Archive for the ‘MLGW’ Category

What Is The Cost Of Minority Purchasing Efforts?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

November 1, 2016

 

No Subject causes more heat input and less useful locomotion than minority purchasing policies by all public tax supported governments. Look at what we spend just at the City of Memphis. It is difficult to pull together the total cost of these efforts but the 2017 City of Memphis adopted budget shows $895,000 dollars under the title “EQUAL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM”.

Shelby County Commissioners voted to rehire consultants Mason Tillman Associates at a cost of $80,000 to help rewrite the county’s procurement procedures.

The 8-4 vote followed a debate on whether a consultant was needed, whether it could be done locally and whether the contract included litigation support.

Mason Tillman conducted the county’s $310,000 disparity study, which analyzed purchasing data from Jan. 1 2012 to Dec. 31, 2014. They found that contracts went overwhelmingly to non-minority males and that 55 percent of the contracts were awarded to firms outside of the county.

Commissioner Steve Basar, who along with Mark Billingsley, George Chism and David Reaves voted against the contract, said there was probably someone locally or even with county government who could follow the recommendations of the study to provide the same services.

The contract did not include litigation services, which Commissioner Heidi Shafer saw as a grave omission.

If the county is sued, she said, there’s no way of knowing how much Mason Tillman will charge to serve as an expert witness.

She abstained from the vote.

However, Commissioner Van Turner emphasized that the law requires that race-based purchasing policies be “narrowly tailored” and it will likely be challenged if not done properly.

The commission seated an ad hoc committee to rewrite the county’s purchasing policies, which include the creation of a minority/women business enterprise program.

 

A new study released found that disparity between city of Memphis contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned firms and white-owned firms increased since the previous study six years ago.

The study by Atlanta-based Griffin & Strong found the city’s disparity index increased in the period between 2010 and 2014 from the period between 2003 and 2008 in all categories except “other professional services.”

The index is calculated based on the difference between minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) utilization and availability.

Griffin & Strong made several recommendations, including that the city increase the staff working to reduce the disparity, take control of the certification process, and plan for MWBE spending during the budgeting process.

Joann Massey, director of the Office of Business Diversity & Compliance, said she will incorporate some of the recommendations into a new Equal Business Opportunity ordinance that’s in the works.

Griffin & Strong was paid $331,620 to create the study, the city’s first since 2010.

 

My position on the participation of minorities and small business enterprises is from the standpoint of a taxpayer. I want each multi bidder contract to be awarded on the basis of lowest and best price. Lowest is not always the best way to go. I remember a contract at the MLGW on underground electrical distribution cables. I voted to award the contract to a firm whose cables had a much better record on cable failures than the low bidder. Lower maintenance cost for the higher quality cable was the right answer.

 

The problem now is transparency in the bidding process. The City and the County show the winners of competitive bids but they do not show the losing bids or the names of the bidders . Also non competitive bids (single source) do not have an explanation of why the awarded bidder is the only available source.

I want minority and small enterprise firms to prosper and learn how to compete in the real world market place earning both public money contracts and private enterprise business. However let us stop with the expensive studies and concentrate on simplifying the qualification process and open up the bidding information so the taxpayers can know who the successful bidders are, who bid but did not get the award and if a premium was paid for the successful bidder, an explanation. What are your thoughts on this process?

E Mails From Public Officials

Monday, October 24th, 2016

 

October 23, 2016

I recently sent out an email concerning how I was going to vote in the upcoming November 8th election (www.memphisshelbyinform.com). I then got a few emails from government officials explaining why I was wrong on my recommendation to vote against these two items.

Shall the Shelby County Charter be amended to require both the County Mayor and County Commission’s approval to dismiss the County Attorney from office?

 

Shall Sections 691 (4) and 693 (4) of the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be restored and amended to require distribution only to the general fund of the City, before any distributions of tax equivalents to the County under state law, of that portion of any Electric or Gas Tax Equivalent Payments calculated and determined by the Council under state law or agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, equal in amount to the City taxes assessed and levied on the fair market value of properties of MLGW electric or gas divisions situated within the corporate limits of the City of Memphis in the same manner and as if said properties were privately owned?

