Public Watchdog.org

In Com Ed’s “24,” Eric Duray No “Jack Bauer” (Updated 06.24.11)

06.23.11

In a comment to Tuesday’s post submitted yesterday evening, Mr./Ms. “Dark on Belle Plaine” wrote:

This is all so nice and I hate to change the topic, but now that my power is back on I turned on my computer and watched the [Monday night City Council] meeting.  I get to the part where the Com-Ed mouthpiece gives a report which outlines all the “improvements” they have done and [how] “short” the repair times are.  I kid you not.  If you haven’t watched it you should.  Then he asks if there are any questions?  Guess what?  Not one.  They all sit there.  All seven of them and the Mayor just sit there.  No one asks what specific improvements have occurred since the last power outage or the one before that or the one before that.  They should have asked because evidenced by what took place over the last twenty-four hours is clear evidence it was not enough.

The semi-Faulknerian length of that paragraph notwithstanding, Mr./Ms. DOBP makes a good point, especially in light of at least 80% of Park Ridge losing electrical power barely 24 hours after Monday night’s public relations presentation by Park Ridge’s very own ComEd rep/troubleshooter, Eric Duray – with 50% of Park Ridge still out of power as of 7:00 a.m. today (06/23/11).

On June 30, 2008, we published a post titled “A Powerless Mayor” in which we wrote:

After large portions of Park Ridge lost power for as much as four days last August, [then-mayor Howard] Frimark made a grand gesture of bringing in ComEd public relations people to explain why we continue to have regular outages and what it was doing to alleviate them.  The report from residents who attended those meetings: “Same stuff, different day.”

Three years later, we have to ask if anything has changed…besides the names of the mayor and six of the seven aldermen, that is?

Mr./Ms. DOBP is spot-on with the observation about how the mayor and the Council – along with City Mgr. Jim Hock, all the other City officials arrayed around The Horseshoe, and a gallery chock-full of residents – sat silent and un-questioning during what turned into a canned public relations pitch for the newest piece of pro-ComEd legislation working its way through a usually-complicit state legislature in Springfield: the “Smart Grid” and “Smart Meters,” which appear designed primarily to ensure a steady stream of ComEd profits for the next decade or so.

According to Duray, the “average” Park Ridge customer had only 1.27 power interruptions during 2010, making last year our most reliable for electrical power since 2006.  He attributed that result to ComEd’s having invested approximately $570,000 in Park Ridge-related capital projects during the past three years (2008-10) – although he didn’t say, and nobody asked, how that $570,000 compares to the total revenue Park Ridge users generated for ComEd during those same three years.

We’re guessing the fraction would be tiny.

Maybe the silence from our public officials Monday night was from the shock of hearing such palaver spewed so directly and earnestly by Duray.  Watch the new WOW-broadcast meeting video on the City’s website and you’ll hear a spiel as good as any delivered by those legendary patent medicine peddlers from the backs of horse-drawn wagons in the Old West: we half-expected Mr. Duray to promise that the new Smart Grid would even cure the croup, lumbago and the grip!

But, unfortunately, Duray has never given us any reason to think that he might be able to solve any of Park Ridge’s electric power problems – not in 24 hours or even 24 months.

Back in June 2008, we suggested then-mayor Frimark and that Council explore the City’s options in dealing with ComEd, including the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of a lawsuit such as several other communities had filed against ComEd for its failure to adequately maintain and improve its power grid to provide more reliable power.  As best as we can tell, that crew did absolutely nothing.

In December 2009, Mayor Schmidt, in response to another Duray dog-and-pony show, challenged ComEd to invest more that the $470,000 in capital improvements Duray was then reporting in order to make electrical power in Park Ridge more reliable: “It would be fair and wise for you to put more money into Park Ridge than the amount of money you have so far.”  But another 18 months have gone by, and we aren’t aware of the City’s getting anything more out of ComEd than another $100,000 of purported but unspecified capital improvements.

We’re not advocating a lawsuit as the only way to get ComEd to provide us with dependable power – at least not until we can get a better sense of what the costs and likelihood of success will be.

