Beating A Dead Horse

Better efficiency will lower costs

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I appreciate Mayor Roger McLean’s efforts to reduce electric rates; however, it appears that reducing our rates more than a pittance is not going to be possible until we are able to remove ourselves from our current provider. I am puzzled, then, why no one talks about introducing more efficiency in operations and reducing expenditures in order that the high costs of city operations are neither paid from our electric fund nor financed by higher taxes.

Real change in our electric bills will not come from trying to end or alter our ElectriCities’ contract. That is beating a dead horse: We got into a bad deal years ago and apparently, we are contractually bound to that bad deal for more years. Our ownership share is worthless because we can’t sell it.

While the prospect of raising taxes on real estate may appeal to some of our citizens who rent, they must surely realize that if their landlord’s taxes go up, their rent will rise, too. The only feasible way to reduce our electric bills is to introduce more efficiency in city operations; reductions in the costs of operation are reflected in lowered demand on our electric fund, which translates into lower electric bills for our citizens.

Ours is not the first city to have to improve operational efficiency to reduce costs. Sunnyvale, Calif., met this challenge years ago with performance measurement. With innovative leadership from their city council, Sunnyvale pared costs and improved services, resulting in balanced budgets year after year, all without burdening citizens with unreasonably high utility costs or increased taxes.

Sunnyvale is among the best-known examples of successful performance measurement, but it is not the only example. I urge all our city council candidates and members to investigate performance measurement, and how it might help our city meet obligations without burdening the electric fund. If we can’t raise our costs, we have to lower our obligations — starting with city operations.

MARTHA A. JOHNSON

Elizabeth City

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About George Fisher

George is a freelance writer, an author and a Democratic political consultant. He has worked as Deputy Communications Director for a Senatorial campaign and Campaign Manager for several NC House races and one congressional race. He previously worked as a news producer for a local television station.
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