Text Size
Login
config

Legislators seek to override Rauner’s denial of safe, affordable drinking water to poor suburbs

harris 0418CHICAGO – Gov. Bruce Rauner voted against safe, affordable drinking water in poor suburban communities this week with a veto of a water infrastructure bill sponsored by State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey).

Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 2376, which was designed to help economically disadvantaged Cook County communities fix troubled drinking water infrastructures. Harris and the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago), said they hope to take an override vote in November. 

“The smaller Cook County suburbs don’t have the funds to fix their infrastructure and it’s nearly impossible for them to qualify for Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan programs,” Harris said. “I will seek a veto override to make sure Ford Heights, Harvey and other towns are first in line when capital funds become available.”

In October 2017 the Chicago Tribune found Ford Heights residents pay nearly six times more for the same water usage as residents of the wealthy, predominantly white town of Highland Park, and four times more for water than people living in Chicago. Similar problems exist in Harvey and Maywood.

Most communities in Cook County get water directly from Lake Michigan, but Ford Heights purchases Lake Michigan water through nearby Chicago Heights and Hammond, Indiana. The Tribune also found more than 25 billion gallons of water drawn from Lake Michigan was lost in the Chicago area in 2016, driving up costs for communities like Ford Heights.

Eight towns surveyed by the Tribune — Hometown, East Hazel Crest, Posen, Burnham, Riverdale, Flossmoor, Lyons and Maywood — lost more than 30 percent of their water. Of the 10 towns with the highest water rates, 50 percent have majority black populations.

The legislation would set up a drinking water grant program under the Illinois EPA to fix aging water pipes in Ford Heights, Maywood, Harvey and other towns.

“This legislation prioritized minority suburban communities with water problems over wealthier towns with direct access to Lake Michigan,” Rep. Ford said “The governor missed a chance to help tens of thousands of people get clean and affordable drinking water, but I believe we can override his veto.”

Sen. Napoleon B. Harris III

 harris 150
15th Legislative District

Committee assignments: Public Health; Transportation; Committee of the Whole; Commerce and Economic Development; Insurance (Vice-Chairperson); Licensed Activities and Pensions.

Biography: Entrepreneur and legislator; from Dixmoor; B.A. in Communications, Northwestern University; Postgraduate certificate, Northwestern Kellogg School of Business Management; former NFL linebacker; married (wife, Nicole); three children (sons, Napoleon Harris IV, Noah & daughter, Nahla).