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City of Lincoln Government

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A Conversation with the Lincoln City Council on the Lincoln Electric System (LES) asking about a 5.5 percent increase in rates:

13 February 2008:

LES wants to raise electric bills 5.5 percent?  People on a fixed income did not get a 5.5 percent raise.  Poor people on Social Security were lucky to get a 2.3 percent increase.

 

I understand that the cost of energy has gone up and LES can not be blamed for that, but part of the duty of elected officials is to look out for the poor and less fortunate (the people with a small voice or no voice in government).  An elderly person cannot increase their income any faster than the government will increase it.  The elderly are at the mercy of a government that is suppose to protect them.

 

Elderly folks can only put so many blankets on to stay warm.  They can only turn the heat down so far.  Chances are these same elderly folks are not going to put a new addition onto the house and use more energy. 

 

LES has asked for an increase each and every year for the last 3 years.  In fact, they have asked for increases twice in some years.  Chances are...this is not going to stop.  However, the City Council and the Mayor need to take a leadership role to protect the poor and the elderly.

 

Perhaps the family or business that uses the most energy needs to be charged more?  I am not sure what the solution is, I will leave that to the Mayor and the City Council, but...something needs to be done for people that can not afford every increase that comes along!

 

Thank you.  Please let me know if any of you have come up with any solutions to providing the elderly and the poor with energy.

 

Fred Marks

Lincoln, NE

14 February 2008:

Fred,

 

As you have learned, I was able to reduce the increase from 5 1/2 % to 5 %.  Not as much as you may have wanted, but a step in the right direction.

 

You are also welcome to thank Robin Eschlimann, Ken Svoboda and John Spatz, who were the other Council members who also supported this decrease. 

 

Jon

 

Jon Camp
Lincoln City Council
City
Council Office:  441-7515
Haymarket Square
Office: 474-1838

15 February 2008:

Thank you, Jon.  I appreciate your efforts.  I hope you will continue to keep the elderly and poor folks in mind.  Those of us with elderly parents understand how important this issue is and if we don't...we will when we get old.

 

LES will be back in 6 months...I can almost guarantee it!  I have been fortunate enough to have enough money to donate a dollar to LES's Lincoln Cares program.  However...I may not be able to do that in the future.  I may have to give up my home and move to public housing if energy bills continue to increase. 

 

When LES comes back for more money (and they will) please ask them what they have done to invest in renewable energy.  It has been a long time since I have seen another wind mill go up...and we have plenty of wind.

 

Again, thank you, Jon.  I really don't want to go looking for a bridge in Texas or Mexico.

 

16 February 2008:

Fred,

 

You are welcome . . . we need to maintain our vigilance in this and other fiscal matters.

 

Robin Eschliman, Ken Svoboda, John Spatz and I are also encouraging our other City Council colleagues to better understand the need for fiscal responsibility.

 

Jon

 

Jon Camp
Lincoln City Council
City
Council Office:  441-7515
Haymarket Square
Office: 474-1838

Wilfred, Jon sent me a copy of your e-mails.  I was wondering, were you under the impression that "Lincoln Cares" helps people to pay their utility bills?  Some people think so, but it is not.  It is a donation for the parks.  LES does have another program that helps low income people who are having trouble with their utility bills.   LES funds that by themselves, I think.  I asked LES a few months ago if they would increase the budget for that.  They did increase that budget by about 17%.  So the Council is helping people who are having a tough time.

 

Robin Eschliman

City Council

Thank you, Robin, for responding.  No, I did not have the impression that I was helping the poor by contributing to Lincoln Cares, but perhaps it needs to be made clearer to the general population.  Perhaps LES should have a box to check on their bills that designates a dollar to help people of low income.  When it comes down to a choice on parks and poor people…I would choose to help the poor with my dollar!

Low income keeps getting lower as the definition of poverty has not changed.  Income levels to define poverty have remained constant (for the most part) while inflation continues to tear at higher and higher income levels.  It is my belief that anybody that makes less than $30,000 for a family of one (self) is hurting!  Yet, by definition…poverty for one is 8,959 dollars!  I think a raise in the poverty level is long over due!

 

When I hear of LES wanting a 5.5 percent increase and I know that Social Security only went up 2.3 percent, I know there is a problem for those dependent on Social Security.  For that matter...there is a problem for every family as I don't know of any job available today that provides a 5.5 percent increase in pay per year.

 

I am not a genius, but I know that we have to work together to find solutions.  We have to take actions when we decide what the best solution is and we can no longer afford to sit idle.  I am looking for you and your colleagues (including the Mayor and LES) to work together to find alternative solutions to raising our rates every six months.

 

I am energy conscious and I think most Americans are.  I am not alone.  I spent the extra money to put energy efficient light bulbs in every receptacle in my home.  All you have to do is drive by my house and you will see little light bulbs that look like pig tails.  However, with these constant increases by LES, I wonder if it does any good for us to be energy conscious? Maybe LES can meet their bottom line better if we use more energy?  I don't know...perhaps this is a question the City Council can ask LES and let the public know.  If we use more energy...will they stop increasing our rates?  Seems silly, but…maybe that is what they want?

 

It also occurred to me that perhaps LES is trying to give themselves a pay raise.  I hope this is not the case, but…I think this is something that the City Council and the Mayor need to keep in mind.

 

I remember back in the 90’s LES advertised themselves as a public utility.  By this, I was of the understanding that Lincoln residents had a stake in LES and that, in fact, we owned it.  I assume this is part of the reason that they have to come to the City Council to ask for increases in rates?  Well, it follows that if our elected officials have to approve it that our elected official should also have the right to audit the financial records of LES.  Am I right or am I wrong?  You tell me. 

 

I would be curious to know what the salary of each of the executives is at LES?  I would also be curious to know if they have given their employees a pay raise lately?

 

Again, thank you for responding.  Please also respond to the further questions I have raised.

 

Once again, I know this is not an easy problem and LES may not be to blame.  Indeed, perhaps the bottom line is that we all have to pay up, but, I don’t pay for something without asking questions about the service I am receiving.  It is hard enough to make it on 8,959 dollars a year without throwing money away for something I did not get!

 

Thank you,

 

WILFRED F. MARKS

Lincoln, NE  

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