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Public Speaker at NLB Council Meeting Gets Extended Applause Slamming City Hall On Gas Bills

(February 28, 2001) -- Extended applause followed comments by a veteran LB activist at the February 27 City Council meeting after the speaker criticized as inadequate City Hall's actions to date on LB gas bills.

During the public comment period on non-agenda items, Bixby Knolls resident John Deats termed the City Hall's actions on reducing LB's natural gas bills "profoundly unacceptable" and "profoundly insulting."

He told the Council to start treating the issue as its problem, instead of making the bills the public's problem.

At the end of Mr. Deats' comments (transcript below), sustained applause rocked the Jordan High School auditorium, site of the annual NLB City Council meeting. It continued uninterrupted for nearly ten seconds until the Mayor spoke to quell the ovation by promising news of additional actions later in the meeting.

( covers the developments announced by the City Manager in a separate article on a link cited below.)

Mr. Deats, speaking without notes, called recent Council actions on LB's natural gas bills "tokenism at best."

[The Council's actions include incremental reductions in the utility tax, partial discounts limited to low income seniors and low income disabled and a "level pay plan."]

Mr. Deats' comments carried added sting because some of the Council-approved measures were proposed by the incumbent Mayor (term-limited but will wage a write-in campaign for a third term) and two Council incumbents who may be considering a Mayoral run (Councilmembers Grabinski and Colonna).

Mr. Deats' comments follow:

Mr. Deats: "...[m]y wife and I just returned from Georgia, only this time instead of coming home to a dilemma about an electric utility and the possible buying-out of the Edison franchise, we came home to a gas bill of $300 per month during which we were gone half of the time.

You should have heard what my wife had to say about that, but I couldn't repeat it at this microphone. [audience laughter]

I find this to be profoundly unacceptable.

And right now, I hearken back to when the electric utility was under consideration, [City Attorney] Mr. Shannon addressed the Bixby Highland Neighborhood Association regarding the City Charter as it applied to municipal utilities. He talked about how, in order to allay our fears about the possibility of high electric rates [from a municipally run utility] that we were protected by the City Charter from being charged more than comparative rates in surrounding communities.

And for both the convenience and the purpose of this city showing a profit from its gas utility, we've always compared ourselves to Lakewood in the past. You don't want to do that anymore; if you compared ourselves to Lakewood, you'd be running where you'd have to cover a net negative spread.

Frankly, I don't care if you had to do that. Right now, you've made it our problem. I want this to be your problem.

And you can either sell us gas at a loss if that's what's required and if you can't manage it properly, sell the utility to somebody that can.

Everything I've heard to come out of City Hall so far is profoundly insulting. It's tokenism at best.

Something as to be done, and I have heard nothing that portends a permanent, adequate solution. Level pay is just putting off to tomorrow what should have been paid today.

You've talked about nominal reductions in the utility users tax, you've talked about a nominal discount on gas rates.

This just cannot persist. Thank you." [Nearly ten seconds of applause]

Mayor O'Neill: "I might say that this is our problem and we're working very hard and I hope that in the report that we have tonight on the level pay there is some additional information that will be given to you that's going to make a difference.

So I agree with you, Mr. Deats. Thank you very much. [Calls the next speaker.]

No Councilmembers spoke in response to Mr. Deats' comments.

The additional information mentioned by the Mayor, announced by the City Manager later in the meeting, is covered by in an article posted at: City Manager's update on natural gas)

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