Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s order to end residential water shutoffs for non-payment of bills is now officially part of municipal law, in an ordinance the city council approved on Wednesday that also prohibits privatization of the water system. Chicago water.
The new law came after a competing “Water for All” proposal by 1st Ward Ald. Daniel La Spata, who would have further expanded utility relief and shifted more of the burden of bills onto commercial water users, failed a committee in May.
Chicago water is a source of controversy. Lightfoot said the city needs to replace lead service lines and set aside more than $17 million to replace 650 of the 400,000 that ultimately need to be removed. But even the modest city plan was not very successful, since only a few dozen lines were replaced.
While Lightfoot and his administration have spoken about the need to replace lead service lines, they have also repeatedly emphasized that Chicago’s water is safe.
A coalition of water accessibility activists slammed Lightfoot’s ordinance after it passed the committee earlier this week, saying it doesn’t go far enough as residents still risk incurring costs delay and property liens.
But Lightfoot touted his achievement as a “very important milestone”.
“I strongly believe that water is a basic human right, period,” Lightfoot said. “We cannot function without having access to water. And it shouldn’t be that if you can’t afford to pay that, you’re somehow inferior and that human right is taken away from you. It’s wrong. It is unethical. And we’ll never do that again in the city of Chicago. »
Lightfoot implemented a moratorium on residential water shutoffs for nonpayment in 2019, which means the new law will have no budget impact, a city official told a hearing in committee this week. Separately, a utility bill relief program has been in effect for about two years for low-income Chicagoans.
Aldus. 22nd-placed Michael Rodriguez, who backed La Spata’s initiative, said Lightfoot’s proposal was progress but didn’t seem completely satisfied.
“I wanted to recognize…a number of community organizations who have really fought and I think that’s gotten us to this point, in large part because of their advocacy, even though they haven’t had the final say in this topic,” Rodriguez said. during the committee hearing. “I don’t know if it’s all the way, but it’s definitely a milestone.”
La Spata also approved the Lightfoot order, but said it wanted to review the expansion of the utility billing relief program and look at water rates going forward.