Violence in Mexico
Re: “From the founder” by Tom Fenton, Nov. 17-23, 2019 page 7A:
I think your article concerning the violence in Mexico is spot on! With quiet diplomacy from the U.S. and any success achieved given to the Mexican government, peace might be attainable.
Something has to be done!
El Paso Electric deal
Last week, I participated in the Public Utility Commission hearings in Austin. As part of the effort to purchase El Paso Electric, the buyer, JP Morgan, is offering a $100 million community benefit fund. I have intervened in this case as a ratepayer to raise concerns that this fund is being offered to the city of El Paso inappropriately, with absolutely no guidelines for how the money can be spent or who will make the decisions on how to spend it.
Lacking information regarding formation, governance or project selection makes it impossible to judge whether this Community Economic Sustainability Fund will be in the public interest or just another revenue stream for local government.
The city serves as a regulatory body that must approve the transaction and is a party to the franchise agreements that must be negotiated and approved in the event of a transfer of ownership. The conflicts here seem obvious. Imagine if the purchasers offered $100 million to the Public Utility Commission of Texas to gain their regulatory approval for a merger application.
I like the idea of the purchasers providing $100 million for the benefit of the community so long as the purpose is identifiable, easily accounted for and a direct benefit to the community as a whole.
I propose the fund be split, with $60 million to supplement the $21 million currently offered to EPE customers. After all, it’s us – the ratepayers’ – indirect capital contributions over 112 years that made the existence of El Paso Electric possible. This new combined amount of $81 million is fair and on par with the profits management and directors will receive from the sale.
The remainder of $40 million should be used to provide support for lower electric rates for our public schools, community college and local government facilities over the next 20 years.
Bribery laws and ethics codes of the state of Texas prohibit a benefit to a decision-maker in exchange for a favorable decision. The city, as a regulating authority, must make every effort to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The city must take a hands-off approach and agree to the sale only if the $100 million goes to directly help the ratepayers.