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URL:  http://boards.fool.com/i-must-tell-you-about-the-nyc-city-councillor-and-30913196.aspx

Subject:  Re: A new breed of debt collector. Date:  10/8/2013  11:18 PM
Author:  Windowseat Number:  307304 of 308677

I must tell you about the NYC City Councillor and the crazy suggestion she made about people who don't pay their electric bills.

Well, with that tease, now you have to!

This was far enough back that the local utility was Con Ed (short for Consolidated Edison). And one winter there was a very tragic case about a home where the electricity had been cut off, and some children died of the cold.

After a long investigation it was proved that Con Ed had tried, really, seriously tried, to get help for the family. They had offered a payment plan, they had sent information about groups that would help with the heating bill, and so on. This was not a case where a ruthless corporation had shut down the heat without a word. This was a case where the parents were sucking up every penny for drugs or drink, and they didn't care enough to make sure their kids were safe and warm.

However, before the full information had come out, that made it clear it was the parent's fault, one of the city councilors proposed a law making it illegal to cut the electricity in a house or apartment with children. If there was a kid under eighteen, it didn't matter how high the bill was, Con Ed couldn't cut power.

So Con Ed had to point out, very carefully, that given that kind of law, there would be a lot of people who would never pay the bill. They have a kid, the power would never be cut, they could spend their money on other stuff. If you have enough people like that, the utility would be running at a huge deficit. So eventually, once it was shown that Con Ed really did have a program in place to give people options about getting the bill paid, everyone simmered down and turned their attention to the parents who were so out of it they allowed their kids to freeze, and why hadn't children's services been on the case.

But that proposed law, without the recognition of trouble looming that everyone else saw, has been my gold standard for dumb actions taken by politicians.

Nancy
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