Hanging Out in Rockford: When you are wrong

I always like to admit when I am in error. I am walking down the street to Little Italy. I see a man sanding the floor in the space that is to become Cru. He is sanding the floor in a direction on the bias with the flooring. I knock on the window, and he comes to the door. I tell him, “I think you are always supposed to sand with the grain.” He says nothing, and goes back to work. Later, I see the finished job, and it is much better than any I have ever done. Obviously, I didn’t know as much about it as he did. I should have kept my big, dumb mouth shut. But I did learn something,

A similar thing happened with my article about Commonwealth Edison (“Judy Baar, where are you,” page V8, June 21-27, 2006). But in this case, luckily, I wasn’t quite as dumb. I stated that our neighbors to the north, who purchase their power from Wisconsin Power and Light (Alliant), did so 40 percent more cheaply than we do. That was the case when I opened my business in Rockton eight or nine years ago. That is no longer the case. The rate freeze has allowed them to catch up, or almost catch up. Overall, they are still a little cheaper up north, according to CUB, the Citizens Utility Board. The real shame is that it took nine years of freezing the electric rates in Illinois to get to this point.

Just to check what I was seeing online, I took my own electric bills and refigured the bill at the Irish Rose downtown with the formula used to calculate the electric rate in my building in Rockton, which buys its power from South Beloit Water, Gas and Electric. It was 20 percent higher downtown than it would have been if I could have bought it from Alliant. Most of this was due to the demand charge we pay to ComEd. The household rate is actually a very slight amount lower than downtown now, but overall, ComEd is still the highest when you look at the amount received for an average kilowatt/hour, according to information on the CUB Web site, 21.5 percent higher than the Midwestern average, according to CUB’s statistics.

ComEd shamelessly wants to return to the situation of nine years ago. CUB is predicting the reverse auction will bring about rate increases of 40 to 60 percent, and this is something we all should be concerned about. In fact, in New Jersey, where they have instituted this reverse auction system, they have already seen rate increases of 55 percent. This is not being necessitated by lack of profit at Ameren or ComEd. They are, according to the CUB Web site, two of the most profitable utilities in the United States, period. In addition, there is already an approved rate increase that will continue to ensure their profitability and stock price.

What they are doing here is separating their electricity-producing self from their electricity-delivering self so they can “sell” electricity to themselves, thereby avoiding the strictures on price of the regulated market. Put plainly, they want to go back to screwing the public. It is the return of the robber barons. How much money do you think the head of ComEd makes? How about this Ameren deal? I didn’t bother to look it up, as I am sure it would only disgust me.

Self: How much do you think that electricity is worth?

Self: A lot more than they are going to want to pay for it.

Self: Yeah, but they can’t get along without it, and they can’t get it anywhere else.

Self: You’re right, let’s charge them a lot.

Self: Hey, really good idea!

This is a thing of major importance to our area. All people of all political parties should be concerned. If they do to us what they have done in New Jersey, we have only ourselves to blame. I am personally willing to get involved. According to the CUB Web site, it’s not too late. Talk to your representatives, and let them know how important you think this is.

I am hosting a fund-raiser for Judy Baar Topinka at the Irish Rose Aug. 6. It’s $500 per person. All proceeds go to the Topinka campaign. You can reserve a place by contacting Republican headquarters. I plan to talk to the candidate about this issue. I think it is one she should take on.

Mike Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the July 12-18, 2006, issue

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