Your rain bucket is costing the city money!

Item 5c on tonight’s City Council agenda is a memo from Commissioner Moylan clarifying his comments about lawn watering.  From the memo:

The alleged link between lawn watering and streamflow is one that has been played up by river advocates for the past two decades. They view lawn watering as a wasteful abuse of water resources that is employed during a time of year when streamflow is lowest. Unfortunately for ratepayers, it is not just environmental zealots that share this view. …

Worcester receives significant revenue from water used by customers for lawn irrigation. The typical difference in water use between the winter months and summer months is about 3 million gallons per day (MGD). Of this, it is estimated that 75% goes toward lawn watering by customers. In a typical summer at current water rates this usage produces $1.2 million in revenue for the water enterprise. Through regulatory limits on lawn watering even a modest 20% decrease in water used for irrigation would translate into lost revenue of some $240,000.

Yes, contrary to rational belief, folks who water their lawns in August are not wasting water — they’re making an invaluable contribution to the local water system’s budget!

People who don’t water their lawns aren’t conserving natural resources — they’re costing the city revenue dollars!

I’d like to make the following suggestions to maximize revenue potential:

  • Ensure that automatic sprinklers are pointed to sidewalks for maximum inefficiency
  • Install high-flow leaky toilets in all new housing projects
  • Anyone with a brown lawn at the height of the summer should be fined $100 for not watering
  • Impose a special fee for anyone who composts in their backyard — if you’re not paying the trash bag fee, you’re freeloading off the rest of us!
  • The city should stop selling rain barrels — why let the competition get a leg up?

Any other suggestions for how to bring in revenue while showing those urban-mythmakers that water conservation is for sissies?




Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

From a memo from City Solicitor David Moore in item 13a on tonight’s City Council agenda (“Transmitting Informational Communication Relative to Liveries”):

I have researched this question and am of the opinion that the law allows the city of Worcester, by ordinance adopted by the city council, to enact a limit on the number of licenses issued permitting livery service vehicles to operate in the city provided that the number chosen by the council reasonably advances concerns over the public safety and convenience of travelers and transportation service levels in the community.

The city has been trying to address the issue of livery cars, or “gypsy cabs“, or medallions that are only available to a lucky few, or however you want to categorize this situation, for years.

The medallion system, as it exists now, is a state-sanctioned monopoly where only a few companies are able to legitimately run cab businesses.

This proposal could set up a similar monopoly (or oligarchy) for livery services.

What happens ten or twenty years from now when an independent claims that s/he cannot buy a livery license or a taxi medallion because all the allowed licenses are taken by just a few companies?

We’ve never had a discussion of what Worcesterites want in car service.

We can assume that folks want appropriately insured vehicles, cars that charge you an agreed-upon fee or use a reliable meter, and reliable drivers.

If we knew what people wanted, and why they use a livery over a taxi (or vice versa), then we could decide the best way to construct a fair system for everyone.

Some of it can be legislated, some of it will rely on the market.

But the yearly cycle where we only allow a few companies to own taxi medallions while we wring our hands about those who operate outside that system cannot be solved by setting up a parallel system of inequity.

Retrofitting further restrictions on a system that is not working will not magically make a fair system.  It will only postpone a much-needed overhaul of the existing system.