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"LB Citizens for Utility Reform" Formed, Will Hold March 24 Community Meeting

(March 14, 2001) -- Responding to what it calls "Long Beach's unreasonably high natural gas rates and other energy-related issues, including the state electricity crisis," a new LB grassroots organization vowing to defend consumers and hold utility providers accountable will launch a series of LB community meetings starting March 24.

A press release describes "Long Beach Citizens for Utility Reform" as a "city-wide collaboration of activists of all political persuasions" formed "to defend utility ratepayers and hold utility providers accountable to the public."

The group includes several noted LB activists, including LB fiscal reformer and Prop J (utility tax cut) author Norm Ryan and Stearns Park neighborhood leader and civic reformer Traci Wilson-Kleekamp.

The group's press release quotes Mr. Ryan as follows:

Our primary concern is that our City Charter says we should not be charged more than the prevailing rate for natural gas. The City has enriched the general fund instead of protecting the ratepayers. Even when they knew prices were spiraling out of control, they used utility bill inserts to illegally campaign against the tax cut. They should have been warning the public to prepare for substantial rate increases that have far outpaced rates in surrounding cities. We want the City to return the overcharges and pledge a moratorium on disconnects.

The press release says the group's first community meeting will take place Saturday March 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Mum's Restaurant's upstairs Cohiba Club. It will include an "open-mic" forum for residents to express their concerns and ideas.

LBCUR committee member Traci Wilson-Kleekamp said, "Electrical prices are expected to soar by as much as 75% over the summer months and gas rates are expected to continue escalating next winter. Bottom line -- weíve been waiting for our City leadership to be pro-active. They havenít done enough."

The keynote speaker will be Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange and a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, whom LBCUR co-chair John Donaldson called "an advocate for citizen/consumer watchdog boards and taxpayer control of public assets. With the government bailout of electric utilities on the horizon, itís important to examine how our City government has operated our utility department so we can avoid similar mistakes. Government and utility companies must be held accountable."

LBCUR co-chair Dina Predisik, a 1st district resident, said: "Families and businesses are really hurting. In particular, seniors need immediate relief. In the long-range, we also hope the City will work with every ratepayer to encourage renewable generation by both major utilities and individual consumers."

LBCUR's March 24 community meeting at Mums Restaurant, 144 Pine Avenue, will run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Two-hour parking is also free.

LBCUR vows to hold additional public meetings "throughout the city and at various times to accommodate residents."

For further info, contact LBCUR co-chair John Donaldson:

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