Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fiber Bond Ordinance Introduced

The Advocate in "Council begins bond process" and the Advertiser in "Council takes steps to issue fiber bonds" covered last night's uneventful introduction of the the bond ordinance that will come up for a vote on September 6th. The council, eager to watch the Lafayette's Little League World Series Game, moved it own with not discussion and got out in an hour...this achievement rivals that of the Lafayette baseball team as all who have set through seemingly endless council meetings will attest.

The introduction is largely a non-event except for making the final language bond ordinance public. Final, that is, if the PSC acts sensibly when the commission meets considers its rule-making on September 1st. Some language in the ordinance is clearly aimed at clarifying LUS' intentions and codifying some of them as law in anticipation of a favorable PSC ruling, as is made clear in the following passage from the Advocate's story:

The PSC is also considering a proposal that would prohibit LUS from using the resources of its other, existing utilities to repay the new communications bonds.

LUS believes state law allows for such an arrangement. LUS' future competitors, BellSouth and Cox Communications, said they believe such an arrangement is counter to state law. The initial draft of the PSC rules sided with the private companies.

The bond ordinance lays out a procedure LUS intends on using in the event its annual communications revenue can't meet the entire debt service on the communications bonds.

In that event, LUS plans on using "residual" revenue from the overall utilities system to meet the payments, according to the bond ordinance.

It's possible that the PSC will approve rules at its Sept. 1 meeting that make such a procedure taboo, but LUS Director Terry Huval said he's "confident" that the PSC will understand that state law allows for that method of repayment.

If not, LUS will have to "huddle up and decide what to do next," before the Sept. 6 bond ordinance meeting, Huval said.
Reportedly, a letter-writing campaign in support of LUS by local businesses has been planned by the Chamber but has yet to get off the ground. A related effort by the local Democrats yielded fruit yesterday when a press conference touting a letter by the executive committee was widely covered in the media, both the above stories tag it onto to the Ordinance story and KATC was in attendance, and KLFY has an online story as well.

Gobb Williams, in the Advertiser's version of the story is quoted with a good question:

Executive committee member Gobb Williams said Lafayette residents were under the assumption the July 16 vote, which BellSouth and Cox sued to force, would settle the issue. Now the companies are fighting the project in the Public Service Commission, he said.

"We strongly feel it's being undermined," Williams said. "Why did we have the election? Why did we vote?"

Gobb is right...we forget too easily, because some of us never really believed them, that BellSouth, Cox, and the Fiber 411 trio famously, and piously, promised to only want a vote--that their motives were pure and that they were worried for and wanted exposed what they considered "risks" for citizens with Lafayette's plan. (They avoided talking about their obvious self-interest claiming to be eager for competition.) Explicitly and implicitly the message was that if the people decided in an election to go with LUS their opposition would go away.

We can now see that their pious protestations were false. We can see that getting their way was what was really at issue. Fiber 411 files a raft of ethics complaints--with Eric Benjamin if not the Ethics Commission--and BellSouth and Cox continue to show every sign that finding a way to prevent any competition is their sole goal. Anyone who believes that any of these people is after fairness or a level playing field needs to reexamine the history of our fight and recognize the gap between what they say and what they do.



No comments: