This holiday season I was informed that my property taxes would be going up with no real good justification as I expanded on in this previous article.
I also received notifications, as the rest of my fellow Bellinghammers and Whatcom County residents did that most of our already over-priced necessities will be going up in cost as well. Here is a list of the most recent rate increases on our necessities here in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
- PSE (Puget Sound Energy) Service: Electricity —
The rate increase is about a half a percent in most cases but this is hardly the first time that PSE has increased electricity rates in the last 5 years and it’s not because they’re providing better services. The featured image in this article is of a PSE pole that cracked in half and fell over mostly from neglect in my neck of the woods. In the high wind area that we live in, with lots of trees around to fall on electrical wires and catch on fire, PSE really should have gone underground a long time ago. They always make up an excuse about the expense, but pole replacements are about $100K a pole and underground wiring is more reliable and requires less maintenance. Underground wiring also helps prevent wildfires since trees can’t fall on the wires and catch on fire.
So the real reason that they are keeping their ancient, unreliable infrastructure, is that they are leasing the poles at $600 per pole to Verizon and other big 5G companies so they can install poisonous wireless 4/5G small cells. This is about 600 times the rate that most utilities charge for attachments and it has been a big barrier to improving the community in general. Also, they charge an average of 10 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour) which puts us in the middle for rates for electricity nationwide. Combine this with the poor quality of power they produce, known as dirty power, and we’re getting a pretty raw deal from PSE. In short, they are doing next to nothing to improve their service, taking in more money from the big telecoms than ever before, and still raising our rates. Those of us that rely on good power to run modern businesses are all too used to being without power, often for days, and having to recommend that our techie friends look elsewhere to open their high tech businesses. We don’t just have poor broadband options that cost too much here, our electricity is the same way too. Yes, PSE has a “Green Power” option, but they charge you more for it and essentially punish you for doing the right thing.
2. CNG (Cascade Natural Gas) — Service: Natural Gas Provider
Ah yes, this dangerous wonder fuel of the 19th century that is still heating our homes. Why? Because our electricity costs too much and is going up in cost as well, removing the option of heating our homes and businesses with electricity generated from renewables for the poor and lower-middle class. Why is it going up in cost you ask? Because part of a pipeline blew up and made the rates go up. After all, blowing up is something that natural gas does from time to time. The average customer will see a rate increase of about $10 per month. CNG will argue that rates in 2019 are lower than they were in 2009 and 2010, but the trend is up and getting gas in the first place is also awful for the environment. The fracking process uses a proprietary (aka they don’t tell you what’s in them) fluid with over 500 compounds in it that probably cause cancer and other illnesses when they enter our water table. The listed increases are 13.88% for residences and even more for commercial and industrial users.
3. SSC (Sanitary Services Inc.) — Service: Waste Removal
Multiple reviews of this company give it an average of 3 stars. Although a rate increase did not come through for 2019, SSC is a monopoly that charges about $74 a month for weekly residential trash pickup of 1 – 60-gallon container with bi-weekly recycling pickup. Their recycling restrictions are annoying, to say the least. Their pricing is well above average when compared with the rest of the country where the same services are usually about $40. They are also ultra aggressive about any late amounts, even trivial ones. For example, I once accidentally wrote out a check for $73.00 instead of $73.80 and immediately received a threatening letter within 2 days. This was an honest mistake, and I had been paying on time for years. They could have just rolled the 80 cents onto the next bill, but why would they just treat a good customer well when they are a monopoly that can treat them like what they pick up? What are you going to do, not have your trash picked up?
4. LWWSD (Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District) — Service: Water and Sewer
Clean water is the most essential element to civilized life! Yet their own site assures us that we will enjoy a “small rate increase each year.” What they forget to tell you is that you pay way too much for water in the first place and have been for a long time. Even after installing low flow toilets, shower heads, watching our water usage (I’m a tree hugger by the way) and much more it is still not uncommon to receive a bill for $320 every two months from LWWSD. This is more than twice as much as American households are expected to budget for water.
5. Broadband (Ex. Comcast, CenturyLink, Etc.)
With Mexico now providing better broadband connections in and around Mexico City to most of its residents, including FTTH (Fiber-To-The-Home) connections via Telmex it seems prudent to point out again that most Bellinghammers enjoy terrible broadband service at high prices. This is a complex topic, that I’ve written about at length before, but on top of the sub-standard broadband situation we have in Bellingham it’s worth pointing out that Comcast increases rates often for most of its customers. I pay about $110 a month for what is functionally a 30Mbps down and 7 Mbps up connection. Comcast claims I get a “speed burst” of 100 Mbps, but this fades quickly and the connection is high latency. In Mexico City, I’d have a 200 Mbps, FTTH (aka no-latency), connection for about $70 US a month. In Chatanooga, TN, on their public network, I’d have a Gigabit symmetrical FTTH connection for $70 a month. CenturyLink customers report speeds all over the place, with very few benefiting from their “new service” which seems only to be decent if you live on one block, on one street. Their connections also don’t hold up to independent testing.
CenturyLink claims they have a price guarantee, but if you make any wrong moves, you’ll see your bill go up. Real fiber providers in Bellingham, of which there are few, and whose services aren’t available everywhere, charge thousands to get hooked up and 13.25 times more for fiber here than in Chatanooga. Hell, they charge 6 times more than in Mexico City. Maybe someone should let this administration know that part of what is slowing down immigration is that Mexico is finally investing in its people by investing in the tools of the future via fiber. It’s not our chest-beating machismo and easily circumvented hate walls on the border that are slowing down immigration. It’s that Mexico is starting to do for its citizens what we should do for ours.
Food prices will be rising an average of 2.6 percent a year and there is no end in sight. Start growing something my friends, somewhere.
I could go one, but you get the picture. The story is pretty much the same as we look at the results of allowing private industry too much control over our necessities. The result of this over-reliance on private services, combined with constant tax increases, and low-wages, are pushing Whatcom County residents to their limits. The best way for our government to respond would be to absorb these private services and operate them as public entities, in the public interest, with the goal of providing the highest quality services at the lowest prices to our citizens, run by leadership that is accountable to the public. However, we all know that we will need a new administration, with quite a few replacements in the COB upper echelon, before we’d see any benefit. This should include public housing, but that is a big topic that requires an entire article. Stay tuned!