CPS – Part 4 – Indictment of City Council

In session 3. we learned that the CPS Energy Board of Trustees is not accountable for the operational effectiveness of CPS Energy. What does the interaction of City government and its satellite unelected bureaucracies tell us about the City’s command structure and the seat of power in the City? 1. CPS is an unregulated monopoly 2. CPS is a municipally-owned utility 3. CPS is “managed” by an unelected Board of Trustees 4. But who really runs CPS? 5. CPS policy: “renewables-at-any-cost” 6. CPS President Gold-Williams has told us what is wrong with CPS 7. Gold-Williams’ has a “plan” to fix CPS’ problems 8. CPS spends our money as if it does not face a cash squeeze 9. CPS knows their 20-year Smart Grid financial projection is wrong 10. CPS uses Smart Grid data to manage our behavior 11. Is Smart Grid vulnerable to hacking?
The February 12, 2017 presentation by SAMBA (San Antonio Making Bureaucracies Accountable) to City Council and City Manager Sheryl Sculley evaluated in 9 minutes the responsibilities of our elected Council and their qualifications to fulfill those responsibilities: 1. “You must critically evaluate spending proposals, implicit in your responsibility to wisely spend taxpayer money.” City staff member Pat DiGiovanni who reported to Sheryl Sculley, convinced City Council on October 11, 2011 to approve VIA’s streetcar project.
We challenged the “due diligence” by City CFO Ben Gorzell (who also reports to Sheryl Sculley). Streetcar, enthusiastically advocated by the City staff bureaucracy, was terminated 34 months later, as Mayor Taylor “blocked a wasteful streetcar project.” VIA had to write off $18 million in development/startup costs.
Was any VIA or City staff member fired for misrepresenting streetcar economics? Who is accountable for this waste? The Mayor needs a direct-report financial expert to identify loser projects early. 2. “City Manager Sheryl Sculley is your (the Council’s) employee whose performance you are required to evaluate. Which of you is qualified to conduct such a review of her financial activities?” This is part of your job and you are not qualified to do it.
The Mayor needs a direct-report financial expert to evaluate Sculley’s job performance and conduct periodic fact-based performance interviews. 3. “Regulate CPS Energy, currently an unregulated monopoly.” You (City Council) are not qualified regulators because the City received 30.6% of its 2016 budgeted receipts from CPS. You cannot be both CPS’ regulator and its beneficiary.
And consider the CPS “stealth tax” — the $233 million of the $336 million transferred from CPS to the City in 2016 that exceeds a reasonable dividend that a private sector utility would distribute to its investors. If this is news to you, perhaps the Mayor needs a direct-report financial expert to expose economic truths. 4. “You must approve CPS rate increases.” But Smart Grid programming manages 12 additional data elements Smart Meters measure and transmit to implement CPS’ announced “time-of-use rates,” “critical peak pricing” and whatever else is on the horizon.
Complex and arcane Smart Grid software may prevent the quantification of a CPS rate increase which will depend, to an increasing extent, on customer behavior. The Mayor needs unbiased, apolitical advice from a direct-report financial expert. 5. “Support the City commitment ‘…providing transparency and open government to its Citizens.’” CPS EVP Chris Eugster told City Council on June 11, 2014 that CPS’ Smart grid project had a 12-year payback to which attending Sheryl Sculley and Ben Gorzell offered tacit approval.
Now, over 4 years later, the unchanged Gorzell assessment, claiming a $145 million positive cash flow over 20 years has been countered by our Coalition’s estimated $2.3 billion negative impact on CPS customers. And the CPS/City bloc refuses to explain the total $2.5 billion spread. 6. “Who is running this City? Not we citizens or you, our elected representatives, because you have only as much control as Ms. Sculley cedes to you. She has the financial information (call it “power”) and you lack the expertise to evaluate her inputs and restrain her decisions, implemented personally or through surrogates.”