Would Citizens Water control costs?

We have no crystal ball by which to forecast the future.  However, if we’re permitted to speculate a bit, without being assailed for making unsubstantiated predictions, we anticipate that the proponents from the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development will likely be pushing hard to persuade Citizens Water, and the public at large, that their reservoir idea is necessary in order to augment the occasional dry-weather flows in White River to a growing and thirsty central Indiana.   (We might also add  “excessively consumptive” to the list— last year at this time, a residential customer on the Citizens Water system was drawing over a million gallons per day to irrigate his estate and private golf course in Carmel).  If the CED is successful in that pursuit, the doors would open up to financing sources such as municipal or utility bonds which are paid off over time by the ratepayers.

However, some in Indianapolis are currently skeptical of Citizens Water’s ability to control costs, including its management salaries, the cost of  which are also borne by its central Indiana customers (see below the recent critical blog post by Ogden on Politics and the included link to a related report in The Indianapolis Star about the high salaries).

A new dam and reservoir would likely ultimately be paid for primarily by central Indiana water customers and residents, approximately 180,00 of whom are living at or near the Federal poverty line, according, ironically, to a Citizens Water manager.  Of course, the Anderson and Chesterfield area residents who have voiced support for the reservoir idea probably wouldn’t be responsible for paying any of the costs of the new water infrastructure because their water is supplied by their own municipal system.

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Ogden on Politics–  http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Citizens Energy Rewards CEO By Doubling His Pay, Handing Out Other Perks While Asking for Large Rate Increase

The Indianapolis Star has an excellent article detailing how Citizens Energy is increasing pay and perks for its executives while asking for a huge rate increase:

Dozens of gold rings. A $6,500 holiday lunch catered by the Ritz Charles. And $2.9 million for the CEO.

Those aren’t the biggest factors behind Citizens Energy Group’sdecision to seek a 14.7 percent increase in water rates, but they’re the ones raising eyebrows.

The company, which provides water to about 300,000 Indianapolis-area residents, wants state regulators to approve the rate hike primarily to fund big-ticket infrastructure improvements.

Most agree those upgrades are badly needed. The long-neglected water system had 730 water main breaks last year and some sections date back to the 1800s.

But other expenses, including big paychecks and large raises for Citizens executives, are prompting concerns about the company’s stewardship of ratepayer dollars — and raising questions about its promise to keep rates low.

An Indianapolis Star review found that Citizens CEO Carey Lykins earned $2.9 million in 2012 — nearly double what he made the previous year and more than triple what the leaders of other large municipal gas utilities earned. About $600,000 of that was base salary. The rest was executive and short-term incentive pay.

Other executives at the company also saw big raises in 2012, with compensation for the company’s top 14 officials growing 54 percent, for a total of $11.2 million, according to filings in the rate case and information the company provided to The Star.

Citizens ranks fourth for number of customers, according to the American Public Gas Association. But when it comes to compensating its top executive, Citizens dramatically outpaces its counterparts.Utility chiefs in San AntonioPhiladelphiaMemphis, and Omaha earned $206,000 to $820,000 last year — not even close to Lykins’ $2.9 million.

To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.

As I’ve said before, the sale of the water and sewer utilities didn’t net the public a dime.  The utilities were previously owned by the city, i.e. the residents of Indianapolis.  Citizens is a public trust owned by the public that consumes its services. The two sets of owners are virtually identical.  The sale was the equivalent of a wife taking out a loan to buy her husband’s car. Citizens took out a 30 year loan to pay the city the cost of the utilities. We the public have to pay that back.  Apparently in addition to much higher rates, Citizens has used the opportunity to dramatically increase executive compensation and perks.

Posted by Paul K. Ogden at 8:49 AM 3 comments: 

Freedom of Speech– To Be We the People Once Again

As we pause to reflect on our freedoms and democracy, here’s an interesting op-ed by William Rivers Pitt in yesterday’s Truthout.

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To Be We the People Once Again

Thursday, 04 July 2013 09:02By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

Did you hear about Jeffrey Olson? The guy from San Diego who wrote things like “No thanks, big banks” and “Shame on Bank of America” in water-soluble chalk on the sidewalk? He was looking at thirteen years in prison after getting busted on a variety of vandalism charges, but on Monday, a jury of his peers found him not guilty, and he was free to go.

Now there’s a happy story for the Fourth of July, right? A common citizen, exercising his First Amendment right to say bad things about a bank in street chalk that won’t survive the next downpour or the first hose spray, goes up against the bad guys and winds up walking free.

According to Olson, his motivation was entirely straightforward: “Wall Street banks nearly drove our economy into the ditch.” Isn’t it great that we live in a country where a man like Jeffrey Olson is free to express himself in a non-destructive way?

