Man, Ennis City Manager Steve Howerton has some nerve.
A day after we published a scathing article on the Ennis City Commission (their city council adopts the "commission" form of government) jacking up water rates last week, Howerton, in office for life because he successfully lobbied to have elected officials’ firing authority taken out of his contract years ago, told citizens not to trust anything this paper prints.
What, he didn’t like the fact we were the only paper to publish about a hose hooked up to a fire hydrant in order to divert water to fill a swimming pool? (Ennis has two newspapers Howerton can depend on for damage control, but not this one)
That’s parallel to the news that citizens have to fork over more money in water rates this coming fiscal year because recent torrential rains have caused Ennis citizens to use and flush less water.
You read that correctly. Because Howerton, who sets the city budget and has it adopted by his city commissioners each year, projected too much money to come in water budget coffers last year but failed to materialize due to the weather, the city had to dip into a reserve account and propose water rate increases to pay for the shortfall.
It’s bad enough the city’s five elected commissioners, plus the two at-large seats (mayor and mayor pro-tem), are going along with this plan.
They certainly objected to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers seeking a triple-digit increase in fees for handling maintenance at Lake Bardwell, which Ennis and the City of Waxahachie help subsidize.
Look, it shouldn’t be the fault of citizens that Howerton wasn’t fiscally conservative in his budget estimates. It shouldn’t even be allowed for private citizens - when others have to shoulder an increase amid a horrible recession - to pay for diverting fire hydrant water to fill a pool.
Steve, man up and admit the proposal you have for water increases is wrong and please, do away with an unfair policy of allowing the diversion of city water to fill a swimming pool.
Then Again, Ennis Could Pave the Way...
Consider this a great example of what good local government could be all about: you use a service, you pay for it. Sounds reasonable, right?
However, in the example given that a private Ennis taxpayer-citizen paid the city’s water department $100 to divert water from a fire hydrant to fill a swimming pool while City Manager Steve Howerton proposes water rate hikes, this sort of policy is bad.
What if we re-arranged everything in Ennis, which currently has the second highest property tax rate in Ellis County?
What if we started allowing citizens, instead of paying bulk rates across the board, to pay for what they use?
If Joe Blow Citizen uses 40,000 gallons of water per month, why not charge him for that? If Suzy Citizen uses say, 10,000 gallons of water per month, charge her for that.
There are obvious variables that would make this set-up slow to launch, such as the total control Howerton has over the entire city - and we do mean control. He was hired by the city commissioners to run the day-to-day operations and any sign that his power would be remotely diminished could be viewed as a threat to his precious job security.
Much like cable, satellite or dish television, citizens don’t pay for other residents to use those services. They pay by the month for what packages they choose.
This breeds competition and lowers costs for consumers.
By having every citizen pay the same amount for water each year seems a bit ridiculous given that a citizen paid the water department to fill up a swimming pool via a fire hydrant.
But by allowing the free market to work within the confines of the City of Ennis, first by getting rid of barriers the city commission puts into place (with Howerton’s help, of course), we wouldn’t just have lower water usage rates, we would have seen a transformation in how much money people get to keep in their own pocket.
Imagine if the city commissioners decided to adopt one contract with Acme Satellite TV that every citizen would have to pay each year regardless of how many channels they watched or didn’t. And suppose the satellite TV contract could charge anything they wanted, say, $50 per month, or $75 per month, since they were the only company in town?
Wouldn’t be fair would it? What if we didn’t watch TV. Then what? We’d still have to pay.
So, equate this with the water service. Regardless of how much citizens use, they still have to pay the same amount that my neighbors paid.
The citizen who paid the city to fill her pool was onto something...