I, BRIAN COLLINS, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE FOR THE CITY OF MEMPHIS DO HEREBY CERTIFY THAT THE NET ANNUAL INCREASE IN REVENUES TO THE CITY IF THIS AMENDMENT IS ADOPTED IS ESTIMATED TO BE $5,000,000.

I got an email from County Commissioner Heidi Shafer as shown below.

“I got your email, and wanted you to see why the county would benefit from merely having the approval process for dismissal as we have for hiring.  The County Attorney is to serve both branches, but that has been far from the case for over two years…BTW, the mayor has authority to veto our appointments…

I believe in checks and balances.” I greatly respect Heidi and her good work in keeping the county fiscally responsible. However I believe this good Mayor and his record has been better than the County Commission and the rancor we see in their various squabbles. I believe the Mayor should retain his authority to dismiss the County Attorney without cause as is currently in the County Ordinance.

Section 2.12. Approval of nominations.

All nominations by the mayor for any board, commission, agency, authority, chief administrative officer, county attorney, public defender, or divorce referee shall be subject to the approval and consent by resolution of the board of county commissioners.

The county mayor, subject to approval by resolution of the board of county

commissioners, may create or abolish major divisions of county government with each division having a division director. The chief administrative officer, the division directors of the county, the county attorney, the public defender, and the divorce referee shall be appointed by the county mayor, subject to approval by resolution of the board of county commissioners, and shall be subject to dismissal by the mayor without cause, and shall be residents of Shelby County at the time they assume the duties of their office and at all other times while serving the county in such capacity.

Now as to Section 691 and 693 of  the City Charter I got the following emails.

“Dear Mr. Saino:

Thank you for your inquiry about the City referendum. I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your inquiry.

The purpose of the referendum is to restore provisions in the City’s charter that were originally added in 1939. The provisions required that the City’s general fund receive MLGW PILOTs based on City taxes on MLGW properties within the City of Memphis as if those properties were privately owned.

In 2015 the Tennessee Courts held these charter provisions were repealed because they interpreted the language of the City’s charter to be in conflict with a 1987 State law. This amendment corrects the language of the charter provisions consistent with what the Courts required, which explains its complexity. As amended, the prior charter provisions will be given the effect as intended and applied from 1939 to 2015.

“To address your specific concerns, this amendment benefits Memphians. It does not effect the surburban municipalities. It does not change the total PILOTs paid by MLGW for the benefit of all eight taxing jurisdictions in the County and therefore will not cause any MLGW rate increase.

What it does is restore the status quo allocation between the City and County that existed before the 2015 Court decision. While this status quo allocation will eliminate the arguable increase due the the County as a result of the 2015 Court decision, it restores a fair allocation for the City.

You indicate that the PILOT should be allocated based on the revenue received in the City vs the County. I am advised that the state law, the TVA agreement and the City’s charter do not allocate PILOTs using situs based revenue; the PILOT is not an income tax equivalent, but an ad valorem tax equivalent. However, if it is based on income, we have been provided information from MLGW that the revenue earned from City MLGW customers is more than 72% for electric and 81 % for Gas. By any other measurement,there is no justification for a 22.5% allocation to Shelby County; for example,  69.73% of the County’s population is in the City and 11.77% is in unincorporated Shelby County. 74% of all electric assets are in the City as compared to 14% in unincorporated Shelby County; the percentage of gas assets in the City is even greater 82% vs. 8.23%.

As you know MLGW’s major distribution assets are located in the City’s streets and rights of way, which bear an undue burden from MLGW utility cuts. Despite paying an overlapping tax the County of $7.78 per $100 of value, none of the $4.38 paid by City taxpayers is use to reimburse the City for Shelby County’s use of and MLGW’s damage the City’s roadways.

So if your premise is that you oppose the Charter Amendment because you think it will hurt Shelby County, I respectfully disagree. The Amendment benefits Memphians and I for one cannot imagine why any MEMPHIAN would vote against the amendment because of some perceived effect on unincorporated Shelby County.

