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Ron Kaye: As certain as the lights coming on

August 11, 2013

City Manager Scott Ochoa, armed with graphs and pie charts and a thousand details, spent 55 minutes offering a "relatively brief presentation" explaining why electricity rate hikes averaging 26 percent over the next five years are necessary or Glendale's century-old utility will "effectively be out of business as we have come to know it."

His efforts silenced skeptics such as the Glendale Chamber of Commerce at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, kept harsh critics like Herbert Molano from even bothering to attend and convinced the Board of Realtors to get aboard the plan for increases of 8%, 7%, 5%, 2% and 2% each year through 2017 — increases Ochoa insisted would put Glendale Water & Power on a healthy economic footing, improve service, meet rising state and federal standards and lead to only modest future rate hikes.

Here was one of the most important decisions that the City of Glendale, its 200,000 residents, thousands of businesses and its political leadership will make for a long time to come and it was left to the Armenian National Committee and its supporters, along with a handful of other residents, 32 in all, to publicly speak for everyone.


Not that anyone cared very much, with only 189 viewers tuning into the Council meeting online compared to the 2,462 viewers of the July 9 meeting where the Korean "comfort women" statue was being discussed.

Mostly, those who came attacked the plan as too expensive for the poor to afford — three bucks more a month. They argued it's totally unnecessary — all the city has to do is stop raking $21 million off the top of electricity revenues and transferring it to the city's General Fund and the utility would be in fine shape.

But as Ochoa put it: "The impact on the General Fund would be crippling," noting that across-the-board cuts to make up for the lost revenue would mean eliminating 40 cops, 24 firefighters and cutting library, parks and community service programs sharply.

The frustration of ordinary citizens that had surfaced during a series of meetings around town was best put by Annie Jensen, an elderly woman in a wheelchair who rents an apartment near Pacific Park.

"This rate increase is going to affect our lives profoundly," she said. "It's going to affect every aspect of our lives.... I don't have any solutions, but I'm just very uncomfortable with this rate increase.... I would just like you to keep uppermost in your minds the greatest good for the greatest number."

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