Thomas Suddes commentary: Ohioans need the Consumers' Counsel to look out for them

Full story: DispatchPolitics

On phony grounds of "economy," Republican Gov. John Kasich's proposed budget would gut the Office of Consumers' Counsel, which defends Ohio's 4.5 million residential utility customers against the Statehouse's insatiable public-utility lobby.
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1 - 19 of 19 Comments Last updated Apr 6, 2011
dave chappelle

Hilliard, OH

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#1
Apr 3, 2011
 

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Just another example of how Kasich and the GOP intend to eliminate the people representing average middle class Americans. Get rid of the unions and consumer watchdogs, and then we'll all be beholden to the power of the corporate elites.
bob

Castalia, OH

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#2
Apr 3, 2011
 

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Your article very clearly states that the Consumers' Counsel had not done her job. If she had acted as a 'lawyer' for us, the consumers, the electric bill would have stayed with the Consumer Price Index, at $86.00. The fact of the matter is that the Consumers' Counsel did not do anything for the Consumers. Columbus Dispatch wrote an article on the May 3rd issue of 2009 stating that under this Consumer Counsel's watch, Ohioans paid 998 million is excess of national average for natural gas. Go and check our water bills and you will find that we as Ohioans pay a lot more than other states. Again, the fact of the matter is that JMO is incompetent, over-paid. She received a $50,000 to her paycheck just shortly after she started working as a our Consumers' Counsel. At that point, she had no record to show that she had done anything solid for us, the Ohio consumers. The 50,000 increase is unheard of in state government jobs. She gives $20,000 increases to her cronies within the agency - Dispatch can request records and find this out for themselves. She is running this agency as her own private business. The average salary for this agency is lot more than the average salary of other state agencies. If the services of this agency is needed for Ohioans, we need a competetant Consumers Counsel - not JMO - because, under JMO's watch, all rates have only gone up and up. The fact, again, is that she always sides with PUCO and approves all increases. If we have ever gotten a break, it is only a break of a cent or two which is not worth 8.5 million of tax payers dollars. It is us who pay this bill - because, the assessment that is waged to utility companies is passed on to us, the consumers. We, the Ohio consumers, pay this 8.5 million. Go ahead and check your utility bills - you will see what you are paying for this agency. When FirstEnergy decided to distribute two CFLs for $21.00+, it was Consumers' Counsel who approved it. When PUCO asked her as to why she approved it, JMO answered that she saw the writing on the wall - that PUCO will anyway charge 21.00 dollars and so she let it go. So, it is more than obvious that the Consumers' Counsel does not have the bite. She has not done anything for us. She and her agency is a waste.
Government waste

Columbus, OH

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#3
Apr 3, 2011
 

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The utilities in Ohio are heavily regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. That agency sets the rates and other costs that utilites can pass on to consumers. The PUCO also has oversight responsibility for the operations of the utilities in Ohio. If that agency is not working, fix the PUCO, don't create another agency like the Consumers Council.

Also, it was stated in the artile that the OCC budget is paid by the utilities. The costs of this agency are paid by utility customers, all costs of running the utilites are paid by customers.
kasichuptonogood

Westerville, OH

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#4
Apr 3, 2011
 

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I couldn't agree with you more Mr. Suddes. Kasich is trying to slip a fast one by us to pay back his buddies at the energy companies. By stripping the Consumer's Counsel, they'll be able to raise all of our rates. THANKS DUDE!
ramseyjames

Bellefontaine, OH

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#5
Apr 4, 2011
 
What this idiot, sorry excuse for a governor, does should not really surprise anyone. He will do everthing he can to help his millionaire buddies make more money, at the expense of all consumers. Now all of us are reaping the benefits of this piece of crap, and since he was voted into office, don't you think that we deserve every piece of crap this fool piles on us?
watched debate in house

