Mayor Lightfoot accuses predecessor Emanuel of punting lead pipe problem, says ‘time of reckoning is now’

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday accused her predecessor of solving a $ 10 billion problem, saying “now is the time of reckoning” for replacing pipelines that carry water from the street network to 360,000 homes in Chicago.

Without naming former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Lightfoot said her predecessor had an “opportunity” to address the public health problem affecting drinking water in Chicago when he launched his “very ambitious replacement program.” Water pipelines “started, which was financed by doubling the water and sewage rates.

“For some reason, the previous administration didn’t bring that up. The time of reckoning is now, ”said the mayor.

“We’re working hard to address this problem and not bring the can to its knees. … No, we don’t have an extra $ 10 billion lying around. So we need to make sure that we are doing this intelligently. We do it efficiently. And obviously, given the prevalence in our city, exchanging lead service lines is a process that takes several years. ”

Emanuel refused to comment on Lightfoot’s “kick-the-can” allegation. Since leaving office, he has refused to judge his successor or comment publicly on anything she is doing.

No city in America has more lead service lines than Chicago. In fact, until a congress ban in 1986, the city needed power lines for single-family and two-family houses.

Now these lines need to be replaced. The cost can range from $ 3,000 to $ 10,000 for each property, not including the restoration costs.

That won’t happen overnight. The cost also cannot be fully borne by Chicago homeowners who have already suffered more than $ 1.3 billion in property tax increases for police, fire, and teacher pensions.

When questioned, Lightfoot refused to say whether homeowners would be asked to share the cost – presumably through an additional fee tied to their water bill.

She would just say the massive price tag – at a time when the pandemic has blown a $ 700 million hole in its 2020 budget – requires the city to “think creatively” and federal and state help too search.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we figured out the funding piece. … Even if we weren’t faced with fiscal challenges, $ 10 billion which is the external estimate is a lot of money, “she said.

Last year, Lightfoot was part of a parade of mayoral candidates who accused Emanuel of a “cover-up”.

She argued at the time that concerned Chicago homeowners couldn’t wait for the results of a $ 750,000 study aimed at identifying the costs and potential sources of funding for a multi-year plan to replace lines in about 360,000 homes in Chicago.

“Whatever it takes, this government has a moral obligation to do it right,” she then said.

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