If you can't afford your power bill, try a burning bush

Expanded from the 4-7-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

How bad is it out there? Look at the long lines at Sierra Pacific Power's driveup window as people scramble to keep their lights on. Know of any homes or businesses cut off by mistake? I do and am looking for more. Call or write me.

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Carson consumer complains of overcharges, power company retaliation

Wanda Wright's petition

Energy Crisis War Room

Nevada Public Utilities Commission


The saddest tale comes via protest petition activist Wanda Wright. Tomorrow morning, before the Public Utilities Commission begins its hearing on a plethora of Sierra Pacific Power rate increases, Wright will present the commission with more than 35,000 petition signatures from irate consumers.

The commission will go into a monthlong session at 10:00 a.m. at its offices at 1150 E. William in Carson City. Almost a quarter-billion dollars of potential rate hikes are on the line.

If the commission cuts the company requests as substantially as it did those of SPP's southern Nevada affiliate, a bankruptcy followed by ratepayer takeover could happen.

What's the alternative? Wright got a call on her hotline a couple of months back. An elderly couple, both in their 80s, faced a stark choice: pay the power bill or go off the heart medication both needed. Wright tried in vain to find them some help. She got another call a few days ago.

The husband had died because of lack of medication, ending 62 years of marriage.

I know what Wanda Wright's going through. My wife and I, while working on the consumer advocate initiative in 1980, were confronted with similar heart-rending cases of elderly people freezing in the dark.

I am trying to contact the widow in the case above to bring you her story. These entrails of Enron are fouling our state and only a citizen uprising can stop the rot.

Let's go to war.

BURNING BUSH WATCH. The National Rifle Association comes to town at the end of this month. NRA President Charlton Heston is supposed to attend. No NRA meeting is complete until Moses hisself, brandishing a flintlock, gets up to read the bumper sticker slogan about the bad buys not getting his gun until they pry it from his cold, dead fingers.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Moses accomplished quite a bit without guns or swords.

I also heard a rumor that Dubya's daddy, George Bush the First., may also attend. The convention will be held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and the Reno Hilton. The Oak Ridge Boys and a host of other country music stars will entertain the delegates. Keynote speaker is former governor and now U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia.

Sparks resident and occasional Tribune columnist Ed Bruce served six years on the NRA board of directors. He was elected at the recommendation of a long list of Nevada Democrat and Republican officials.
As Bush Sr. liked to advise, stay tuned.

NAACP IN TOWN. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People brings its western regional conference to Circus Circus in Reno April 25-27. The nation's premiere civil rights organization has scheduled an impressive list of speakers and workshops. The Reno-Sparks Branch, of which I'm a member, has done a tremendous job in getting the event to northern Nevada. To volunteer to help or for more information, contact local president Lonnie Feemster at (775) 322-2992.

MAYDAY. As I noted last week, the U.S. Supreme Court has re-authorized slavery. By the usual five-to-four margin, the same justices who elected Dubya ruled that undocumented immigrants can be stiffed for their wages.

A mass protest is being organized for Washington, DC, on May 1, the traditional international labor day. The Alliance for Workers Rights is working on a local demonstration with Nevada labor groups. For more information or to volunteer, call Tom Stoneburner at (775) 333-0201.

DPT INOCULATION. Stoneburner also wants people to show up this Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration offices at 4600 Kietzke Lane (Bldg. B, Room 111) in Reno. OSHA will entertain a request from the boss of Depressurized Technologies, Inc., to negotiate down a major fine for running an unsafe industrial plant. DTI owned a facility in Douglas County which depressurized old aerosol cans. Its unsafe conditions caused an explosion resulting in worker death and injury. The company wants its fine lowered from $144,000 to $63,000.

HAS EICON CONNED ITS LAST? Cancellation letters recently went out to many clients of the former State Industrial Insurance System, now privatized as Employers Insurance Company of Nevada (EICON). The creation of EICON made a few guys filthy rich, but the company has been troubled from the start. Despite being handed billions in public assets to privatize the state injured worker system, EICON management has apparently been inadequate to the task, resulting in many companies having to scramble to stay insured.

THE PERILS OF MAURICE, PART DEUX. State Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, already has plenty to worry about with the announcement of the candidacy of Joe Carter, a Sparks High grad and locomotive engineer. Carter's family roots go all the way back to Mormon Station (Genoa), Nev., back in 1857. He comes from a long and distinguished line of Nevada public officials.

Now comes a challenge from within Washington's own party. Rev. Washington will draw at least one strong opponent in the September Republican primary, a businesswoman with a strong base in the community and a proven track record of organizing volunteers.

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Copyright © 2002, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 33-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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