Um…

Wait…

Jeffrey Olson was arrested, and arraigned, and had to get a lawyer, and was tried in a court of law, and was required to stand behind a defendant’s table in a courtroom for a jury decision that could have taken his freedom for thirteen years…because he said bad things about banks in chalk on a sidewalk? A man was prosecuted all the way to a jury verdict for speaking his mind with art that would disappear with the next rainstorm.

I suppose, given the trend toward total retaliation in this country these days, that we should give a giggle and a smile to Jeff Olson for having slipped the noose. Dozens of Occupy protesters faced jail time in cities and towns all over the country after committing such savage crimes as spending time in a public park, standing still in the face of sanctioned police riots, and taking a face full of mace for being on the wrong corner at the wrong time.

Bank of America helped to burn out your future. Jeffrey Olson wanted you to know they did that. The former, and friends, walk through the pouring rain without being molested by so much as a drop, while the latter goes from cuffs to court to verdict for trying to tell you about it.

Thirteen years. For chalk. Written on public sidewalks against bankers and Wall Street hucksters who stole the future – literally – and received not so much as a slap on the wrist. On this august holiday, they are counting their money, swilling champagne and laughing, laughing, laughing at everyone celebrating “freedom” in America.

These are hard times, man. Hard times.

Has it all slipped away, finally and forever? September 11 happened, and all those plastic-sheeting-and-duct-tape years happened, Iraq-has-WMD happened and hundreds of thousands died because of it, the PATRIOT Act happened, the Homeland Security Act happened, the NSA slipped the leash, and somewhere in all that awful noise we became a nation of chickenshit cowards entirely unworthy of the hard, hot heritage that lives behind and beneath “We the People.”

Just the other day, the President of the United States peered through the bars at RobbenIsland in South Africa in a touching photo-op meant to convey Mr. Obama’s deep feelings for Nelson Mandela and all he endured…but would Mr. Obama dare to peer through the bars of the Haliburton cages in GuantanamoBay? If a leader like Mandela emerges from that long, illegal, immoral confinement in Cuba to point a damning finger at his captors, who will blush and bluster and flee that condemnation?

You. Me. Us.

“We the People.”

That’s a fact.

“We the People,” as a functioning entity, has been weaker than water for years, a claim without purchase, a boast without meaning, an empty promise of spoils long spoiled. We do this “America” thing by rote now, mesmerized by the myths and oblivious to the truth.

But.

The idea behind and beneath “We the People” is worth fighting for. The idea that made the ability to speak your mind the law of the land, the idea that says you are an integral, absolutely necessary part of this nation despite your race or sex or religion, the idea that royalty (whether it be derived from lineage or wealth) shall not rule here, are all ideas not to be abandoned, no matter how difficult it is to keep that faith in the face of all the gruesome offenses committed against your will.

The dirty little secret of America is the way this place is hard-wired to favor money over good. That’s American-style capitalism in a nutshell…but another little secret is the fact that “We the People” still throw considerable weight around this joint, if we choose to. A great many powerful entities have bewitched us into doubting, or even forgetting, this simple truth, but it is the truth. Egypt, currently celebrating its own Fourth of July, is instructive on what happens when We the People show up and say, simply, “No.”

And the last dirty secret of this brokedown palace: it’s supposed to be hard. It was wired that way, too, way back on another Fourth of July.

Choose to.

You’ll be astonished by how powerful you are.

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17378-to-be-we-the-people-once-again

National Holiday today encourages recreation. What what about the loss of multiple existing options?

Recreation which would be lost to a reservoir:

• — Trail 5 at Mounds State Park

• —  Rangeline Nature Preserve

• — Canoe Country rentals and livery service

• — a park in Daleville

• — a baseball diamond in Chesterfield

• — the Forty and Eight club in Anderson

• — an RV campground in Chesterfield

• — Tanglewood Outdoor Center (owned by Anderson schools & used by Girl Scouts every summer)

• — two church camps

Recreation gained from a dam and reservoir:

Nothing is currently guaranteed — or even promised  —  because the proponents don’t know who would own it, and who owns it would  determine what they could do with it.

On preserving the vestiges of Indiana history

Today, we’ll offer some history commentary, not about Independence Day, but about the pre-historic Anderson earthworks, courtesy of Andrea Neal, syndicated columnist writing on behalf of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.  Below is her piece which ran in the Northwest Indiana Times.

http://www.nwitimes.com/news/opinion/columnists/andrea-neal/andrea-neal-mounds-leave-evidence-of-indigenous-hoosiers/article_9cf20fe8-0f68-5b0e-8a79-16465f50f47e.html

ANDREA NEAL: Mounds leave evidence of indigenous Hoosiers

By Andrea Neal

Indiana’s name means “Land of the Indians.” A trip to MoundsState Park in Anderson reminds us why.

