Wednesday, December 23, 2015

[RE-POST] A crazy question: Is a possible future spike in Lake Worth's electric rates a human rights issue? A woman's rights issue?

[This is a question I posed earlier this month. Starting at the next City Commission meeting on January 5th many issues will be brought up and sea level rise will be one of them. Once again an issue that the City has little or no control over since this is a matter for the county/counties and state to address. But what this wordy topic of debate will do is take away time and effort from the pressing issues that face many of our residents such as inadequate infrastructure and safety concerns. Does the issue of sea level rise trump the rights and expectations of needy residents who need help NOW? I'm hoping there will a big turnout at the next City Commission meeting from residents demanding their elected representatives focus on the issues at hand instead of abstractions and distractions that do little or nothing to improve current problems in the City.]

An immigrant rights issue? Sounds crazy doesn't it? An acquaintance planted this idea in my head several weeks ago and thought it was absurd. But I never stopped thinking about it. The background is commissioners Chris McVoy and Ryan Maier pitched the idea very hard that electric rates should go up at a City Commission meeting on September 8th. In a clash of ideals and convictions Mayor Pam Triolo, Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell, and Commissioner Andy Amoroso objected strongly and won the day.

It was a spirited and enlightening debate. Note that everyone, all five of the elected, focused mostly on the economics and finance aspect.
The pitch by commissioners McVoy and Maier to raise electric rates failed.
Electric rates are higher in Lake Worth than rates by FPL but those have been steadily coming down the last few years, credit due to the mayor, vice mayor, and Commissioner Amoroso. The City Commission is in effect their own electric utility commission and can raise or lower rates at will. 

The idea by McVoy and Maier shocked many people and they got the message. At the City Commission meeting on 9/22 there was barely a mention of raising the rates. That, though, did little to quell public angst over this big issue in the City. Looking forward I advised people how to protect themselves and their home and suggested switching to natural gas to soften any future electric rate hike. Again, an economic/financial response. What do you need to switch from electric appliances to natural gas? Money. The benefit pays off handily but it's over time.

Were rates to go up that money going into the City coffers will ostensibly be for fixing the problems at the City Casino building, for example, but that is no guarantee the money won't be directed to other areas like the project du-jour by any elected representative. McVoy makes the case that any hike in rates will be "just pennies" and belittled any suggestion that anyone would even notice the rate spike. 

It's true that some people won't notice a spike in rates and those that do will respond in ways such as changing the thermostat in the Summer from 68° to 69°. Others will see the benefit of switching to natural gas or purchase better windows. The suggestion that no one will notice or not alter their behavior in any way is ludicrous. A spike in electric rates will change how people live—the one's that can afford to change. 

People have benefited from lowered electric rates and their quality of life has improved; a rise in rates will reverse that trend. Who will suffer the most if rates should go up as McVoy and Maier want to do? The poor, single women with children, immigrants, those on fixed incomes. . .the one's that can least afford to pay. 

So, to the question: Are "electric rates a human rights issue?" I think I answered my own question.