The issues raised by the proposed changes to the County Charter regarding the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) have been the subject of multiple letters to the editor. Those against this amendment seem to strike an overriding theme: some county council will abuse a strengthened oversight function over the BPU to the ultimate harm of the electorate; specifically, it could increase transfers from utilities to the general fund, resulting in higher taxes disguised as increased utility rates.
As a current member of the county council, I know all too well that trust may be earned but cannot be legislated, much as competence or objectivity cannot be legislated either. The fact of the matter is that the county charter, either current or future, cannot ensure that there will never be untrustworthy, incompetent and/or biased councilors who may in turn choose untrustworthy, incompetent and/or biased members of the BPU, a board that controls a $90 million budget, nearly half the total county budget, and who cannot be removed except essentially if convicted of a felony. However, what the charter can do is to make any abuse by a public official as transparent, difficult and ultimately punishable by the electorate as possible.