I was wrong! There is no way Winter Park can have smart, honest elected leadership.
The ship of fools is an allegory, originating from Book VI of Plato’s Republic, about a ship with a dysfunctional crew. The allegory is intended to represent the problems of governance prevailing in a political system not based on expert knowledge.
The latest confirmation of this reality in Winter Park is the “electric non-rate increase” coupled to an expected four year delay in completion of the city-wide electric undergrounding program. This delay will mean about $20,000,000 in increased undergrounding costs, $10,000,000 of which is a self inflicted waste of your money by the city commission.
Recall the January 2022 decision of the commission to increase electric rates by 8% solely to pay for undergrounding about 5,000 residential overhead service lines to be paid for by all 12,000 residential electric customers, a $10,000,000 decision paid for primarily by 7,000 residential electric customers who previously paid to underground their overhead service line. See: Resident Electric Bills to Rise 8% and Stop the Electric Service Line Vanity Project.
So, what could go wrong? Well, in February city staff made it clear that the cost of undergrounding was going up dramatically due to inflationary cost increases for required equipment and labor. The commission then paused the earlier rate increase to study further, but only after having paid $1,000 to each the 573 residential owners who had previously paid to underground their overhead lines while their street was being undergrounded.
- Parenthetical: Anyone with a brain and experience would have known that the 2021 $1.9 trillion American “Rescue” Act was going to cause dramatic inflation in infrastructure spending. Over $7 billion was allocated to state, county, and municipal spending in Florida alone, all of which has to be used by December 31, 2024, and of which Winter Park is realizing $15.4 million without any limitations on use. The “ship of fools” is obviously not limited by jurisdiction or geography.
Stuck between their vanity and a hard place, the commission yesterday approved a new “plan” that will now have all 15,000 residential and commercial electric rate payers pony up $10,000,000 over the next 8 years to underground local overhead connections of about 5,000 residential customers. How’s that for fair and wise? An additional $10,000,000 cost increase is expected to result from inflation. Note that this means a loss of $20,000,000 in future electric surpluses that could have been used for rate decreases and other electric infrastructure programs.
Two standout crew members on this voyage are Utilities Board Chair Michael Poole and Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio. Poole bullied the utility board and commission into approving the service drop vanity project while DeCiccio in a recent city wide email intentionally misrepresented the cause of the four year delay in completing the undergrounding program by referencing only inflationary cost increases. The city’s own press release confirms the lie. (DeCiccio has a history of deceiving her constituents.)
So again, I was wrong and should have known. Plato’s “ship of fools” was written in 375 BC. But, if you are a smart, honest person with an interest in good governance, there is always hope. Please run for city commission and convince the 70% of electors who do not vote in our local elections there is good reason to do so.