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Saying "No" to Municipalization

Fortnightly Magazine - February 1 1996

proponent of municipalization. Anchor paid for the study.

Courtney & Associates prepared the study in less than three weeks. While JCP&L and its experts disagreed with three major assumptions, it was impressed with the methodology. One of Courtney's key findings was that the $30-million investment would yield only half the savings Anchor promised town officials before stranded investment costs were added to the equation.

At the first public presentation of the study, four weeks before the vote, virtually all of the speakers (about 30) and most of the 200-person standing-room-only crowd were either strongly against or leaning against municipalization. Later, when JCP&L expert David Moody of Stone & Webster made his presentation, the crowd was split between initiative supporters (apparently Anchor employees or relatives) and opponents (mostly citizens and JCP&L employees). Moody's analysis showed no savings for the town. In one conservative scenario (using assumptions leaning toward municipalization), he eliminated stranded investment costs and still found no savings.

JCP&L Accepts

Early on, JCP&L president

Dennis Baldassari and vice president Mike Morrell made a management decision that proved

key to the success of the anti- municipalization effort. They assigned one person to manage all aspects of the campaign: Glenn Steiger. His simple mission: Get the job done. Steiger was asked to consult other senior executives only before he made policy decisions that could have long-term implications for the electric company. Given the compressed timeframe, there was much to do and learn, especially since JCP&L isn't in the business of developing and implementing election campaign strategies and tactics.

And after all, this was a kind of election. Steiger decided that he'd have to treat the effort as a campaign. He hired a campaign manager, Jim Lanard, and collected a team of JCP&L experts who met weekly to discuss the campaign, receive assignments, and redirect resources. The team's mission was the same as Steiger's: Do the job now.

The campaign team intuitively understood the pitfalls of municipalization. In an era of privatization and government downsizing, the switch from an investor-owned utility to a public authority made little sense. Why should a small community, already beset with problems at its sewer

authority, commit to a $30-million investment with no savings

guarantee?

Aberdeen residents were also troubled by the risk of tax increases to cover costs if the electric system didn't generate needed revenues. Furthermore, the township had decided to allow residents to choose either JCP&L or the town system. This would mean duplicate poles, wires, and other equipment throughout town. This was an ugly picture that residents clearly understood. With research and "message testing," our intensive education effort ensured that voters would be fully informed by election day.

Carrying out this effort took discipline. We agreed that (em with virtually no exceptions (em we would stick to our message, regardless of how hard the other side sought to shift the debate to more favorable ground. Our comprehensive grassroots program brought us constant calls from supporters urging us to respond to rumors or flyers that often were attacks on JCP&L. Our employees, proud of the work they