Golden Rule Applies to Public Servants

Deck: 

Harassment is Wrong

Harassment is Wrong

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2017
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Many jobs are difficult, and some are extremely challenging. There is nothing easy about being a commercial fisherman, firefighter, or law enforcement professional.

I sometimes am tempted to kvetch about the less fulfilling aspects of my job as President & CEO of the American Public Power Association. Then I think about the lineworkers who work for my utility members. They have to go out in the wake of severe weather events and labor under very adverse conditions for days on end to restore electric service. So I know I have it easy. 

Unfortunately, it has now become necessary to remind the public that FERC commissioners, state public utility commissioners and local governing bodies that regulate utilities have demanding jobs as well, and deserve our respect. This is true whether they work with IOUs, coops and/or public power, helping provide essential services such as power, water, telecommunications, and transportation.

I recently heard from my old friend Chuck Gray, former Executive Director of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He has stepped out of retirement briefly to address an important issue. It’s the breakdown in public discourse in some state public utility commission proceedings and the need to return to constructive dialogue through civil interactions and legal due process. I am with Chuck on this.

The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and is at the core of the First Amendment. It is a part of the fabric of this nation.

When unproductive and misdirected, however, protests are more of a hindrance than a help, and can abridge the rights of those to whom those protests are directed.

We often take government employees, including these commissioners, boards and city council members, for granted. These men and women have agreed to take on positions that put them squarely in the middle of important and controversial issues.

They preside over a vital sector of the American economy. Their individual and collective contributions drive us forward on the path toward a brighter (pun intended) future. They strive to serve in the public interest to improve the quality and price of utility services, and to ensure that such services are provided to all customers under rates and conditions that are fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory.

Can you support our federal, state and local utility commissioners and government employees and yet not support their rulings on specific issues? Certainly. Anyone who knows me knows that I have vehemently disagreed with many FERC decisions over the years, and I have never hesitated to take FERC commissioners to task publicly when I

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