Mayor Rahm Emanuel today threw his support behind a plan to ask voters if the city should try to negotiate cheaper electric rates for residents and small retailers.
The question seems likely to appear on the November ballot.
Two of the City Council’s most influential aldermen are pushing this week for a committee endorsement of their electrical aggregation plan.
The proposal is slated for discussion at the council’s Finance Committee meeting on Friday, confirmed Ald. Patrick O’Connor, 40th, who is Emanuel’s council floor leader. O’Connor and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, the Finance Committee chairman, are sponsoring the effort.
“We’re hoping to move it forward,” said O’Connor, whose comments came before the mayor weighed in today. “We’re just trying to put it on the ballot so that we can continue to study the issue and determine whether or not it’s the best thing to do.”
Emanuel was asked about the idea at an unrelated jobs announcement.
“I do support putting it on the ballot," Emanuel said, adding that he will advocate for its passage. "Buying in bulk can save homeowners and residents money."
If the proposal gets the committee nod and the full council votes for it next week, a referendum on so-called municipal aggregation would be placed on the November general election ballot. The council has until Aug. 6 to put the measure on the ballot.
“All we’re trying to do is determine whether or not the city of Chicago could basically negotiate rates with the utility companies that our citizens could benefit from,” O’Connor said.
Municipalities negotiate group power rates, but homeowners who want to opt out can do so.
Last March, voters in more than 200 Illinois villages and cities approved the step. The resulting yearly savings for residential customers in those municipalities range from $200 to $300, David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, told aldermen in May when the idea was first discussed in committee.
But those savings are only supposed to carry through until June 2013, when electricity-purchasing contracts of ComEd and Ameren Illinois expire, Kolata said. Those contracts locked the utilities into paying prices for power that have since decreased on the open market, which has allowed competitors to underbid them.
If the city goes forward with the referendum, the idea is to fast-track the process to secure the most savings, O’Connor said. That would involve negotiating a deal for purchasing electricity even before the referendum is held.
When the plan was discussed at a Finance Committee meeting in May, the idea was pitched by Illinois Energy Aggregation LLC, which makes money by helping municipalities with the aggregation process.
Former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno, a political ally of Burke, is the company’s attorney. His wife, Nancy, is one of three “managing members” at the company, according to its web site.
“If somebody gets helped as a benefit of everybody saving money on their utility bills, that’s just a side thing, but if we save money for all our constituents, that would be my focal point,” O’Connor responded, when asked about the company and Joseph Mario Moreno.
Joseph Mario Moreno answered the phone at the company’s Chicago office. “It is what it is,” he said of the involvement of him and his wife in the company and his political relationship with Burke. Aggregation, he added, “is a very good thing for the city."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times