Chelan PUD: Current compassion trumps ‘more equitable future’

Editor’s Note: The letter below was sent to the Chelan County PUD Commissioners in November and was recently answered by General Manager Steve Wright:

I am a big fan of our Chelan County Public Utility District and its dedicated staff and management. I am a huge fan of efficiencies and frugalities. I have also lived in other places where the utility company is a citizen-owned cooperative and gave dividends to its owner/customers at the end of the year, if money was made.
Once again, I am a huge fan of the PUD commissioners, all of them, as well as General Manager Steve Wright.
Here’s the rub, from a strictly compassionate point of view. Before I rant, please read the below quote sent out by the PUD just after its Nov. 17 meeting. I started the quote with the headline that topped the news release in bold:
“PUD envisions a more equitable future for households who struggle most: Chelan PUD commissioners heard a plan last month to expand energy conservation programs to focus on households that spend more than 6 percent of their income on power bills. About 2,100 households qualify as “high energy-burdened” because they spend more than 6 percent of their paychecks on electricity. About 98 percent of these households earn less than $20,000 a year. Staff recommended greater engagement with nonprofits and landlords, as well as greater assistance to help low-income homeowners cover the up-front cost of home improvements.”
I am overjoyed that staff has suggested greater interaction and cooperation with the landlords and non-profits of these unfortunate citizens, but these measures won’t occur until sometime in 2021.
How about right now? Can commissioners see it in their hearts, during this, the greatest modern pandemic to ever hit America, to forgive the 2,100 households’ electric bills at least for the month of December?
There is no harm to the PUD profits if just a small handful of impoverished citizens get a month without an electric bill. I have never been a member of the Communist Party, my idea is merely a decent gesture to our decent people who need a break in life, especially during this bizarre time of our history.
We are spending millions on the new PUD headquarters in Olds Station. The salaries of the commissioners and a few senior staff cost more than the forgiveness of 2,100 families’ electric bills.
Let these, our fellow citizens, buy a nicer Christmas gift or dinner or fix their beat-up old rigs and let them give that money to local small businesses which will more than make up for the miniscule lost income to our PUD.
I am blessed, as are all readers of the WBJ, to not ever worry about my electric bill. I also believe in efficiencies and frugal living.
This idea is a one-time effort to show forgiveness to those who have little or nothing during this season of love and this era of COVID-19.
I am writing this with the full knowledge that my proposal goes against bureaucratic logic and will immediately be labeled as financially imprudent. I know this because I have 23 years as a federal employee. It has also enlightened me as to the brick wall of paperwork that often crushes the hopes of millions nationwide even though it was originally meant to achieve a more just society out of potential anarchy.
I understand bureaucratic paperwork as well as fiscal discipline and I dare any bureaucrat to tell me that they are not slaves to the various rule books that together sing a mantra of no tolerance for coloring outside of the lines.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that the individual employees are necessarily evil in any way or myopic to the issue or spend their time conniving ways to disallow compassion, it is merely that they must follow the rules as written. At home, I am sure most of them are stalwart members of the community, including volunteering with non-profits and walking the walk of whatever religious group they may belong to. 
The staff members are approaching their future proposals to the esteemed board of commissioners in a typically bureaucratic way by “partnering” with non-profits, i.e., non-governmental organizations and landlords, when commissioners should take the reins incumbent on leaders of their caliber and make a unilateral decision, not wait for a multilateral proposal, watered down by too many self-interested hidden agendas, however well meaning.
I’d like to receive comments from readers via email:
For the answer to my letter, see “Chelan PUD responds” article in this edition.

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