Collins Should Go

A friend called Saturday morning to ask if I knew what was happening at various Walgreens around the city. She said people were lining up with their utility bills and they thought they were going to get them paid for by someone or something.

I was unaware of any such notice or event. Later another person was perplexed about the long lines at Walgreens. At that point someone related that Grizzlies star Zach Randolph had offered to pay MLGW bills.

All that later turned out to be about as real as an Elvis siting.

Sunday’s CA explained that the Randolph story was a rumor fueled by social media. What really happened was that a glitch in payment kiosks caused customer accounts to reflect only about 1% of their bill. MLGW president Jerry Collins explained it was a “decimal point issue.”

Meanwhile there had been a big uproar in the entire city about it. People hustled to an MLGW payment center, waiting in long, hot lines. Elderly and handicapped people turned out, too. All for nothing.

But why did this even occur? Nothing on this scale has happened before. According to the newspaper, the problem with the kiosks began Friday morning. Collins said he learned about it at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Why? Is that true? Who was responsible for this big goof? So far it looks like no one is being held accountable.

Collins held a noon news conference Saturday to dispel the false information. Why did he wait so long? I heard the reports of long lines at 10 a.m. Surely he could have responded by 9. Couldn’t he have ordered the kiosks shut down at the first reports? Who knew on Friday morning and didn’t speak up? Did Collins think it would all go away?

What about the poor workers at Walgreens and the gas stations that accept payment? You can bet they were frazzled. I don’t know if anyone in line fainted or got sick, but probably some did. How about Zach Randolph who was dragged into something that got the ire of many without any involvement on his part whatsoever.

This is not Collins’ first dance with fiasco. Why has our power grid degraded to the point that any wind can knock the lines and leave hundreds or thousands without power as it did Memorial Day weekend and the derecho in 2003? I wonder if his obsession with smart meter installation has left our lines and circuits unrepaired and unreplaced. Any time the wind blows you can check the MLGW site and see that some places are without power. This shouldn’t be.

Collins is, in my opinion, the most powerful man in the city – pun intended and not intended. He is not elected and really answers to no one. Sure, there is the City Council, but some of them have and had dealings with him or worked at MLGW. Or maybe some of them are intimidated. Or there is something going on with the sales and profits from smart meters going on, too. If we had a true journalistic entity in town, reporters would be looking into these issues.

Power is life and death for us all. Collins can control life for all of us. This shouldn’t be possible.

Surely we could find someone better suited to appreciating that fact and answerable to the public. This most recent glitch on their part will have no repercussions for any of them.

Well, except that some Memphians are trying to get contributions to cover the expenses of poor citizens.

MLGW already had a program in the works to round up patrons’ utility bills automatically to generate money for the poor. Maybe they want to look more charitable. But how do we know where the money will really go? Often it’s eaten up by administrative costs that just promote jobs for friends.

Our utility company used to be tops in this country. What happened? Why does no one care?

There needs to be accountability. I don’t look for any at this time.

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