Mayoral Forum-Second Question-My Thoughts

Second Question here.

Larry Steele: While I appreciate Mr. Steele's position, I think that it demonstrates a misunderstanding of the actual nature of of Electric City Power's situation. The Public Service Commission has previously ruled that Electric City Power cannot serve residential customers unless and until it successfully completes a 5-year pilot program. According to my last communication with the City on the topic, such a pilot program has not even been started.

Susan Kahn: Ms. Kahn opposes generation and local transmission, arguing that this function best rests with private industry. She does, however, seem to believe that there can be a benefit in the City's acting as a power merchant, "buying and reselling large blocks of power."

She goes on to state that the City should "run the affairs of of the citizens," not "venture off into a side business." Aren't these two stated positions inconsistent?

It seems to me that the notion of buying and reselling power is even more of a side venture than generation. Remember that the blocks of power that the City is buying and reselling are not being sold to consumers, they are being sold to other entities, like Benefis Healthcare and Barrett Minerals. (But not the City of Helena!)

Finally, she says she needs to look into things in greater detail and consult with experts. That position, frankly, scares me a little. That position sounds the most like the position typically articulated by politicians in an effort to allow wiggle room should it change down the road.

Ed McKnight:

Mr. McKnight demonstrates that he has spent a great deal of time researching the issue of Electric City Power's formation and operation. He addresses the strategies that the City might be required to use in order to dissovle the corporation.

Other than indirectly, though, he does not actually tell us whether he believes our City should be in the utility business and why. I think the fair implication of his comments is that he does not think the City should be in the business, but he doesn't actually say so.

Mr. Steele is against the City's involvement in Electric City Power, Ms. Kahn is apparently for the sales side of it, and Mr. McKnight seems to oppose it.


Susan Kahn said...

Inconsistent? Let me clarify. Lowering operating costs of our city is in the best interest of the public. Our government should be looking at efficiencies to reduce operating costs in all areas including electric power. However, if the mission of ECP is not to save taxpayers money then yes, it would be a venture off into a side business and I would oppose it.

Are you suggesting ECP was formed with no intent of economizing electric supply cost to city facilities?

Wiggle room? In your terms, call it discovery. I'm not privy to inner workings of ECP, including cost projections used for the business plan. Is the business model, process, or management flawed? To quickly toss ECP out while only looking outside in is not good leadership.

We need to take a look at the data with new eyes. There are questions to be addressed and it will take experts, including lawyers to review our obligations should we find it prudent to exit the business. If there are savings from operating ECP, this must be presented to the public in the form of tax relief, or improved services without higher taxes.

Thanks for the feedback and the chance to respond on your forum!

Susan Kahn

GeeGuy said...

First, thank you for coming to respond (you to, Mr. McKnight). I appreciate the fact that you not only placed your views out for public consumption, but are also willing to spend your time responding to our inquiries. It is nice to see that, apparently, you can discuss opposing points of view without getting offended (from watching the City Commission meeting tonight, I don't think that skill is universal).

ECP is a public entity. There really shouldn't be any "inner workings" to which the public is not privy. If there are, that points up another problem, doesn't it? Are you suggesting that there are secrets in the entity that you will learn of as Mayor? If so, will you share them with us?

Also, what lawyers do you believe will review our obligations? Are you advocating the hiring of private counsel? Do you think it is realistic that the existing City Attorney's office will offer advice critical of past city management?