Sunday, March 27, 2011


If Ohio Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Todd Snitchler (formerly Ohio House 50th District representative and Republican from Lake Township) has a fault, it is that he is excessively loyal to core conservative Republican Party doctrine, corporate interest, and certain political figures he sees as having the political oomph to make that doctrine state policy.  Governor John Kasich is one such person.

In this respect he is much like Mayor William J. Healy, II, the mayor of Canton.  Healy only wants advisers around him who are loyal to a fault.  For those who show independent thought for the benefit of the public at large (e.g. Tom Bernabei and Tom Nesbitt) become persona non grata in a hurry.

The Stark County Political Report believes this characteristic is the primary reason Governor Kasich chose Snitchler in February to head the PUCO as well as to be the point man in seeing to it that oil and gas industry get its way in obtaining Ohio Department of Natural Resource (ODNR) approvals to hydraulically frack for natural gas throughout Ohio including Ohio's state park system.  Now it turns out that Snitchler will have yet another "political" assignment.

In appointing Snitchler, Kasich described Snitchler as being "wicked, smart."

Hmm?  Obviously, these are qualities that Kasich prizes.  But why?

It has come to light that Governor Kasich in formulating his 2012 -2013 biennium budget proposal has included the halving of the Ohio Consumers Counsel (OCC) budget (See Ohio Consumers' Counsel prepares for budget battle, John Funk [The Plain Dealer -], March 27, 2011).

Funk reports that Kasich proposes to slash the OCC budget 50% (from $8.5 million to $4.1 million) which, he says, will cause - if carried through with - huge staff reductions at the OCC.

The SCPR sees the proposed cuts severely weakening the OCC in its ability to protect Ohio consumers from being unfairly taken advantage of by monopolistic public utilities and in the face inadequate protection from the unfairness by the PUCO itself under the leadership of Snitchler who in his heart of hearts disdains regulation of business.

Of particular interest is this excerpt from the Funk piece, to wit:
Snitchler also said in an interview Friday that he has no argument with what he sees as the main role Migden-Ostrander plays -- the leading advocate for consumers in cases before the commission.

"Do we advocate? No. Does she advocate? Yes," he said.

"I just want that to be clear. Her argument is with the budget folks, not the PUCO."
The Report begs to differ with Snitchler.  Because of his added political role with the Kasich administration on the fracking issue and now on scaling down of government oversight of the utilities as one of the core tenets of his brand of conservative Republican political doctrine and his being a Kasich political operative, her (Migden-Ostrander's) argument is with him and the PUCO and ultimately with Governor Kasich himself.

It is also an argument that we all (especially including Stark Countians since Snitchler hails from Stark County) ought to be having with Kasich/Snitchler and their effort to free the utilities up to have their way with Ohio's consumers.

The OCC is not going down without a fight.  Its leader, Janine Migden-Ostrander, says that OCC saved Ohio's consumers $54 million in the period 2009 through 2011 and that the agency is not funded by tax dollars but by fees paid by the utilities themselves.  She hopes to bring public pressure to bear to keep the OCC intact on the basis that no tax savings will be saved by the proposed cut.

That is where Snitchler comes in.

To repeat, the "wicked, smart" one was signed on by Kasich to be his political in fighter from the perch of the PUCO, which is also financed by fees from Ohio's utilities.  These utilities were heavy contributors to both Kasich and to Snitchler in their respective 2010 campaigns.

It appears that the utilities are not too happy with the OCC and behind the scenes they seem to have weighed in successfully with the Kasich administration in an apparent attempt to eviscerate the consumer protection group if not eventually dismantle it in the name of solving a budget crisis.

Being the loyalist he is, Snitchler, as PUCO chair has authorized a press release which is provided in full at the end of this blog.

That Snitchler authorized the press release is confirmation that his role in Kasich administration policy is much more than implementing Kasich's druthers on PUCO policy and enforcement actions.

If the OCC fight is with the budget folks and "he has no dog in this fight," why has Snitchler directed the issuing a press release endorsing and justifying the draconian Kasich administration cuts in OCC's budget which he implicitly admits will mean less oversight of utilities?

Answer:  Snitchler does have a philosophical/political doctrine interest in the matter and he is acting as one of Kasich's chief cheerleaders in promoting the gutting of OCC.  Such means that everyday Stark Countians and Ohioans will be getting the shaft on their utility bills.

Political loyalty (to doctrines, to corporate political interests and leaders) which result in everyday people having to struggle harder to make means meet is not a good thing.

Measured loyalty can be a terrific quality.  But, Snitchler - whose political history indicates dedication beyond reason is not measured.

A "true believer" Snitchler is, so it appears to the SCPR.

Everybody should duck!

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