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The Glenville Democrat
Glenville, West Virginia
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October 31, 1975     The Glenville Democrat
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October 31, 1975
 

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This is a response to the letter in the October 10 Democrat from Mr. Lowell Fredin, criticizing Monongahela Power Company's "Straight Answers" Advertising. First. a word of defense for the Democrat. As you noted. regular reading of your editorial page should clarify to the reader your attitude toward rising utility rates. Further, when ; these small ads were being developed, the format, layout, and the type face were selected to stand forth as advertising. We consider advertising a fully ethical method of imparting i~ information and we have no intention of trying to disguise it. Now, why "Straight Answers?" This very modest level of advertising is one part of a program to improve communications with our customers, as they have requested. In an extensive early 1975 survey of customer opinion we learned that an overwhelming 83 percent of our customers want continued and increased communication from Monongahela. In developing the ad series, we first listed all the questions most often asked by our customers. Answers are prepared by company people most expert in the subject areas, they are checked and rechecked for accuracy, edited to fit the available space (I do the final editing myseh'), and they are finally approved by Don Hollen, the Executive Vice President. There are no "ghost writers." ~ Mr. Fredin mentioned a particular ad, the one answering the question, "Why does Monongahela continue to plan and : build new power stations?" It sho~dd not be difficult to understand that when the costs i of producing and delivering electric energy are rising faster i. than the rates have been permitted to rise, the result must be diminished earnings, leaving less and less margin to absorb the costs of expansion. Our facts and figures can be summarized ,this way: In past years our earnings were sufficient to cover about 50 percent of the costs of construcfiug required new facilites; today, only about 30 percent of the requirements are being generated in~rnally thus requiring much larger sums to be borrowed Coy selling bonds}, adding substantially to interest COSts. Despite the suspicions of Mr. Fredin, expansion is not for the glory of Monongahela Power. We are not suggesting that :~! '~e help our fellow man and ourselves ff we pay more for = electricity" {although we'll all have to do some soul-searching ! in this area in the next few years); we are stating that growth is continuing, that new electrical capacity will be required by that growth, and that in today's inflationary spiral one of the causes of higher rates is the financing requirements of new = construction. Why should growth and new construction cause higher ~, rates? The reasons are many and complicated so let's just examine one big one. Our Pleasants Power Station, now scheduled for completion in 1980, is required to include about "~ $200,000,000 worth of pollution control devices. That is more than the total cost of the Fort Martin station, completed in 1968, and that 200,000,000 investment will not only produce no electricity, it used part of the station capacity. The result is that new construction today increases the average cost of a unit of production. The options, then, are higher rates or less new construction. Higher rates are wanted by no one - but less or no new construction when growth is continuing means not enough electricity to go around in the near future. This is the big dilemma .~ and all the accusations of change it. I have on my desk now a clipping from a/anuary, 5, i966 newspaper announ~ a big ~rease in Monongahela s rates, a decrease we were able to effect even when the costs of other goods ~nd services continued to go up. We are no less diligent ~ today in our attempts to hold prices down but we are trying to cope with cost problems, some government mandated, that are : beyond our control. L 7 Curry Director: CuStom~ Se.TvJces Monoulshele Power Co. Ibfmk Carroll Curry's October 24 response to my letter in the October 2 (not October 10, as Mr. Curry states) Democrat has come to me as something of a surprise. Apparently the electric lion is not sleeping, and when an uppity consumer twists his tail, he bellows. I wish to thank Mr. Curry publicly, not only for his letter but also for the literature he sent with it. There is some interesting information about rising costs in those publications; no dDubt much of H is true, but the authors, such people as the President of Allegheny Power, the Executive Vice President of Monongahela Power and the President of Edison Electric Institute, could hardly be called dispassionate observers. These are probably all able, sincere and honest men, but I approach their statements with caution for the same reason I take with a grain of salt s~ch protestations of their own virtue as politicians often make. Unfortunately. there is a ~real paucity even of this kind of information in the letter Mr. Curry has sent to the DemocraL He begf, ns with a curious "word of defense for the Democrat." Why should ha feel compelled to defend the newspaper? I read your editorials. Mr. Jacobs. before I wrote my letter;, I was aware of your "attitude toward rising utility rates." I never intended to imply that there was actual collusion, overt or covert, between the Democrat and the power company. I simply wanted you to make the paper's relationship to "Straight Answers" perfetly clear, and you did so. Perhaps you felt I was accusing you of something, but I was not. If you took my comment that way, I apologize for the misunderstanding I caused. Could it be that Mr. Curry is attempting to make me look like an adversary of reason? Could that also be the cause of