Monday, August 26, 2013

CA Guest Editorial by Otis Sanford

By Otis L. Sanford
Sunday, August 25, 2013

There was so much hand-wringing at the Memphis City Council meeting last week over smart meters, you would have thought we were about to sell City Hall to communist China.

Council approval to buy more meters came despite claims that the devices are a health hazard, too expensive and a tool for spying.

Yet as best I could tell, there was not a peep out of anyone about another major expenditure of public dollars to buy a different kind of smart meter — electronic parking meters.

It’s true. Those subversives on the council took advantage of the ballyhoo over the purchase of 60,000 smart meters by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to more efficiently measure electric usage, to surreptitiously approve spending $1.7 million for more than 2,000 smart parking meters.

What’s more, these newfangled gadgets come with an increase in the hourly rate — from $1 to $1.25 — to park Downtown and in the medical district.

And that’s not all. These modern meters will accept credit and debit cards as payment. You want to talk about spying? Just wait until someone in the bowels of City Hall gets hold of all that personal data the instant a motorist swipes a card through this unholy contraption.

City officials say the $1.7 million price tag for the smart parking meters will be recouped in less than two years. With the hourly rate increase, the meters are projected to bring in $892,000 in new revenue each year.

But wait. Here’s the topper. These parking meters are being made in New Jersey by a company called Parkeon. For the geographically challenged, New Jersey is next to New York. Just what we need, a bunch of Northeasterners making a profit off of us Memphians every time we park beside one of these money-grubbing, data-collecting bandits.

And if all this sounds utterly ridiculous, it is. Just as all the angst over MLGW expanding its smart electric meter program to 60,000 homes and businesses by June of next year is equally ridiculous.

This is not to denigrate anyone who opposes the meters — including four council members who voted no. They’re entitled to their opinions, but not their own facts.

Since smart meters have been in use in Memphis, most people who have them say they like them. The meters allow MLGW customers to easily monitor their electric usage — and make adjustments to save money.

As for spying, people at Kroger and Walgreens know far more about your personal habits than these meters will ever collect.

Still, the smart-meter debate has — for the most part — been healthy. But now it’s time to move on to our next conspiracy — finding out why all those people are really attending the Southern Heritage Classic every year.  

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