In a novel twist to municipal discord, the village of Skokie is suing its neighbor, Evanston, in federal court over what Skokie claims is an unconstitutional water rate increase. By filing in U.S. District Court late Wednesday, Skokie is making the unusual argument that Evanston’s higher rates would violate due process and equal protection rights guaranteed in the Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S.
Plenty of Chicago-area newspapers are reporting this story as if it’s some kind of unusual water dispute between two Cook County municipalities. But water is an essential resource, and it’s fairly obvious that not everybody has equal access to fresh water. This dispute is particularly intense because Evanston (as the supplier of water) can’t or won’t just turn off water supplies to the Village of Skokie because that’s just the wrong thing to do. However, Evanston’s argument — that Skokie needs to pay for its water without a subsidy from Evanston taxpayers — is also hard to ignore.
We can get into the details of how water is distributed, but I think this showcases how politics isn’t a faraway place populated by people we only hear about every election cycle, but instead is a reality that seeps into our everyday lives. We can’t just not talk about politics, not when the water from our taps is a political issue. Nobody gets to say they’re not invested in local politics: When you don’t have water in your kitchen and bathroom because your local government won’t pay higher rates for water supply, you’ll find out just how much of your everyday life is political.