In any event I trust I have explained why I voted for the referendum, why I am voting FOR it and why I am enthusiastically urging my constituents to vote FOR it. If you would like more information a detailed explanation is on the Council’s website.

Patrice Robinson Memphis City Council

Now I am under no illusions that this will not pass as Brian Collins is promising $5 million dollars more from somewhere. However I am always suspicious of money that comes from somewhere other than the other party (the county) or the taxpayer. My objection was based on a lack of pre vote public discussion. No doubt it will pass as free stuff always wins as our national elections prove.  Also the City Council weighed in on this issue with the following email to yours truly. No doubt it will pass but now you have the City side of the issue. The County side may end up in court in a lawsuit.

Council is Unanimous: Vote FOR the Memphis Charter Amendment

City of Memphis sent this bulletin at 10/22/2016 07:51 AM CDT

Good morning Memphians,

Your City Council hopes that you will exercise your civic right to vote this upcoming November 8th, or beforehand by absentee ballot or early voting, which started this week and runs through November 3rd. No City offices are up for election this year, but the City Council did vote 11-0 (with two absent) on July 19th to add a Charter Amendment Referendum on this ballot. See this example of what that will look like for you.

As evidenced by the Council’s unanimous vote, we believe you should vote “FOR” the amendment. Despite its technicality (Full Explanation), this amendment is simple: we needed to make some legalistic changes to the Charter to realign ourselves with state law and receive our fair share of MLGW’s PILOT payments each year. If this vote fails, $5 million that should go to the City budget will instead go to the County. A vote “FOR” won’t raise your taxes. A vote “FOR” won’t raise your MLGW bill. (Other FAQs here) As we see it, the choice is clear for every Memphian.

If you want to know even more, follow those links to our website, or you can always call our office at 901-636-6793 for more details.

We hope this helps you make an informed decision this election day, and we sincerely believe you should vote “FOR”.

Sincerely,

Your Memphis City Council

Bill Morrison – District  1

Frank Colvett, Jr. – District 2

Patrice J. Robinson – District 3

Jamita Swearengen – District 4

Worth Morgan – District 5

Edmund Ford, Jr. – District 6

Berlin Boyd – District 7

Joe Brown – Super District 8-1

Janis Fullilove – Super District 8-2

Martavius Jones – Super District 8-3

Kemp Conrad – Super District 9-1

Philip Spinosa, Jr. – Super District 9-2

Reid Hedgepeth – Super District 9-3

 

 

What Is Going On With The Pilot Payments From MLGW To City And County?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

October 11, 2016

 

What Is Going On With The Pilot Payments From MLGW To City And County?

There is going to be an item on the ballot this November that proposes to amend Article 65, Section 691 and 693 of the Charter of the City of Memphis. It is relative to distribution of payments of in lieu of taxes (Pilots) by MLGW to the City of Memphis. On page 7 of 8, Brian Collins, Director of Finance City of Memphis, says that the estimated increase of this pilot payment to the City of Memphis may be $5 million dollars. Is this coming out of Shelby County’s share of this pilot payment?

There is litigation going on concerning the issue of sharing of this MLGW pilot payment. It seems to me that the pilot payment should be shared on the basis of income to MLGW from customers who are inside the city of Memphis versus those outside the City limits. It seems that the City of Memphis wants it all. There needs to be an explanation of this move by the City of Memphis before voting starts on this issue.

This is a difficult issue for to understand since the referendum only proposes an Amendment to the City of Memphis Charter. Our concern is that the charter amendment may be a precursor to a different method for calculation by the city for the County share of the tax equivalents being paid by MLGW. It may very well be that the county payment will be reduced by the $5 million increase in revenue to the city.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Below are some statements from the annual MLGW financial statement.

Each year the MLGW pays a tax from the electric division and the gas division as if it were a private company based on the equity or investment of MLGW properties.

The amounts remitted by MLGW to the City and Shelby County were calculated based on City Council resolutions and City Charter provisions governing the PILOT sharing arrangement with Shelby County.

