Monday, December 5, 2016

On social justice. Crazy question? Is a spike in Lake Worth’s electric rates a human rights issue? Women’s rights issue?

This is a question I posed last year when the big issue for Commissioner Chris McVoy, PhD, was sea level rise here in the City of Lake Worth. What concerned many was that discussion taking the focus off issues such as street lighting, the roads, potholes, and crime in many neighborhoods in this City. Read more about that below.

On the issue of social justice the editor(s) at the Post had this yesterday (Sunday, 12/4). The pull-quote:

“Free public Wi-Fi would also be a boon to economic development.” 

If “economic development” and social justice is so important to The Palm Beach Post why did they shut down their printing presses on Dixie Hwy. and send all those jobs to Broward County?

Anyhow, back to the topic, would a spike in electric rates be an immigrant rights issue? Sounds crazy? This idea was planted planted in my head last year and thought it was absurd. But never stopped thinking about it. The background is commissioners McVoy and Ryan Maier pitched the idea very hard that electric rates should go up at a City Commission meeting [in September 2015]. 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 last year. Are they done trying? No.

Electric rates are higher in Lake Worth than rates by FPL but those rates 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 September 22nd [2015] 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 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 others 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 ones that can afford to change in a positive way. 

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, elderly on fixed incomes. . . the ones that can least afford to pay. 

So, to the question: Are “electric rates a human rights issue?” A “social justice” issue? Think I answered my own question.