Power To The People

To the Editor,

In the last days before the election you will see and hear many things about the record of the Arizona Corporation Commission which will not be true. I believe the Commission has done a good job over the last twelve years with an increase in funding of about 69 percent, whereas total state spending has increased by about 180 percent in the same time.

Mailbag One candidate is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to bash the Commission. This candidate has received millions from a 17-year business relationship with the largest utility in the state; now he wants to regulate that utility. It is important to set the record straight.

In the area of water quality, 85 percent of the small water companies the Commission regulates do not have unsafe water. Since I have been on the Commission, there has never been a decision disallowing appropriate and reasonable costs for testing water quality, as required by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the agency primarily responsible for safe drinking water. Sometimes there is confusion between drinkable water and safe water. There are companies that have water that is safe according to ADEQ, but do not have water that is drinkable, according to some of their customers; perhaps there are too many minerals.

The record on rate hikes is clear: Republicans raised rates significantly; Democrats have held the line on rates.

Let's look at the record of the rates of Arizona Public Service (APS), the largest utility in Arizona. After the second APS decrease last spring, the average APS residential price of a kilowatt hour of electricity today stands at 9.5 cents, or only 3/100 of a cent higher than when Marcia Weeks and I came to the Commission in 1985. This price is protected against increases until 2000, and there is a mechanism that makes it likely there will be future decreases before 2000. In the prior 15 years, from 1970 to 1985, which had been dominated by Republicans, the average price/kwh had increased from 2.34 cents to 9.47 cents, a 304 percent increase. The Republicans also authorized many expensive power plants, including the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, with only token oversight.

I suspect the reason so many Republicans and independents have joined Democrats in electing Democratic majorities on the Commission stems from the fact that Republican-dominated commissions raised the price of an APS kilowatt-hour by over 7 cents. In an equivalent period the Democratic majority has increased that price by only 3/100 of a cent.

TEP's rates have increased because of expensive power plants authorized in the '70s by the Republican-dominated Commission and built to serve the California market, which went away in 1989, and are now being used by TEP customers. Yet the Democratic Commission has been able to keep the residential price less for TEP than APS.

In that it is the construction of expensive power plants that drives utility rates, it is also worth noting that Gov. J. Fife Symington III was a key campaign official for the commissioners who didn't properly oversee the planning and construction of power plants. It's Symington-supported commissioners who ran up the rates in the '70s and early '80s. Over the last 12 years, it's the Democratic majority who have held the line. There is an important transition that is under way from monopolistic electric utilities to competition. This transition must be done carefully because in competition there are winners and losers. What the voters will need to think about when they cast their vote for corporation commissioner is whether they trust a Democratic majority to look out after the interests of residential and small business customers, or whether they trust a big-business Republican majority to look out for their interests in a changing marketplace.

--Renz D. Jennings

Crossing The Line

To the Editor,

Leslie Marmon Silko clearly evokes the terror one faces when approached by angry, armed men in the middle of the night ("The Border Patrol State," Tucson Weekly, September 26). I work for a produce distribution company which operates out of Nogales, Arizona, and drive frequently between Nogales and Patagonia and, when the check-point is in operation between those two towns, I dread pulling over, especially at night. But I also experience the same dread in Mexico where I am regularly pulled over by the "federales." Last Saturday, on a weekend drive to Santa Cruz, a crow's flight from Patagonia, we were pulled over by upward of 15 highly armed "men" none of whom appeared older than 23.

It seems to me that no country or people has the market on racism, and that the greater problem with law enforcement on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border is the lack of accountability. On both sides of the border, people live in police states that have conveniently evolved out of the so-called "drug-war." The line between agencies and their responsibilities have become blurred due, in part, to the drug problem, and people are just as likely to be pulled over for fitting the profile of a drug-trafficker as an illegal immigrant.

The people of Mexico, too, face enormous losses in their civil liberties, as our nation forces upon them untenable policing practices due to our nation's inability to stem its drug usage. We must stand firm in our efforts to maintain our freedoms, including the right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures regardless of one's skin color or "profile." Otherwise, next thing you know, it's a bar-code at birth and heaven help you if you set off the wrong scanner.

--Sherry Luna

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