As surely as the first flower of spring or the yearly increase in bridge tolls, we are suffering through more power outages while politicians threaten to get to the bottom of it all.
August 8, 2020 Staten Island, New York.
Once again, the power is out. Once again it is taking too long to restore. Once again bullying politicians are using their positions
of power to bully and threaten utility companies. Haven’t we heard this all before? We will yank your licenses. We will fine you
to death. Why didn’t the power company prepare for this storm? And yet, after the show for the public clears, it’s business as
usual, waiting for the next outage to take too long to restore. Why?
Mid Island City Council candidate Sam Pirozzolo says, “There will never be an answer to the investigations the career politicians
are calling for because in the end the finger will point at them.” There are many problems attributable to the utility companies.
Preparing for a storm is not one of them. They cannot roll in all their wires and pipes before a storm and then just roll them back
out after it’s over. But the politicians know that. They just hope that you don’t know that. Utility companies have cut their workforces
dramatically over the past few decades. There are currently about 1/3 the field workers that there were in 1980. How did that
happen? Mandates from the politicians to keep rates low. What changed is not that storms knock out power, but that utility
companies don’t have the manpower to respond to large scale emergencies in a time frame we would like. There is a lot of blame
for this to go around, but ultimately it lies with the NYS Public Service Commission, which is controlled by the finger pointing
In the modern era, utility companies use a system called mutual aid, where large scale outages are responded to by utilities in
neighboring states. Depending on the size of the outages depends on how far the aid comes from. This storm has crews from as
far away as Chicago. Hurricane Sandy saw crews from California. While they are traveling to help our hometown skeleton crews,
you are out of power with no one to fix it. All in the name of lower rates. And yet, anyone who actually pays one of these bills might
say, my bill has never been higher. Welcome to the world of career politicians “fixing” a problem through threats and promises.
Sam Pirozzolo promises to take a different course of action when elected to the City Council. “Like so many other problems, the
issue of long wait times are created by the same politicians who are now outraged. It’s time that we had leaders who will dig deeper.
In great part the power is still out because we don’t have enough workers here. And despite shrinking workforces the rates have not
come down because for every dime saved on firing those who do the work the city has wrung more tax money out of the company,
which is passed off to you, keeping your rates high anyway. In the City Council I won’t be able to change the behavior of the
Governor and his Public Service Commission, but I will be able to bring sanity to our budget and negotiate tax cuts for Con Edison
in exchange for bringing some of the linemen we desperately need back in house.”
Indeed, this is the kind of thinking that is absent on our current political landscape. Our elected officials do an admirable job of
making threats that make us feel good, or of constituent services where they are in touch with the company to let you know that
service won’t be restored for days or weeks, and sometimes even moving them along in response to calls from a certain area.
But remember, if an elected official is able to get one person or group of people moved up the list, someone else is moved down
the list. It is only when the core problems are fixed that we will all enjoy lights and air conditioning.