Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of OpenTheBooks.com joined KEYE CBS-Austin to discuss the city's failure of response and communication.
- Yesterday, the mayor, city manager, head of Austin Energy, and six directors of city services held a press conference. It was 36-hours into the crisis. What were your initial thoughts?
What took so long? 1/3 of the city still didn't have power. Yesterday, on that podium, there were eight highly compensated city executives costing taxpayers $2 million this year in cash compensation. Jackie Sargeant ($420,000), Spencer Cronk (nearly $400,000), the mayor is making 40-percent more than the previous mayor; and six directors of city services who all made more than $200,000 each last year. It's lucrative to be in leadershpi in Austin. However, the mayor and those city bureaucrats make A LOT of money from taxpayers/rate payers; SO we DESERVE A LOT from them. The people must decide if they are getting their money's worth.
- It was an ice storm. Mother Nature. However, the Austin Energy "report-an-outage" system failed. The city didn't use its text alert system to warn residents of the severity of the oncoming storm. And, everyone still has PTSD from our last storm. How much money has been spent on communications in the city since 2021?
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com estimate that the city has spent $26 million on 173 communications PR pros over the last two years. Incredibly there are 173 communications professionals employed by the city. That includes 66 public information specialists; 39 communications officers; and 24 program managers. The city is literally loaded with communications pros and should never have had a communication problem. Period!
- If the 2021 storm wasn't a wake up call, people are wondering what will change this time. What reform would shake up the system?
The ultimate in accountability is choice. Austin Energy holds a monopoly on the Austin energy market. Maybe it's past time to allow competition. If customers don't like the service they are receiving from Austin Energy, then people need the option to purchase electricity from a new provider -- from a different company. Right now, Austin Energy is the only game in town; so what incentive do they have to make things better?
In fact, Austin Energy has been quietly buying up multi-utility districts in the outlying areas around the city. Austin Energy has been increasing their marketplace power. So, for example, maybe it's time to empower the multi-utility districts and give them access to the Austin marketplace. Competition will force better service.