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The News Hole

Do It Yourself

Posted 5/10/2006

A recent message from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to utility consumers: It’s your problem, not ours.

Last month City Paper received a packet in the mail from BGE noting that the company is spending $6 million over the next three years to encourage consumers to be thrifty when it comes to using their utilities. A press release in the packet notes that BGE has “no control over the cost” of electric and gas commodities, so it is up to the company’s customers to “lessen the impact of market forces,” including rising global energy prices and the July 1 elimination of electricity rate caps in Maryland, if they want affordable energy bills.

BGE has hired local DIY celeb Allegra Bennett to be the face of its campaign, titled “Simply Saving Energy with Allegra and BGE.” The campaign suggests that utility customers take such common-sense measures as buying energy-efficient products and turning thermostats down in winter, because “every degree below 73 saves up to 3 percent on heating costs.” By our estimates, that means you would have to turn your thermostat to 49 degrees to reduce your bill by 72 percent, the amount the average customer’s bill is expected to increase after the rate caps are lifted.

BGE is also offering a guide to consumers called The Purple Book 2005-2006. It contains information on how to create a household budget, get assistance from Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, obtain assistance paying your rent, and obtain food stamps. We have a feeling the book is going to come in handy for many Baltimoreans once those utilities go up this summer.


Sleeping on the Job? Or Just Lying?


Troy Powers

Attorney Troy Powers says he took this snapshot of two city parking-enforcement agents sleeping in a city van in front of his Federal Hill home on the evening of Monday, May 1. The van, with the windows rolled up and the motor running, had been parked there for more than an hour, Powers says, before he snapped the picture shortly after 10 p.m., Powers says. “How much does the city pay for those guys to sleep for two hours with the motor running, with gas at $3 a gallon?” he wonders. Powers sent his photos and an inquiry to Mayor Martin O’Malley’s office May 2.

City Paper wanted to find out who these workers are and get their side of the story-or at least learn something about city policy in such circumstances. But the mayor’s office punted. On Tuesday spokeswoman Raquel Guillory promised to respond to questions on Wednesday, but did not. Reached again Thursday, she denied that the mayor’s office had even seen the photos (this despite Powers having received an e-mail on Tuesday from the mayor’s office thanking him “for bringing this to my attention” and promising that “appropriate actions will be taken”). A call and an e-mail to city Transportation Department Safety Division chief Ken Strong, who oversees parking enforcement officers, yielded a curt referral back to Guillory, who did nothing more than confirm that the photographed employees were city parking enforcement officers.

Powers says Strong spoke to him, though, on Wednesday. “Apparently their defense was, ‘We were only there for a few minutes,’” Powers says, adding that he is satisfied with the city’s response. “He [Strong] made it sound like . . . there would be some type of reprimand [and] he was going to continue investigating it,” Powers says. “I expressed to him that if these individuals have otherwise stellar employment records, that should be considered.”


We Get Voice Mail

Hello this is Robert Fogle from Paloma’s. All the invitations that have gone out to the City Paper as of this moment are being rescinded. They are not welcome to our festivities Friday evening, May 5. And Van Smith is also barred from this establishment. He will never be welcome here.

—Phone message left at City Paper offices on Wednesday, May 3, after we published a story by Van Smith about the past and present of Paloma’s night club in Baltimore. Robert A. Fogle Jr. is an owner of the club, which held a grand opening party on May 5.

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