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Guest column: Former Democratic PSC members endorse Repke

| April 24, 2022 11:30 AM

As former members of Montana’s Public Service Commission, with a combined 32 years of service, we have watched closely — and noted with dismay — the current PSC pronounced decline into an institution that is failing Montanans.

In recent years, during which the Commission has been composed exclusively of Republicans, the trust we should all have in our elected officials has been violated on several occasions. For example, a routine state audit in 2021 revealed, in the words of Montana’s Legislative Auditors, “an unhealthy organizational culture and ineffective leadership, including certain commissioners overriding department controls.” The audit found cheating on expense reports, purchases without documentation and more. That blatant disregard for the stewardship of Montanans’ hard-earned money is inexcusable.

Another example is the infighting among the, again, all-Republican commissioners that involved stealing the emails of one commissioner and going so far as to set him up for a phony police investigation. This resulted in a $2.5 million claim against the PSC and other targeted commissioners — also inexcusable and totally avoidable.

These and other examples are not what the PSC should be about. It wasn’t when we were there. And you don’t need to take our word for it. Tammi Fisher, a Republican and former Republican Mayor of Kalispell, titled one of her 2021 podcast episodes “The Cesspool and the Incompetence of the MT Public Service Commission.” Strong words, but an accurate description.

The PSC was established to do important work. According to its website, the PSC’s primary responsibility is to ensure access to utility services that are affordable, reliable and sustainable. State law requires the PSC do this work on behalf of Montanans served by investor-owned utilities. In other words, the PSC is your representative at the table determining what you pay for utilities now and where your energy will come from in the future. Having been in those seats, we know that to do this work well requires a serious, disciplined PSC that has the knowledge and experience to understand details of the costs and properly evaluate complex new projects. Unfortunately for ratepayers, that is not the background of our current PSC — or anyone running for the office, with the exception of John Repke.

We are unanimously endorsing John Repke for PSC District 5. Through his education and business career John has acquired the skills and experience to do the work of the PSC. He is also committed to focusing on the work and doing it professionally, objectively and transparently. John has 40 years experience in private sector finance, strategic planning and management. He knows the work of the PSC and understands the information used to make sound decisions, which questions to ask and where to look for answers to make sure Montana ratepayers are getting fair representation. This approach is especially important now that we are all facing increased inflationary pressure on our budgets, an insecure energy supply and the rapidly increasing threat of climate change. All very big issues.

We believe that Montanans deserve an ethical, competent PSC. John is the candidate who can make that happen. Please join us in voting for John in the Democratic primary on June 7.

Gail Gutsche (District 4, 2009-12); Greg Jergeson (District 1, 2003-10); Bob Raney (District 3, 2005-08); Tom Schneider (District 2, 1977-84 and District 5 (2003-06); Ken Toole (District 5, 2007-10); John Vincent (District 3, 2009-12).

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