Letters for January 11, 2018



Duke rate hike hurts working families in Western NC

Working families in Western North Carolina know that when you earn less money, you tend to use less electricity to make ends meet. When you’re struggling to pay the bills and the mortgage and to put food on the table, you learn to be careful about turning off the lights when you leave the room, and throwing on another sweater before turning up the thermostat. But Duke Energy Carolinas wants to increase our energy rates 16.7%, or by $18.72 per month. And with their new mandatory fee, all families would be charged a minimum of $17.79 per month – about $213 per year – even if they never turned their lights on.

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing at the Macon County Courthouse in Franklin about this proposed rate hike. This will be the only chance for Duke Energy Carolinas customers in Western North Carolina to make their voices heard before the commission decides whether we’ll all make monthly payments for Duke’s corporate irresponsibility. I, for one, will speak at the hearing to oppose this rate hike’s dangerous consequences for working families in my region, and I hope you will too.

While I am a former board chair of the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (now part of MountainTrue), I am first and foremost a long-time resident of Macon County. As such, I am well aware of the harsh economic realities in this part of North Carolina. Jackson County and the counties west of there – Macon, Swain, Graham, Cherokee, and Clay – have been named Tier 1 counties by the North Carolina Department of Commerce for 2018. This means they face the highest level of economic distress in the state.

A great injustice of this rate hike is that it is shared equally among all counties, despite enormous gaps in wealth. Take Mecklenburg County, for instance – home to Charlotte and many of the Duke executives who are proposing this rate hike. Mecklenburg County is the eighth most well-off county in the state. Meanwhile Graham County, just northwest of Macon, is one of the poorest counties in the state. A family in Mecklenburg County makes a median income of $57,000 while in Graham County the median household income is less than $34,000. In Mecklenburg County, 15% of households live in poverty, but in Graham County the number of families living below the poverty line is 22%.

When Duke talks about their community engagement work, they often pride themselves on their efforts to help communities invest in energy-efficient LED light bulbs and other energy-saving practices. However, with a 66% increase of the base charge, this rate hike would mean that energy saving measures would no longer save money; electricity bills would still rise significantly for hardworking families in our region no matter how wisely they use electricity. This would slam customers close on the heels of a rate hike in 2013, when our energy rate rose another five percent. While this increase may be minimal for the wealthy decision makers at Duke, these costs translate to real sacrifice for working families in my part of the state.

It only takes looking at the breakdown of the rate hike to see that we are all being asked to pay for Duke’s past mistakes. Over half of this rate hike – a total of $336 million – would be used to pay for Duke’s coal ash cleanup costs. North Carolina law states that a utility’s costs can only be paid by customers if they are “reasonable and prudently incurred,” and we know that’s not the case here. In 2015, three Duke Energy companies including Duke Energy Carolinas plead guilty to nine criminal environmental violations for their failure to protect our waterways from coal ash pollution. Even Duke’s own insurance provider refuses to pay for these costs, stating that “Duke failed to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate the damage resulting from coal ash disposal.”

More recently, it was revealed that Duke knew about the harms of coal ash back in the 1980s and refused to act then to protect our public interests. Now, Duke is trying to stick their customers with the bill, even though they knew about this mess for the last 30 years and did nothing. To add insult to injury, they’re even asking customers to pay for the bottled water that communities near their plants received after their drinking water was poisoned by Duke’s coal ash mismanagement.

Here in Western North Carolina, small business owners and companies with far less wealth than Duke Energy take responsibility to clean up their messes all the time. As the largest utility company in the country, we know Duke Energy can pay for their mess – they only lack the will.

The Public Utilities Commission hearing on the proposed Duke Energy Carolinas rate hike will be held Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m., at the Macon County Courthouse located at 5 W. Main St. Courtroom A, Franklin. Those who plan to speak should arrive at 6:30 p.m.

Robert Smith – former board chair of the Jackson-Macon

Conservation Alliance (now MountainTrue)

Disregard for ‘people’s choice’ disquieting

It is deeply unsettling and very regrettable to discover nepotism has taken a front seat in the halls of our local government. But, at the same time, the long-sought answers to three elusive questions have been laid to rest: (1) why 80-90 percent of eligible citizens opt to stay home when voting time comes around, (2) why so few good people bother to run for public office in the first place, and (3), why (once elected) good people so often throw in the towel, quit, and get as far away from politics as possible.

