The Lone Ranger, Tonto, and a Silver Bullet at the Coop
Yesterday, at Smith’s grocery store I met the Lone Ranger. The modern version substitutes sunglasses for a mask and a cap for a cowboy hat. He said his name was Bob Bresnahan, candidate for the Coop Board of Trustees. I knew better. The silver-tongued talker alluded to use of “silver bullets,” symbolic of solutions forged today by the gods of green energy. He responded with practiced answers on controversial topics associated with the Coop’s optimistic plans for the future. His companion, Tonto, below, hovers behind the scenes in his office, KCEC HQ in “Barrio Cruz Alta.”
1) About the Tri-State contract buyout of some $38 million, Bob presented me with thumb and forefinger curled in a circle, almost touching one digit to the next, saying that KCEC was this close to a deal and could buy electrical energy at half the price Tri-State charges but from other (unnamed) wholesalers. Once the debt, $38 million was paid off in five years, the Coop would then reduce rates for local members, he said. Simple.
2) About the Broadband prayer to the future when “10,000” customers sign up for fiber-optic path to the Internet, which will integrate northern New Mexico into the information age, Bob said the Coop was hooking up members at the rate of “50 per week.” I quickly calculated 50 times 50, which amounted to 2500 per year and meant four more years before the Coop fulfilled the target of “10,000” customers, the CEO’s recently stated goal.
3) The Lone Ranger emphasized the coming shift from coal and natural gas to the “Renewable Taos” program of self-sufficient wind and solar energy, a veritable “heaven on earth,” He handed me a brochure reminiscent of Michael Moore’s recent movie, “Where to Invade Next.” Sure other countries do progressive things, other states do; but not America, not New Mexico, not Taos. Innovation stops where politics begins.
4) Asked about Coop debt, the Lone Ranger dismissed potential and real debt wherein the balance sheet appeared to be going from a positive to a negative. Like a good corporate CEO (not unlike Tonto) he summarized debits and credits as mere accounting procedure. When you add debt, you also add credits for investment in the infrastructure, which balances the balance sheet. Trustees believe, per the CEO that raising rates and borrowing more money from Peter to pay Paul will cure the Coop. Trustees can continue to travel and the CEO can continue to diversify while the average metered member pays for the Coop to bumble along. Bob supports the rate increase, too.
Tonto has sent out the Lone Ranger to flog the “Green Gospel” so that newcomers will go weak in the knees and vote for Bob Bresnahan. Bob himself, a former Nike executive, apparently believes in the Michael Jordan famed slogan, “Just Do It.” Jordan performed like an airborne god. But what nobody saw was the human being, who, like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, spent 10,000 hours shooting hoops. For Jordan it wasn’t faith but practice and execution that brought fame. Going to meetings and sitting on your posterior is challenging but not necessarily “work.”
Due to their seeming magic, Nike’s “Air Jordans” became the target of gang bangers in the ghettos and barrios who fought to the death over their faith in the fetish and the power of magical shoes. The Trustees merely fight over who gets to represent the Coop at Tri-State or Statewide or make the trip to Las Vegas et al. But the CEO changes the light bulbs.
If elected to the Board of Trustees the Lone Ranger is due for the Taos Lesson. When he encourages the Trustees and says, “we should do the right thing,” and looks at Tonto for support, he’ll get the standard, “what do you mean “we,” Gringo?”
The CEO, pictured, controls the Trustees with simple hand outs and favors: travel for this one, a job for that one’s hito or hita, a Broadband hook-up and service for a Pensaco neighbor, Tri-State board membership for Art Rodarte, a scholarship for a trustee’s primo or prima, a promise to fulfill the Lone Ranger’s dream of green energy generation for Bob. But the CEO above is boss.
If a trustee doesn’t cooperate with the Coop culture, he or she gets frozen out or abused. Trustee Luisa Valerio-Mylet, who once voted against a raise for Tonto, a rate increase, and Broadband then brought her father to a meeting in order that the grand old man might subdue the parking-lot abuse uttered by the Trustees at his daughter. She was in her sixties.
The CEO will not, however, permit the public, the members of the Coop to see the complete books, especially the accounting procedures involved in the “diversified enterprises.” Currently, the Coop’s attorneys have sought and received an order from the Hearing Officer for the KCEC rate request at the PRC to keep discussions between the Interveners and the Coop “confidential.” The CEO uses a battery of high priced Santa Fe pros to keep the “cover-up” covered up.
The Lone Ranger might have a silver tongue and a silver bullet but Tonto’s got him where he wants him, surrounded. Bob, like many newcomers and natives chooses not to hear “nothing” about the real practices at the Coop. Trustee Virgil Martinez, however, says all the Trustees and the CEO ought to be in jail. If elected Bob will say under his breath, “I can’t believe these guys.” Meanwhile, he’s sipping the Kool Aid from the cup being passed around by the CEO.