Today we share links to last week’s three posts on different aspects of transformation, plus a new piece in the transformation series: municipalizing our utility industry. Ext PNM, El Paso Electric & Xcel Energy, hello local control & fairness for ratepayers.
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 6:30-8 pm. Retake Zoominar on NM Drought, Water Utilization & Water Management. We all know we live in a drought state, but the challenges involved in managing that crisis is are more complex than many imagine. We have assembled four of New Mexico’s foremost experts on the historic use of water and water policy in NM. This could be the most important Retake conversation ever.
URGENT Call to Action
We Must Prevent the NIghtmare of our Lifetime- 4 More Years
At the bottom of the post, after our examination of how cities and counties can achieve energy justice and local control of our energy (Bye Bye PNM), we present the posts on transformation from last week and then close with Stephen Colbert, who offers a reflection on the RNC (very funny) that ends in a passionate plea to vote (not funny). Retake, of course, wants you to vote, but even more importantly, we want you to get active in supporting campaigns, particularly in swing states and starting right now.
If Kenosha militia and the RNC haven’t fully sunk in:
This is the most important election of our lifetimes & Retake has a four-part election strategy. No excuses, please just do it. I simply can’t even imagine what it will feel like to wake up on Nov 4 and realize that we have four more years of this.
But I did take a moment on Saturday to ponder precisely that. And it was the darkest thoughts I have had in a long time. And don’t for one second think that others will do the work for you. This is all hands on deck and for all of us. The stakes are too high and there is simply nothing Trump won’t do to cheat a win. We need a landslide. So, please, please, please click the link below and get started.
Wednesday, Sept. 2 6 pm. Cecile Lipworth in conversation with Martha Burk about her book Your Voice, Your Vote: 2020–21 Edition: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Politics, Power, and the Change We Need. It’s an online Zoom event for Collected Works Bookstore. Info is here on Collected Works’ website – short URL https://bit.ly/CW_Burk and on Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/events/310738420255111
News In Brief:
- From CNN: “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2020”. Some very good news here, 8 of the 10 identified are GOP incumbents, five or six of whom are losing in the polls, two of whom are in races that are tightening and with only two Dems threatened, one is reasonably safe, so possibly a net gain of 5+ seats. More good news. One of the 8 GOP is Lindsay Graham. Please take a look at this article and if you have friends or family in any of these 10 states, consider reaching out and having a zoom call with those friends, share our GOTV strategy and other election actions and encourage them reaching out to their friends and family. This is all hands on deck time and those caring, trusted relationships are the best place to start in engaging others.
- From The Atlantic: “This is How Biden Loses”. This is not a prediction, more a cautionary tale pointing to a substantial lead in the polls and the landmines of Kenosha, Portland and Seattle. The article points to the critical need for Biden to visit these cities, calm them and give speeches like the one offered by Jacob Blake’s mother:
“As I have prayed for my son’s healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country,” Jackson says, and she goes on: “We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what’s going to happen when we fall? Because a house that is against each other cannot stand. To all of the police officers, I’m praying for you and your families. To all of the citizens, my Black and brown sisters and brothers, I’m praying for you. I believe that you are an intelligent being just like the rest of us. Everybody, let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. America is great when we behave greatly.”From The Atlantic: “This Is How Biden Loses.”
It is absolutely essential that the public narrative NOT be about how Democratic run cities are in flames and that Democratic leaders are unable to protect residents. The narrative must be that an inflamed rhetoric from the White House has divided us and turned us against each other. The first NIB above should offer hope, the second really should be directed to Joe Biden. He needs to get out in front on this, visit these cities, and control the public debate, with his soothing tone at the DNC, juxtaposed with Trump’s sustained hateful rhetoric.
How To Achieve Public Power and Local Control of Our Energy
Retake often notes that the Democratic Party must return to its FDR roots and his perspective on public power offers just another reason.
““I therefore lay down the following principle: That where a community–a city or county or district–is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility, it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up, after a fair referendum to its voters has been had, its own governmentally owned and operated service.”Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 21, 1932.
The American Public Power Institute (APPI) is a think tank that has created a website with a clear delineation of the rationale for public power accompanied by a step-by-step guide outlining precisely how any county, city or tribe could develop its own publicly owned, operated and managed utility company. Despite the formidable challenges, this is hardly a pipe dream. Forty-nine states in the US have at least one publicly owned utility company and there are over 2000 communities and 48 million Americans served by public power. So it can be done.
