Who really cares about Pueblo?

That’s a question worth considering as we approach an important election to determine the future of our city and the well being of Pueblo’s families and businesses.

There’s a group out there claiming it “cares” about our city. But scratch beneath the gentle name, Pueblo CARES, you’ll find a political issues committee, like a political action committee. Created by Black Hills Energy, it’s run by a slick Denver political operative.

Dark money PAC ads often use scare tactics and phrases that alarm people. Their kindly-named groups make viewers believe they have your best interests in mind or they’re saving you from ruin. Usually, if they succeed, they’re saving their secret donors billions of dollars.

It’s all about the money. And who gets it. When Pueblo CARES failed to file by Feb. 23rd its financial disclosure statement, I wondered ... perhaps the group would rather pay a fine than reveal which company is behind all those ads saturating our media?

Black Hills’ PAC wants you to believe they’re one of us ― grassroots locals ― and all they really want is what’s best for our community. (But once the company’s charm campaign failed, suddenly the city was sued over ballot question 2A.)

This Black Hills’ PAC wants us to believe they want clean energy while the company invests in fossil fuel assets. As we pay down their debt, the company tries to convince us they’ll refrain from raising rates for a few years, although their history shows they’ve raised our electric rates 57 percent since 2008.

Implementing public power isn’t the scary scenario Black Hills’ PAC wants you to believe. The 16 myths claimed by BHE’s vice president and Pueblo CARES have been debunked.

Furthermore, BHE had the opportunity to make its case to our community. Instead, they backed out of a public forum on the issue, twice.

Here are some facts they’d probably prefer you didn’t see:

The U.S. currently has 2,011 public power systems, serving 49 million people in 49 states. They employ 93,000 people and earn $58 billion dollars annually ― in small and large cities.

Colorado has 29 successful public power systems across our state. These work well for their customers.

But, under contract to Black Hills Energy, Pueblo pays some of the highest electricity rates in Colorado. No wonder BHE wants to keep us under contract. We’re their golden goose.

Instead of losing businesses over high electric rates, paying off their debts, and their shareholders, paying their South Dakota executives’ salaries which range from $2 million to $4 million each, we could pay good salaries to local employees included in Pueblo’s Public Power provider model.

Pueblo could put to work up to $130 million dollars annually, supporting local jobs and spurring our economy.

We have a choice. On May 5, we can choose to act as leaders or victims. As a leader, Pueblo enjoys auspicious conditions for success on this path to a clean, affordable and brighter future.

We’re blessed with wind and solar. We’re a home rule city. Our franchise contracts reserved all our rights to generate or buy our own power for Pueblo.

Just because BHE doesn’t like us exercising the terms they agreed to does not release them from that agreement. We have a vested interest in our own future.

So, who do you think really cares about Pueblo? Elected officials we selected to make best decisions on our behalf? Or $1 billion conglomerate which leeches millions from our community and sends money out of state?

Our Pueblo Board of Water Works which has provided state-of-the-art water delivery with the lowest rates on the Front Range? Or the monopoly which cuts the electric power supply to single moms in winter, and then charges hefty reconnect fees?

Records show BHE cut power to 5,345 customers in 2018 alone. Does that constitute care for Pueblo? What about a highly paid political operative from Denver? Do you think he “cares”?

Don’t be fooled by pretty websites and vague entreaties about caring for Pueblo and our energy future.

They’ve emerged from a dark place.

Let’s consider the true stakeholders, not just stockholders. Let’s be informed by facts, not manipulated by fear.

Multiple studies show it’s financially prudent for Pueblo to ditch Black Hills and move confidently into a brighter, cleaner future where we determine for ourselves what’s best for our city.

Together, we can step forward into that future.

We don’t need Pueblo CARES. Pueblo can care for herself.

Leslie Cates was the founder of Pueblo Move to Amend and campaign manager for 2012 ballot referendum 1A, helping educate the community on dark money in politics and how corporations use our bill of rights against the very people it was written to protect. She was a 2016 recipient of the League of Women Voters Making Democracy Work award.