The McAlester City Council and the mayor of this city should take a deep breath, slow down and get some solid facts under their belts and before the citizens before they blithely vote to place a huge economic burden on the citizens of McAlester.

The council will be asked to raise water and sewer rates by either 24 or 30 percent on Tuesday night. Doing so now when there is no clear, definitive picture of the city’s actual financial condition would be a mistake. We all know things are bad, we all know cash flow is a major problem; however, a steep rise in water and sewer rates will do nothing but raise the ire of the hard-working people of McAlester.

The city manager, Susan Monroe, and other officials at City Hall are finding new information on an almost daily basis. One day the bond payments are the problem. Another day it’s the expense of running the city. Even so, no clear picture has yet developed as to just exactly how bad things are.

Raising utility rates on the heels of a new “get tough” policy on payment of utility bills can only be perceived as an attack on the ordinary citizens of McAlester — those least responsible for the current sad state of affairs.

Dedicated city officials are doing hard work; they are not slacking and they are not lying down on the job. There is no doubt these people are trying to find workable ways to keep the city solvent. They should be commended for the hard work they are doing and should continue working to find the way out. Even so, jumping to raise utility rates, as an initial measure to meet pressing financial needs seems almost like a knee-jerk reaction. When government gets in trouble, the first inclination is to reach a little deeper into the pockets of the taxpayers and citizens.

The mayor and city council should reject this reaction in favor of a more reasoned approach.

Look at all the options; consider alternatives; think of the economic harm such a large increase in water and sewer rates will have on this community. If a family’s water bill was $100 per month, the proposed increase would take another $30 per month out of circulation. That money will not be spent with local retailers; it will not be spent for a night out at a restaurant or other recreation. It will simply disappear into the coffers of city government.

Before doing anything so draconic as approving these new water and sewer rates, the mayor should lay out for the citizens of McAlester the actual financial picture the city faces.

Don Lewis’ silence is deafening. He should speak out and speak up.

The mayor was elected with a huge margin of victory. We urge him to do the right thing and slow down this head-long charge to place an even heavier burden on the citizens of McAlester.

The mayor has an open invitation to sit down with this newspaper’s editorial board, with a tape recorder running, and explain to the people of this city just what is being done to find our way out of these difficult times. This newspaper will report the mayor’s comments word for word with no filter.

There are solutions to the problems this city faces. Turning first to the pocketbooks of hard-working citizens with only scant information and explanations of the reasons why could be a grave mistake.



Matt Lane is the editor of the McAlester News-Capital. Send him hate mail or encouragement to: Editor, P.O. Box 987, McAlester, OK, 74501. Call him at 421-2022 or send an e-mail to editor@mcalesternews.com