By: Christian Gonzalez-Orbegoso
If I told you as a Jacksonville resident you could pay the same electrical rates as Miami, would you?
Well, when utility companies are privately owned by organizations including Florida Power and Light, rates must be consistent across all service areas. So, if they’re paying $10 in Miami, then we’re paying that in Jacksonville. Sounds absurd right?
Around the country, more and more communities are taking a second look at the investor-owned utilities that serve them and deciding if a publicly owned electric utility might better meet the community’s long-term goals. But here in Jacksonville, that decision was made 125 years ago by residents who saw electricity as an essential public service.
Since 1895, Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) has offered low rates, local control and commitment, public accountability, and responsive customer service to the residents and businesses of our city.
When Mayor Curry and his appointed JEA Board sought to privatize our JEA, the city of Jacksonville came together like never before to defend what is rightfully ours. This issue brought people from various walks of life together — Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, middle-class families, people with disabilities, veterans, and seniors — to fight one common cause and keep JEA public.
The residents of Jacksonville were left in the dark about the sale of JEA; they were lied to, manipulated and misinformed. However, they were the people who had a voice on if it was sold!
So, we decided to speak our truth.
In a time span of two months, there were more than five protests to oppose the selling, more than 1,000 letters were mailed to City Hall to speak against privatization and multiple canvasses throughout the city to educate residents on the dangers of privatization.
Organizations including New Florida Majority (NewFM) launched a petition to Keep JEA Public. Our petition reached nearly 1,500 signatures in just three months and petition signers even tweeted Mayor Curry in December to tell him our holiday wish was to keep JEA public.
Just two days later, Mayor Curry and the JEA Board felt the heat and ended all attempts to privatize JEA.
The hard work and perseverance of the Jacksonville community is evidence that we are more powerful together and the power of people is greater than the people in power.
Two weeks ago, Councilmembers Brenda Priestly Jackson and Garrett L. Dennis joined NewFM at our monthly people’s assembly to discuss the privatization of JEA and the effects it would’ve had on the city of Jacksonville. Councilwoman Priestly said we can control our rates and during natural disasters, our rates are offset from federal and state reimbursements from being municipally owned.
On the other hand, Councilman Dennis shed light on the realities of being privately-owned. He said
any company that buys another utility, can raise rates across their entire service area to get their money back after a sell, legally. So that means our rates could’ve been doubled.
Their attendance and words deepened the community’s connection to JEA and illustrated it is imminently connected to our quality of life.