MLGW’s transfer to the City is based on the formula provided by the May 29, 1987 TVA Power Contract Amendment (Supp. No. 8). The formula includes a maximum property tax equivalency calculation plus 4% of operating revenue less power costs (three-year average). Transfers to the city represent the Electric Division’s in lieu of tax payment. The transfer for 2015 decreased by $2.6 million due to a $1.9 million reduction in the tax equalization rate, a decrease of $1.5 million resulting from higher PILOT to Shelby County and the City requesting $0.5 million less than the maximum allowed by TVA contract. The decreases are partially offset by an increase of $1.4 million due to increased net plant investment and operating revenue less power costs (three-year average). MLGW’s transfer to the City is based on the formula provided by the State of Tennessee Municipal Gas System Tax Equivalent Law of 1987. The formula includes a maximum property tax equivalency calculation plus 4% of operating revenue less power costs (three-year average). Transfers to the City represent the Gas Division’s PILOT.

The transfer for 2015 decreased by $0.8 million due to a decrease of $1.0 million resulting from the City requesting less than the maximum allowed by statute and $0.8 million due to a decrease in the tax equalization rate, offset in part by an increase of $0.8 million due to net plant investment and three-year average revenues and an increase of $0.2 million resulting from lower PILOT to Shelby County.

Another important statement is the legal provision of 691 that any surplus remaining, over and above safe operating margins, shall be devoted solely to rate reduction.

Open Records At Shelby County Schools

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

October 3, 2016

 

Open Records At Shelby County Schools

If there is one issue that consistently defines politicians nationally it is the desire to cover up and deny past and present indiscretions. Tax returns, email deletions, favors granted for cash, you name it.

But you say that is the national politicians but it does not happen locally. Well we have had our share locally but open records and transparency is still less than perfect. Just recently it has been in the news that certain athletes’ at Trezevant High School have been aided in cheating on academic tests in order to keep them eligible for sports. It is still under investigation but reports from teachers talk about the good players being taken to a separate testing room and return with a very good grade. Hopefully, Dorsey Hopson will give a full report in the very near future.

Sadly I have a report on my efforts to inform the public on the legal costs of the Shelby County School System (SCS) lawsuit against the state demanding that school boards across the state be able to set the tax rate in order to adequately fund education which they claim is mandated by the Tennessee Constitution. In September I asked for an update on the total spent to date on this lawsuit. I got an email answer saying that they would respond by October 15th. Then I got another email saying that they needed a copy of my driver’s license. I responded and now I got the following response.

I would like to point out that the City of Memphis, the MLGW, Shelby County and other organizations respond electronically but not the SCS system. They want me to mail a check, wait until the check clears, then they will probably demand that I drive to the office to pick up the documents.  This is their policy of open records. It is foot dragging, purposely following the exact state open records law, in order to make open records more difficult.

I ask for your help on this important issue. The policy should be that if the documents are available in electronic format (word, pdf, etc) the request should be answered electronically without cost as the City of Memphis and Shelby County do. I am asking you, my readers, to email the SCS board and Superintendent Dobson and ask them to implement this policy.  We need to let them know that open, prompt and free electronic response to open records requests is critical to public support and trust. Below is a list of email addresses. Thanks for your help.

BYERSK@scsk12.org, superintendent@scsk12.org, CALDWELLCG@scsk12.org, JONEST@scsk12.org, LOVES1@scsk12.org, WOODSKD@scsk12.org, mccormicks@scsk12.org, avantsk@scsk12.org, BIBBSMC@scsk12.org, orgelwe@scsk12.org, KERNELLM@scsk12.org

Our Precious Water Reserve

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

September 27, 2016

Our Precious Water Reserve

There has been much discussion and news articles about TVA proposing to tap our fresh water reserve in order to cool the proposed new natural gas fired power electric generation plant which is to replace the coal fired Allen electric generating plant.

Many people are rightly upset about this proposal as one of our major natural resources here in Memphis is our artesian water reserve. Many people are asking a number of questions.

