It's raining referenda

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I don't recall the Oak Park village board ever asking my opinion about anything, but I now learn that the voters will be given the opportunity to vote on a referendum to seek electricity in the open market [Oak Park to voters: Do you want cheaper energy? News, Jan. 5]. My first reaction was: That's why I voted for you guys to figure stuff like this out. But it turns out state law now requires voter approval before the village can seek bids from independent power sources rather than ComEd.

I don't have a background in economics, geology, oil and gas law, or engineering. I don't subscribe to trade publications like Today's Petroleum or Electricity Illustrated. I have no idea at all whether this is a good idea, and to tell you the truth I don't care that much.

I do know a few things. Village sustainability manager K.C. Poulos was quoted as saying that the referendum offers a rare opportunity of an economic benefit without substantial costs. Really? Whatever happened to Milton Friedman's prohibition about free lunches? Trustee Lueck calmed fears of those who might remember when rates went up when the phone companies deregulated by noting that electricity rates went down in Ohio after some towns there approved a referendum like the one proposed here. Maybe, but even more recently the housing, commodities and banking industries were deregulated, and how did that work out?

I'd like to know just how this whole idea came about. Who proposed it? What's in it for them? Does Goldman Sachs have anything to do with it? Did the guys proposing have on two thousand-dollar suits? Were the words "tranche," "hedge fund" or "collateralized debt obligations" used in the presentation? If so, run for the door.

I hope it all works out for us, but I must admit, based upon what's been reported so far, there's just a slight odor of Enron in the air. Maybe Trustee Hedges is right to suggest taking our time on this one.

Speaking of referenda, the British Medical Journal yesterday called Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study linking childhood autism to vaccinations an "elaborate fraud." Is there any chance we could have a "do over" on the November advisory referendum requiring certain disclosures in connection with Oak Park vaccinations?

John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one. Go to OakPark.com/community/blogs to read more.

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Mark Burger from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2011 11:18 AM

When the ComEd franchise was being renewed back in 1996, the Village Board failed by one vote to go public. Hopefully this will be more meaningful than banning nuclear weapons, but the Village may be severely restricted in what they can do legally in power generation, probably just for government use only. The real issue is if Oak Parkers are willing to own, not rent, energy usage,and the willingness to make the investment.

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2011 9:39 AM

All good points. The bottom line is: what's the rush given the complexity of the issue? Although the early bird may catch the worm, haste makes waste.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2011 4:28 PM

While I support the concept, it would appear prudent to adopt a wait-and-see approach given the fact Community Choice Aggregation legislation in IL was just passed last year. According to the Oak Leaves today, Glenview, Northbrook and Evanston have decided not to participate this year, opting to study how other communities fare. Makes good sense. Environmental planning and policy in Oak Park needs to be based on informed decisions, not on being first for the sake of public relations and egos.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 13th, 2011 12:45 PM

C.U.B. supports the concept according the a response I received. Their spokesperson stated that whether Oak Park residents realize any savings depends on the contract. Let's hope the the Village Board does not involve Village Attorney Heise in these negotiations. His record is filled with too many mistakes.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 9:08 AM

The Citizens Utility Board needs to be asked to analyze the proposal before we proceed with a referendum.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 8:57 AM

As usual, Pope and Barwin appear motivated more by the public relations of being first, rather than critical analysis. The utility and political network in IL is entirely different than Ohio, with no historical data on Community Choice Aggregate (CCA) in IL to serve as the basis for this type of decision. Twelve other IL communities are going to referenda on CCAs this April. If passed, why not wait for the results from these communities, and then evaluate whether to proceed with a CCA in OP?

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