Among the first inhabitants of our state were the Adena, a hunting and gathering people that lived in east central Indiana beginning around 1,000 BC. They left behind earthen monuments — deep ditches surrounded by embankments — that give clues to a complex society that understood astronomical events and seasonal calendars and based religious celebrations around them.

Visitors to MoundsState Park go to camp, hike, fish or swim. While there, most stand in awe at the 10 mounds and earthworks ranging from a few inches to several feet high that have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.

“The earthworks at Mounds State Park are some of the best protected of any in the state, and many improvements in protection have been instituted over the years,” says the archeologist Donald Cochran, professor emeritus at Ball State University, who with a colleague, Beth McCord, conducted much of the recent research there.

“It is only one of five large earthwork complexes in east central Indiana. These five large sites as well as many mounds and other enclosures make up a cultural landscape that is unique in Indiana,” Cochran noted.

Although little is known about the daily lives of the Adena, their mounds and artifacts gave scholars enough data to generalize about these early Hoosiers. They were part of the woodland tradition that relied on hunting, fishing, berry-picking and cultivation of maize. They made ceramic pots and traded with other native peoples. When the Adena left they were replaced by the Hopewell, who used the mounds, and constructed more, for burial and ritual purposes. More than 300 of their ancient earthworks could once be found in east central Indiana, but today fewer than 100 remain.

Indiana is fortunate that Frederick Bronnenberg was the first private-property owner of the land that is now MoundsState Park. A native of Germany who immigrated to the United States around 1800, Bronnenberg protected the mounds from plowing and vandals. His son, Frederick Jr., did the same and “extolled their virtue as a community point of interest and destination,” according to state park documents.

The area functioned from 1897 to 1929 as an amusement park, which marketed the mounds as a tourist attraction. The park shut down because of lagging attendance during the Great Depression and was sold to the Madison County Historical Society, which transferred ownership to the state in 1930, thus protecting the mounds from commercial and agricultural development — though not from public use or natural erosion.

State officials hope to implement more protective strategies in coming years. Their commitment is welcome and essential if Hoosiers are to preserve this vestige of prehistoric Indiana for future generations.

Andrea Neal is an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. This column represents the writer’s opinion. Readers can write her at aneal@inpolicy.org or in care of The Times.

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Closely related to Ms. Neal’s final paragraph on preservation are the insightful observations of Paul Gruchow re preserving the fabric of our natural history —

“But we will not come to any deep understanding of our place in nature except as we delve into its basic documents, and these documents are our wild places.  Decimating a natural environment is, in this sense, exactly like burning all the copies of some book essential to the history of our culture.  And when we destroy some entire ecosystem, as we have done with our prairies, for example, it is like eliminating whole sections of our libraries.  Learning is one property that must be acquired individually.  It cannot be bought or sold on the marketplace, or exercised by proxy, or transferred from one life into another by last testament.  Either you have acquired it for yourself, at considerable trouble and pain and time, or you will not have it.  (It is because it comes at such a dear price that it yields ultimately, so much joy.)  And a sense of one’s standing in the natural world is not instinctive, not automatic, and only in the most general way, culturally transmitted.  In any usable degree it is, like all learning, a personal acquisition, arrived at only by becoming acquainted with the basic texts, with wild places.”      

Paul Gruchow        The Necessity of Empty Places.

Justice Thomas on civic engagment and civility

Here’s a thought-provoking piece by Justice Clarence Thomas excerpted from a 2001 speech.

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‘Be Not Afraid’

by Justice Clarence Thomas

Wall Street Journal  2-16-01

Excerpted from a speech in Washington upon receiving the American Enterprise Institute’s Francis Boyer Award.

“. . .  When one observes the pitched battles that rage around persons of strong convictions, who do not accept the prevailing beliefs of others, it is no wonder that those who might otherwise wish to participate find more hospitable outlets for their civic interest.  When one of my friends began feeling the urge to get involved, his spouse glared at him and said, “Don’t even think about it. We love our life the way it is.”  And that is not an unreasonable perspective, not at all. But is reasonableness always our standard of review on this question?  I hope not.

I do believe that we are required to wade into those things that matter to our country and our culture no matter what the disincentives are, and no matter the personal cost.  There is not one of us who wants to be set upon, or obligated to do and say difficult things.  Yet there is not one of us who could in good conscience stand by and watch a loved one or a defenseless person – or a vital national principle— perish alone, undefended when our intervention could make all the difference. This may well be too dramatic an example. But nevertheless, put most simply: If we think that something is dreadfully wrong, then someone has to do something.

I do not believe that one should fight over things that don’t really matter. But what about those things that do matter?  It is not comforting to think that the natural tendency inside us to settle for the bottom, or even the middle of the stream. 