In 2005 the City of Darien filed suit against ComEd after a substation fire left 12,000 residents without power for 2-3 days.  ComEd conceded that Darien’s outages were twice those of other areas, and that case was settled by bringing in a consultant who identified the various infrastructure problems which ComEd worked to fix.  According to Duray, however, Park Ridge’s outages last year were slightly better than ComEd’s system-wide average.

The Village of Deerfield has been involved in a suit with ComEd since April 2008, alleging 82,347 individual customer power outages during 1,377 separate electric failures since 2000 related to four circuits which ComEd admitted were among the 1% worst performing circuits in the entire ComEd system.  

That case already has cost Deerfield in excess of $250,000, and that was  before its recent hiring of utility lawyers from a national law firm (DLA Piper) to handle some elements of the case that may now need to proceed before the Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC”) – according to Pages 15-19 of last Thursday’s (June 16) Illinois Supreme Court decision, where the Court held that complaints about ComEd’s infrastructure and services that seek relief for systemic defects in the provision or remediation of services when a power outage occurs, constitute claims for “reparations” that must be heard by the ICC.

So if litigation isn’t the way to go, what is?

Some residents have mentioned burying the power lines as is done in most newer areas, although that sounds like a pretty darn expensive retrofitting project that ComEd is unlikely to undertake solely on its own dime.  Nevertheless, the City should look into it.  It should also put the arm on Park Ridge resident and state Sen. Dan Kotowski, and Rep. Rosemary Mulligan – both of whom have either been MIA or simply ineffective in helping with our flooding and our power problems up to now – to go to bat for us.

Meanwhile, if you want to share your thoughts about ComEd’s performance with Mr. Duray, we understand that his e-mail address is eric.duray@ComEd.com.  If you do so, we suggest that you copy the mayor, the city manager, and at least your own alderman (using the e-mail addresses for them on the City’s website); and Sen. Kotowski (dan@kotowski4senate.com) and Rep. Mulligan (repmulligan@usa.net).

Oh, yeah…and don’t forget to copy us here at ContactUs@PublicWatchdog.org.

UPDATE (06.24.11): In responding to one of the comments to this post, we re-visited the City’s website and discovered that while a “ComEd – Annual Report and Presentation” item was stuck in the Mayor’s report section of the agenda – after 3 proclamations  and one presentation – there were no relevant ComEd materials in the Council “packet”; and we understand that the only ComEd materials the Mayor and the aldermen received were at their desks when they arrived Monday night.

That raises the question of whether ComEd was trying to snooker the City with an eleventh-hour handout so that nobody would have time to prepare for Mr. Duray’s medicine show. 

Consequently, we would hope that the City invites Mr. Duray back real soon – so that he can explain to a better-prepared Council and citizenry why that whopping $570,000 3-year capital improvement effort didn’t do more to protect 80% of Park Ridge from the next evening’s power outage.

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

You do remember that Con Ed is a private, profit-making corporation, don’t you? And as such, has absolutely no accountability to mere residents. It’s job is to extract as much money from your household as possible while investing as little in its services as possible to maximize profitability.
Why. Are. You. Surprised?

EDITOR’S NOTE: You do realize that Com Ed is a “public” utility that has been given a legal monopoly by the State legislature and is legally accountable to all of the State’s “mere residents” through regulation by the Illinois Commerce Commission. But if you’ve got a beef about the ICC, you may want to talk to State Sen. Dan Kotowski and/or State Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, or Gov. Quinn (who technically appoints the ICC members).

No comment on the proposed smart meters, nor on Com Eds effectiveness in general, but we were one of the “four days” areas in 2008, and we lost power all the time back then…every time the wind blew. Com Ed did do work in our area since, and we were one of the lucky 20% this time. Our power is much more reliable the past couple of years. Area south of Mary Seat, west of Cumberland.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Congratulations! You and your neighbors should contact the City and let it know that whatever ComEd did since 2008 may actually have worked – and that the City should get together with ComEd and employ the same tactics for other areas of Park Ridge.