Why can’t we use river water instead of fresh well water? I understand that Mississippi river water would have to be filtered to remove debris in order to protect the cooling apparatus.

Why can’t we renovate the existing coal fired Allen plant with modern scrubbers in order to meet current standards? After all TVA is proposing to spend $975 million dollars for the new plant.

Why are we not considering nuclear generating plants like France uses to a great extent and uses them safely?

I think there needs to be a reconsideration of this decision at least until after the first of the year.  There was a great lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about President Obama’s use of unilateral federal and executive power to impose his climate agenda.

The local Green Agenda people wants more wind and solar which has proven to be very expensive compared to coal, gas or nuclear energy but they do not consider high energy prices or high taxes to be a legitimate consideration. They believe in global warming and any discussion about proof is considered to be not worthy or scientific discussion or proof.  Clean drinking water needs to be conserved as we have lot more untapped energy resources then we have clean water.

Consider countries such as Saudi Arabia. All the water for the capital of Riyadh comes from the desalination of sea water and then is piped into the capital. This is a very expensive process and proves that in many cases, fresh drinking water is more valuable then oil. No one really knows how much water reserve Memphis has and Mississippi and many others want a piece of this rich resource.

 

 

The Open Records Fight

Monday, July 25th, 2016

July 25, 2016

There was an interesting editorial in the Commercial Appeal last Sunday concerning Germantown open records and the battle with Jon Thompson and Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman in order to get information on Germantown government salary, insurance and other perks. Congratulations to Thompson and Freeman. I have been fighting this open records battle since 2004.

 

Recently I asked the MLGW for current electronic copies of their annual pension and OPEB reports. I asked by email. I received an electronic copy of an open records request form which I filled out and signed electronically and sent it in. I then received the following message.

 

“Good afternoon, your documents are available for pickup. You can come to the Administration building and the documents will be at the security station.” I then objected to this bureaucratic requirement and sent my objections to Mr. Thompson (MLGW), Mayor Strickland and many others. I eventually got the electronic copies that I asked for and you can now look at the MLGW pension report and the MLGW OPEB report at www.memphisshelbyinform.com.

 

Now the Tennessee Open Records law does not require furnishing electronic copies but governments with a fully open records policy will furnish the information in electronic format because it is cheaper and easier and nearly all data is already in electronic format. If they want to discourage open records requests they will require you to travel down to their office and pick it up at the security desk.

 

I like the MLGW and their utility services. Very professional. President Jerry Collins is a great manager and runs a well trained and effective company. I call on the MLGW to put this information (pensions and OPEB) on their website and keep it updated. I also ask them to publish a return on investment report for their smart meter program to show the public how this program will be paid for and the return on the rate payers’ investment.

Now as to the pension and OPEB reports. Shelby County published their annual pension and OPEB reports online. The City of Memphis and MLGW do not.

 

The MLGW pension fund has a net value of $1.32 billion and $118 million of unfunded liability.

 

The City of Memphis pension fund has a net value of $2 billion and $533 million of unfunded liability. The City of Memphis does not publish their annual pension report online.

 

The Shelby County pension fund has a net value of $1.1 billion and $316 million of unfunded liability.

 

The MLGW OPEB fund has a net value of $333 million and $461 million of unfunded liability.

 

The City of Memphis OPEB fund has a net value of $17 million and $730 million of unfunded liability. The City of Memphis does not publish their annual OPEB report online.

 

The Shelby County OPEB fund has a net value of $197 million and $101 million of unfunded liability.

 

The trouble spots are shown underlined above. Again Shelby County leads in local government in open records policy and fiscal responsibility. I urge you to let local governments know what information you think should be put on their website. What are your thoughts on transparency in government?

 

 

 

 

 

A Year End Report Card From Joe Saino

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

December 29, 2015

A Year End Report Card From Joe Saino

Looking back over more than 10 years of reporting on local government I have hope for the future of Memphis and Shelby County. My score card for the major local governments is as follows.

