The Sounding Board: Why Power of One?

I’ve been asked by my friends with Power of One to talk to you, our fellow members of West Oregon Electric Cooperative.

First I should let you know why we settled on that particular name for our efforts. Think about who we are and how helpless we feel for a second. Alone, we are only one and powerless to exact change, but if our “ones” band together the “ones” gain the power needed to get answers, find solutions and hopefully fix the problems we have before us. And so “Power of One” was born.

The past year we have spent educating ourselves, learning about co-ops in general and our co-op in particular. The final analysis is that no entity-federal, state, county, or city has any jurisdiction over co-ops. Period. We the members have the power and duty to see that our co-op is run efficiently. Yes, we elect a board to represent us, but without some oversight, do we really know that our best interests are being served? I know the board members are all honest and mean well, but it’s these and others like them that have gotten the co-op into such debt. When more than 60% of the total worth of the co-op is debt…well, you decide.

Yes, we can blame past administrations. We can blame “All our Trees.” We can blame storms like we’ve had since I was a child and believe me, WOEC does. Never have I heard, “We did this or that to hold the line on spending.” They live and spend as they always have.  For  example, $54,000 annually for meetings. But when the fiscal shoe starts to pinch, they just raise the rates.

I know the meeting WOEC planned for “discussion” of a rate increase has come and gone. I’m hoping you were there just so they know you care about how deep they put their hands in your pocket. They’ve promised they won’t ask for more increases for two years. The message: In two years we can expect another rate increase.

The $1.3 million that was invested in 2001 in a fiber optics system that has not borne fruit in 12 years may be a good start in getting back on an even keel. Maybe an in-depth analysis of expenditures could find extra savings. Maybe just cutting back on Mr. Farmers “7 year renovation plan” could reap some monetary reward. When you remember that we pay 2 ½ times more than any co-op in Oregon it puts a little tarnish on living in paradise.