Who Pays The Piper Now?

“Waist deep in the big muddy and the big fool says to push on” went the lyrics to an Pec Pay the Piperold anti-war song. Some members of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative board want to push on with the same futility toward passage of a single-member district voting scheme. They push on no matter the two referenda where the members said no. They push on in spite of the efforts by at least one PEC board member to personally lobby state legislators in the last session for a bill opposed by the Board of Directors (in a 5-2 vote) that would dictate a single-member district mandate via legislative fiat.

They push on in spite of losing those efforts in the legislature–for at least a third time. Rep. Tony Dale’s draconian bills proved to be a bridge to nowhere–not so much as a single hearing was held to consider them. His legislative overreach ran counter, not only to

Rep. Tony Dale

Rep. Tony Dale

the expressed will of the members but also to a board resolution passed in early 2015. The resolution directed that PEC “make the Board’s position known to Texas legislators and the Texas Electric Cooperatives (“TEC”) and work with TEC to raise this opposition…to utilize media and other communication means to inform and advise the Cooperative’s Membership about the Board’s adopted position.”

Now, frustrated in their failure, some members of the newly organized board want to move forward at breakneck speed to “redistrict” the cooperative by the first of 2016. Their claim is that they merely want to more evenly distribute the number of people represented in each district, something that seems reasonable enough. Of course it is not for that reason that they want to redistrict PEC. Redistricting must be done in time for the 2016 election. With redistricting under way, sooner or later someone on the board will offer a resolution to change the bylaws in favor of single-member districts. To change the bylaws it will require a super majority–5 out of 7 directors. It is not clear whether the board president and vice president yet have those votes.

___”He who pays the piper plays the tune.”

The election of Paul Graf and Amy Lea S.J. Akers was not by happenstance. Well financed, slickly polished campaign efforts and a conservative political machine on behalf of both resulted in their impressive wins. The forces behind their elections surely await their just desserts. The operators behind their wins lurk in the shadows  and are mostly unidentifiable.

But another sugar daddy, equally cloistered in the shadows yet better known to the board, is James Fletcher. Fletcher is a Burnet County power-broker-wanna-be who contributed heavily to PEC Board President and Burnet County Judge James Oakley’s county election campaign. To give you a flavor of Fletcher’s character and what a splenetic partisan he is, consider that he personally threatened the political demise of the recently re-elected Director Cristi Clement at a political gathering in his own home over a year ago. Cornering Clement at a party to which she was invited, Fletcher not only spewed forth his contempt for renewable energy, he went on to accuse Clement of the high crime of being a radical liberal DEMOCRAT promising her that he would soon “get rid of” her. Fletcher also wrote a particularly vitriolic, bully-boy letter to the respected Jo Karr Tedder and Dorothy Taylor, both board members of the Central Texas Water Coalition (CTWC), accusing them of being “radical liberals” and demanding that they resign, telling them that they “will never get behind the doors” of the real power brokers (those crotch-scratching good ole boys who hang with Fletcher) who make Texas water decisions. Fletcher also huffed and puffed to a former local reporter, James Walker, who until recently wrote for The Highlander newspaper. His articles were generally fair and balanced but not biased enough to suit Fletcher’s hidebound point of view.

It is Fletcher who tells President Oakley when to jump…and how high…and all that that PEC jump how highimplies. This is not to say that James Oakley is guilty of anything untoward. Quite the contrary. Mr. Oakley is doing nothing more than any member of the PEC board will be required to do in the future to get elected and remain in office. Big money and influence have arrived at PEC. Board races are no longer a kitchen-table affair for amateurs. They involve partisan politics, political machines and lots of money. The quaint notion that PEC elections are “non-partisan” is as yesterday as a giftbox of Fuelberg chocolates.

Sadly, this is the new reality at PEC. The Citizens United decision along with conservative strategies that usurp voting methods until the desired outcome is achieved, knows no bounds. Hence, the pressure for a “fix” is on to achieve single member district bylaws.

