Alison Kromer published Watch: CUFA Candidate Forum | Hamilton County Commissioners in CUFA News 2020-10-30 16:47:39 -0400
Cincinnati, Ohio - Yesterday, Communities United For Action hosted candidates for the two Hamilton County Commissioner seats up for election on November 3.Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of Nov. 2: The Election is finally here! What happens next? in Activist Tool-kits 2020-10-30 14:22:49 -0400
This week, make sure to cast your ballot if you haven't already. And help us answer the question: what's next?Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of Oct. 26: CUFA Candidate Forum, Fair Sewer Rates & VOTE! in Activist Tool-kits 2020-10-26 13:19:33 -0400
Election day is fast approaching, but that's not all. Elections come and go, but our ongoing and important work on fair housing, sewer justice, and affordable utilities demand perseverance to win. Come hear what County Commissioner candidates have to say on each of our issues, and join our fight for fair sewer rates this week.Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of Oct. 19: Housing, HamCo Commissioners & Game Night! in Activist Tool-kits 2020-10-19 13:51:30 -0400
This week, let's talk Housing! Join us for our Housing Action Team this Tuesday, October 20th and register for two upcoming CUFA events: Game Night, and the CUFA Candidate Forum!Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of Oct. 12: Voting Info, Candidate Forum + Energy Team in Activist Tool-kits 2020-10-12 11:15:29 -0400
This week, we're focused on getting out the vote and stopping utility shutoffs! We'll be hosting candidates for Hamilton County Commissioner Oct. 29. Take action to help us end shutoffs by calling Gov. DeWine and joining us at our (virtual) Energy Affordability Action Team this Tuesday.Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of Oct. 5: Last day to register + we still need another stimulus in Activist Tool-kits 2020-10-05 11:27:25 -0400
Take action this week to make our democracy work.
TODAY IS THE DEADLINE to register to vote.
Make sure the people we elect are working for us by supporting the HEROES Act.
Learn from other leaders around the country by attending the Living Room Leadership session.
Mark Your Calendar for CUFA's first virtual game night, October 24, 6:30 p.m. $10 admission. Buy your tickets here
Alison Kromer published Week of Sept. 28: Stop the Nominee, Stop the Shutoffs and WIN Sewer Justice! in Activist Tool-kits 2020-09-28 15:52:04 -0400
This week, take a few short minutes to contact our Senators, Gov. DeWine and join CUFA Saturday to learn more about how we are pushing for Sewer Justice.Read more
Alison Kromer published CUFA Members Circle Statehouse Calling for End to Utility Shutoffs in CUFA News 2020-09-28 15:42:51 -0400
On Saturday, 11 CUFA Members joined Ohio Citizen Action and allies to for the #NoShutoffs Car Rally in Columbus. Check out the video and pictures of the rally here, and take action:
Call Gov. DeWine at 614-466-3555 or 614-644-4357 to tell him: we can't catch up on utilities; don't let utility companies shut us off until the pandemic is over and we have the assistance we need to get caught up.Read more
On September 23, Communities United For Action (CUFA), the Sierra Club and League of Women Voters (LWV) attended the first meeting of an Impervious Surface Fee Stakeholder group created by the Hamilton County Commissioners in an October 24, 2019 resolution, "for establishing such an impervious surface fee." The 2019 resolution established an Agency Task Force as well, and was the Hamilton County Commissioners response to CUFA and its allies demanding comprehensive restructuring of sewer rates and expansion of customer assistance programs to ensure equitability for all ratepayers.Read more
Alison Kromer published Organizational endorsement: Fair Sewer Rates Coalition in Sewer Justice 2020-09-25 13:01:20 -0400
Communities United For Action and our partners at the Sierra Club and League of Women Voters are forming a Fair Sewer Rates Coalition to work for equity and fairness in our sewer rate structure.
Why are sewer rates unfair?
Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati are under a Consent Decree to improve our obsolete Combined Sewers that spew 8 billion gallons per year of untreated sewage and stormwater into our waterways. The Consent Decree sewer fixes, estimated to cost about $4 billion, are largely funded through sewer rates and bonds.
