By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail. This quote by Ben Franklin reflects the choice we will be making. A “yes” vote on ballot issue 2A prepares us for a much brighter future, one where we will own our future.
One where we will regain local control of our electricity, better economic development opportunities, and one where we will no longer be beholden to a predatory corporation based in South Dakota, and to the Public Utilities Commission.
Decades ago, the water board’s leaders continued aggressively investing in water rights and lakes so that Pueblo would have enough water to grow to 300,000 people, as well as take advantage of economic development opportunities in which Pueblo had the lowest rates in the state (and still does).
In several unsuccessful economic development opportunities I was involved in the last couple of years involving heavy power users, Pueblo could compete on every important decision point (workforce, cost of housing, living, transportation access), but, thanks to Black Hills, we could not overcome the highest electricity rates in Colorado.
Voting “yes” on 2A will prevent us from further hurting our economic development opportunities as technology advancements place a growing emphasis on automation, robotics, data centers, etc., and there is a larger need for electricity. As long as Black Hills and the PUC are dictating the highest rates in the state, we will always be at a severe disadvantage.
In 2010, when Black Hills began operations here, we had 100 industrial companies. Ten years later, we are down to 64 industrial customers. Nearly half of the large companies have left our community.
What happens if we let them stay another 10 years? How many industrial companies will be left? How many will we be able to recruit to replace those?
Black Hills attorneys have spent millions (at our expense) to bend the PUC to their will from endless rate hikes to blocking Pueblo’s Frances Koncilja from hearing Pueblo rate cases. Our state legislators have tried unsuccessfully for years to improve the PUC.
The sooner we can get away from the PUC, the better our chances are for economic prosperity. In 2017, Black Hills received $45 million dollars from the tax cut. It petitioned the PUC to delay refunding the $45 million dollars immediately to the citizens. It asked to pay back that money over the next 40 years. Incredibly, the PUC granted that request.
Another example is the failed hedging program, approved by the PUC, costing our citizens more than $31 million dollars. The list is endless.
It saddens me to see the thousands of people in our community that have to make decisions each month on food, medicine, shelter or keeping the electricity on. When I drive around the city and see the blighted properties, the lack of front yards, the prairies filled with trash, the homelessness, I wonder how much of this is directly related to paying the highest electricity rates in the state for the last decade.
I have talked with several local manufacturers, restaurants and retailers who are barely hanging on. They pay 20 to 25 percent of their total costs in electricity and it leaves them at a severe disadvantage to their competitors. They might be able to hire more people if their electricity costs were lower.
Don’t be scared by all of the ads and misinformation put out by Black Hills and their shills. 2A does have accountability and taxpayer protections. The water board has been successfully running a municipal utility for the past 100 years. It is the right organization to transition our community to a locally run power and water utility.
This election is not about Boulder, either. We will not make the same mistakes Boulder did and 2A specifically guards against that. We know that Black Hills collects about $250 million dollars every year from our local communities, and after operating costs and system maintenance costs, there is a annual profit of between $60 million and $70 million that goes back to South Dakota and its shareholders.
That money also paid for an amazing new $70 million corporate headquarters there. That annual profit is more than enough to pay for all the transmission and distribution assets to provide our communities with the same reliable power.
Once we own the assets in 10 to 15 years, we will be back to having the lowest electricity rates in the state and a much brighter future for our kids and grandkids. I urge you to vote “yes” on 2A.
Kurt Madic has more than 25 years experience in the information technology industry and is a certified project management professional. He co-founded Startup Pueblo and the Pueblo (now SOCO) Entrepreneurship Competition and has served on several community boards.