CHICAGO — The mayor Thursday signaled he might be willing to compromise, and let some nonprofit groups recieve discounted rates for water.
While repeating his campaign pledge to end the practice of supplying free water to hospitals, museums, churches and nonprofit groups, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he would "study" a proposal floated by Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) at this week's City Council meeting.
"I think that's beginning an initial step," Fioretti responded. "The not-for-profits are hurting."
"I pledged in the campaign that we were not going to give away free water to the cost of $20 million to the taxpayers," Emanuel said. He added that allowing free water to established institutions like Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the University of Chicago Hospitals and the Shedd Aquarium is "not fair to taxpayers."
Churches and other nonprofit groups, however, have complained that suddenly paying water bills, after being allowed free water under previous administrations, would stretch their resources and that they could have to respond by cutting back programs like after-school care.
Fioretti's proposed ordinance sets standards for nonprofits to prove they have a hardship and a sliding scale for water rates. "We laid out guidelines on who could apply for it," he said. "We have a cap on the big guys being excluded."
Some 29 aldermen have signed the proposed ordinance, meaning it could pass without Emanuel's blessing, but Fioretti pointed out, "He could always veto it."
Fioretti hopes to pass the ordinance next month, but admits it would move faster if it won the mayor's backing.