his saying that he is sorry he cannot provide the extensive information I asked for, but "it should not be difficult to understand" the reasons he then summarizes for rate increases? This is probably just a remarkable coincidence, but he answers a charge I made about vagueness in "Straight Answers" with a public statement only slightly less vague than those that prompted my original charge. At any rate, it is apparent that. in Mr. Curry's view. I understand neiflmr Monongahela's good reasons for initiating a ~0~/o rate increase nor their advertising. It is true that their rate incrase is difficult to understand, but I am perhaps better qualified to judge their advertising. "We consider advertising a fully ethical method of imparting infprmation," he says. Of course advertising can be ethical: of course it sometimes is; but if advertising is fully ethical, the .Earth is flat. I am gratified to find that "Straight Answers" is based on input from consumers and that "people most expert," not ghost writers, compose the columns. However. I think I have the expertise to judge the experts' answers as over-generalized and therefore possibly misleading. One of Mr. Fredin's hats is that of Dr. Fredin, a Ph.D. in English language and literature who has taught various forms of composition to a variety of people for almost a decade. I do not allow my students to tell me such things as "The reasons (for higher elsctric rates) are many and complicated so let's just examine one big one." In other words, the way to answer a complex problem is either incompletely, over-simply, or both. by Jim Iacobs Media critics have recently advised that extensive coverage of would-be presidential assassins only encourages further attempts on President Gerald Ford's life. They reckon that past blanket coverage of Lynn "Squeaky" Fromm and the little old lady from West Virginia only serves to excite attention-hungry lunatics to commit murder against a prominent public official like Ford. Many journalists have responded by saying the public wants and needs to know about these wierd assailants, what makes them tick, why they are seemingly driven to attempt murder for mere recognition. But the battle rages, as it has for decades, over the public's right to know vs. the responsibility of the press not to overstep bounds of propriety. As usual, there are no easy answers. To carry this dilemma into another realm, another spectator of this bizarre reality we call life might ask:' Does the pardoning of Nixon and his retirement into palacial post- Watergate recovery encourage po- tential crooks and swindlers that crime-if it is big and extraordinary enoch-does indeed pay? Check out a recent Newsweek cover photo of the Nixons-tanned, splendidly attired, cozily smiling-as if nothing had ever happened to dampen public enthusiasm of this incredibly deceitful former president. Not only has Nixon been forgiven by his hand-picked replacement, he is being encouraged to come out of his San Clemente shell, to leave the golf course and actually come back into public life: "in any way I can be of help to the country," he said. Incredible! This man who nearly brought a nation to its knees, who m ly toppled the Constitution of the United States with his paranoid police state tactics, has never repented for his crimes while in the highest office in the land. "This Watergate thing was Hdiculous," he scoffs at his monumental and terrifying abuse of presidential power. "The media built this into a federal case. Sure it was a stupid mistake, but it was nothing like the press made it out to be." Oh boy. Not only is he living in splendorific repose near a sunny sunset beach in California, enjoying occassional swings of the old golf club and dictating memoirs and preparing for a David Frost tv interview-living a life of luxury at taxpayer expense {how is he any different from any other 'welfare chisler')-but he's also hinting of becoming a radio or tv commentator on world and national events. One sharp promoter, who found former Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty his own tv show, recently met with Nixon to plot a like situation. He said he found Nixon "extremely vibrant and vital-a very enthusiastic, warm and friendly person." Public relations hogwash. Even Henry Kissinger, a consummate and careful diplomat, assessed Nixon as an "odd, artificial and unpleasant man." And that assessment fits comfortably for me and others who have followed Nixon throughout his career of red-baiting, hatchet-jobs on the press during the Vietnam debacle, and total lack of morality and responsibility throughout the Water- gate episode. I wonder how many potential felons observe Nixon's post-Water- gate pompous posturiziug and ponder pulling off the big heist. Are we expected to believe that the post-Watergate treatment of Nixon deters crime in any way? As far as I'm concerned, Nixon has pulled off one of the master capers known in civilized history, and gotten away with it. With his talent for obfuscating reality and the public's willingness to be hoodwinked, Nixon may even come up smelling like a good ole boy. In Newsweek's October 20 memorializing of Nixon. they posit that the disgraced former president "hungers for redemption," and that. in his upcoming book {which could bring him a cool $2 million) he wilI rest his case heavily on his so.called "'foreign achievements." Yet, in the waker of the Water,ate special prosecutor's recently pub- lished report which concluded that Nixon was "indictable" for his prime role in the Watergate scandals, Nixon must admit his culpability in Watergate, Newsweek puts forth. "His problem is that the price of readmission (to what, national political leadership?) is...an authentic act of contrition for the crimes that poiboned American politics and government during his presidency," Newsweek says. Knowing that other men-his cohorts and others who ran the U.S. as if it were a privately owned