The Advocate carries the odd story, splashed across the front page of its Acadiana section this morning, that retells the tale one Steve Pellessier told the Concerned Citizens for Good Government yesterday. Pellessier wants Lafayette to sell off LUS to pay for current shortfalls in road funding.
Thank heaven that at least some folks have a classical education. Joey Durel responded humorously but basically dismissively to the suggestion by saying that do so would be like getting “rid of the goose that laid the golden egg.”
The idea of selling off a consistent money-maker, to the tune of 17.2 million and a quarter of the city-parish budget each year, for a one-shot, quick fix play to meet the parish’s road needs following Katrina & Rita is plain foolish. It has to be one of the purest examples of the lessons of Aesop’s fable concerning “the destructiveness of greed, the virtue of patience.”
First, historically LUS has had lower prices than its private competitors (the current rough equity is unusual) and Pellessier appears to know that. Citizens would end up paying twice: once in the form of 25% higher taxes–the money has to come from somewhere–and once in the form of higher utility bills. Second, and this point appears to have very discretely not been raised considering the current divisiveness of the issue in the council, it would be a sale of city assets to benefit almost solely suburban needs and the downstream cost of more expensive electricity would be borne solely by city residents as well. Politically this should be a major nonstarter. The current push to dissolve the city-parish form of government is mostly based on formless resentment. Any movement in this direct would give that movement a basis in real injustice and a real constituency.
Beyond the foolishness of the idea of killing the goose you’ve got the fact that this goose is fertile. The goose in the fable is obviously sterile–it lays golden eggs but those eggs don’t hatch. It is unique. LUS however is incubating another goose that promises to lay even larger golden eggs. The mere threat of an LUS Telecom network has kept Cox from raising prices. The reality of a cheaper, more capable alternative will save us all a bundle off our monthly bills.
Beyond the cost savings we should all be aware that the income to the city-parish coffers should be substantial. That 17.2 million LUS gives us comes chiefly from electricity…a low-margin utility. The money coming into the coffers from the Telecom division will mostly be from high-margin cable industry competition. How much do you spend on electricity? How much do you spend on cable, internet, and phone service? Think about it…
If there is anything that’s more foolish than killing the goose that laid the golden egg it’s killing one that has offspring that also lay golden eggs.
Though the Advocate story doesn’t mention it Pellessier, in a recent letter, did say that LUS could keep its recently voted-in telecom division. That’s a crock and Pellessier, an opponent of the LUS plan, should know it. Much of what makes the telecom unit economic–and the main reason more cities are not in a position to make the same decision Lafayette has–is that Lafayette already owns and operates the necessary infrastructure in poles and maintenance crews in order to service its electrical division. It is hard not to suspect that a suggestion this off the mark isn’t motivated in some part by left over resentments from having lost that fight.
You’d think a “Certified Commercial Investment Member” — someone who specializes in commercial real estate investments–would understand that trading a growing revenue-producing asset for a one-shot wasting asset is always a bad idea. Don Bertrand makes the point more succinctly:
Don Bertrand said he’s glad to have a discussion about how to fund roads, but that LUS is the city’s best asset. Bertrand said there are other options to raise funding without giving up a revenue-producing entity like LUS.
“When we’re done, we’ll have roads, but roads don’t produce money,” Bertrand said.