results will also be problematic. Here’s the link: www.clevelandheights.com/1434/American-Rescue-Plan-Act-Survey.)
I'm sure any one of us could find great uses for the whole $38.8 million that would help solve today's problems. (That $38.8 million must be spent by the end of 2024.)
When interest rates are at historic lows, that's the time to borrow, not pay down principal.
We're already seeing the full-court press on this. I guess one or two council members imagine—as always—that they alone know what's best for us. And their supporters and enablers are posting on social media implying—as always—that it's a done deal, so we all better get in line and support it.
These are very large dollar amounts. They need to be considered thoughtfully—by the people who will have to live with the consequences—not as a so-called "emergency" by a city council that is on vacation for the whole month of July, then returns to run out its lame duck session.
Maybe the current city council members should leave the $38.8 million for the next city council—and mayor—while they finally (hopefully) get around to proposing and considering the long-overdue charter and ordinance changes needed to operate our city on Jan. 1, 2022, as a mayor-council form of government.
Garry Kanter resides in Cleveland Heights.