Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 19, 2013

Editorial: Light & Power causing its own problems


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — That didn’t last long.

A report this year on Traverse City Light & Power’s “disarray” criticized both city and Light & Power leadership for their parts in the “highly visible struggles for control of the utility’s direction” that have plagued Light & Power for years.

In reaction, leaders from both camps acknowledged the utility needed a strategic plan that dealt with issues like whether to build a local power plant and strategies for dealing with renewable energy.

An immediate issue was how to go about finding a new executive director. Some wanted to stay local, others wanted the utility to undertake a national search to find an experienced energy person to help make key decisions.

On Feb. 26 the board voted to conduct a regional or national search for a new executive director. But this week, acting executive director Tim Arends said he will seek a motion May 14 to rescind that decision, remove the “interim” tag from his title and make him boss. And in true Light & Power tradition, it appears he may have the votes to do just that.

Everyone agrees Arends, the former controller (who is still doing that job), has done well since he stepped in for former executive director Ed Rice, who was fired in October.

It’s hard to blame Arends for wanting to move things along. “Doing two full-time jobs for six months is enough,” Arends said. “If it’s going to be me in the end, I need a controller. If it’s not going to be me, I need a director.”

But this is Light & Power, and doing things in a straightforward way and living with recent decisions doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Two months after its vote, the board has yet to initiate a search, so the door is now wide open for Arends to demand some resolution and for the board to flip — or would this be a flop?

Looking for someone with experience in the field is as good an idea as it was in February; all that has changed is the calendar. But the board hasn’t acted on its own decision to move ahead.

Perhaps Arends is jumping the gun, but the board can’t expect him to simply accept the status quo when there doesn’t seem to be any effort by board members to do what they said they would do.

So here were are again, in a crisis of Light & Power’s own making, with decisions supposedly made for the good of the utility and city residents (who actually own the utility, after all) in the wind.