Anon 6:23

Being a money making enterprise doesn’t mean one should not be accountable to its custamers.

Sicking that anyone from kiss up to them.

Of course what I wonder is why is it now newer has wires underground areas not none years ago.

“……. And I will take an aggressive approach with Commonwealth Edison to come up with actual solutions to the problem of chronic power outages”.

– Mayor Dave Schmidt

So, how is that working out???

2008 I was out for 4 nights. This one was 4 nights as well – power went back on at 3AM this morning. Was there any difference provided by any elected official….god no!!!!! It is nothing more than a talking point or an election weapon. The difference was provide by me. I learned my lesson and got a generator.

Anon: 5:35,

Just curious, where did you find that quote?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is the last sentence of the last paragraph of the “Infrastructure” section of Mayor Schmidt’s campaign website:

http://www.electdaveschmidt.com/mayor%20of%20park%20ridge/OnTheIssues/Infrastructure/tabid/78/Default.aspx

7:55:

I revisit the Mayor’s site occasionally to compare what he said while running versus what has actually happened since he was elected. What is that ole’ saying…..actions speak louder than words.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Holding public officials accountable for their campaign statements and promises is exactly what should be done, and we sincerely hope Mayor Schmidt lives up to those statements before the end of his current term in office. Unfortunately, some candidates try to avoid that kind of accountability by saying nothing – like unopposed 6th Ward candidate/now-Ald. Tom Bernick, who (as the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported in its March 3, 2011, edition) “did not respond to our questionnaire in time to be included” in a review of the various candidates’ views on issues such as:

Are there ways Park Ridge can be more accommodating to business?
What types of businesses should the city be trying to attract?
Should the City Council approve the installation of additional red-light enforcement cameras?
Where do you stand on historic preservation in Park Ridge?
Biggest issues facing city?
What current council could have done better?

So Bernick – unlike his fellow uncontested declared aldermanic candidates/now-Alds. Rich DiPietro, Sal Raspanti and Dan Knight, who all answered the H-A’s questions – gets to spend his next two years in office with a blank slate of positions and views.

Egad Batman! And I’m not just talking about the ComEd quote.

Have we been experiencing “chronic p[ower outages?” I don’t think so.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Now you’re starting to get into a bit of parsing here.

Mayor Schmidt made that statement in connection with his 2009 campaign, and we don’t see any significant change in circumstances since then to warrant a debate about how “chronic” power outages were pre-2009 and post-2009. The bottom line is that little appears to have been done since 2008 to substantially improve the dependablity of our power grid.

PD:

In the Mayor’s defense, it is probably becuase of all time he has been spending focusing on “substantially improving the dependablity” of our sewer system.

Don’t ya just love the new porous asphalt???

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, it’s probably because he’s had to spend so much time over the past two years battling Frimark’s going-away present – his clown-car Council – over irresponsible spending and multi-million dollar deficits. As a result, we’re guessing “porous asphalt” is still a few years away.

A new manager spends a week at his new office with the manager he is replacing. On the last day the departing manager tells him, “I have left three numbered envelopes in the desk drawer. Open an envelope if you encounter a crisis you can’t solve.”
Three months down the track there is a major drama, everything goes wrong – the usual stuff – and the manager feels very threatened by it all. He remembers the parting words of his predecessor and opens the first envelope. The message inside says “Blame your predecessor!” He does this and gets off the hook.

About half a year later, the company is experiencing a dip in sales, combined with serious product problems. The manager quickly opens the second envelope. The message read, “Blame your co-workers” This he does, and gets off the hook again.

Three months later, at his next crisis, he opens the third envelope. The message inside says “Prepare three envelopes”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That joke’s so old it’s got whiskers.

Blame should go to whomever earns and deserves it, whether it’s to an individual’s predecessor, his/her co-workers, and/or the individual him/herself. Similarly, nobody should be blamed for the bad acts/omissions of another. Not that tough a concept.



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>