Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Feb 12 2009

Seattle City Light 2009 Work Plan

Published by at 8:10 pm under Energy & Technology Committee

Having a focused work plan at the beginning of each year is critical toward effective committee work. As you know, the Energy and Technology Committee (ETC) that I chair, oversees City Light. As a policy leader for City Light, I view this organization as more than a public power utility. These times demand that we adjust our thinking. I am suggesting that we view the public utility as a regional strategic tool for a green economy; an economic driver; a job creator; and as a competitive advantage for Seattle in this world economy. From this vantage point then, we developed an aggressive work plan for the Utility, which I believe will enhance the utility’s success, generate job growth, address environmental sustainability issues, prioritize Capital Improvement needs, and most importantly, ensure cost effective and reliable power.

City Light is a great organization but, as in any high performing organization, there is always room for improvement. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player in history, always looked for ways to improve his game. Once he became known as a prolific scorer, he set the goal of becoming the NBA defensive player of the year; which he achieved in the 1987-88 season. City Light is arguably the best Public Utility in the country, but there are elements that can be improved and I believe this is a healthy way to approach the work plan.

Currently City Light is working on their Comprehensive Strategic Plan and has gathered public opinion through a series of open meetings in different neighborhoods throughout the city. Part of ETC’s 2009 work plan is to examine and improve the Strategic Plan to develop a prioritization of capital projects and direct linkage to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP); and the establishment of service reliability goals with a direct linkage to a predictable rate schedule. The ETC will also address improving how rate-payers are educated on utility issues and the manner in which public input is given.

It should be noted that City Light’s CIP, is a vehicle for maintaining, upgrading, and expanding the utility’s infrastructure. This is approximately a $2 billion document. I am providing the City with a new approach to strategic planning by taking a critical look at how Capital Improvement Projects have been historically approved. Currently, Capital Improvement Projects are teed up in the six year CIP and then presented as proposed legislation that goes before the City Council for approval. I am concerned as to whether this approach lacks formal guidelines that lay out the type and depth of information and analysis that the Council expects before authorizing such large capital projects. Therefore, I will be working with the Utility, the Mayor and an external consultant in order to develop protocols that the Utility must follow when approval for large capital projects are sought.

The bottom line is that this approach should result in the savings of huge amounts of money and decrease time wasted. The end result will be cost effective, reliable and predictable rates and service.

As City Light is owned by its customers, the actions that I take are always in the interest of ensuring that the Utility operates in a manner which is most beneficial to its customers and owners.

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