Currently, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) has an archaic rate structure based on water usage instead of the actual burden on our combined sewers. 65% of the wastewater MSD currently treats is stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is what overwhelms combined sewers, causing overflows into our waterways and basement backups that continue to plague residents all over Hamilton County. So, it doesn't make sense to charge the bulk of the sewer rate based on water usage, which isn't the cause of overflows. We should be funding our sewer improvements equitably, in a way that reflects actual burden on our sewers. We need a rate structure that incentivizes controlling stormwater runoff as we deal with the impacts of climate change and increasingly severe rain events.
Exacerbating the problem with inequitable rates, big users automatically get a 20% discount, costing residential ratepayers an estimated $17 million per year. So, the majority of ratepayers are further subsidizing big users, while we fail to implement assistance programs for the ratepayers in actual need, like low-income homeowners and renters, seniors, persons with disabilities and those experiencing temporary hardships. The subsidy for bulk users comes in the form of a base rate structure (roughly $40/mo) that systematically results in overcharging nearly a quarter of all users.
Campaign Goals and Status
Cincinnati has a big problem. By design stormwater routinely overwhelms the sanitary sewer system and sewage is discharged into public spaces, private properties, streams, rivers and basement back-ups. Flooding is another result. These discharges are illegal under the Clean Water Act. The city/county is being forced to fix the problem by a federal court order (“consent decree”) at a cost of $4 billion.
- MSD claims controlling stormwater is not their job. They expanded into the suburbs and focused on sanitary sewers for developers.
- The city runs MSD; the county controls its funding. The repairs dictated by the consent decree are being funded by a charge on our water bills based on our water usage (which has nothing to do with stormwater management costs). Residential rate-payers are subsidizing the big water users by virtue of 1) a high minimum charge (sewer charges based on more water than they actually use) and 2) a 20% discount for large water users (commercial, industrial and institutional). The single-family residence minimum charge, about $40 per month, is among the highest in the country. Some cities have no minimum charge at all.
- The County has refused to fix this problem. Compared to a fair, revenue neutral alternate rate structure – still based on water usage – with a much smaller minimum charge ($8 vs. $40) and no discounts, 90% of single-family residential accounts at present are being overcharged, some more than double or triple.
- The county commissioned a Rate Affordability Task Force (RATF) in 2015 to look into sewer charges. This task force in which the residents of Cincinnati were not proportionally represented, announced at the outset they would not address the rate structure and recommended some other minor changes. Since then the county has kept the sewer charges unchanged (i.e., same levels of subsidy). It is clear the County Commissioners, are not putting the people first.
- As other cities have done, the costs of upgrading stormwater infrastructure should be covered by fees that reflect the required capacity for stormwater removal from properties, which is related to property area and nature of surface. Such a fee would substantially reduce the sewer charges on small properties.
- Some cities have stormwater fees that, like our water-based charges, are regressive: treating large and small residential properties almost the same. For example, Cincinnati has a small monthly stormwater fee (not contributing to the consent decree costs) that charges:
- Class A: One and two family residential properties, 10,000 square feet or less in land area (approximately 0.23 acres), pay $8.28 monthly.
- Class B: One and two family residential properties, 10,001 square feet or more in land area, pay $11.59 monthly.
So a family with less than ¼ acre pays $8.28 and a family with 2 acres (eight times as much land) pays $11.59.
- A fair stormwater fee would reflect how much run-off occurs under sustained storm conditions when even pervious surfaces like lawns and gardens or undeveloped areas become saturated with water. Total property area would be a starting point for such a charge. Furthermore, like other cities, MSD should incentivize property improvements that reduce stormwater peak flows, of which there are many options including drainage to streams, getting streams out of sewer pipes (“daylighting”), making ponds, bioswales and rain gardens.
- Now a new task force has been created: Impervious Surface Task Force (IPSTF), and a consulting company that is expert in stormwater management has been hired. As in the previous task force, the people of Cincinnati are powerless. One challenge is to craft a regional stormwater plan with a common fee structure across townships and municipalities. This would require some commitment and political courage. Unfortunately the county did not require that pervious surface areas be included in the stormwater run-off calculations and now it appears that MSD is even resisting minimal recommendations from IPSTF.
- The sewer problem in Cincinnati requires a political solution coming from the top leadership in the city and county. This has not happened and will not happen until sufficiently intense pressure boils up from below to make “our” elected officials want to do the right thing. This is the goal of the Fair Sewer Rates Coalition. Our immediate objectives are to expand the coalition with new organizations endorsing this effort and build our outreach effort to inform all the people about storm water politics and solutions.
