Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Copy tax

Light or dark
Everyone who lives here has been impacted by the power outages of the last few months. Let’s face it though, it was an inconvenience, not a life threatening situation. I was frustrated, you were frustrated, they were frustrated, we all wished we had 24/7 power. Life hasn’t been as convenient as it could have been, but no one was in danger, no one lost their life, no one’s house was washed out to sea.

I have noticed that those who wailed the loudest for “something to be done”, continue to wail once something has actually been done. Apparently the something was not what the wailers would have done so like children who didn’t get it their own way, they continue the tantrum. A temporary solution was decided on by bringing new rental power generators to the island to restore full power while repairs are made to the main engines. This sounds like a reasonable solution to any reasonable person who wants to see the power turned back on 24/7, but the griping continues, and even increases. I would pose the question: would you rather sit in the dark and bitch or would you rather have the power on while you find fault with the solution?

If all you are trying to do is discredit the current managers so you can try to become the Executive decision maker yourself then I suppose you would prefer that the rental generators not be here so you could gripe in the dark…it makes a better case for you. If you really want what you say you want, the power back on and a plan to keep it that way, then you should be happy to be sitting in that air conditioned room googling on your electric computer. Power outages are bad for business but so is never ending public media dissention. That keeps public confidence down and that keeps discretionary spending down and that keeps investors away and existing businesses from growing.

I might recommend that if you don’t like the decisions made by CUC managers that you either go get an electrical engineering degree and spend a few years working in the power generation field or that you back a process that aims to hire an already trained Power Plant manager. The other (and better) option is to sell, or give, or pay someone to take the current power plant off the government’s hands who will then run it privately. A coop of local ratepayers could own it, or a private company could own it, or a public stock company could own it. Either way, someone who benefits from making it run efficiently owning it is the best long term solution to reliable power. Getting another government to run it is just a recipe for more failure.

Meanwhile, I for one am pretty darned happy to have the freezer on and the little LED lights on my computer winking merrily away as I sit here bathed in a blaze of fluorescent splendor. Now show me the long term plan and the means to achieve it and I am a happy camper…an electric camper.
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Don’t vote - for the same thing
Our elected Washing Rep is still in office though he is running for another office and the Constitution says he should resign. He is once again of a different mind than the also elected Governor of the Commonwealth and is, once again, presenting a different message to Washington than the Administration. That rift causes confusion and lessens the likelihood that either message will be taken seriously.

Until we elect and send a Non Voting Delegate (NVD) to the US House, we will continue to rely on a very expensive, but often not very effective lobbyist; namely, the Washington Representative. The problem over the last couple of years after the current Rep changed his position and decided to bow down to the new power elite in Washington to gain his ends, is that his position was at loggerheads with the Commonwealth’s elected leader, the Governor. That difference of opinion cost us dearly, in terms of presenting a non united front to the US government. It also cost us dearly in that it necessitated the hiring of expensive lobbyists to do the work that could have been done by our already extremely expensive WashRep lobbyist (1.3 Million a year). In the future, let’s hope that the newly elected NVD not-votes for the same things that the Governor wants to not-vote for whatever that is. If both are on the same page it will save a lot of grief and a lot of money. We might even make some progress if both are asking for the same thing.

At least we won’t be paying for it anymore, whichever way it works out; mainland taxpayers will foot the bill for the NVD as they do with real honest-to-goodness voting Congressmen.
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Charge a fee tax?
The fees charged for all government offerings should be set at a level that pays for the service or regulatory requirement. Charging more in order to later ‘reprogram’ those monies into the CUC coffers for fuel subsidies, or to buy more equipment for some other Department is taxation plain and simple. Come on legislature, if you want to raise taxes, have the gumption to come out and say “we are broke, so in future we will be taking a bigger tax bite from you personally and from all the companies you do business with.” That would be the honest way to approach this shortfall.

The one I agree with most is the marriage license fee increase. It should be pegged at $5,000 and a rider fee of $100,000 should be required for each new child born (a birth license fee) to make up for the cost of government services the kid will surely use over his lifetime. Kidding here…that could be just a bit much and entirely too fair for a government to consider. Getting reelected after passing that one would prove pretty difficult. Divorce lawyers are not likely to be happy about the $5K marriage certificate either as it would cut into business. Paternity attorneys would be happy as clams though.

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Quote of the week:
A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. Sidney J. Harris (1917 – 1986)


Jeff said...

My guess is that the people are skeptical because this government is demonstrably corrupt and incompetent.

truth is.. said...

bottomline.. if Tony is successful in turning around CUC.. critics will still pray for destruction.. and hope that CUC fails.. they will not be able to come to terms in any way that Fitial and Muna fixed the problem.. if they are successful and Aggreko is gone in a year and if there is excess power, those same critics will be very unhappy and will find other problems with Fitial and Muna and ignore the successful CUC turnaround..

Jeff said...

Fitial and Muna couldn't "fix" a grilled cheese sandwich.

Anonymous said...

so the new federal law considers the resident rep position as a virtual incumbent. this means pete a does not have to resign, right?

Bruce A. Bateman said...

"pete a does not have to resign, right?"

Well, nony, I guess that depends on how you interpret it. Pete A. obviously likes to think its the same job, for obvious reasons. I'll discuss it in next weeks column.


Yep, I aggree with truth is' assessment. The whiners don't really want it fixed...they want to gripe.


I dunno, Jeff. We have power almost all the time now compared with 10, 12, 14 hours every day off ther for a while.

As I said, I'm pretty happy for the Aggreko deal, (of course Muna didn't broker that deal, but he did finally implement it).

Let's see...hell, maybe they will not only fix the cheese sandwich they might even throw in a piece of ham. I say give 'em a chance.

Jeff said...

Bruce, The Fitial team has been a miserable failure. They've had a chance and screwed it up royally. Paying an enormous amount of money for a short term stopgap after numerous businesses have gone kaput doesn't sound like much of a fix to me. See Zaldy's piece today.:

THE administration wants us to be thankful for the Aggreko generators it is renting for $6 million in taxpayer — i.e., your — money. It’s as if a mugger, after taking your wallet and stabbing you, expects you to be grateful because he also applied tourniquet to your injured limb before leaving you on the sidewalk.

It was this administration, through its negligence and/or incompetence, that allowed CUC’s power plants to deteriorate further. The governor, to be sure, inherited quite a mess. But that was precisely why he was elected. He promised to solve the disarray left behind by his predecessor. But he didn’t. Instead of fixing CUC’s problems on day one, he allowed them to get worse. And so for the first time in CNMI history, its people have to endure power outages, from two to 12 hours a day. The last time the power supply was this bad was in Dec. 1986, and that was after Supertyphoon Kim passed only 20 miles north of Saipan, plowing the island with 153-knot winds and record rainfall.

This power crisis is man-made. And Aggreko is an expensive short-term “solution.” CUC is already badgering the government and PSS to pay up.

CUC and this administration, in short, have nothing to brag about. The fact that this bankrupt government has to resort to a $6 million quick fix is a clear indication of how bad things have become under this governor’s watch. Aggreko, moreover, didn’t solve the government’s addiction to band-aid solutions.

But not even Aggreko can make the people forget that the power situation under this administration has worsened while power rates have quadrupled. This has resulted in more business shutdowns. Almost 50 percent of buildings on island are now empty. Yet the governor is more worried about losing his control over labor and immigration rules — a control that has given him enormous leverage when dealing with businesses, investors and special interests. He wants to take the feds to court instead of focusing on getting the federal assistance the CNMI badly needs.

This administration has failed the people of the CNMI. It has to go.