Today’s post will tour APPI’s public power guide which is laid out in five sections:
- What is Public Power?
- Benefits of Public Power
- Forming a Public Power Utility
- Myths and Misinformation
- Successful Public Power Campaigns
What Is Public Power
“Public power utilities are like our public schools and libraries: a division of local government, owned by the community, run by boards of local officials accountable to the citizens. Most public power utilities are owned by cities and towns, but many are owned by counties, public utility districts, and even states.From APPI: “Municipalization”
As with our discussion on Friday about creating a public option in our development of pharmaceuticals and vaccines, here too, the basic design is that instead of a privately owned utility managing our energy options and producing or procuring our energy, we would own our utility. Instead of the company being driven by a thirst for the greatest possible profit, it would be driven by seeking the greatest possible community benefit. The graphic below depicts the differences between a publicly owned utility, a privately owned utility and an electric coop.
The business model for public power is quite simple: it is a publicly owned, locally managed, non-profit that benefits from a lower cost structure because publicly owned utilities can access tax-exempt financing, enjoys a better credit rating and also does not pay out shareholder dividends or CEO bonuses and huge salaries.
What are the Benefits of Public Power
As a result of being more transparent and accountable and enjoying a lower cost structure, public utilities offer communities served a number of important direct benefits.
“When all taxes, tax equivalents and other contributions to state and local government are considered, public power’s contributions, as a percent of electric operating revenues, were 33 percent higher than those of investor-owne utilities.”From APPI: “Municipalization”
The section on Benefits of Public Power offers a litany of other ways in which a public utility benefits communities and targeted populations from offering discounted rates to the city, county or state governmental operations to conducting an array of public services related to energy efficiency. Plus, public power results in significantly lower rates for ratepayers.
Year after year, for more than 50 years, data from the U.S. Department of Energy show that investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives charge more, on average, for electricity than public power utilities. In 2014, residential customers of investor-owned utilities paid average rates that were 14 percent higher than those paid by customers of public power utilities.”From APPI: “Municipalization”
As reported in APPI’s “Municipalization” guide, locally managed, publicly owned utilities are more responsive to ratepayer and local community needs and deliver energy more reliably. When you add up these benefits, you wonder why all communities don’t opt for municipalization. The reason is actually quite easy: privately owned utilities desperately want to subvert these efforts. Privately-owned utilities like PNM enjoy a largely unregulated monopoly with a locked in profit and guaranteed customer base. That is an awfully sweet deal. And with a war chest of funds to support misinformation and distribute modest contributions to popular causes and non-profits, PNM and other privately owned utilities can devote considerable resources to building good will. Ongoing advertisements–paid for by ratepayers–promote the utility as a good contributing neighbor to the community.
If a private utility gets wind of an effort to municipalize, those public relations efforts ramp up and are buoyed by misinformation promoting myths about the inefficiencies, unreliability and higher costs of a public utility. Those public relations efforts are accompanied by threats of legal actions. It isn’t just that the privately held utility imposes significant barriers to successful municipalization, the process itself is daunting. Local community leadership is a key ingredient to success, usually the initial ingredient is a mayor and city council majority advocating for municipalization. Such leadership is required to marshal sufficient resources and resolve to mount a successful campaign. APPI lays out in clear detail the common steps to conducting a successful campaign, including:
- An independent evaluation to assess the economic viability and the level of public understanding of and support for the concept. Often this assessment considers issues ranging outside the actual benefits of public power. As important, is the public perception of local leadership and trust in the efficiency and effectiveness of city/county/state government. The assessment would also include an evaluation of the condition of the private utility power generation and distribution system.
- Assessing the legal ramifications, a step that always involves review of state law and the degree to which it allows, supports or impedes jurisdictions creating a public utility;
- Valuation of the existing private utility is an important and almost always a contested phase in the process, as the private utility company almost always grossly inflate their own assessment of its value often offering estimates double or more what an independent evaluation projects. These competing assessments ultimately wind up on the negotiating table if the process advances further
- Referendum. Here is another costly phase to the process as to form the utility, the community must approve a referendum. Santa Feans will recall the ugly public battle over the soda tax a few years ago. Confusing claims and counter claims flood the airwaves and mail and private utilities have a war chest in place to disseminate false claims and ignite community fears. Should a referendum be successful the next phase is almost certain to land in the courts.
- Price Negotiation & Condemnation.
