In front of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham this morning, a couple dozen protesters picketed against proposed sewer rate increases in the county where I live. Rates have skyrocketed over the past decade because of billions of dollars that the county borrowed for the sewer system. Much of the money was lost to waste and fraud. Several politicians and contractors went to prison for their part in the massive fraud.
Explaining the full story would bore you silly, but it involves greedy local politicians, greedy contractors and slick NYC bankers who sold the county on making complicated and dangerous financial transactions that county officials didn’t really understand. (This PDF is the best summary I can find of how the debt accumulated.)
The county owes billions to the banks and is threatening to file a bankruptcy which would make the one Orange County, Calif., filed in 1994 pale in comparison. County sewer customers are angry about any proposal which would keep increasing their bills in order to give more and more money to the banks, so politicians are willing to pull the bankruptcy switch.