Editor’s note: Still besieged by the dread shingles, Doug Clark has turned today’s column over to that beloved former power company mascot, Reddy Kilowatt. The familiar symbol has graciously agreed to answer all of your questions regarding Avista Corp.’s latest attempt to suck the last dime out of its downtrodden ratepayers.
Q. Hi, Reddy. It’s been eons since your iconic light bulb nose and red lightning bolt body have been seen around here. What have you been up to?
R. Kilowatt: Languishing in obscurity. Mooching off the generosity of the more successful.
Q: Sounds awful.
R. Kilowatt: Sure is. But at least I know what it’s like to be Ben Affleck.
R. Kilowatt: I’m at such a low point that when Clark called, well, I had to suck down my pride and take the gig.
Q: Frankly, I’m a little suspicious about Clark’s whole shingles soap opera. The other day Buster Posey, catcher for the San Francisco Giants, was pulled out of a game for having shingles.
R. Kilowatt: Yeah. I heard that.
Q: But then on Friday the kid’s back in the lineup and belting a run-scoring double. Meanwhile, Clark was off work recuperating for something like six months. What gives?
R. Kilowatt: You have to understand that Buster Posey gets paid to play through pain.
Q: And Clark?
R. Kilowatt: Barely paid enough to feed the parking meters outside the newspaper.
Q: Point taken. Speaking of income, what’d you think about Avista CEO Scott Morris getting a $250,000 pay boost, which put his annual take at $3.5 million?
R. Kilowatt: That extra quarter mil came in just the nick of time.
Q: What? Are you suggesting that Morris needs more money?
R. Kilowatt: Most definitely. Have you seen yacht prices lately? They’re absolutely skyrocketing.
Q: So Morris rides high. But what message does that send all us little people?
R. Kilowatt: Why, it sends a very clear message. And that is that the world is filled with two basic types of people.
Q: What types?
R. Kilowatt: Predators …
Q: And prey?
R. Kilowatt: Now you’re cooking with gas.
Q: Maybe. But why does that gas have to keep getting more and more expensive?
R. Kilowatt: I don’t want to talk over your head. But it’s a matter of supply-side economics.
Q: Which means?
R. Kilowatt: We got the supply and you dopes don’t.
Q: That sure is cold.
R. Kilowatt: Especially if you don’t pay your monthly Avista bill.
Q: Don’t rub it in. But now you want a 6.3 percent rate increase in electricity and a 6.9 percent increase for natural gas. How come you guys always want more and more?
R. Kilowatt: Running a big power company is an expensive proposition. For example: Right now we need $9.5 million to replace power poles and $8.3 million to replace a turbine.
Q: Those are big numbers.
R. Kilowatt: Yes. And don’t even ask me what it’s going to cost to replace the gold-plated toilet seats in the Avista corporate bathrooms.
Q: I shudder to imagine.
R. Kilowatt: Let’s just say that you don’t go to Wal-Mart to buy 18-carat crappers.
Q: But when will the ratepayers catch a break?
R. Kilowatt: Don’t be ungrateful. Just last year, we sent out free eight-pack curlicue fluorescent light kits to 350,000 ratepayers as Avista’s way of saying thanks.
Q: Yeah, I remember. Should I even ask how many light kits went to Morris and his Avistacrats?
R. Kilowatt: Don’t be silly. They don’t use those China-made twisty lights. Those things are not only ugly but full of mercury, too.
Q: You’re saying they’re poisonous?
R. Kilowatt: You don’t want to be in the same ZIP code if one of those things gets broken.
Q: I’m beginning to think that ratepayers would be better off telling Avista to pound sand and learning to live in the dark.
R. Kilowatt: My friend, I think you’ve finally seen the light.