Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

No water taxation without representation (I’m talking to you, Tucson)

The Tucson City Council unanimously raised water rates this week to little opposition.

The council chose the smallest raise of the three options city water staff presented to it.

The city bumped up the fixed service charge per month, slightly raised the cost per gallon for low water users and significantly raised the cost per gallon for high water users.

The reasons for the increases stem from rising costs of Colorado River water and increased maintenance and infrastructure replacement costs.

Hardly anyone attended a two-week Tucson Water traveling road show presenting the reasons for the rate increase need and the options under consideration. And only one person spoke against the increase at the council meeting.

So if there is anyone out there who opposes the rate increase, they’re either ignorant of it and won’t find out until their bill comes, or they think opposing it is futile and didn’t bother bothering the council with their objections.

For the Tucson Water users who live in the city, they have an opportunity in the fall to express any dissatisfaction with the council’s action during the city council elections.

But for the one third of Tucson Water customers who don’t live in the city who might disagree with the council’s action, well, the best they can do is send a strongly worded letter to the mayor, for whatever that’s worth.

They have no representation when it comes to city water policy. It’s called taxation without representation and a few Americans fought a war over it once. You may have heard of it, it was called the Revolution.

Tucson’s leaders are well aware of the problem and they say they’re sympathetic but the solution is complex.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild has said that Tucson Water users outside the city who want representation should sign an annexation petition. But not all Tucson Water users live in the unincorporated county; some live in Marana and Oro Valley. What are they to do?

Other solutions are far more difficult and would involve legislative action, such as forcing Tucson to divest itself of its extra-territorial system, turning Tucson Water into a water district with a separate elected body for its governance, or requiring the system outside the city limits be regulated as a utility by the state Corporation Commission.

None of those is likely plus it won’t solve the problem because annexations would simply recreate it and because Tucson isn’t the only water system that extends beyond its borders. Oro Valley also has disenfranchised water customers in its system and Pinal, Maricopa and Yavapai counties also have municipal water systems extending through a hodge-podge of governments.

The most reasonable solution is the creation of a regional water system with its own elected body but regional rivalries make that as likely as the Pope marrying a man.

Worrying about water users outside the city limits is the least of the city council’s worries so it’s unlikely the council will ever do anything about this taxation without representation.

But it’s worth noting that the city’s imposition of increased water fees on tens of thousands of people who have no say over that action is not only wrong, it’s un-American.

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