When in doubt, don’t.
Thank the Councilmembers Cheryl Heitmann, Christy Weir, Lorrie Brown and Sofia Rubalcava for higher electrical costs, higher water, and wastewater rates. Also thank them for less police protection, fire safety and street paving, all so the City Council can save face and make all residents’ environmental champions.
Every citizen will now pay far more for electricity than if they stayed with Southern California Edison. The City Council had the option to keep your rates the same, but they didn’t. Too bad, because citizens will pay the increase and they will not get a vote.
When Choice Is No Choice At All
The City Council voted to enroll the entire city in the Clean Power Alliance program by a 4-2 vote on February 26th, 2018. During that meeting, our acting City Manager repeatedly advised the Council members they should wait because of financial uncertainties and undetermined costs.
They rejected the City Manager’s advice. Only Mayor Andrews and Councilman Tracy agreed with the City Manager’s recommendation and voted no. The other four members of the Council (Ms. Heitmann, Ms. Weir, Matt LaVere and Erik Nasarenko) committed the entire community to pay the additional costs for 100% for renewable solar energy.
In October 2018, the same four Council members (Ms. Heitmann, Ms. Weir, Mr. LaVere and Mr. Nasarenko) approved a contract with the Clean Power Alliance (CPA), enrolling every citizen and all city accounts in Ventura into the Clean Power CPA, in place of Southern California Edison. However, you were always free to reverse what the City Council decided if you took steps to opt-out. Otherwise, the change took effect in February 2019.
Remember, at the time the City Council voted to approve the Clean Power Alliance they didn’t know what it was going to cost. They committed the entire city to higher energy costs without knowing what those costs were going to be.
Who is the Clean Power Alliance?
The Clean Power Alliance is a 2-year-old electricity provider in Southern California. They claim to bring clean, renewable energy at competitive rates. They compete with Southern California Edison (SCE), which has been around for 111 years and has been continually working on renewable energy for over ten years.
The City Council bought into the Clean Power Alliance’s message. You were “automatically enrolled in 100% Green Power which provides 100% renewable energy,” allowing all “residents to be environmental champions, leading the way to a greener future.”
You’re In Unless You Opt-Out
You were in the Clean Power Alliance unless you opted out. To opt-out, you needed to go to cleanpoweralliance.org, or call 888-585-3788. Whichever method you chose required your last utility bill and your SCE account number. Without those, you got nowhere. If you opted-out by telephone, you spent considerable time listening to recordings, ad nauseam, extolling green power’s virtues.
Six Months Later, The City Manager Learns The CPA Power Costs Are Greater Than Expected
In June 2019, the circumstances changed with the Clean Power Alliance. The cost of “green energy” went up—a lot. City Manager, Alex McIntyre, requested that the Council opt-out of the CPA program and return to SCE for the “high user accounts” of the city (like the street lights). Residents would remain enrolled in the 100% increased renewable rate with the CPA.
He recommended returning to SCE for at least a year until more was known. He demonstrated that the costs to large energy use accounts within the city, such as street lighting, water, and wastewater, are 20.8% greater than represented a year earlier. The total increase in costs for these high user accounts could be an additional $571,476.
After a lengthy discussion, filled with rampant confusion, misunderstanding, and punctuated with illogical statements, four members of the Council (Mses. Heitmann, Weir, Brown and Rubalcava) rejected the City Manager’s recommendation. These four voted that all of the smaller city accounts would remain in the CPA program at 100% green power. As for the six large City accounts, they voted to opt-out the street lighting account, and reduce the other large accounts to the 36% wind rate.
The result is that City government will be paying $228,086 more for electrical power through the CPA program than they would have paid through SCE. Of that number, water and wastewater account will be paying $157,148. What’s more, they didn’t know the actual costs when they voted.
As for what residents will pay, the City Council confirmed that they would stay in the program at the 100% rate.
That gives all residents “the opportunity to be environmental champions, leading the way to a greener future.”
What Impact Will The Clean Power Alliance Decision Have?
The costs of participating in the Clean Power Alliance are becoming more visible, and it’s hurting the city. Southern California Edison increased its rates to the CPA, who is now passing those costs on to Ventura. The timing of the rate increase pressured the City Council into making a rushed, imprudent fiscal decision.
In the 11th hour, our solar power provider was now going to substitute wind power for solar and presented a $228,086 rate increase to power city departments. All of this came on the same evening that the City Council gave final approval to the 2019-2020 budget. Now this $228,086 increase, at a minimum, will shortchange police, fire and street paving, all so the city can have wind power.
Police, Fire and Street Paving Gets Shorted
Councilman Jim Friedman got it right when he voted no. When he expressed that, “The budget is $3.5 million in the red now, and this just makes it worse.” By voting to pay more to the CPA—money the city does not have—city services will suffer. Your streets won’t get paved. The city doesn’t hire a police officer. Your water and wastewater rates increase. The police and fire departments don’t respond in time to save a life. If any of these things happen, you only need to look to four members of our City council for their budget decisions. (Mses. Heitmann, Weir, Brown and Rubalcava)
The city staff recommended opting out for one year until Ventura got a clearer understanding of what their fiduciary responsibilities would be. The City Manager recommended the City Council opt-out for one year. Councilmembers Heitmann, Weir, Brown and Rubalcava disregarded the staff’s recommendation to protect past votes to join the Clean Power Alliance. They voted to “save face” over the public’s interest.
Making Your Decisions for You
The City Council chose your electricity provider for you. In so doing, they shifted the burden of “Green Power” to every homeowner in the city. So, if you did not opt-out, you’ll pay higher electricity bills. We should resent the City Council forcing this upon the community. The CPA program should be a decision for each citizen to make. In this case, the government effectively enrolled everyone automatically without any consent from the citizens who will be paying the bill.
Four members of the City Council (Heitmann, Weir, Brown and Rubalcava) were caught up in the “Save the Planet” message and hysteria. They believed that recyclable energy is the better choice, regardless of the cost. The Council should have taken a more cautious approach with an unproven, start-up company offering power whose benefits and costs are unknown. Instead, they let ideology cloud their decision instead of being fiscally prudent with taxpayer money.
Should Ventura be concerned about a City Council that doesn’t plan, and spends money they don’t have? So far, they act with an attitude that ‘we’ll find the money somewhere.’ Obviously not from their pockets.
The highway to Hell is paved with good intentions. The City Council would do well to remember that. The city’s finances can withstand fiscal irresponsibility because of the Council’s financial ignorance only for so long. A day of reckoning is coming. Ventura faces six years of negative budgets. Perhaps that day is sooner than the City Council realizes.
As citizens, we must ask, “How long will we live with the Council’s bad financial decisions? For how long will we accept Councilmembers with political agendas that disregard city staff recommendations to make a ‘statement’?” Should Ventura be concerned about a City Council that doesn’t plan and spends money it doesn’t have?
Carefully examine your expenses and your beliefs to determine if the Clean Power Alliance is for you. If not, opt-out.
Moreover, when you go to the polls next November, do not reelect Councilmembers who exhibit no fiduciary responsibility with your money.
It’s time we examine our City Council’s performance and ask why they do the things they do. If we don’t diligently watch our money now, there may not be any money to watch in the future.
Demand More Fiscal Responsibility On The Clean Power Alliance
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