As a former consumer advocate who has testified before the Florida Public Service Commission in storm recovery cases involving private utilities, it is my view the post storm focus should be on the command structure of the City’s electric utility and not Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Sure, Gillum could have done a better job communicating with the citizenry, but the bottom line is the City electric utility management team failed him and others.
As many in the state-wide media have noted, Mayor Gillum does not have control over the operations of the electric utility.
On the Monday after the storm, Mayor Gillum, referencing the electric utility, said “…I don’t get to control what they do…”
Understood. But who is in control?
During a Tuesday meeting with City officials and Leon County Commissioners, Commissioner John Dailey said, “We need to know who’s in charge and who’s calling the shots.”
It is telling when an elected official, five days after a hurricane has left town, does not know who is calling the shots.
So, what is the problem?
In my view, the problem clearly resides with City Manager Rick Fernandez and his management team. Let me be clear, I am not talking about the front line workers who put in extra shifts to get the power up. No, I am talking about the management team that just received $900,000 in performance raises.
Consider this: I have reviewed the video of the meeting when the FP&L CEO, Mr. Silagy, offered the City of Tallahassee the help of 575 utility workers who were staged in Lake City last Friday. At the table were the City electric utility managers. When Mr. Silagy concluded his offer, Governor Scott tried to promote dialogue with City officials. Not a word of substance was spoken in response to FP&L’s offer by the City experts. Nothing.
Imagine for a moment if City Manager Rick Fernandez would have said, “Governor Scott, we appreciate FPL’s offer, but we do not have the manpower to manage such a work force. Do you have any ideas?”
Those two sentences would have changed everything.
Instead, hours passed, the Governor felt ignored, Gillum was left to wordsmith his response, and then the situation spiraled out of control.
So what is the solution?
The solution is rather simple and has been discussed for years, but repeatedly rejected by the City of Tallahassee.
TR will detail this solution in the coming days.