Nearly 1,000 Baltimore homeowners are facing tax sale this month for past due water bills amid concerns the city has limited their ability to challenge billing errors. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
While it turns out that the multi-million dollar teams, the Orioles and Ravens, are exempt from tax sales, thousands of our neighbors who can't afford their water bills aren't so lucky ("Baltimore erred in selling stadiums' debt," May 16). City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young hit the nail on the head when he said, "the sale of the stadium tax liens shows how anyone can fall prey to spiking water bills."
Over 1,000 homes are currently disputing inaccurate or overly high water bills. Some families owe the department as little as $750, but the tax sale and water shutoff campaign does not heed any level of income or circumstance as critical enough to be exempt from the cut-throat method, other than for giant corporations like sports teams, of course. As a result, our city faces an emerging water crisis.
Water bills have tripled in Baltimore since 2000, and last fall, the Board of Estimates voted to increase bills another 30 percent by 2018. The skyrocketing rates disproportionately impact our city's lowest income residents for whom the existing low-income assistance programs offered by the Department of Public Works are inadequate. Threatening a tax sale won't make water more affordable for our communities. Rather than using heartless and failing methods like tax sales and water shutoffs to collect outstanding bills, our city needs to act on solutions to make water service truly affordable for all Baltimoreans. Water is a human right, and it's time for our City Council and Mayor Catherine Pugh to take action to protect our neighbors.
Rianna Eckel, Baltimore
The writer is Maryland Organizer for Food and Water Watch.