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TACOMA: Citizens need to control public utilities

Letter by John W. Ladenburg Sr., Tacoma on Feb. 11, 2014 at 3:05 pm | No Comments »
February 12, 2014 9:44 am

Re: “Coming soon: Raid on Tacoma utilities” (editorial, 2-11).

The editorial supporting keeping Tacoma Public Utilities out of the control of the City Council is wrong.

First, the city was not saved by the Utility Board from the 2000-2001 utility crises, because the City Council has to approve the utility rates, which they did.

Second, you forget that the utility almost bankrupted Tacoma in the 1980s. Expansionist policies of the utility got us heavily involved in the Washington Public Power Supply System, later known as “Whoops.” This disaster involved our investment in nuclear power plants that were “badly needed.” The cost skyrocketed, unknown to the public because the utility hid it from the City Council.

I was on that City Council that investigated the issues and finally voted to pull out of WPPSS. Without the intervention of the City Council, the city could have been on the hook for billions of dollars more.

Third, the expansionist policies of the utility have led to our city-owned utility serving vast amounts of Pierce County for water and electricity. We had inexpensive electricity when we could rely on hydro power. By expanding, we had to purchase more power from outside sources and “blend” the rates.

This meant increases for residents and businesses and put Tacoma at a competitive disadvantage because of the naturally higher taxes in cities. If we had kept our low rates and used them as a business incentive, we could have prevented the exodus of business into the suburbs.

Tacoma citizens need to get control of our public utility.

(Ladenburg is a former Pierce County executive.)

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