Sunday, August 14, 2022
Aug. 14, 2022

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In Our View: Barnes, Dillin best for public utilities commission

The Columbian
Published:

From a field of three knowledgeable candidates for the primary election, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Nancy Barnes and Carol Dillin for Clark Public Utilities Commissioner, District 2.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian suggests that voters examine the candidates and the issues before making an informed decision for the Aug. 2 primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.

For many voters, Clark Public Utilities commissioner is a low-profile position; but it is an important one. The winner will be elected to a six-year term overseeing a publicly owned utility that has an annual budget of about $340 million and is tasked with providing electricity and water to residences and businesses throughout the county.

Barnes, who has been on the commission for 30 years, told the editorial board, “I’m focusing on my job of delivering efficient electricity and clean, healthy water at cost.” She adds that “rates haven’t been raised in 12 years, and you don’t hear of blackouts and brownouts around here.” The utility routinely has been honored by J.D. Power for residential customer satisfaction.

Barnes demonstrates impressive knowledge of the utility and the challenges of maintaining high levels of service while adjusting to the realities of climate change. For examples of how the utility benefits customers, she points to various financial-assistance programs, conservation initiatives and the introduction of smart meters that help manage electricity use.

Dillin has retired as an officer at Portland General Electric, Oregon’s largest utility, and has lived in Clark County since 2016. She stresses the development of “clean and green” electricity and demonstrates a strong understanding of the industry.

Don Steinke also is an excellent candidate. Steinke, who has experience as a teacher of physics and environmental science at the high school level, has been an outspoken climate change activist.

Steinke makes strong points about the changing climate and the job-creating potential of a green economy. But his focus on the issue tends to ignore the climate efforts already undertaken by Clark Public Utilities. If Steinke is not elected, we encourage him to remain engaged as an important voice in our community, holding officials accountable and encouraging necessary climate action.

Barnes and Dillin, we believe, have a more holistic view of the ability of Clark Public Utilities to mitigate climate change while effectively serving customers, following state law and preparing for the future. Regarding the installation of public charging stations for electric vehicles, for example, Barnes notes that “we’ve always had a policy of not buying ahead of need.” With most electric vehicle owners charging at home, public stations must be established judiciously.

In addition, during an hourlong meeting with the editorial board that focused on the supply and distribution of electricity, Barnes was the only candidate to mention that the utility also provides water for the community.

Both Barnes and Dillin also spoke about equity issues involved with climate change initiatives and the impact those initiatives can have on low-income customers. As Dillin said, “It shouldn’t be, ‘I’m rich so I get solar’; climate affects us all.”

Climate change should be the guiding concern for the utility. The Columbian’s Editorial Board believes that Nancy Barnes and Carol Dillin have the most realistic understanding of Clark Public Utilities’ role in addressing that change.

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