Written on Feb. 13, 2013, the day after the State of the Union Speech
Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Ed Regan’s got to go.
Hi, Hi, Tee, Hee, Robert Hunzinger is not the man for we.
If we did not know those rhymes before today, we should now after listening to President Barack Obama’s extensive praise for natural gas and low gas prices for the last few years. That praise came yesterday, on the day when the nation used to recognize that great Republican, Abraham Lincoln. That praise came in the State of the Union Address.
We have provided the applicable provisions below.
But why blame anyone at all, in Gainesville, aside from elected politicians, for the 30-year contract with the all white, all male GREC leadership. Together GRU and GREC decided that biomass would be our main fuel to generate electricity. Former Commissioner Schwerin Henry, now running for mayor, says that he voted for the biomass contract then, but if he knew what he did today, he would oppose it.
Commissioner Henry nobly says I made a mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. How admirable. But he says something else of importance. Commissioner Henry said he relied on staff, that is, GRU staff to cast his vote for biomass. Now we should put the blame where Commissioner Henry says it belongs…presumably at the top, not just the little guy earning maybe only $85,000 or $100,000….
The GRU staff leader who took instructions and ran with them in ’08 was Ed Regab, Ed seems to have eaten and slept utilities during all those great years before he retired a year ago. At his retirement, he credited staff for everything that was done, to help him create a great energy policy for Gainesville during his career. He saw no reason to thanks
the Commissioners or the public. With Ed, its one for staff, staff for all.
No wonder GRU is such a tight organization.
But on biomass something seemed to have gone wrong, even if the public had not objected. How so? In 2008, with natural gas prices higher than biomass, GRU counted on being able to sell excess biomass to other purchasers and recover millions—for the next 30 years after the biomass plant opened in 2013 or 2014. 30 years? You have got to be kidding. 30 years was 1983 and Ron Reagan was the president, but even he was gone emotionally, mentally and finally physically years ago.
Ed was so confident that he accepted without question a single memorandum from the City’s new utility partner, now GREC. GREC said we will not agree to an opt-out provision. Ed got the memo and, according to Mayor Craig Lowe, GRU was able to share it with him one on one—that is out of the Sunshine protection for the public.
After Ed seemed to fade into retirement, he was deposed in the litigation brought by Marcy LaHart, a renowned animal rights lawyer, for
attorney Ray Washington, the registered agent, Jo Beatty and for a while someone else. But really Washington Beatty and LaHart were the whole show trying to expose the arrogance not only of elected officials but also the staffers who really control the future of Gainesville.
Ed acknowledged then that low natural gas prices meant that it would be difficult to sell biomass to others, but he assured the interviewer that GRU had been trying. Had there been any success, a single sale? No. Could Ed predict when such a sale might take place, if ever? No.
Ed did have a confession to make. After he retired, the City gave him a contract to do whatever he was doing. Gainesville could not afford to lose that expertise which has resulted in planned 30 year expenditure without relief. No wonder Ed and the elected officials decided it was better if Mr. Regan did not appear at all on Jan. 9, 2013, when Ray Washington, LaHart and Jo Beatty raked City officials over the proverbial coals for their lack of foresight.
But what about knowledgeable Bob Hunzinger, now weighing in at $218,000 a year, by far the highest paid on the City/GRU salary list? Robert Hunzinger in 2008 came to Gainesville from the world of private utilities to lead the Gainesville Regional Utilities (“GRU”), a city-owned operation. He immediately became a charter officer and by 2009 he admitted that he did not have a clue what that meant.
Why is this significant? Hunzinger came from a world where protection of trade secrets is a given. What private company would give access to the public to learn not only its strategy and plans but alternatives as well? Redaction was a given, before display to the public. As far as he could see immediately, biomass was a certainty. How did he know? Well he had experts like Ed Regan to tell him what had to be done.
So folks, take your pick. Former Commissioner Henry blames staff. Former Commissioner Ed Braddy probably would have voted against biomass, because he believed in Mr. Hunzinger’s predecessor, Mike Kurtz. And what Mr. Kurtz believed in was coal, no matter how dirty a fuel it was, no matter how unhealthy it might have been.
You see, Mr. Braddy was on that City Commission for years while the issue of what the mix of fuel should be. If he was going to move into the future, it would be with that Republican dream of nuclear power, like the plant recently shut down by another utility in Crystal Lake, or the one in trouble in Levy County. But do not ever tell a born-again Republican what the public thinks. What do the people know?
Okay, blame Mayor Lowe and the Commissioners, if you must. But it’s time for Mr. Hunzinger to go. The Mayor and the City Commissioners still have the power to do that. Of course, they cannot break the contract with Mr. Regan, or even talk to him about what went wrong. But Mr. Hunzinger can. Hey, hey, ho, ho…or hi, hi, hee, hee…
What the President Said
Now what exactly did the President say about fuel and energy, about wind, solar power, and natural gas? (Unlike the Democrats here, he never mentioned biomass in the mix.) He said:
After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.
Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late. The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.
Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.
Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.
From the State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama, on Abraham Lincoln Day.
Biomass? Not a word.
But our local GRU men will still be counting on biomass 10 years after all those other fuels perhaps will have cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and business. Mr. Regan, goodbye. If not, so long, Mr. Hunzinger, it has been good to know you, but it may be time for you to move along.
So remember. Vote for anyone you wish for Mayor, but if you expect anything to change, the public will have to learn to hold City employees at the top accountable. After all, Gainesville is a City Manager/City Attorney form of government. All the mayor can provide is a bully pulpit. Unfortunately our current mayor seems to believe that gives him the right to be a bully….
Lets get this campaign going. There are issues out there. Do not let the only newspaper in town shut down the people. Hey, Hey, ho, ho….