Again We Say Free Betty Noel

The D.C. Council seems to be setting a world’s record deliberating on one of the finest candidates ever nominated for a high Executive Branch position by any mayor of this city: Mayor Vincent Gray’s nomination of Elizabeth Noel for a seat on the D.C. Public Service Commission.

One rumor circulated on the Council is that Ms. Noel is “unfriendly” to consumer interests. That is not only a total red herring, probably circulated by PEPCO, but ludicrous on its face. In fact, Ms. Noel is a consumer rights champion, and because she has valiantly fought utility-rate gouging, the only reason housing costs here – rental and other – have not gone through the roof. That is the ultimate in consumer support. She is a regulator who knows how important affordable housing is in this city. A vote against Betty Noel is a vote for the entrenched status quo – rapacious housing cost increases – rapidly making the city unaffordable and driving the poor out. Every tenant in this city has a vital interest in having Betty Noel named to the D.C. Public Service Commission. We urge you to make that view known to the Council at once.

One might think from this delay that Ms. Noel is unknown, or that the Council has amnesia. Have they forgotten that Ms. Noel served brilliantly as District People’s Counsel for over twenty-five years and that her superbly gifted legal talent was used for the betterment of all the citizens of this city? Have they forgotten the greed of giant corporations like Pepco. If so, they need only listen to those in Freedom Plaza within earshot and in full view of the Council itself? They need also to listen to the vast majority of us -- D.C. tenants, labor, and home-owners favor her appointment.

Has the Council also forgotten that a blue-ribbon panel and the attorney general have given a green light to this appointment? Let us bluntly face this issue and let the chips fall where they may. Pepco opposes Ms. Noel, fearing her impartiality and threat to their unbridled greed, and windfall profits of almost a billion dollars over the last couple of years. Board of Trade opponents believe that “market rate” should be the “prevailing rate” at all times, never mind that the market has become a casino and the marketers are breaking the Bank at Monte Carlo. Entrenched interests fear that Ms. Noel’s vigor and talent will revitalize a moribund agency like the PSC and threaten their preferred status quo. Still others bow to opposition by the Washington Post, a great but diminished newspaper, whose “Father knows best” stentorian tone in political endorsements has the faint offensive whiff of the “plantation,” which is probably why almost all of their political endorsements lost in the last election, and most of those endorsed by tenants, labor, and others won. We say the Council needs to free Betty Noel now and favorably vote for her confirmation. What do you say?
Jim McGrath

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