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Utility Man

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To the editors:

In his February 10, 1989 article entitled "Is Rich Daley Ready for Reform?" Doug Cassel suggests that he has presented a comprehensive, balanced treatment of Mr. Daley's record. Unfortunately, his treatment of the critical utilities issue indicates otherwise.

Rather than review Mr. Daley's eight year record on utilities, Mr. Cassel merely criticizes the State's Attorney for agreeing to a five-year rate freeze plan for Commonwealth Edison which was opposed by Mr. Cassel's group Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. Furthermore, although he discusses the rate freeze plan for nine paragraphs, Mr. Cassel does not mention the fact that the recent rate increases granted to Edison by the Illinois Commerce Commission were nearly twice as high for typical residential users as the rate freeze plan which was rejected by the Commission.

Mr. Daley is currently appealing Edison's latest rate increases to the Illinois Supreme Court. Based on his past record on behalf of utility consumers, Mr. Daley's chances of success look pretty good.

Working with the Citizens Utility Board and other consumer representatives, Mr. Daley has won court decisions reversing Edison's last two rate increases. Due to State's Attorney Daley's legal action before the Commerce Commission, all of Illinois Bell consumers received rate reductions and refunds for the first time in history in 1988. Bell's rate refunds and reductions, including a 33 percent discount for Sunday calls, totalled over $150 million in the last year. State's Attorney Daley also won $14 million in rate reductions and refunds from Peoples Gas last year.

As the former Supervisor of the Public Utilities Division for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, I agree with Mr. Cassel that Mr. Daley's record on utilities is particularly important due to the expiration of Edison's franchise with the City of Chicago in 1990. But it is Mr. Daley's actual record on utilities, and not Mr. Cassel's version, that should be considered by the voters.

Patrick N. Giordano

N. Clark

Doug Cassel replies:

Daley's former aide devotes several paragraphs to the defunct Com Ed deal supported by Daley without once mentioning that it would have entailed a $660 million rate hike. Nor does he mention that it was opposed not only by BPI, but also by every other major consumer group active in Com Ed rate-hike cases--and by the city of Chicago. Fortunately for consumers, when the deal was offered Chicago's mayor was Harold Washington, not Rich Daley.

Mr. Giordano's contention that Com Ed's residential rates under "recent rate increases" are higher than Daley recommended over 18 months ago is misleading in multiple respects. First, he overlooks the fact that if Daley's deal had been approved by state regulators (it wasn't), residential consumers would have paid bills about 10 percent higher each month for the last year and a half.

Second, he fails to make clear that he is comparing Daley's proposed rates not to current residential rates, but to rates that will not go into effect until 1990 (if then)--some two and a half years after Daley's rate hike would have gone into effect.

Third, he tells me he bases even that comparison--Daley's 1987 rates to projected 1990 rates--on customers who use relatively little electricity (150 kilowatt-hours per month). Most of us use more--much more--and the comparisons are much less favorable at higher usage levels.

Finally, residential consumers do not live in a vacuum--we live in an economy where businesses pass on costs to customers whenever they can. There is simply no getting around the fact that Daley supported a total rate hike of $660 million, whereas the recent increase was "only" $235 million, and the increase proposed for next year will add "only" another $245 million. While I join Daley in opposing these increases, they pale beside the even larger rate hike Daley proposed.

As the article stated, I agree that Daley's lawyers "have often done good work" in other utility cases. But the Com Ed deal was not "just another case." It was by far the most important consumer test Daley faced in eight years in office--and he failed it.

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