Ever since news broke that JEA was courting private bids to sell the utility, it’s every move has faced intense scrutiny.
The Florida Times-Union has been on top of the issue each step of the way, and in some cases it’s added fuel to the fire by reporting on CEO pay and scuttled executive performance incentives.
Most polls show the public is against the sale by a wide margin. In November, a University of North Florida poll showed about three-fifths of voters were against selling the utility, whether it be the electric portion or the water portion of the operation.
So, it’s not exactly shocking that Jacksonville City Council Member Brenda Priestly Jackson wants to pump the brakes on the process. The Florida Times-Union thinks Jackson is in the right. Maybe so.
Either way, let’s take a look at what the people of Jacksonville get if Jackson’s resolution passes.
3 Northside Coal Plants
While many claim clean energy sources like solar are the future, the Northside has been decked out with coal-fired plants since the 1970s and it would be a real shame to see them go. Jacksonville just wouldn’t be the same without that hint of bituminous dust in the air. And if JEA gets sold, all three coal plants will be gone within a decade.
Work is such a drag. Especially good-paying, full-time work. Without a private buyer, somewhere between 400 and 600 JEA employees will get to clock out — permanently.
Who hasn’t wanted to toss JEA a few extra bucks every now and then? Everyone knows the current prices on fuel won’t be around forever, and then there’s debt service and the Plant Vogtle costs.
Speaking of debt — JEA has plenty of it. And the best thing about public utility debt is that it belongs to everyone. Some cities build a sense of community through sports, food or music. In addition to those trappings, Jacksonville residents enjoy the shared responsibility of paying off millions in debt. It’s good to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
You know who gets to stick around if the city hangs on to JEA? CEO Aaron Zahn. By blocking a private sale, the City Council can stick it to him by keeping him in the job. He’ll be tied to that desk earning a paycheck that’s merely commensurate with other utility CEOs, if not below average.