Shelby County Government- A

MLGW- B+

City of Memphis- C

Shelby County Schools- D

This is not a scientific scoring, just years of experience and dealings with these large government entities. Hopefully the City of Memphis will improve with the inauguration of our new Mayor, Jim Strickland. I have high expectations for him. Past problems at the City can be laid at the feet of past mayors and especially the voting majority of past City Councils. They refused to make the hard choices until the State of Tennessee came in with the fiscal bullwhip.

MLGW under Jerry Collins is well run and efficient. I could wish that they publish more information on their website like annual pension and OPEB reports so that customers do not have to ask for this information through an open records request.

Shelby County has a proven record of good management and is open and above board. Their record on pension and OPEB management compared to the City of Memphis and the old and new school boards has been outstanding.

The old Memphis School System and the new replacement Shelby County School System is a puzzle. The new school system at first looked like they wanted to enter the modern open records world but then when they had the chance; they closed the door on common sense requests. Then they filed a huge lawsuit against the state which is going to cost millions in legal fees and are also trying through the Tennessee School Board Association to charge the public a fee just for asking for access to public data and records. It is a puzzle. They are saying in effect “We know best how to educate your children, so shut up with your requests for information.”

Enough of my scorecard so here is some real data from recent pension reports that I obtained from Memphis, Shelby County and the MLGW.

Active employees:

MLGW                       2526

Memphis                  5756

County                      5208

Payroll of active employees:

MLGW                       $152 million

Memphis                  $340 million

County                      $243 million

Retirees and beneficiaries

MLGW                       2597 receiving an average of $38,601 annually

Memphis                  4239 receiving an average of $34,014 annually

County                      $3598 receiving an average of $19,914 annually

Those disabled

MLGW                       33 receiving a total of $491,000 annually

Memphis                   653 receiving $17,370,000 annually

County                      72 receiving $1,506,240 annually

Need I say more? The problem at the City of Memphis is obvious. We need to change the pension board makeup and go to the County disability system.

Any questions?

Oh No, A Water Rate Increase

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

November 24, 2015

Oh No, A Water Rate Increase

As a former MLGW board member, I have a history of praising and criticizing the Division. I follow and read the Division’s annual financial reports. The latest report is for the calendar year 2014 which ended December 31, 2014. The 2015 year report will not be out until well into 2016. However I am sure the Division knows what will be in the report.

Division President Jerry Collins went before the City Council to ask for a 22% water rate increase. He said that the rate increase is necessary to keep the water division from recording its second straight year of negative net income at the end of 2016. A state board is required by state law to step in and set rates after two straight years of negative net income. He said the board has consistently favored higher rates, including a 42 percent increase in Bartlett’s rates.

I have looked at the past financial reports and the Water Division has had a very slim margin (changes to net assets) in 2013 and 2014. Apparently they know that 2015 they are going to show a decrease in net assets (a loss) and without an increase they will lose more in 2016 due to losing a large customer, Cargill Corn Mill. Two years of losses would bring in the state board to dictate an increase in water rates according to state law.

The usual suspects on the City Council refuse to study the facts as they demonize the Division as heartless and cruel. Facts do not make any difference to them as they play to their voting base. Another fact is that the Water Division has been paying $2.5 million dollars per year due to the City Council agreement to finance the FedEx arena. The agreement is effective through the year 2028. During 2014 the Water Division was authorized and directed by City Council, per City resolutions, to make an additional annual $1.9 million transfer payment each year through fiscal year 2017. Transfer payments to the City for 2013 as compared to 2012 increased due to a City resolution authorizing and directing an additional payment of $1.8 million in exchange for the release of any rights the City may have had to receive water from the Water Division free of charge during 2013 under the MLGW Charter.

The MLGW has a history of being fiscally responsible and being run mostly by professional management. Their employees are well trained and do a tough job. However the City Council would be well advised to look in to areas such as MLGW’s OPEB program. They should bring their rules concerning the cost and availability of retirees and their spouces health care to match the same rules as Shelby County Government retirees. Shelby County has these rules in effect since 2007. The MLGW pension and OPEB funds are in good shape due to funds paid for by MLGW’s customers’ utility rates. Compare their pension and OPEB funds to those at the City paid for by property, sales and other taxes.

