MEMPHIS, Tenn — The City Council sent a strong message on Tuesday that it will not be an automatic rubber stamp for the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.
The council voted down requests for increases in MLGW electric and gas rates. In doing so, they let it be known that last minute rate hikes simply won't fly. The vote was five council members in favor of the increases and eight against. Those eight no votes cut across racial and ideological lines.
Utility executives have argued that they need the additional revenue for infrastructure improvements and to avoid having to borrow millions of dollars or dip into cash reserves. The proposal, submitted to the council in November, was for a nine percent increase in gas rates over two years and a nearly seven percent jump in the electric rate over about three years.
The increases would amount to just a few extra dollars per month, but with so many MLGW customers living at or below the poverty line, any increase is a big deal.
The council did grant a small increase in the water rate, but that was all.
While the requests could resurface later, the point is clear -MLGW should be giving the council plenty of advance notice before seeking rate hikes. The utility also must make a better case than it did.
Simply put, the days of rubber stamps are over.