Though it came as no surprise to most Franklin residents to learn that Dinah Mashburn was appointed to fill the seat her husband (Billy) held prior to his unfortunate and untimely death during the actual election (MCN 1/4/18), it’s highly disconcerting and disappointing that only one member of the five town councillors (Adam Kimsey) had the courage, foresight and conscientious good judgement to advocate that the next highest vote-getter (Angela Moore) to be appointed to the office as the people’s choice.

Such magic yet equally elusive words, the people’s choices.  Our choices are so often circumvented, avoided, or sidestepped by the power, wealth and influences of the well-established few.

This is nothing new of course but it’s especially disquieting when you see it happen at the lower levels of government, as in small towns such as Franklin where we are consistently led to believe that our participation is important, that what we think really matters, and that our vote truly does count for something.

I believe that was what Abraham Lincoln had in mind with his words “of the people, by the people and for the people,” and I further believe that our country would be a far better place if those words could be put into practice more often than they are.   Otherwise our form of democracy is unlikely to survive, at least not in the manner it was intended.


David L. Snell  – Franklin, N.C.

Pitching hatred a sick political ideology

In the past year, it has become clearer than ever that my decision to refuse to be a puppet of any political party was a good decision.  No longer am I expected to blindly follow some political ideology or political hack.  I can think for myself, if you don’t mind.

During the elections of 2016, Bernie Sanders told a young audience that the Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Denmark were Socialist countries.  The president of Denmark was so infuriated by that comment he travelled to Harvard to deny Sanders’ statement.

He pointed out that all of his neighboring countries were free market capitalist countries and were doing quite well thank you.

Sweden learned early in the game, when during the 1960s they played with Socialism, that it didn’t work.  True, work was optional and if you wished, you could live off the work of others.

They soon voted the Socialists out of office and established a government based on common sense rather than some sort of Utopian dream fit only for Alice in Wonderland.

Deep underneath all is the fact that Socialism is based on envy and jealousy of what other people possess.  This is extremely unhealthy for humanity and the sick part is that our Democratic Progressives are well aware of that yet continue to spout a sick ideology all for the sake of staying in their elected offices.

With the passage of the new tax reform bill, the Democrats came out with their usual set of lies.  “Tax breaks for the rich” being amongst the notable and predictable comments by the political hacks.

Yeah, sure, but just keep in mind that the rich already pay more than 80% of all federal taxes.

The rest of us pay a paltry 3% of those taxes.  At this point, it’s not even clear that the rich will pay less taxes because they will lose a number of deductions currently on the books.

The other criticism is about the lower corporate taxes.  Keep in mind that Hillary had promised to increase corporate taxes.

Lower corporate taxes means companies can compete with overseas companies who benefit from already lower taxes and this in turn will allow them to increase exports. Exports are extremely important to our economy and bring in much needed cash flow for America.

And yes, around 149 million Americans with stock holdings in their retirement accounts would see their funds grow if their values go up.

But, the Democrats are also upset because a farmer who perhaps paid $100 an acre in 1960 for land would be required to sell his/her farm to pay estate taxes if the farmer passes away and his kids inherit the farm.

It all boils down to a political party attempting to gain control of America by pitching  hatred of successful people, the working class who pay most of the taxes and yes, hatred of the rich.  This is a sick political ideology and not worthy of America.


Bob Wilson – Franklin, N.C.

This should be our New Year’s resolution

President Trump has been in office for a year now, and there are many issues regarding his presidency that question his “fitness” for the presidency.  Sixteen women have come forward to accuse the president of sexual misconduct spanning many decades, and his own words suggest that these accusers are correct.