United States

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#6
Apr 4, 2011
 

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bob wrote:
Your article very clearly states that the Consumers' Counsel had not done her job. If she had acted as a 'lawyer' for us, the consumers, the electric bill would have stayed with the Consumer Price Index, at $86.00. The fact of the matter is that the Consumers' Counsel did not do anything for the Consumers. Columbus Dispatch wrote an article on the May 3rd issue of 2009 stating that under this Consumer Counsel's watch, Ohioans paid 998 million is excess of national average for natural gas. Go and check our water bills and you will find that we as Ohioans pay a lot more than other states. Again, the fact of the matter is that JMO is incompetent, over-paid. She received a $50,000 to her paycheck just shortly after she started working as a our Consumers' Counsel. At that point, she had no record to show that she had done anything solid for us, the Ohio consumers. The 50,000 increase is unheard of in state government jobs. She gives $20,000 increases to her cronies within the agency - Dispatch can request records and find this out for themselves. She is running this agency as her own private business. The average salary for this agency is lot more than the average salary of other state agencies. If the services of this agency is needed for Ohioans, we need a competetant Consumers Counsel - not JMO - because, under JMO's watch, all rates have only gone up and up. The fact, again, is that she always sides with PUCO and approves all increases. If we have ever gotten a break, it is only a break of a cent or two which is not worth 8.5 million of tax payers dollars. It is us who pay this bill - because, the assessment that is waged to utility companies is passed on to us, the consumers. We, the Ohio consumers, pay this 8.5 million. Go ahead and check your utility bills - you will see what you are paying for this agency. When FirstEnergy decided to distribute two CFLs for $21.00+, it was Consumers' Counsel who approved it. When PUCO asked her as to why she approved it, JMO answered that she saw the writing on the wall - that PUCO will anyway charge 21.00 dollars and so she let it go. So, it is more than obvious that the Consumers' Counsel does not have the bite. She has not done anything for us. She and her agency is a waste.
Thanks for slamming the Consumer's Counsel from your California address. Your comments picked my interest, so I read the article. Mr Suddes has a valid point, Kasich made an empty promise that his former aides and donors would hold no special favor in his administration. But by defunding the Consumer's Counsel, he has proved his disingenousness. Very good investigative reporting by Thomas Suddes that listed the large executive salaries and the lobbyist that included his former congressional aide.

If we follow the lame advice of a Californian, Ohio may experience the rolling blackouts of the deregulated Enron era that impacted California in the 1990's in Ohio.

BTW, the deregulation of natural gas had mixed results for me with sharp price increases followed by decreases in the last year.
Solarman

La Quinta, CA

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#7
Apr 4, 2011
 

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ramseyjames wrote:
What this idiot, sorry excuse for a governor, does should not really surprise anyone. He will do everthing he can to help his millionaire buddies make more money, at the expense of all consumers. Now all of us are reaping the benefits of this piece of crap, and since he was voted into office, don't you think that we deserve every piece of crap this fool piles on us?
It typically takes a few years for management of the electricity industry to figurre out ways around the requirements of deregulation. Now you're about to suffer the consequences of their findings. Wasn't this Strickland's deal? How's that deregulation workin' for ya?
Chairman

Columbus, OH

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#8
Apr 4, 2011
 

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Tom Suddes is right on point. Gov. kasich is doing exactly what hi utility contributors have want79361ed to do since the OCC was created.
watched debate in house

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#9
Apr 4, 2011
 

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Solarman wrote:
<quoted text>It typically takes a few years for management of the electricity industry to figurre out ways around the requirements of deregulation. Now you're about to suffer the consequences of their findings. Wasn't this Strickland's deal? How's that deregulation workin' for ya?
Conservatives f'ed up California with their propositions, now they are working to support John Kasich is f'ing up Ohio. Deregulation and tax cuts are conservative wunderkind agenda items. Strickland had his hands tied by the legislature.
Solarman

United States

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#10
Apr 4, 2011
 

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watched debate in house wrote:
<quoted text>
Conservatives f'ed up California with their propositions, now they are working to support John Kasich is f'ing up Ohio. Deregulation and tax cuts are conservative wunderkind agenda items. Strickland had his hands tied by the legislature.
How's that deregulation workin' for ya? Wait till you see the smart metering programs and tiered electric rates.
Melissa

Columbus, OH

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#11
Apr 4, 2011
 

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This is the trend all through the nation now. All states are finding that the agency called Consumers' Counsel is not needed when there is there something similar to PUCO in every state. For example - take the state of Connecticut. The budget for the agency that is similar to OCC of Ohio (it is also called OCC) is going through a heavy budget cut. I saw the top attorney of that agency (Mary healy) on U-tube saying that if the budget is cut deeply, her job will be eliminated as well.(So, what bothers them the most seems to be their own job loss!- but that is beside my point). What is happening in Ohio is in line with what is happening in other states of the country. It is high time we eliminated agencies that are not needed. Please visit the website of PUCO of Ohio. You will find the reasoning for the budget cut for OCC. From PUCO's information, it looks like that are the only agency that is entrusted with utility matters and that they are responsible for customers as well as utility companies and their rate settings. It is high time we as consumers paid just for one agency to do the job. In Connecticut, it seems like the agency (OCC) is going to be merged with the Attorney General's office which will help consumers with utility matters. This should probably be done in Ohio as well. Instead of running an agency with 4 million, it should be merged with the Attorney General's office. The money that we pay now (we would continue to pay whether this agency exists or not - that is the plight of consumers)- the 8.5 million should be kept in an emergency fund to be used for Ohioans for emergencies.