Fletcher and his ilk are hell-bent on controlling PEC, something that has eluded them until now. While Mr. Fletcher failed in the promise to bag his target trophy, Cristi Clement, he is undoubtedly satisfied with a larger battle won. Mr. Fletcher and others have an agenda and it is to destroy the cooperative model, kill renewable energy and advance “customer choice”. For this they have paid well and they do not care who they step on to get it done.

Ironically, single-member districts have been rendered irrelevant as a means of taking control of PEC. In an at-large election I lost in every single district I ran in, including my own. I did not benefit from the at-large system, even as an incumbent.  A year ago, incumbent director Bill Boggs also lost. The at-large system favored by the members has NEVER been an impediment to winning an election. That was always an illusion.

An eternal optimist, I am always hoping to be surprised. Last night I had the strangest dream I’ve never had before. I dreamed that James Oakley, an intelligent politician, saw the wisdom of abandoning another divisive battle over single member district governance in favor of tending to larger more pressing PEC issues. I dreamed that Chris Perry dropped his lawsuit against PEC for the greater good of the members he serves.PEC dream I dreamed that the newly-elected board members, Graf and Akers chose an independent path and surprised those who expected their fealty. I dreamed that Emily Pataki read the encyclical of Pope Francis on ecology and called for a special day to consider what our humble cooperative can offer to relieve the plight of our planet and the humanity who inhabit it. I dreamed that the entire board acted with courage as though they owed nobody and worked on behalf of the members without a care about being re-elected.

Then I awakened to the ring of my iPhone alarm.


2 thoughts on “Who Pays The Piper Now?

  1. My….now we have the radical right controlling the Board to do something outrageous…like promoting single-member district elections.

    Folks, with only 10% of the members voting this is not a tribute to the value of at-large elections or a reason to continue at-large elections. Go back and look at the two referendums…and just see how many members out of 220,000 voted for at-large elections…maybe 5%! And, one of those referendums was manipulated with giving 3 options. Not good for democracy!

    Also lets all republish the letter that the PEC4U steering committee sent the PEC board, reminding Larry and the other members board members (at that time) who got them elected…who ‘brought them to the dance’. PEC4U clearly understood and readily had no problem reminding the board how they got elected. Calling foul now that conservative special interest groups are involved is hypocritical. it has been on from those on the left from the beginning. personally….I don’t like it from the left or the right. Democracy is not being served by either side.

    Unfortunately, political parties and special interests groups from the right and left are now far too involved and influential in the elections…and not the general membership. But it all started with PEC4U and its allies…and its hand picked candidates. Those hand picked candidates were the beneficiaries of these special interest groups and at-large elections. Now that more conservative special interest groups are involved is only a natural consequence of the actions of PEC4U and it allies…and if you all remember they were for single-member districts in the very beginning—until they realized it gave them an advantage in the elections. I warned then that special interest were going to control the elections…and I continue to do so now. It is not good for democracy!

    There is a problem with democracy at the PEC when only 10% (or less in some elections) vote for directors. The problem is that elections are now being controlled by a very small number of activists from the left and from the right. At-large elections will only continue to escalate this problem. Maybe…single-member districts will limit-to some extent-the power of a very small number of activists…with narrow focused agendas right or left…and maybe more old “Joes and Joans”-the common members will vote. Democracy is best served when government is as close as possible to the people.

    With only 10% of the members voting there are no mandates from the members. Therefore, it is paramount that the directors do everything they can to bring more democracy to the PEC…and maybe single-member districts will do that. We know at-large elections have failed to attract more involvement by the members.

    At-large elections have failed democracy at the PEC!

    At-large elections have just perpetuated the power of elites at the PEC!

    De Colores!

    (NOTE: This writer is not a proponent of choice and I believe Perry’s lawsuit is outrageous and IT IS even more outrageous that I am paying his legal expenses. I am just a common old Joe… just wanting a better democracy at the PEC)


  2. So now Larry what would you recommend as the most effective thing some regular person/co op Member could do at this point in time with this given Board?


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