A Hot TopicIn Montgomery County, Pepco continues to dominate the headlines. At a groundbreaking for a new Montgomery County development last week, Governor Martin O’Malley and Council President Roger Berliner fielded more questions about Pepco and the power outages that followed the June 29 storm. Pepco has to “do more,” the governor said.
Residents are also still talking about the power outages. Some say they feel like they live in a third world country because of the frequent outages. On social media pages, such as Twitter and Facebook, you will find plenty of Pepco rants and there are several petitions for change being circulated digitally as well. People are upset about what they call communication problems and they are looking for more than answers…many say they want change.
On July 19, the Montgomery County Council held a Pepco debriefing and Legislative Information Officer Neil Greenberger noted that he had never seen more television cameras at an event since he started working for the county several years ago. He counted over a dozen cameras.
Even though they couldn’t publicly testify at the meeting, even more concerned residents attended that debriefing and they shared their stories of living for days with no power with me. They told me how frustrated they are with the power company for what they describe as mismanagement. They said their calls and outage reports were mishandled following the June 29 storm. One resident has even penned a song about her outrage. Here’s a link to her YouTube Video entitled “Pack Up Pepco!”
Another resident told me about his work as the director of a Bethesda senior living facility and how frustrated he was that it took days to get the power on at his facility during a heat wave. In fact, he said he turned to Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s office for help. When I asked him what he wanted to know, he said he wanted to know that Pepco cares about seniors. Other residents told me about how anxious they become when severe weather is now forecast for our area. One woman said she asks her daughter to turn the air conditioning thermostat down to 62 degrees to cool down her place when severe weather threatens; another said she rarely packs the freezer now for fear of throwing out more food; while another resident admits she gets stressed out simply wondering when the power is going out again. Most of the residents I talked to said they did not have generators and if they did own one it was for a business not their home. But there was one Silver Spring resident, after the meeting, who told me that everyone in his neighborhood has a generator. In fact, he said with exasperation, many of his neighbors have even replaced their generators with new ones because they have been used so much because of ongoing outages in his community. He said it’s been a problem for years.
Guess who else has a generator? After the July 19 debriefing, Pepco President Thomas Graham told me he owns one although he noted that he bought it years ago when he was the customer of another utility company. Graham’s opening remarks at that July 19 debriefing are now infamous. That’s because instead of empathizing with residents he said not once, but twice, that it was NOT reasonable for residents to be upset about an extended power outage. He corrected his comments during the meeting noting that he misread his statement. If you missed the meeting, we have posted a MYMCMedia Extra video of that moment that you can watch here. Let us know what you think.
I also asked Graham after the meeting if he was still proud to be the president of his company. He said “yes” and noted how proud he was of his employees who work so hard to get their neighbors’ and families’ power back on as quickly as possible. In fact, he said, Pepco’s customers are the first thing he thinks of when he gets up every morning.
This weekend I heard from some of his customers who live in the Lakelands community of Gaithersburg. They’ve recently experienced some blue sky power outages and they want to know why.
In addition, Montgomery Channel 21 is producing a half-hour show that will air in mid-August documenting the recent power outages and lessons learned for Montgomery County residents.
We hope you will watch and weigh in on the conversation. You can blog on MyMCMedia’s website or comment on one of our posts or add a comment on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We look forward to hearing what you think of this hot topic that is sparking quite a conversation, and maybe even a movement, in our county.