As a final note I have been informed by President Collins concerning Sewer Rate Fees. “Sewer fees are governed by Public Works. To the best of my knowledge Public Works is not planning a sewer fee increase.” MLGW is just used as a collection agency for 1) Sewer Charge, 2)Solid Waste Fee, 3)Mosquito/Rodent Control Fee and 4) Storm Water Fee.

 

 

 

Why OPEN RECORDS Is SO Important

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

June 22, 2015

Why OPEN RECORDS Is SO Important

You may have read a front page article last Saturday in the Commercial Appeal by education reporter Jane Roberts. The article announced the creation of an open records reading room (Room 121) in the SCS Coe building at 160 S. Hollywood St. here in Memphis.

I have been working to open local public records since 2004 and have been greatly aided by many local citizens, particularly John Malmo, Eddie and Eve Settles (backinrivercity.com) and Ken Welch. I want to thank these people and many others who have contributed to this effort.

As Ken Welch has said many times, all public records are technically open to the public unless specifically named and restricted by state law. Then why can’t we get all this information easily? The answer is that public bodies and the leaders (Presidents, appointees, Governors, Mayors, Superintendents, etc) can make life difficult and expensive if they want to. The Tennessee open records law clearly states the following. However the particular public organization can drag their feet, threaten big charges paid in advance, refuse you entrances to offices without an appointment and then refuse to make an appointment. What has happened at the SCS system offices is different and significant.

Therefore this is why our agreement with Supt. Hopson and Chris Caldwell is so important. They have shown that they are open to making all legally open records actually open to the public. After all, we (the taxpayers) paid for all this bureaucracy and we are the employers. We recognize that we need good education, good fire and police services, good roads, efficient water, gas and electric services and many other public facilities. However we paid for them and we expect answers to all our reasonable and legally available questions.

Open Records is so important because without transparency there is often corruption, favoritism, waste and inefficiency. The sunshine of OPEN RECORDS and vigilant citizen can prevent this. There are many details to work out and our open records group is willing to work with the Shelby County System to make access easy and convenient. If we can make this work efficiently, we would look forward to using this as a template for other public bodies. Any suggestions from the you, the public, would be welcomed. We need to join together for full open records access.

Are Smart Meters A Smart Purchase?

Monday, May 18th, 2015

May 18, 2015

Are Smart Meters A Smart Purchase?

Tomorrow there will be a City of Memphis committee meeting and in that meeting will be the subject of further purchase of smart meters as shown below.

MLGW COMMITTEE (Chairman Berlin Boyd)

  1. Resolution approving the purchase of a Mobile Energy Efficiency Educational Unit (vehicle) for an amount not to exceed $250,000
  2. Discussion of opting-out of Smart Meters
  3. Resolution awarding Contract No. 11776, Smart Meter Solution Full Deployment, to Elster Solutions, LLC, in the funded amount of $240,000,000 for work to be done over a period of approximately five years.

I have received the following email from a friend and a very active citizen in various local public policies.

  • 240 million dollars over five years is an astronomical amount of money. The rate payers in Shelby County will be stuck with the bill.
  • Firing meter readers and using their salaries to pay for smart meters does not add up. They are not paid that much!
  • Please share this with Shelby county friends. I know several people there who spoke out and opted out of smart meters without paying a monthly fee to mlgw. If they had not spoken out, refusing a smart meter would have resulted in a monthly fee.
  • The biggest reason for smart meters will be time-of-day-rates. While you will be sold on these rates because they are cheaper at certain hours, those rates will be much higher at other hours (example: summer rates in the afternoon hours 3-8 pm will double).
  • Smart meters take usage readings every fifteen minutes and send that information directly to mlgw. Many people consider that an invasion of privacy because your usage patterns are kept by mlgw. Anyone with access can know your routine by those usage patterns. There is also concern that these meters can be hacked.

(more…)