When Jessica Leeds learned that Donald Trump was running for office, she felt she had to do something, so she wrote a letter to the New York Times.  The NYT investigated her claims by interviewing people she had told her story to over the past year. They interviewed and video taped her and printed her picture and story in the paper.  Other women have come forward to offer their stories of Trump barging into the dressing room of Miss America contestants when guards were at the door keeping everyone out except women or their escorts.  Trump’s response is that he didn’t know or hadn’t ever met his accusers.  I suppose one could say he really didn’t know them by name, but …

Recently he claimed that he had signed into law more legislation than any other president.  A fact check shows that he has signed fewer bills in his first year than any other president since Eisenhower.

His attack on the media and lack of respect for democratic free speech raises further concern. An analysis of misstatements by Trump and Obama indicate that Trump has made 103 falsehoods in his first 10 months compared to 18 falsehoods by Obama during his eight-year tenure.  If it wasn’t for Trump’s continual claim that the news media are creating fake news, one might excuse his penchant for making up his own fake news.

A group of psychologists have expressed their concern to the American people about President Trump’s mental stability.  As a president, Trump is not alone however, as other presidents have suffered mental impairment, notably Ronald Reagan in his later years.  Trump’s recent claim that he is a stable genius gives further evidence to question his mental status.

More than all his false claims, what Trump seems to need is the continual adoration of his base to bolster his ego.  His lack of confidence was apparent from the day of his inauguration when he claimed the crowd was bigger than at Obama’s inauguration who was the first black president to be elected: a truly historic event.  Photos from both events side by side don’t lie.

His comments concerning North Korea are further troubling when he has threatened annihilation of the 25 million North Koreans, and he constantly taunts the North Korean leader. He is playing chicken with North Korea while all our lives are at stake.

While Democrats have called for an investigation and impeachment, Republicans have yet been willing to call the president on the carpet. Perhaps conservatives have been getting what they wanted from the Trump administration: a roll back of regulations, appointment of conservative judges, and most recently the passage of a tax plan which many say favors the wealthy over the working class. His press secretaries and staff are continually having to back up his exaggerated statements to the public, probably much to their embarrassment.  Trump also receives twice daily reports lauding all the positive news of his administration along with presidential pictures of himself.  This perpetuates the one sided view that all is well and that Trump is firmly in control.  Such a view questions whether Trump’s presidency is “reality based.”

But I have to ask whether the president deserves our scorn or our compassion?  More pointedly, does the president know when he is lying to the public or more importantly, when he is lying to himself.  If he is aware of his own misstatements and behavior then he lacks moral character.  If he is unwilling to acknowledge to himself or others his misdeeds or even his weaknesses then this is pathological.  Again, does the president deserve our scorn or our compassion?

President Trump seems immune to the thousands and millions of people who have hit the street since his inauguration to protest his treatment of women, immigrants, and people around the world.  This would suggest that he lives very much in his own world and is creating his own reality with the support of those around him. When confronted by those who oppose his policies or actions he simply ignores them.

It seems that Trump was propelled into the White House by an unsatisfied electorate who really knew very little about his past, both personal and professional. And once in the White House he had to put on robes which didn’t quite fit him.  Due to his lack of experience, he wasn’t presidential.  Now, we have to not only question his lack of clothes, but also his mental capacity.  Which is worse? His inability to fill the role of a president, or his inability to realize that he cannot fill his role and has to continue pretending that he is being successful despite daily reminders otherwise.  And are we willing to continue going along with this charade?

But in all of this I don’t think Trump is to blame, not that blame does much good.  A recent photo shows a Trump supporter below Trump Tower in New York with a sign that reads: I made a mistake voting for Trump.  It is good we can realize when we have made a mistake and change directions. I suggest that President Trump deserves our compassion not our scorn.  We are as much to blame for putting him in this position.  Politics is not the world of business where he reigned supreme and his failings were quickly overlooked.  Trump is simply out of his league.

We, however, cannot overlook Trump’s inability to lead this nation in a troubled world or dismiss the danger that he represents to the integrity of this country and our standing in the world

We need to support him in the difficult decision of leaving the presidency.  And if unable to convince him of this, he needs to be judiciously removed him from the office of the presidency for his own safety and the safety of our nation and world.  This needs to be our New Year’s resolution.  Trump deserves the care and support for the remainder of his life.


Paul Chew – Franklin, N.C.