“For example, in the early 1990s, the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, commissioned two independent valuation studies when it looked at purchasing its local electric system. The incumbent investor-owned utility was demanding $176 to $250 million for the system. Las Cruces commissioned two independent studies; both consulting firms told the city the system was worth about $38 million.”From APPI: “Municipalization”
With a huge difference in valuations, protracted legal battles are common, adding another cost for the local jurisdiction, while the cost for legal fees from the private utilities are subsidized by ratepayers. In effect, the privately owned utility company tries to wear down local leadership and pile on costs for more studies, protracted negotiations and costly legal proceedings.
Despite all these challenges, as the APPI “Municipalization” guide makes clear, the benefits outstrip the challenges and the path to success is doable. Below, you will find links to each of the sections to the APPI “Municipalization” guide. Each section offers brief summaries from 4-5 communities on how the day was won or lost. The myths and misinformation section lays out ten common myths that private utilities promulgate, offering the counter argument to each. And the last section offers ample evidence that success can be had.
- What is Public Power? – Explains the public power business model, how public power differs from investor-owned or cooperative utilities, and other basics.
- Benefits of Public Power – Explores the many benefits public power utilities may offer, in 4 broad categories: local choice, reliable customer service, affordable prices, and local economic development.
- Forming a Public Power Utility – Walks through the steps of forming a new public power utility, and common responses to expect from the incumbent utility.
- Myths and Misinformation – Addresses myths and misinformation about public power and the process of forming a new utility that may come up during the municipalization process.
- Successful Public Power Campaigns – Case studies of utilities that successfully formed new utilities, or got more favorable outcomes from the incumbent utility because they explored the public power option.
Retake is in the process of doing a deeper dive into municipalization as it could apply in NM. We’ve spent too many hours in PRC and legislative hearings listening to disingenuous arguments from PNM, El Paso Electric and Xcel, arguments designed to mislead and allow continued abuse of our environment, our community health, and the budgets of ratepayers. The guide we’ve previewed today offers all the tools needed to determine the viability of municipalization as an option at a state and local level. Stay tuned.
A Look Back at What Is Possible If We Engage, Educate & Activate
Last week’s posts are so important, as they are intended not just to educate, but to inspire. Retake has begun a series of posts on what a transformed America and a transformed NM could look like. It is the diametric opposite of what we have now and individually each post represents one step toward justice, while collectively the series will chart a full-on path. If you missed them all, I really think it would be good to just start at the top and work your way through all three. They build upon each other. But if you had to pick one, I’d have to say, take a look at the Wednesday post on Bailing Out Workers. Read On!
When Biden Wins: We Must Press Hard for Transformational Policies & They Are Being Developed NOW!
We need to work hard for Biden’s election, but we also must identify transformational initiatives for which we will advocate in 2021. Today, along with links to last week’s posts, we begin that exploration. We are at a crossroads & we need to prepare now. As we always do on Mondays, we offer summaries and links to the important posts from last week, posts that focused on our response to the Democratic National Convention.
Bailing Out Workers Not Corporations: Five Point Plan for Community (NOT Corporate) Wealth Building. RNC Update
Wednesday, August 26. We begin our exploration of strategies through which we can finally achieve economic, social, racial, and climate justice in America. This post outlines a plan to retake our local economies, restore their wealth and their autonomy. Based upon research conducted by The Democracy Collaborative that outlines how during the 2008 recession, we essentially bailed out the finance industry, leaving homeowners foreclosed. They also describe how post-COVID small businesses will close by the millions and that equity capitalists will be poised to purchase these businesses, extractiing wealth from our communities. The Democracy Collaborative has another idea, one in which we use public funding to purchase these businesses, reselling them back to local ownership with conditions for workers that could include partial or full ownership, but would include full benefits and a living wage. The post points to two specific strategies that have direct application to NM. Finally, the post offers one of the best posts I’ve seen from Heather Cox Richardson Read on!
Transforming How America Manufactures Medicine & Vaccines + Excellent Advice For Coping with Smoke & Call to Action For Indigenous Water Access
Friday, August 28. We offer the 2nd post in our series on transformative change, as summarize research on nationalizing most of the medicine and vaccine research, development and manufacturing. Bye bye big pharma. We also offered an informative piece from Kelly Egolf, owner of Verde Juice Co. and wife of Speaker Egolf, on the risks of smoke inhalation and ways to cope. Plus: Call to Action to secure running water for 2000 indigenous people. Finally, we offer a quote with a link from one of the best posts from Heather Cox Richardson I’ve read, a powerful testimony to the importance of the moment.
Paul & Roxanne