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Sacramento residents dismayed with SMUD rate hike


SACRAMENTO -- Rancho Córdova resident Ed Rylander is trying to do his part to cut his energy consumption, but he is dismayed by a power-consumption paradox:

As energy use goes down, logic might dictate that consumers pay less as utilities like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District buy less power.

But the opposite is true, said Sacramento's main power provider.

Last week, SMUD officials announced a plan to raise customer rates 13 percent over the next 18 months. The two-stage hike -- a 9.5 percent hike comes Sept. 1 -- would be the nonprofit power provider's second in two years.

Fully implemented, the average residential customer's monthly bill would increase $8, officials said.

A decline in power usage -- the result of customer conservation, retail bankruptcies and utility disconnections -- is just one of the justifications for the rate increase, but it's definitely part of the equation, SMUD spokeswoman Elisabeth Brinton said.

In Rancho Córdova, Rylander closely monitors his power consumption and, like thousands of other residents, he's switching from standard light bulbs to compact fluorescents.

That's why he's so miffed.

"Energy usage is down, and rates go up. That doesn't make sense," Rylander said. "Why are they encouraging people to use less energy, if using less energy will raise rates?"

Message on language, discrimination

SACRAMENTO -- Witnessing someone humiliate his uncle for speaking broken English, says Leland Yee, was a childhood experience that stuck with him.

The memory rushed back, the California state senator said, when the Ladies Professional Golf Association announced last September that it would start suspending foreign players -- many of them South Koreans -- if they lacked English proficiency.

The LPGA backed down from the rule under a barrage of criticism from Lee, D-San Francisco, and civil rights groups that argued the idea seemed xenophobic.

Yee now wants to make sure no one else tries to enact such a policy, at least in California.

Last Tuesday, the Senate's Judiciary Committee reviewed a bill he's introduced to change the state's Jesse Unruh Civil Rights Act. The proposal makes it illegal to prohibit the use of any language at a work site without a justified "business necessity."

"It's the right thing to do. It sends a message," Yee said. "You want to just make it very clear that you cannot discriminate because of language."

The state's Fair Employment and Housing Act already protects the language rights of employees of a business, except, again, for justifiable reasons.

By using the civil rights act, Yee's bill would broaden those protections, he said, for patrons or contract workers at a work site where they are not direct employees.

Search for city schools' chief

SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education President Roy Grimes announced that the process outlined in January to hire a permanent superintendent is on track. Interim Superintendent Susan Miller was hired last July to serve for one year following the retirement of former Superintendent M. Magdalena Carrillo Mejia.

Grimes added that the approved process calls for posting of the position in the next few weeks. "I fully expect that we will meet our timelines," Grimes said.

"Back in January, the Board made the deliberate decision to be transparent, thorough, and open to public comment in its proceedings to select a permanent superintendent," Grimes said.

"The selection of a permanent superintendent is one of the most important decisions this board will make for the district."

He noted that the SCUSD board welcomed four new board members in December, and that the new team's input was critical in selecting a superintendent.

"Susan Miller has served the district well during a challenging time, but we owe it to the students and parents of this district to know that the Board completed a thorough search for a permanent leader," he said.

Earlier this year, the Board approved creation of a taskforce which included business and community members to identify a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process to recruit an executive search firm to assist in the hiring of a superintendent.