City Hall Reiterates Policy: Since Mid-Feb. Only Those Historically Habitually Delinquent on Payments and Who Haven't Made Payment Since Dec. 2000 Are Subject to Gas Cutoff
Mgr. Statement Follows LBCUR co-Chair Donaldson Statements to Council and Resulting Council Colloquy
No Councilmember Agendizes City Charter "Consumer Protection" Utility Rate Section 1502
We post response by Donaldson to Mgr's statement
(April 6, 2001, updated April 7 w/ Donaldson response) -- In an April 6 written statement that includes a comparison of natural gas cutoff figures from Feb. & Mar. 2000 with Feb. & Mar. 2001, the LB City Manager's office reiterated city policy on natural gas shutoffs for nonpayment.
The statement comes following remarks delivered at the April 3 City Council meeting by John Donaldson, co-chair of LB Citizens for Utility Reform, who said during the public comment period (for non-agendized items) that he had "received over 50 telephone calls from people in distress because they had received shutoff notices or they had neighbors who had received shutoff notices."
In pertinent part, the written statement from the City Manager's office (issued by the city's public information officer) said:
Since mid-February, only those individuals who historically have been habitually delinquent on their payments and have not made a payment since December 2000 are subject to being disconnected.
The statement quoted City Manager Henry Taboada as telling the City Council on February 13:
"The City is working with long-standing customers who are having trouble paying their bills and that those with good credit history will not have their gas shut off if they can't pay all of their bills.
"Although customers not on one of the City's offical payment plans may continue to receive disconnect notices, we have not shut off anyone who has made a reasonable payment since December 31st."
The written statement continued:
In a normal month, the City of Long Beach typically mails out 13,500 disconnect notices. Because many people subsequently pay their bill, the actual disconnections are substantially lower as can be seen in the February and March 2000 figures listed below. The year-to-year comparison of natural gas cut-offs in the City of Long Beach speaks clearly to the results of the "No Disconnect If Some Reasonable Payment Is Made" policy instituted in mid-February. 2001.
February 2000: 1,453
March, 2000: 1,648
February, 2001: 480
March, 2001: 137
The written statement included a sample chronology of the process, indicating a ratepayer has approximately 55 days to make some form of payment prior to being to being disconnected. (The chronology applies to all customers except those on the Level Pay Plan or a special payment program:
The December bill, for gas used during November, is mailed to the ratepayer.
Thirty days later, the January bill, for gas used in December, is mailed. If the December bill has not been paid, a delinquent notice is put on the January bill The delinquent notice, for gas actually used during November, notifies the resident that he/she should contact the City within 14 days to make arrangements to pay the bill.
If the delinquent portion of the bill is not paid within 14 days, a shut-off notice is mailed to the ratepayer. The bill for natural gas used in November has now been outstanding for 44 days. The notice gives the ratepayer another seven days to work out an arrangement for payment.
After seven days from the date of the shut-off notice, Long Beach Energy is notified to terminate service. Service is then terminated within 1-4 days.
And while the non-elected City Manager responded on this issue both at the April 3 Council meeting and in the April 6 written statement, not one elected Councilmember exercised their right to agendize for public disucssion City Hall's policy on City Charter section 1502, as requested by Mr. Donaldson.
Despite disproportionate natural gas price rises that began over four months ago, no Council incumbent has agendized for dicussion the "consumer protection" aspects of Charter section 1502, specifying that rates charged by City Hall-run utilities be based on the prevailing rates for other like utilities, public or private, in the southern California area.
Councilmembers, the Mayor and the City Manager all remained silent on the City Charter issue after Mr. Donaldson spoke and the April 10 Council meeting includes no agenda item for discussion of this issue.
On April 7, LBCUR co-chair John Donaldson issued a response to the City Manager's statement. We have posted it verbatim at: Donaldson April 7 response.