Need to watch the utility watchdog
The Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board was created in 1988 with a mission of protecting the interest of residential and small commercial utility ratepayers of Kansas. In 1991, it was made an independent agency by statute and was given the legal authority to appeal Kansas Corporation Commission orders to district court. It does this with a consumer counsel and two supporting attorneys.
David Springe served as chief consumer counsel for 14 years but left in December for another job. Interim consumer counsel Niki Christopher was fired in January, reportedly because of conflict with the current board. That left the board with no counsel.
I have attended many KCC hearings in the past at which Springe spoke on behalf of consumers. My friend, the late Bill Dirks, served on CURB for many years. They both represented consumers and helped educate the public on what was happening and how various utility rate hike requests would affect ratepayers. I have also testified before the KCC about rate increases, along with other concerned ratepayers.
Last Friday, CURB met in a closed session and hired a new consumer counsel, but it hasn’t announced who it is. This is very important, because some CURB members want to shift agency resources to fight federal air-quality regulations instead of advocating for Kansas ratepayers.
Is politics involved, and will the new consumer counsel follow the mission statement of CURB or the individual wishes of board members? Our utility rates will depend on the answer.
Gerald Schmitt, Wichita
Go after deadbeats
I recently was notified by our county electric cooperative that, due to circumstances beyond its control, we would be responsible for helping pay its property taxes. It shows on the bill as a property tax charge.
We had no say in the matter, and I feel that as long as I am required to pay my taxes, the electric company should be able to pay its own as well.
Then I read the list of property tax delinquencies in the paper for Sedgwick County. It is ridiculous and needs to be dealt with immediately and with great force.
I propose the following solution: Take the unpaid tax totals, divide them by the number of years delinquent and then by 12 months, and then add that amount to monthly water bills until it is paid in full. Every year that goes by, add the delinquent taxes and extend the payments by another year. It is only fair that they pay.
Instead of raising our property taxes again to make up for the deadbeats who never pay, let them pay their own and leave ours alone.
Lola Pierce, Rose Hill
When Gov. Sam Brownback recently endorsed the presidential bid of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a vision came alive in my mind’s eye: Rubio sat at a table with a look of trepidation on his face, as if Brownback had offered a slice of 2-day-old pizza with pepperoni on the verge of going south.
The upside for Rubio is that, if you disregard his panicky episode in a recent debate, he might be nimble enough to overcome unintended baggage from a Brownback endorsement.
Or maybe Rubio embraces the endorsement and believes in Brownback’s monetary policies, keeping the faith in the face of budgetary shortfalls. This belief involves a ballyhooed quest to root out inefficiency, thereby enabling the multiyear march to the glorious moment when, from up in the big blue sky, riches rain down on Kansas, courtesy of tax cuts for business owners.
In the meantime, however, with the increased sales tax on groceries, it’s apparently of the essence to rob Peter so as to go on paying the already prosperous Paul. This is not mere economic policy. It’s gospel.
In truth, if Kansas voters perceive that running low on funding every year is in the best interest of the state, perhaps Brownback’s endorsement will be a boon for Rubio. Sometimes stale pizza hits the spot.
Todd Robins, Wichita
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