In this article, we learn that the Virginia State Corporation Commission has determined that Dominion Virginia Power customers should get a $64 million refund after overpaying for electrical service in 2013 and 2014. Additionally, according to the article, SCC staff also filed testimony “saying Dominion’s company’s base rates are currently too high by about $312 million a year.”
Is anyone truly surprised by this? I mean, it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened.
Dominion has a long history of playing fast and loose with its electrical rates. This is undoubtedly why they managed, with the puppy dog patronage of state senator Frank Wagner, to successfully lobby the General Assembly into passing legislation allowing them to keep their rate structure and profits out of the public eye for the next seven years.
Predictably, the PR flacks at Dominion are pushing back. They say that their rates are perfectly acceptable, and they’ll explain why at some point in the future.
image | sierraclub.org
I think the question we should all be asking ourselves is this: if Dominion is so cavalier in abusing their customers for profit when their behavior is still subject to public scrutiny, how will they behave when they can keep their financial structure secret? Have they ever exhibited any sort of behavior to warrant the public’s trust?
In 2022 – when we’ll finally get another peek at Dominion’s rate structure (as long as something happens that keeps future state legislators from extending the deal) – it’ll be interesting to see just how badly the public’s been abused by this sweetheart deal.
Thanks, Sen. Wagner, et al. We really appreciate you and your cronies giving Dominion the means to screw us with our pants on.
Down the road in P-town, we read in this story that Portsmouth has decided that, rather than taking any action to repair their economy through thoughtful development and management of their properties, they’d rather go after an entity they obviously thought would be easy pickings – namely the privately-owned and managed South Norfolk Jordan Bridge.
When the original Jordan Bridge became so obsolete it was shedding pieces and had to come down before it killed someone, city leaders in Chesapeake and Portsmouth wrung their hands about the loss of that valuable artery.
Even though it was Chesapeake that owned and operated the old structure, it was undoubtedly Portsmouth that benefited the most by its existence as it provided the simplest and most direct passage for workers at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
Still, when a private group stepped up to the plate with an innovative way to finance and build a bridge, it was Chesapeake that took the bull by the horns and sprear-headed the construction of the gorgeous new structure that now spans the river. Portsmouth barely had to lift a finger – while still reaping the majority of the benefits.
(Here’s a video I shot of my first trip over the new Jordan Bridge. And yes – that’s my dog panting in the background)
Now, Portsmouth says they want to heavily tax the bridge owners – taxes that they never collected on the old span.
What a bunch of ingrates. They can’t govern effectively enough to manage the assets they have, so they decide to go after what they think is an easy target. It’s like giving someone a new car, then having them demand you also pay for the fuel, maintenance, licences and insurance in perpetuity.
I hope in this case the courts express the contempt for Portsmouth’s approach to governance that so many of us feel.
We now head into Norfolk, where we’ll spend the rest of our time pondering the mysteries of municipal management executed behind closed doors.
In this article, the Pilot explains in excruciating detail the teeth-pulling efforts they’ve been going through to try and shine some light on the management of Norfolk’s public schools by the current school board.
The degree to which the school board has been two-stepping to avoid any public scrutiny would be utterly comical if not for the fact that the actions of that body impact the lives of thousands of schoolchildren and their families.
I think the thing that most amazes me about this is how they’re completely ignoring the fact that this is the exact type of behavior that motivated voters in Norfolk to demand the right to choose their school board members through popular election, rather than allow them to be appointed without any meaningful public input by the powers-that-be.
It’s my strongest hope that when the first school board elections take place next year, adopting a policy of utter transparency will be the most prominent characteristic voters scrutinize and demand from candidates.
It’s beyond time for transparency and civic engagement to become the most important issue to voters in Norfolk – not only from the soon-to-evolve school board, but the rest of Norfolk’s elected officials.
In this oped, Barry Bishop, who is executive vice president of the Greater Norfolk Corporation, argues that the city’s public-private partnership deal for a new convention center/hotel is a great thing by virtue of the fact that other such partnerships have worked in the past.
This is an insultingly simplistic view of a terribly complex topic.
As I’ve said before, public-private partnerships can be good things when properly negotiated and executed. In fact, I would use the aforementioned South Norfolk Jordan Bridge project as a great example of a PPP that works for everyone.
But too often lately, these projects have benefited the developers to a degree grossly out of balance with their public benefit. I still believe that the Elizabeth River Tunnels deal will be remembered as one of the worst in history – not just here, but nationally.
As I’ve also argued, the decision to team up with uber-developer Bruce Thompson to build “The Main” won’t be far behind. The city’s (meaning taxpayers’) monetary contribution to the project is approaching twice that of Mr. Thompson’s financiers, even though the project keeps getting scaled back and expectations for its performance reduced.
Additionally, Mr. Thompson gets to keep the revenue, while the city assumes the majority of the risk. Trying to claim that this facility’s development will create a renaissance of convention business in Norfolk flies in the face of almost all predictions about the convention industry in general, and here in particular.
As much as I love Norfolk, I’m awfully glad I’m not one of the taxpayers who’ll be on the hook for this dog that’ll never hunt.
In this article, we get some insight into how things are going in terms of repairing the damage incurred at Selden Arcade after a contractor made a big boo-boo and triggered an explosion in the facility.
I love Selden Arcade and the artists who work there, and I’m glad it will survive. However, I’m starting to get very curious about a couple of things:
Who exactly is paying for these repairs? Are they covered by insurance? Is the contractor who caused this damage being held responsible? And how exactly was W.M. Jordan – the general contractor for “The Main” being constructed next door – chosen to do the repairs and renovation?
I’m sure many in Norfolk’s city hall would simply prefer that I and others with questions like these would just shut up and go away.
(Mike Rau is already – perhaps prematurely – mourning the end of summer.