Thursday, June 01, 2006

LPUA hears class action complaints

Yesterday's LPUA meeting rated a mention by both the Advocate and the Advertiser.

There were basically two issues heard: the real issue (the fiber-optic bonds) and the pretext (rates) that allows the lawyers to try and further delay the fiber-optic bond issue.

The pretext, the excuse for getting into this at all, rests on convincing a judge somewhere that...well let me qoute the plaintiffs' lawyers:
“All we know is at the end of year a lot of money is left over, and we think some of that should be refunded to the ratepayer,” plaintiffs’ attorney Stan Baudin told the authority, a commission of five City-Parish Council members that regulates LUS."
Indeed, that's all they know. It's the whole case. They sure think they could have cheaper rates. And if they could they should. And they ought to get to sue to get it. It really is that plainly silly. Of COURSE LUS has money left over. It's supposed to have money left over. The LPUA is in no way obligated to beggar the system every year by meeting some class action lawyer's idea of what the lowest possible rates could be. Quite the opposite: the LPUA is morally obligated to preserve the value of its asset: LUS. To do otherwise would make LUS the sort of short-sighted, stodgy, ineffective public utility that its enemies wish it were.

What the story is is that the class action folks (and those they are agents of) want to pretend that the in lieu of tax payments that LUS makes to the city-parish as illegitimate. But they are perfectly legitimate: They replace taxes and fees that would be paid by a private provider (that's what they are "in lieu" of). This keeps the city whole and provides for a more nearly level playing field for private providers. The indisputable truth is that LUS' rate are very similar to surrounding, private rates. Historically they've been lower that the private utilities charge and on a par with the local coop. LUS customers are not being overcharged and are generally getting a good deal. (That's why we keep LUS and entrust it with new services.)

However, the real issue is the desire of the Plaqumines lawyers to block the city-parish's sale of the the fiber bonds. (Whether they remain agents fo the corporations or are now using their situation to simply try and force a cash settlement, this remains essential to their being involved.) To do so they need an excuse to embroil the bond issue. The rate nonissue, no matter how silly, provides an avenue to that end. That's the point...and it serves Cox and BellSouth well. The original version of this class action lawsuit was a barely warmed over version of BellSouth's suit. So obvious was this that the lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that it had already been decided when BellSouth lost.

Once the the LPUA had found against the plaintiffs on the rate issue they pretty much had to dismiss the bond question since any bond entanglement required a valid rate issue with which to be entangled.

Now the whole thing goes back to Judge Rubin. And will no doubt be appealed. It's all a pretty appalling abuse of the legal system.


---point of personal privledge: something that both stories indicate but that neither emphasizes is that Councilmen Williams and Benjamin just didn't bother to go to the board meeting and fulfill their duties to the community. Earlier stories have indicated that they think it just too much trouble to attend meetings separate from and additional to the city-parish council meetings. Tough. They ran for the office knowing its obligations. To add absudity to neglect both councilmen are meandering around the city making noises about dissolving city-parish in order to get the city indpendent standing. Since the LPUA is a pure CITY organ--possibly the only one left and is inordinately powerful by reason of its control of LUS you'd think they'd be active participants. The fact that they are not and would sit out such an important meeting makes it clear that their real interest in pushing the divisive issue is self-serving. Benjamin is my representative and I even voted for him in the last election. I am embarassed.

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