This tendency, in large part, results from an overemphasis on civility.  None of us should be uncivil in our manner as we debate issue of consequence.  No matter how difficult it is, good manners should be routine.  However, in the effort to be civil in conduct, many who know better actually dilute firmly held views to avoid appearing “judgmental”. They curb their tongues not only in form but also in substance.  The insistence on civility in the form of our debates has the perverse effect of cannibalizing our principles, the very essence of a civil society.

This is why civility cannot be the governing principle of citizenship or leadership.  As Gertrude Himmelfarb observed in her book, “One Nation, Two Cultures”, “to reduce citizenship to the modern idea of civility, the good-neighbor idea is to belittle not only the political role of the citizen but also the virtues expected of the citizen – the “civic virtues” as they were known in antiquity and early republican thought.”

By yielding to a false form of civility, we sometimes allow our critics to intimidate us.  As I have said, active citizens are sometimes subjected to truly vile attacks; they are branded as mean-spirited……      To this we often respond (if not succumb) so as not to be constantly fighting, but trying to be tolerant and nonjudgmental—i.e. we censor ourselves.  This is not civility. It is cowardice or well-intentioned self-deception at best.

The Founders warned us that freedom requires constant vigilance, and repeated action.   It is said that, when asked what sort of government the Founders had created, Benjamin Franklin replied that they had given us  “A republic, if you can keep it.”  Today, as in the past, we will need a brave “civic virtue”, not a timid civility, to keep our republic.  So, this evening, I leave you with the simple exhortation: “Be not afraid.”.

The privitizing and positivizing of the public process

Following our requested relocation from the lobby of the auditorium (to the outside) on April 30th (see May 31st blog post) at the “Community Discussion” presented by Connect Madison County (CMC), we inquired with AndersonUniversity officials concerning its written policies and rules for use of its auditorium.  We were initially concerned about any rules pertaining to flyering, but later noticed a discrepancy regarding the fee charged for the facility.  We were initially told the standard rental rate for non-profits is $625 and that’s what CMC was charged for the use of the facility.  But when asked again, University officials said they actually charged $550– not the $625 which is the fee per the official schedule for non-profits.

Two days ago, we asked the University why the for-profit company was charged a non-for-profit rental rate, but we’ve not received a response.  Perhaps their answer will clarify.

The University declined to provide a copy of the CMC’s rental application paperwork which might have been instructive to this point.  Officials said that Anderson is a private institution and thus not subject to the disclosure requirements of Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.

This is not only a question of proper accounting.  More importantly, it’s about the disturbing privatizing of the public process for the 3 “Community Discussions”, which were not discussions at all—  just mandated  “positive” presentations by persons and organizations largely motivated by the commercial potential.

The reservoir plan is a multi-faceted and impactful public issue.  Yet the Connect Project (it operates as Anderson Creative Solutions, LLC) is a for-profit corporation.  According to a company official, “in Madison County it is funded by local advertiser dollars and partnerships. The Connect! brand exists to promote positive news and stories from our local community and build our strength as a community through a stronger, more positive source of information.”

Public policy is not all sugary sweetness.  Any issue usually has at least two sides.  While the company obviously prefers that its corporate brand and messages be positive, it has no right to, in effect, commandeer and manipulate a critical public issue, to eject from their pubic events those who would express doubt or disagreement, and to suppress community concerns, in part by using the police power of the state.

To the extent that Anderson University might have inappropriately aided the private corporation in this abuse of the public trust, either intentionally or unintentionally, by giving the company a discounted (not-for-profit) rental rate or, more seriously, by enforcing (via its security force), its actions to arbitrarily suppress respectful public dissent at the April 30th event, then these would represent another example of the current plight of our democracy in these troubled times.   As Independence Day approaches, let’s consider how to better protect our hard-fought rights against tyranny and oppression.

In an inspiring way, David Lamb expresses this pertinent point about how we should seek to understand and accommodate dissent in this country:

It occurred to me …that our penchant for directing an endless stream of criticism at ourselves is one of our best corrective mechanisms, and is in many ways, an expression of idealism.  We expect more of ourselves than the people of most nations, and we still cling to the belief that aspirations and realities can be shaped into a union of realized values.”                                                  David Lamb,  A Sense of Place

Wallace Stegner on change, tradition and reform

For the fact is, if it is the necessity of the young to challenge and risk, it is the obligation of the old to conserve– not only for their own sake but for the sake of the young who at the moment want anything rather than conservation.  No society is healthy without both the will to create anew and the will to save the best of the old: it is not the triumph of either tendency, but the constant elastic tension between the two that should be called our great tradition.  In this society, we may confidently count on the will to change.  It is one of the great strengths of our civilization, as I have already said, history lines up in support of the rebel.  What we have in somewhat smaller measure, perhaps in these years in dangerously small measure, is the will to hold fast to what our parents or grandparents found good and workable.  It is every bit as necessary as reform”.    

Wallace Stegner,   The Sound of Mountain Water    1946