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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010 7 years ago

OUR VIEW: Sarasota Power & Light? Ugh


Intuition tells you two things:

• Giving a utility — be it a power company, cable company or water company — a 30-year exclusive franchise doesn’t make sense.

• Having the government of the city of Sarasota own and operate a not-for-profit electric company definitely does not make sense.

Both ideas are in play at City Hall. Only one of them should be — the former. The latter is a non-starter. It should be dead and buried.

Forget all of the arguments that proponents place on the table in favor of the city owning and operating a power utility. All of them will never outweigh the totality of the reasons for the city not to become a power company operator.

We don’t have the space here today to refute all of the alleged reasons in favor of a city-owned power company. So we’ll try to keep it simple.

Start with the macro-view. Widely accepted politco-economic theory says government should never do what the private sector can do. This is a lesson the private sector has proven again and again and again. And certainly government should not do what the private sector can do more efficiently.

Next level: What is the job of government? In its purest form, it is to safeguard the citizenry and serve as a referee in private disputes.

Over the centuries, of course, Americans have taken what our Founding Fathers envisioned — a limited government and citizens free to pursue happiness — and broadened the role of government far, far beyond the galaxies of reason. And in so doing, we also have to continue to see how inept government is. Just look at the American condition today. The Tea Party movement is not some flukish group of wingnuts; it’s a grassroots expression of anti-government expansionism.

So bring the question of a Sarasota Power & Light Co. down to the local level. With all due respect to our city commissioners, ask yourselves: Are they equipped to and capable of serving as the board of directors for a business that is becoming increasingly complex and competitive? Is the city manager equipped to oversee a complex utility business on top of what he already manages?

There’s an adage in business that always makes sense: Stick to what you know.

To be continued …

Sarasota city commissioners are considering buying and operating a city-owned electric utility instead of granting an exclusive franchise to Florida Power & Light Co.

If that occurs, the commissioners likely would have oversight of the management and financial performance of the city-owned company.

Question: Do you think the city should buy, own and operate an electric company?

Let us hear from you. Send your comments to [email protected].

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