In fact, this topic came in the last budget. The OCC of Ohio expected back in 2009 that their agency may be merged with the Attorney General's office. But it did not happen at that time because of politics.
Chuck

Columbus, OH

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#12
Apr 4, 2011
 
watched debate in house wrote:
<quoted text>
Thanks for slamming the Consumer's Counsel from your California address. Your comments picked my interest, so I read the article. Mr Suddes has a valid point, Kasich made an empty promise that his former aides and donors would hold no special favor in his administration. But by defunding the Consumer's Counsel, he has proved his disingenousness. Very good investigative reporting by Thomas Suddes that listed the large executive salaries and the lobbyist that included his former congressional aide.
If we follow the lame advice of a Californian, Ohio may experience the rolling blackouts of the deregulated Enron era that impacted California in the 1990's in Ohio.
BTW, the deregulation of natural gas had mixed results for me with sharp price increases followed by decreases in the last year.
It is really interesting that you needed to bring in "Enron". May be you do not know that the Consumers' Counsel of Ohio is a former employee (attorney) of Enron.
OldMan

Columbus, OH

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#13
Apr 5, 2011
 
I guess that keeping and strengthing the Consumer's Counsel and PUCO would not be very "Business Friendly"
watched debate in house

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#14
Apr 5, 2011
 
Chuck wrote:
<quoted text>
It is really interesting that you needed to bring in "Enron". May be you do not know that the Consumers' Counsel of Ohio is a former employee (attorney) of Enron.
Thank you Chuck. She listed Enron on her CV, she may have first hand knowledge of the pitfalls of deregulation. After Enron declared bankruptcy, she probably lost her shirt on the worthless stock.
watched debate in house

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#15
Apr 5, 2011
 
Solarman wrote:
<quoted text>How's that deregulation workin' for ya? Wait till you see the smart metering programs and tiered electric rates.
From what I saw on PBS, these are intented to conserve electricity during peak usage hours. It sounded good to me.
DrC Ohio

Columbus, OH

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#16
Apr 5, 2011
 
oink oink, Special K has more pigs to feed.
columbus

Lewis Center, OH

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#17
Apr 5, 2011
 

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After reading all the posts here, curiosity got the better of me. I went to the website of Ohio Department of Administrative Services and clicked on State Employee Information. I went through several agencies and landed on the salary information of the agency called Consumers' Counsel. Just picked one last employee. Went ahead and plugged the name I found in the website of Buckeye Institute where all state salaries are available. I found the following salaries for this employee:

2004 -$ 44,245;
2005 -$ 47,191;
2006 -$ 73,302;
2007 -$ 80,837;
2008 -$ 81,649;
2009 -$ 82,365;
2010 -$ 84,838;

All state employees have lost salaries in 2010 due to cost saving days - 80 hours without pay. But this employee in OCC has made 2,473 dollars more in 2010; may be this is in-fact a privileged agency where employees did not have to go through cost saving days.

Also, look at the 26,000 dollar difference in pay between years 2005 and 2006. And also, please look at the $7,000 increase between the years 2006 and 2007. Must be privileged to get an increase of 7000 dollars immediately after getting a 26,000 dollar increase the previous year.
Solarman

La Quinta, CA

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#18
Apr 5, 2011
 
watched debate in house wrote:
<quoted text>
From what I saw on PBS, these are intented to conserve electricity during peak usage hours. It sounded good to me.
Charging people more for power usually has the effect of making them use less. The new buzz word now being bandied about is "dynamic pricing". With smart meters you can gauge how much energy a ratepayer uses every hour, "dynamically". So instead of tiered rates where there are at least blocks of energy usage with varying prices, you can have those higher rates from the magical noon to 7 P.M. each day. It's hard enough to keep track of monthly KWh usage without having to try and figure out if you really did use more energy during 12 to 7 one time and not another. The meters are micro processor based so they are upgradable, sounds nice until you realize you can also screw up the code and create a "bug" that could change your electric bill from one day to the next. Who's going to keep an eye on this kind of practice? Who has the expertise, the PUC? Think of a program "glitch" that would charge each and every customer 1 cent more per KWh than the actual going rate, which could also be "dynamic" in pricing. Who's going to be able to track this back to the original error since you now have two variables to contend with over hundreds of thousands or millions of electricity accounts?
Bobcat

Columbus, OH

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#19
Apr 6, 2011
 
Suddes saves energy by not washing his hair.

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