corporation-are currently paying heavily for their Watergate crimes, why is a public apology enough for Nixon? Is being sorry for trampling on the U. S. Constitution and covering his own felonious trail while the fate of American government on the eve of a serious economic recession lay untended, enough for the American people? I hope not. Not only have we suffered shame for our system of government during that trying time, but our system itself has endured a deep wound from which recovery is even now in dour. I submit that this man. this deposed president, should, never again see the light of political leadership. If there is justice in this world, let this man at least suffer the punishment of historical disgrace. Why should anyone accept such answers from utility companies? No matter how much of a financial bind Monongahela is in, should customers be expected to pay for . cleaning up power plants? In my case. Monongahela, you have supplemented "Straight Answers," and I can appreciate the fact that you have financial problems; so do we all. But has "Straight Answers" really been effective in improving the new image you have acquired along with your rate increase? Ultimately, I do not know, but no local champion of the power company has leapt to your defense in the fo-r weeks since my letter was printed. None of the people I have talked with in that time has seemed to consider "Straight Answers" terrifically informative. I might add hare that your local employees prnsent your best image. I have always found them polite, efficient and helpful. Your greatest public relations resource is your people, not your words. Mr. Curry. you mention a newspaper clipping from 1966 announcing a rate increase. Why don't you reproduce that clipping and send it to all the old people and others on fixed or low incomes in areas like Gilmer County? I'm sure that would be of great consolation to people who have trouble surviving (not worrying about raising capital for expansion, but having enough to eat} when they're confronted with a ~ higher electric bill. In all fairness, Monongahela's 30% hike is not as inflationary as most other price rises have been, since there has been no increase for five years. It is also true that many of us have used too much electricity, and my household has been no exception. After we received our last bill we launched an austerity program. According to my own reading of the meter, we used about 48.5%0 of the power during this ~ period that we used during the last. However. according to the rate scale, our bill will be about 56.4% of what it was last time. By US. Senator ,t./.t Women are becoming an increasingly important part of the American work- force -- for a number of ,-easons. First, of course, is the fact that the government has moved forthrightly against sex discrimination. and has been especially ac- tive in guaranteeing equal pay for equal work be- tween men and women. The government's actions have encouraged more women to seek more and better jobs. And to secure those jobs, women have come to realize the importance of getting as much education as pos- sible. Eighty percent of the nation's women now grad- uate from high school-- compared with 81 percent of young men who are graduatir~; and 28 percent of the women are going on to college--compared with 32 percent for men. But just as important as government actions and in- creased education is the fact that many of the myths about women work- ers have been exploded by recent studies. For instance, it was long believed that absenteeism among women was far greater than among men, and that women switched jobs at a much faster pace than men. However, a na- tional health survey shows that the female absentee rate is 5.6 days per year; the rate for men is 5.4. And a 1970 U~. Depart- ment of Labor study re- v~aied that the "monthly quit rate" for 2.6 percent, cent for men. note further women do leaVe childbirth, their more often temporary. Fifty en with 6 and 17 are played, and 38 all women with tween 3 and working. In almost 32 in the Americs~ 4 out of 10 That women ing given tunities in the is both just and, in manY overdue. But ing attention workir~ outside we should not very real ing made by It is price tag on the do, although says the product would ed by at least annual if were paid for Just as outside getting too few ties for too working in have been credit. That is that should be After all, the has the most of all--reari dren. "The ha the cradle world." Gi/ er Ceuty GQmer Comaty AthJotJc ~ Club moat~J~ of each momth, 7:56 ~ at the High Scba~ Mondsy-llmrsday - Nul=Itlm I rq am C-rater, reservati as a day ht adveace. Wednesday, October - Urns County itecrea . Cent . All ere= Friday, October 31- Blood pressure test, Senior Cater, aty Hal. beS sb J Friday, October 31 - Bake gala, slmamred Nutrttkm Prb m, l mawha Ualm Bank Satm y. Nov, t - qrst Saptim Ckrd,: 7-8:30 p.m. fgatm'~| castnme PartY, adults. Saturday, Nevemb~ 1 - Gaep~ dn8. 7:30 p.m. Joaturtaj C&rtsltan Hslmmters, sdmbeke chsr Wednesd=y, November s - Ors sstim d Nw=._utmm end StsmVmm, s Cmt~. Frld y, 7 - fall cm v l. mep. Frklay, Nevemb PoldJc mee4 S, mmmlaz and Cmmca. to dic N es, at Ca/ " Sstmday. Nmmmbw S- Tann~ Eiemm=tmrY bobbin at S=30 p.m. Gs~es msd ~st~lJ invite& Seturd y. Nevembw e - Codsr Creek Gsm dinner, hesl S p.=L Therefore, ff Monongahele conservation, it should penalize customers rather than rm~ard them. I still Publ/c Service urging them portion of the increase. That much would not have been traumatic to most much all at once is insufferable. us for not having complained becatme gradually, nor can they fault us now rates have risen abruptly. It is true that monopolistic abuse" in the world will not finances (did anyone make such an butit is also trim that all the talk in the people strugsl/ng in a recessionar astronomic power bills." Puldielmcl Evm By GIUMER At le8 F.. Id~~ JIM JACOB8 ................ 30A.N LAYNE ................