The devastating consequences of being without power for up to two weeks are NOT OK.
My response to being without power for 12 days following Hurricane Sandy was: This is NOT OK. None of us should ever have to go through this again! I felt called to get educated on this situation and take positive action to address it. That’s exactly what I’ve done.
I am a founding member of CREMT (Citizens for Reliable Electricity in Morris Township). CREMT’s focus is RESULTS: What can be done to decrease the number and duration of outages that occur in the wake of superstorm events? What can be done to improve communication, especially to ensure that residents get better information about estimated restoration times?
The causes of widespread electrical outages and the pathways to solutions are complex. I believe the presenting problems require multi-leveled interventions and new approaches to problem solving. Interventions among various combinations of stakeholders need to occur at the state, county, township, company, and resident levels. We need to think and act in new ways in how we identify what the problems are and what we do to solve them. Here are some examples:
At the state level, the BPU (Board of Public Utilities) has issued 103 specific directives mandated for all New Jersey electric companies. From my perspective as a customer, if JCP&L does all of these things, vast improvements will result.
But what if JCP&L doesn’t do these things or drags its feet? What kind of enforcement “teeth” does BPU have? Answer: not exactly clear. Question: what can be done to ensure that JCP&L complies with BPU’s directives?
My suggestion: advocate that BPU list its directives online and require all electric companies (including JCP&L) to post progress updates. This recommendation is a win-win for everyone: the public gets a convenient way to monitor JCP&L’s compliance with BPU’s directives; BPU gets help from the public with enforcement pressure; JCP&L gets the opportunity to “advertise” its progress, thus repairing badly damaged public trust in its competence.
Improvements are incentivized. Accountability measures are implemented. Better outcomes (less outages, shorter duration, better communication) are likely. One example of an effective, multi-level intervention.
At the local level, I favor regular monthly meetings among representatives from the Township Committee, JCP&L, and residents. Whether the issue is vegetation management, communication, or planning for residents with exceptional medical needs, I believe we need new, creative “grassroots” ways to share information and work together to solve the presenting problems.
I am convinced that by collaborating with each other on a regular basis, effective solutions that no one has thought of before will emerge. For example, here’s an idea that occurs to me: trees are a BIG problem. Tree trimming and/or removal is expensive. Lots of conflict issues here between the rights and responsibilities of individual land owners, the Township, and JCP&L.
Within this morass of overlapping rights, responsibilities, and preferences, I can see possibilities for creating innovative business partnerships with local tree service companies who might do “community service tree work” at a free or reduced rate in exchange for good publicity and free advertising. Lots of interesting “win-win” potential here! Are there obstacles to enacting such a program? Definitely. That’s where new forms of information sharing and collaboration come in: where there’s a will, there’s a way! Let’s roll up our sleeves, think out of the box, pool our resources, and work together to create innovative solutions to the unprecedented challenges Mother Nature is delivering.
This issue is a passion for me! I feel a strong personal connection to it, and the skill set I developed at Columbia is a direct match for working with it effectively. I am “cooking” with innovative ideas to remedy this situation. Serving as an elected official will dramatically enhance my ability to translate my ideas into action. That’s a big reason that I’m running.
One final comment: in my opinion, our electricity challenges transcend politics. My sole focus on this issue (as an individual and as a founding member of CREMT) is RESULTS. I think the weather events of the past two years have created unprecedented challenges. I don’t care who did – or did not – do what in the past. To me, blame and partisanship divert our attention from the REAL challenge at hand: what can we do now to ensure better outcomes in the future? I have TONS of ideas for how to do this. Working as an elected official will notch up my ability to translate these ideas into RESULTS that will benefit all of us.