Huntington Beach is among eight Southern California cities that have formed the Coalition for Affordable Street Lights, which accuses Southern California Edison of pocketing millions in taxpayer money set aside for light pole maintenance and replacement.
The coalition--which also includes Torrance, Downey, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga--claims each city collects millions of dollars annually in assessments for street light replacement and repair that are handed over to the region's largest public utility, which in turn does little if anything to fix or change out damaged poles.
"They're collecting all this money and look at our infrastructure--it's horrible," Rob Beste, public works director in Torrance, tells the Daily Breeze's Nick Green. "Torrance doesn't believe it's getting value for money for what we are paying. Where is all the money going?"
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Huge shareholder dividends. CEO compensation packages in the tens of millions of dollars. Weekend retreats with booze and strippers who . . . oh, wait, Beste was being rhetorical.
He reportedly laid it out for the state Public Utilities Commission recently: Torrance property owners alone contribute about $1.3 million annually via assessments from single-family homeowners who pay $20.50 a month, while the city kicks in another $1.8 million yearly from its operating budget. But two lighting surveys from 2010 found that almost 4 percent of the nearly 10,600 Edison-owned and -operated streetlights in town weren't functioning. Worse, many pose safety hazards.
Edison responds it is working with the coalition cities to resolve the concerns. In the meantime, the utility is seeking five percent increases annually to the street light repair and replacement fund. Three guesses on who those costs are going to be passed on to, and the first two don't count.