Keep Ratepayer Control of Austin Energy - Press Conference Wednesday, February 13th at 12:30 PM City Hall, 301 W. 2nd St
Don't Let City Council Give Austin Energy to Special Interests – Say No to the Governance Resolution to be voted on Thursday, Feb. 14th
Don't let the Austin City Council give away control of Austin Energy, our public utility, to an independent board.
Don't give away control to appointees chosen by corporate headhunters - that we
would never get to vote on. Lobbyists and special interests have too much clout
at City Hall already. Tell City Council to say NO to the Austin Energy
Governance resolution by Mayor Leffingwell, Bill Spelman and Sheryl Cole that
would open Austin Energy's doors to corporate lobbyists and special interests.
(Item #46 on Feb. 14th Agenda) Instead, they should keep control in the hands of
a City Council, creating an Austin Energy committee, with one added
representative from service areas outside the city limits. The best way to keep
accountability of Austin Energy is by keeping it in the hands of people that we
directly elect - or take out of office. We're the utility's owners - and we don't want to give control away!
We should learn from recent history in San Antonio, where a similar independent utility board, comprised of business "professionals," was the cause of massive problems. Ignoring direction from City Council and citizen demands, the utility dumped millions of dollars into a nuclear expansion boondoggle. City Council couldn't rein in the utility board. When the board was about to make a key investment decision many citizens requested a chance to speak and arrived early to get a seat. They were told to wait outside, but while they waited the room was filled with utility employees.
The Board literally locked citizens out, ignoring people pounding on the door
for half an hour, yelling "Let us in." Next the utility hid a $4 billion cost
increase in the nuclear expansion. When this was discovered outrage over the
deception forced the utility to try to get out of the project in court.
Mismanagement by the independent board of "professionals" was largely to
San Antonio had to write off $400 million in losses! This money
should have gone for home weatherization and coal plant clean up - so the
community lost out several ways. By contrast, the Austin City council considered
citizen input and wisely voted to stay out of this same ill-advised and
expensive project. We saved millions of dollars by doing so. San Antonio's
independent board didn't make electricity cheaper either. Their rates have
increased by 15% in seven years, while Austin rates increased recently by 9% -
after seventeen years. Former utility managers were consulted in Austin's
studies about governance, but no one asked citizens in San Antonio about their
experiences battling an unresponsive independent board of "professionals." We,
the Austin Energy shareholders, need to keep control of our utility to avoid
similar problems and keep on the right path! An independent board would take
away the direct accountability that has been a key factor in Austin
Energy's successes - in high customer satisfaction, electric rates that are
lower than half the utilities in Texas, and in leading the way in efficiency and
green energy. What about other utilities? After considering an independent
board, Seattle decided to keep its comparably sized public utility governance in
the hands of two City Council Committees.
301 W. 2nd St.Austin, TX