Organizations, community groups and businesses can sign on below to support the following recommendations.
We are recommending the Hamilton County Commissioners, as the rate-setting authority for the MSD, make the following changes to our sewer rate structure:
- Reduce base rate charges immediately;
- Eliminate the bulk rate discounts for large users that creates a disincentive to water conservation;
- Fund the Consent Decree with impervious surface charges and other stormwater-related fees;
- Implement financial incentives for stormwater abatement for all property owners; and
- Work to expand Customer Assistance programs for those in need.
Alison Kromer published Week of Sept. 21: What's your plan for voting? in Activist Tool-kits 2020-09-21 13:03:12 -0400
This week, we have gathered everything you need to make sure you are registered to vote and have a plan for voting in the November 3 General Election. Then, we're heading to Columbus on Saturday to tell our elected leaders: #NoShutoffs of our utilities in the pandemic!Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of July 27: Tell DeWine & your Senators - we need help NOW in Activist Tool-kits 2020-07-24 14:38:51 -0400
As the Coronavirus pandemic rages on, and the unemployment benefit comes to an end, thousands of people in our community face evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs. Take Action to pressure our Congress and Governor Dewine to remind them that they serve us, not corporate interests, and that people need help now. Take action in this week's Activist Toolkit!Read more
Alison Kromer published Week of June 22: Black Lives Matter, Cincinnati City Budget & Voter Registration in Activist Tool-kits 2020-06-19 17:59:48 -0400
Last week's theme in Cincinnati Budget hearings was clear: Black Lives Matter & Defund the police. The City of Cincinnati raised the Juneteenth flag for the first time in history and unveiled a new Black Lives Matter street mural. Roger Davis testified at the June 18 budget hearing on behalf of CUFA, saying that, "we should end tax abatements for the wealthy'" and instead, focus on investments that will address our affordable housing gap. This week, make your voice heard my emailing your comments to City Council and the Mayor, make sure you're registered to vote.Read more
Alison Kromer published CUFA wins Sewer Backup Program improvement! in CUFA News 2020-03-16 12:29:02 -0400
Cincinnati, Ohio - "Today is a great day for Sewer Justice. Ending the 24-hour rule is a solid first step toward improving the Sewer Backup Response Program. Thousands of people live in fear of the rain, and few are getting the help they need. We look forward to working with Mayor Cranley, the Cincinnati City Council and Hamilton County Commissioners to continue to implement CUFA's recommendations to get our sewers fixed effectively, in a way everyone can afford," said Florence Miller, Communities United For Action (CUFA) member and sewer backup victim.
I support Communities United For Action’s “People’s Sewer Justice Platform” as a solution for systemic changes that will force the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to be open, transparent and accountable to ratepayers.73 signatures
I support CUFA’s platform recommendations for the City of Cincinnati and the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners to:
- Stop government waste and delays for fixing our sewers;
- Involve ratepayers and impacted communities in decision-making;
- Systematically incorporate public accountability and transparency mechanisms, such as independent auditing and open public reporting on Project Groundwork and the Sewer Backup Response and Prevention Programs;
- Develop cohesive, effective stormwater management and responsible development policies; and
- Make our sewer rates affordable and equitable for everyone.
Alison Kromer published CUFA kicks off 2020 with Congress, board elections in CUFA News 2020-01-24 11:42:35 -0500
Cincinnati, Ohio - Saturday, January 18, Communities United For Action (CUFA) set our direction for 2020 and beyond at our Community Congress. Issues for the upcoming year include Sewer Justice, Affordable Utilities, and Fair Housing.Read more
Alison Kromer published CUFA Turns to Environmental Protection Agency for Sewer Fixes in CUFA News 2019-11-22 15:17:33 -0500
Community Group Calls for Increased Regulator Oversight of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD)
Cincinnati, Ohio – Frustrated by fighting over the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Communities United For Action (CUFA) turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) for help with sewer issues.
CUFA Board Member Erica Johnson opened the November 9 meeting, “We’ve convened this public forum because our neighborhoods are being left behind in the plans to fix the sewers. We are more than a billion dollars into this project and not only are people struggling financially, they are struggling with damage to their homes and lives.” CUFA highlighted sewer issues in Bond Hill, Muddy Creek, Covedale, and the Ludlow Run Watershed area of Northside.Read more
Alison Kromer donated 2019-10-04 18:31:33 -0400