A principal argument to justify the proposed restructuring of county utilities is to increase its “accountability,” to its customers, all of us, by fundamentally altering the relationship between the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Department of Public Utilities and the County Council. Increased “accountability” was rejected by voters in 1966, has proven unnecessary since, and carries great risks. Voters who value their utility service and their pocketbooks should reject it again. This is about control, not accountability.
The first proposed county charter (basically, our constitution) was rejected in 1966 largely because citizens feared that a political body, the county council, with direct control of utilities could pad their revenues via the back-door path of requiring substantial sums to be transferred from utilities to general county coffers, with resulting higher utility rates or inadequate operating and capital reserves. They also were concerned politicians would tinker with rates and services to favor special interests.
A completely independent utility presents challenges, too. The compromise embraced by voters in 1968 was the present semi-independent system. It is a work of genius that has served us well for 46 years.